Homemade Cleaning Solutions

Posted on May 11th, 2010 by Tonia 8 Comments

We’re whittling away at Cheri’s list. Today we’re going to make our own earth friendly cleaning solution, because commercial cleaners are heavy on toxic chemicals, and consistently buying the eco-friendly brands is really darn expensive.

Our recipe today is for an all-purpose multi-surface cleaner:

Ingredients {makes a 1/2 gallon}:

1/2 cup white vinegar {not the apple-cider kind that is used for cooking}

1/4 cup baking soda {or 2 teaspoons borax}

1/2 gallon {2 liters} water


Mix all three ingredients together and use for cleaning windows, mirrors, counter-tops, shower walls/floor, etc. {If using on natural surfaces such as wood, test on a small hidden area first!}

{Note: in the video I shortened the ingredients a little, to make 1 quart instead of 1/2 gallon, so that it would fit in the spray bottle I had on hand.}

Long term health concerns for humans, and major environmental pollution, are caused by the manufacture and disposal of commercial cleaning supplies, so if you have not purged your home of toxic cleaning products yet…well, whatcha waitin’ for?  Let’s vow to stop buying these products!!  It’s so easy to do when there are so many alternatives…

And yes, there are so many alternatives that I never knew about before! While doing my research for this post, I found the following list of ingredients that can be used in place of commercial cleaning products {they’re environmentally safe, but some of them can still cause skin/eye irritation and can be harmful if swallowed, so please handle them carefully and keep out of reach of children}:

  • Baking Soda – cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours.
  • Soap – unscented soap in liquid form, flakes, powders or bars is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Avoid using soaps which contain petroleum distillates.
  • Lemon – one of the strongest food-acids, effective against most household bacteria.
  • Borax – {sodium borate} cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.
  • White Vinegar – cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up.
  • Washing Soda – or SAL Soda is sodium carbonate decahydrate, a mineral. Washing soda cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs.  Do not use on aluminum.
  • 100 Proof Alcohol – an excellent disinfectant. Use in a solution with water.
  • Cornstarch – can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
  • Citrus Solvent – cleans paint brushes, oil and grease, some stains.

Do you have any recipes for earth friendly household cleaning solutions?  Please share them in the comments, I’d love to try making some more!


  1. Have you heard (or know) if this mixture is safe on granite?

  2. Tonia says:

    Great question Jonathan! Vinegar can actually dull granite over time, so use a mixture of one part rubbing alcohol with three parts water and a few drops of ph-neutral dishsoap. Or you can just mix a 1/4 cup baking soda to 3 cups water.

  3. Thanks! Someone had suggested vinegar — so glad you had a better solution! (pun intended ;-))

  4. amy says:

    Tonia- Thanks for the inspiration and great recipe! Any ideas for how to make it smell less vinegar-y. When you clean high chairs and counter tops as much as I do, the vinegar smell is a bit strong…essential oils? any ideas? :)

  5. Tonia says:

    Hey Amy! I love reading your blog as well, thanks for linking over to mine. I’d love for you to share your homemade baby food recipes sometime…that is such a great way to recude the amount of packaging coming into your home, and make sure Charlie is getting the very best ingredients and no preservatives. :)

    Anyways, to answer your question, you can scent vinegar with any essential oil you like. Peppermint or a citrus oil would be nice…but vinegar is also scent-free once it evaporates, so it’s only stinky while it’s wet.

    Your list of things you’re doing to reduce your impact is really great! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Leslie says:

    I think I’d be a little careful of the borax….. (from wikipedia)

    A reassessment of boric acid/borax by the United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Pesticide Programs found potential developmental toxicity (especially effects on the testes).[14] Boric acid solutions used as an eye wash or on abraded skin are known to be especially toxic to infants, especially after repeated use because of its slow elimination rate.[

  7. Carly says:

    Borax and boric acid are not the same thing, but there is a “relationship” between the two. Let’s look at each and see the connection.


    Borax is an important mineral, and it is goes under the names sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or bisodium tetraborate. It’s chemical formula will be written in basically one of two ways, depending on the water content. These formulae are:

    Na2B4O7·10H2O and Na2[B4O5(OH)4]·8H2O

    Boric acid

    Boric acid has the chemical formula H3BO3, which is sometimes written B(OH)3 when referring to the naturally occurring mineral form of boric acid (sassolite). This weak acid will react to form a salt, and sodium borate (borax) is one of the salts that can result when boric acid reacts with other natural minerals, and that’s the connection.

    As borax can be a product of a boric acid reaction, we should not be surprised to find boric acid in borax, which we do. The fact that sodium borate is a product of a boric acid reaction and that boric acid can be found in borax (and several other minerals as well) connect the two substances. Links can be found below form more information.

  8. Caitlyn says:

    great ideas Tonia-
    Yeah, it is never too late to start new habits. I feel like sometimes we make new years resolutions and then after those fail, we don’t think about them until next January. But Spring is a wonderful time to start new things.

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