Report on making your own cleaning products

If you've ever considered making your own household cleaning products, you've probably asked yourself the following questions: Does it save money? Does it take a lot of time? Do they work as well as commercially made products? Gerri Detweiler of wanted the answers so she tried making her own laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and all purpose cleaner. She was pleased with the laundry and dishwasher detergents, but found the all purpose cleaner to be somewhat lacking.
"These simple recipes gave me the confidence to try more. And that’s usually what happens, Matt Jabs [co-author of DIY Natural Household Cleaners] says: 'A lot of people just can’t believe that it’s going to work…because we’ve been conditioned through the excellent advertising agencies and commercials they make that (commercial products are) great. But really, it does work. So just start with one project and then go from there. It’s very exciting.'" Making your own household cleaning products


  1. I like to see an article like this but with an emphasis on ease of use and efficacy. If one were to not care about cost, safety, or environmental friendliness, what’s the best glass cleaner, concrete cleaner, oven cleaner, etc…? 

    1. Trisodium Phosphate for cleaning concrete. (TSP).

      For automatic dishwasher’s they banned phosphates and the new formulas will often leave a white powdery residue on things. A 1/2 tsp or less of TSP with the dishwasher detergent will replace that bit.

      For Eco friendly—white vinegar a bit of alcohol, a drop of dawn in spray bottle for windows (or just purchase a 2 dollar gallon jug of automotive windshield cleaner). Use news print instead of paper towels.

      From the article the citric acid powder for dishwasher stuff; I’d be careful about that—if you have enamaled on cast-iron pots–the citric acid will leach out the finish of those pots. (speaking from experience here).

      And don’t forget ammonia (diluted in water) for cleaning grease from kitchen walls and cabinets. .

      Your dentist would probably have an issue using baking soda and salt for teeth–(except occasionally). Those can wear down the enamel on teeth over time because they’re abrasive.

    2. For glass and window cleaner, 1 part cloudy ammonia, 3 parts methylated spirits, 4 parts water (roughly). That will cost cents to make, and is exactly the same as the commercial equivalent.

      1. What do you mean by commercial equivalent? If you are talking about crappy consumer cleaners like Windex, I’ll pass. If you are talking about what a commercial glass cleaning company would use, then I’m more interested.

      1. It looks like that book is focused on cleaners that are economical, safe, and environmentally friendly. In my experience, this also means that they are fairly ineffective.

        1. They give you an idea of which essential oils to use for different purposes, which was a lot of what I was interested in at the time I got it. I like using Dr. Bronner Sal Suds (link in my comment above) instead of all the various potions in the book, but I will incorporate different essential oils in depending on the use. I like how they smell and clean. 

    3. That’s the three prong focus of the book: 1) save money over commercial cleaners 2) work as good or better 3) and do it naturally, with non-toxic ingredients. Blessings.

  2. From the article:
    For dishwasher detergent
    1 cup borax
    1 cup washing soda
    1/2 cup citric acid
    1/2 cup kosher salt (for scrubbing action)
    Umm salt, hot water, solubility, what scrubbing action is going to be had here as the that little amount of salt will dissolve into the water?

    For toothpaste
    2/3 cup baking soda
    4 tsp fine sea salt(optional — I used regular Celtic sea salt since I had it on hand)
    1 – 2 tsp peppermint extract, or 10-15 drops peppermint essential oil (or add your favorite flavor — spearmint, orange, etc.)
    water (add to desired consistency)
    Yeah salt probably going to dissolve into the water again.
    Also there is an evidence backed reason to use Flouride in toothpaste.

    Also I love the ‘kosher/sea salt’ sodium chloride is sodium chloride is sodium chloride whether it comes from the ground or the ocean.

    1. I agree with you completely TombK…but I will give her a pass on the sea salt as she said it was the only salt she had on hand. Before I cut added salt out completely and switched to NoSalt (Potassium Chloride), I tried cutting down on my salt intake by using fancy arse salts….Know what? That worked just as well as my attempts to cut down on my booze intake by removing the rail and only keeping the Top Shelf stocked.

      Anyway — you and the commentariat are right…doesn’t matter which salt – it all dissolves anyway, fluoride is good and too many and too frequent use of abrasives on one’s teeth wear away the enamel…and’s a maybe rambling, off-topic-ish tangent…..

      My family (me, my sibs, my senior ‘rents with whom I deny living — ’cause I don’t. It’s true…I really don’t!) has used Sonicare toothbrushes for quite sometime. I use mouthwash, gelkam (fluoride gel, non-abrasive) or lately, a combination of Gelkam and coconut oil. My sibs and mother use some sort of mouthwash…ACT I think.

      My dad, until a few months ago, used straight toothpaste (& not a lot) with his Sonicare. His dentist a few months ago told him he had nice teeth, then asked him if he uses Sonicare with toothpaste — dad said yes. Dentist says — don’t use abrasive toothpaste – use mouthwash or water. He said my dad’s teeth had many, many, small scratches that, although not bad now, will get worse if he persists with the toothpaste.

      Sooooo…… baking soda is a pure abrasive, more abrasive than even toothpaste, I question the wisdom of using it as a base for everyday brushing. It’s fine for occasional use, but notice how even Arm & Hammer baking soda toothpaste actually has very little baking soda.

      Removing stains and strengthening or at least preserving the enamel we have left is the point of brushing. With abrasives….Less is More.

      1. I was amazed to learn just over a year ago now how much toothpaste is actually required compared to what is show on the box illustration. You only need a pea sized amount not the brush length and a half they show.

        1. The box, and commercials as well, make you think that you need a brush-full. You use more that way, which in turn means you buy more. And that’s that whole point of advertising.

        2. My dentist once told me that the more complex and expensive the toothpaste the more likely it is to do damage.  He said buy cheap toothpaste and just do a better job brushing and flossing.  I think I had my last cavity around 20 years ago.

    2. Just to mention that salt crystals come in different sizes: table salt is ground down, whereas kosher salt grains are bigger.  Not as big as the chunks one puts in a salt grinder, but big enough that they don’t immediately dissolve in a small amount of water.

      Not that I’m recommending salt and baking soda for teeth, for the reasons others have stated.

      1. Cheap, bulk salt has worked pretty well for me as an on-the-fly abrasive in the kitchen – for example, when I’m hand-washing dishes. Toss some on the dry-ish or not-too-wet dish or pan, then scrub it, works well enough that I have used this for years and continue to. 

        Coarse salt tends to be better for more challenging crud, but really, table salt consistency works just fine. The salt especially works as an augment to your standard brillo pad, stiff kitchen brush or coarsely textured sponge, you know, spongy on one side, course on the other.

        Salt (or potassium chloride aka NoSalt) is good to soothe a sore throat (Suracha chilli paste is much better), but I’m with you Ser chgoliz  about the unsuitability of salt or baking soda for the teeth. 

  3. My favorite tip: If you’ve had a pot or pan that burned with a heavy baked on carbon that won’t submit to soaking, scrubbing, heating, ect.  Hydrogen Peroxide.

    Put enough in to cover the lumpy bits add a tsp of baking soda. Heat. On low until you see a reaction, It’ll stink, so open windows turn on vents, it’s harmless stink tho.

    This only works on big lumpy carbon based bits that have bonded to the metal of a non-reactive, non-teflon pan. (Especially sugar or caramelized crusty stuff)

    I’ve have pots with big carbon lumps burned on that would not soak, scrub, or heat off. the H2O2 plus heat got them off in about 20 mins. Practically “no scub” just a wooden spoon and paper towel. Rinse and repeat if needed.

    BTW: I”m talking the supermarket hydrogen peroxide here…not the hair dresser stuff or rocket fuel stuff. don’t use those.

  4. My wife has started making our dishwashing detergent with that same recipe, and it works great. Only thing you have to watch out for is it wants to cake up into a giant block. When you first mix it you have to stay on top of it for the first couple of days, breaking it up where it starts to clump together. Eventually it will be all caked, but just caked into tiny pieces as a powder.

  5. One thing we have learned the hard way is that using a little vinegar in the mopping water WILL eat away at your floor’s wood varnish over time.  Stick with Murphy’s Oil Soap or equivalent (or plain warm water).

    Otherwise, vinegar is a cheap and useful household cleaner.  Use it in the “fabric softener” section of the washing machine; mix it with water in a spray bottle for cleaning windows and *most* counter-tops, and run it through your (empty) dishwasher and coffee/tea contraptions once a month to clean them out.

    Borax is actually very caustic.  Do not use without gloves to protect your hands.

    1. That doesn’t sound right.  Borax is used (either straight up or 50/50 with soap flakes) as a hand cleaner in many places.

  6. For a general-purpose kitchen cleaner I mix a 4:1 solution of water and household bleach in a utility spray bottle, and add a couple drops of liquid soap to help it flow better on surfaces. Sanitizes, removes stains, relatively environmentally friendly. For a kitchen surface degreaser, a tablespoon of TSP dissolved in a quart of warm water in another sprayer works fine. Both of these are dirt freakin’ cheap compared to commercial equivalents.

    And to sam1148, essentially what you’re doing is synthesizing OxyClean on the fly. OxyClean is sodium percarbonate, or sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) aka “soda ash” combined with hydrogen peroxide as 2Na2CO3.3H2O2. When you heat sodium bicarbonate it decomposes into sodium carbonate, water, and CO2. Mix sodium bicarbonate with household hydrogen peroxide (actually 3% H2O2 in a water solution) and heat it, and you end up with a water solution of soda ash and peroxide AKA exactly what you get when you mix sodium percarbonate with water. Works in a pinch, but you can skip all the mumbly-jumbly and just use the percarbonate to begin with, which is also dirt-cheap in bulk. I used to buy 5-lb. tubs of it to keep around for carpet cleaning and laundry.

    1. I’ve always been blown away by the price difference between the cost of OxyClean in say a grocery store and a member’s only super center (Sam’s, Costco).  I think I have an 8lb box or something for like $12.  I could still probably get it cheaper by just buying straight percarbonate, but that box will last me at least a year.

  7. Vinegar is wonderful, but the reason why it doesn’t quite do the trick for some jobs is because it needs something to help cut through grime and grease. Essential orange oil is the magic ingredient. (Not to mention you can use it for a billion other things. You can buy it cheaply in bulk on ebay.) Here’s my recipe for an all-purpose cleaner that works on just about everything.

    Fill a spray bottle with:1/2 vinegar
    1/2 water
    a few tablespoons of pure orange oil

    You can vary it up as you see fit. You might like more or less vinegar, but about half seems to work just fine. The orange oil will float on top, so it’s best to shake your bottle before you spray. 

    All natural, non-toxic, and cheap! Yay!

  8. 90% of commercial cleaning products are just slightly different mixtures of sodium lauryl sulfate and alcohol, with different dyes and fragrances to give the impression that they are distinct products.

  9. I mix 1 part white vinegar with 1 part 91% rubbing alcohol with 1 part water & use that to clean tons of things. Just as good—if not better—than window cleaner & can cut grease as well.

    I have never understood borax and it’s benefits.  So a simple explanation would be appreciated.

  10. Tried these, for laundry and dishwashing: failtastic. They didn’t actually clean things, which is kinda the point. What it did do was make me less opposed to the mixed/packaged natural cleaners. Sure, simple stuff like isopropyl alcohol of glass/mirrors or vinegar for grease is fine, but none of the mixtures that go in machines worked.

  11. Baking soda, vinegar and bleach. If you have those three things in your cupboard you already own the primary ingredients to every branded cleaning product ever made.

  12. Combine ethyl alcohol, citric acid, and essential oils (e.g., bergamot, orange, juniper, etc.). Dilute with water to desired strength and chill thoroughly.

    After three or four of these, I no longer care about the windows and countertops.

  13. Safety tip for those thinking of trying to improvise:  don’t mix ammonia and chlorine bleach.  It’ll release the chlorine into the air and might kill you a little bit.

  14. I got tired of having so many different cleaning products under the sink. I don’t know why it doesn’t get more play, but Dr. Bronner’s has a cleaning product Sal Suds cleaner.

    It’s fantastic and very concentrated. You can mix about a teaspoon with a spray bottle of water and use it as a spray cleaner. Add to a mop bucket for mopping. Great for cleaning the toilet, etc. It’s harder to find than the regular Dr. Bronner soaps but the bottle lasts forever.

    1. I am fairly certain that I once bought Sal Suds that had been mis-bottled as Almond or whatever.  I can vouch that it’s stronger than the regular soaps, at any rate.

  15. Wait, all the people saying not to use baking soda to brush teeth have me worried… can I still use it on my dog? Dogs shouldn’t have human toothpaste (they end up swallowing all that fluoride) so I mix up baking soda with water and sometimes salt and/or flavoring. Seeing as how his life expectancy is under 10 years perhaps scratching the enamel is less of a concern? 

    1. Use baking soda with confidence Abbie, that’s all Julia Roberts has used for over a decade! Blessings.

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