How to Make Your Own Cleaning Products

A top view of a various ingredients for a natural cleaning solution: lemon, baking soda, vinegar, and sponges.

Spring cleaning is upon us but the good news is that the stuff you need to spruce your house up is mostly in your house already. Everyday household items like vinegar, lemons, soft drinks, baking soda and salt can be combined to yield powerful cleaning products that don’t trigger allergies, asthma or other negative health reactions like store-bought cleaners do. Here’s a few simple ideas about how to make your own cleaning products from a few simple ingredients that are healthier, safer and less intrusive than store-bought cleaning products. Let’s check out a few of the most useful things you can make to scrub the place up.

1. All-Purpose Cleaner

A jar of baking soda, a jar of vinegar, and a half of a lemon.

As always, vinegar is your friend. There are about a million ways to use vinegar during your cleaning chores, although many people worry that the smell of vinegar — any mom who has made colored Easter eggs will sympathize — will linger like the smell of pickles or salad dressing. Fortunately, the smell dissipates quickly, and a simple concoction can serve you well to clean just about anything. Here’s what you need:
  • One half-cup of white vinegar
  • Two tablespoons of baking soda
  • 10 drops or so of lemon essential oil (drop by your local natural foods supplier for this ingredient).

Combine the vinegar and the essential oils in a spray bottle — your natural food stores may suggest an alternative, and that’s okay — and then add baking soda and water to fill the container. This is a great natural cleaner that you can use for about anything.

2. Lemon. (Yep, that’s it. Just a lemon.)

A few half-cut lemons on a wooden cutting board next to a dish of lemon juice.

Lemons are a weirdly counter-intuitive substance — they bring to mind acid, citrus and an aroma that can be either attractive or a bit harsh but they’re a wildly attractive alternative to substances like bleach. You can scrub cutting boards, bowls, dishes and cutlery effectively simply by cutting a lemon in half and rubbing it over the surface, rinsing after a half-hour or so.

3. The Non-Organic but Wildly Effective Bathroom Cleaner

A man with blue gloves scrubbing a bathroom sink with a spray bottle of a cleaning solution next to him.

Vinegar, lemons, hot water and other general household items are really your best friend when it comes to making your own cleaning products but occasionally, you need something more powerful. Here’s a recipe for a robust all-purpose bathroom cleaner:
  • A teaspoon of Borax: while this is generally a commercial product, it’s technically a naturally occurring compound that also includes a mineral and a dash of boric acid.
  •  A teaspoon of washing soda: another commercial product from makers like Arm & Hammer that’s basically cooked baking soda.
  • One teaspoon of Castile Soap: this is oil-based cleaning soap, which is biodegradable and nontoxic.
  • A half-cup of white vinegar: vinegar!
  • Two cups of hot water.
  • Some essential oil: your choice of tea tree, grapefruit, lemon, eucalyptus, etc.
  • A medium-sized spray bottle.

This is a bit complicated, but you’ll basically want to add everything but the water and the essential oil and allow it to mix and then slowly add the water and essential oil, and allow it to cool. Pour it in the spray bottle, and you’re set to go.

These are just a few of the cleaning products you can make at home. Vinegar, dish soap and essential oils create a killer glass cleaner, while lemon juice and table salt do a number on brass. While not in the organic line, bleach, detergent and hot water also do a great job as a last-minute stain remover. With a little research, you’ll find that common items like oils, alcohol, cornstarch, hydrogen and baking soda give you a mad scientist’s laboratory worth of items to make your own cleaning products.