Simple, Green Homemade Cleaners


I first began using homemade cleaning products back when I wrote for a newspaper in Texas. I did a story on a couple of women who were trying to spread the word about “green” cleaning alternatives. I used homemade cleaners for a long time after that–I loved how much simpler they were, as well as cheaper. And they work! Later, I got out of the habit as I worked outside the home and was “too busy” to prepare the homemade cleaners and would just grab something off the shelf at the store instead.

Of course, in truth, it takes no time at all to put homemade cleaners together and it is actually so much simpler than buying and storing an array of cleaners for every different task. As well as being environmentally-friendly, homemade cleaners are better for our health as we aren’t breathing in all those complex chemical fumes. They’re more economical, and in the rural and sometimes cut-off periods of winter, for me, they mean laying in a few basic supplies guarantees me some glass cleaner if I’m just dying to clean in the middle of January and there’s a foot of snow on the driveway.

Our great-grandmothers did their cleaning with homemade products, of course, using whatever was available to them–and their homes were probably cleaner than ours! If you’re like me and used to make your own cleaners then got out of the habit, let this be your little nudge to get started again. It’s better for you, your family, the environment, and your budget.

For most basic homemade cleaners that will tackle almost every job in your house, you’ll need these standard supplies (along with water):

white vinegar
rubbing alcohol
lemon juice
olive oil
baking soda
mild detergent*

*You can make your own homemade laundry detergent to use in cleaning recipes!

You can buy plain spray bottles, or save old store-bought spray bottles to wash out and reuse for homemade cleaners. Be sure to label everything and store cleaners out of the reach of children and pets.

Undiluted white vinegar, by the way, works wonders by itself. It’s very good for cleaning hard water deposits or soap scum. You can use 1/2 to a full cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle to soften laundry instead of store-bought fabric softener. (It won’t leave any vinegar smell on your laundry!) You can also use straight vinegar to remove mold and mildew. (Lemon juice works well for this, too.)

Vinegar is also a great stain remover on many surfaces! (Tip: Run 1/4 cup vinegar in with a pot of water through your coffeemaker to remove stains on the carafe.) The wonders of white vinegar go on and on. Buy it in the bulk size.

This first recipe is very basic and is what I call “Kitchen Cleaner” because it’s great for cleaning countertops, appliances, backsplashes, etc. It’s also great in the bathroom. (It also works on many carpet and other stains.)

Note the PRINT LINK directly below. (This will give you a graphics-free printable page, and will print all the recipes in this post.)

Printer-Friendly Printer-Friendly
Kitchen Cleaner:

equal parts–
white vinegar

Here’s another good cleaner for just about anything–

All-Purpose Cleaner:

per 2 cups water, add–
1 tablespoon ammonia
1-2 tablespoons laundry detergent (liquid, not powdered)

My all-time favorite and most-used cleaner is glass cleaner. I’ve been tempted to put some blue dye in it so that Morgan won’t complain about another homemade something!

Glass Cleaner:

1 cup water
1 cup rubbing alcohol
1 tablespoon white vinegar*

*You can also use ammonia instead of vinegar if you need a stronger glass cleaner.

And this is, hands-down, the best furniture polish you’ll ever use.

Furniture Polish:

Per cup of olive oil, add–
1/2 cup lemon juice

This makes your house smell so good, you’ll want to polish your furniture more often!

For the floors……

Floor Cleaners:

Vinyl flooring–
1 cup white vinegar in a gallon of water

Wood flooring–
1/2 cup white vinegar in a gallon of water

If you want any of your homemade cleaners to have fragrance, you can add a drop or two of any essential oil. For example, love the orange scent of some store-bought cleaners? Add a drop of orange oil. Or whatever scent you love. (Essential oils can be expensive, but they go a long way when you’re only adding a drop or two, and in the end, you are still spending less than if you bought cleaners at the store.)

Homemade “Soft Scrub” Cleaner:

Combine a small amount of baking soda in a bowl. Add liquid detergent (such as from your homemade laundry detergent, or dishwashing liquid) until it forms a paste. This works really great on surfaces where you are worried about scratches, and makes a great basic bathroom cleaner.

For a more basic scrub, just use a scrubby pad and plain baking soda!

More for the bathroom…..

Toilet Bowl Cleaner:

1/4 cup baking soda
1 cup white vinegar

Combine and pour into the toilet bowl. Let sit 5-10 minutes, then scrub.

Once you get the idea of how homemade cleaners are put together, you can experiment to make your own recipes for specific cleaning tasks. Ammonia is a strong cleaner for tough jobs. Olive oil adds softening and protection. Lemon juice dissolves dirt and eliminates odors. Liquid detergent adds extra cleaning and sudsing power when you need it. (It’s soap, of course.) Alcohol is added to glass cleaner for the “evaporating” aspect, leaving your windows and mirrors clear and streak-free. (Also good for many shiny fixtures.) Baking soda is a mild abrasive and deodorizer. Vinegar is also a deodorizer and a gentle cleaner (and adds shine to floors).

In case you get a hankering to include bleach in any of your homemade cleaners when you are experimenting, please note this: DO NOT combine bleach with ammonia or vinegar as this can create toxic fumes. Be careful out there!

Now go clean something!


  1. rileysmom says:

    Like I need encouragement to clean!! πŸ˜‰
    Now, I only use a home made window cleaner; it works much better than a brand name cleaner!
    Thank you for the toilet cleaner; I didn’t know that one. Surely it’s better for a septic system than bleach.

  2. Christina says:

    Way to spread the word, Suzanne! I’ve been using home-made cleaners (and bar soap!!) for some time now and I’ll never go back. My house is just as clean (if not cleaner!) with my home-made mixes and it smells WAY better because I use essential oils and am left with a lovely scent instead of chemical smell. Yay!

    Have you uses Castille soap? It’s a great super concentrated liquid soap that can be used for anything! It’s great for shampoo, too. I use it all over the house. I have it dilutes in a spray bottle in the kitchen. I have foaming hand pumpers in the kitchen and bathrooms with a diluted mix of it, too. I add food coloring and essential oils to make it look and smell pretty; and to make it all my own. πŸ™‚

    This is the brand I get: I’ve had lots of luck with it. It comes in many different scents, but you can also get unscented.

    Just my two cents (scents!) :sheep:

  3. Bethany James says:

    I love your ideas for homemade cleaners! Believe it or not, my biggest obstacle when it comes to making my own is that I don’t have spray bottles to put it into. Obviously, I have to lay in a stock of a few sprayers and eliminate the excuses!

    I do keep baking soda in a sprinkle jar (like the kind pizza restaurants use for parm) and use it to clean and scrub all the sinks and even my corelle dishes if they get stained. It’s perfect for getting those burned stain bits off the pyrex baking dishes!

  4. Kat says:

    I bought powdered citric acid at the health food store for cheesemaking. Then I heard it was great for cleaning espresso makers. Now I use it all over the house for cleaning. It’s cheap, makes metal and glass and ceramic super-sparkly, and avoids the vinegar smell (which I don’t mind, but others in the family do).

  5. KentuckyFarmGirl says:

    Looking forward to trying some of these. I use hydrogen peroxide for a lot of cleaning around here.

  6. Miss Becky says:

    thanks for posting about home-made cleaners Suzanne. I can’t remember the last time I bought any kind of cleaner at the store. I can’t take the smell of them, my sinuses say “no way”. My spray bottle of vinegar and water is my “go to” cleaner. this information is invaluable. thanks so much.

  7. Woodwife says:

    My grandmother always washed her windows with vinegar and water and newspaper. The newspaper really does give it extra oomph.

    I clean my laminate floor with a homemade brew of water, vinegar, rubbing alcohol and baby shampoo.

  8. Helen says:

    I use citric acid crystals to clean hard water deposits off of just about everything. Avoid getting on granite and/or marble countertops, though.

  9. Sandra in SC says:

    Thanks for the cleaner recipes, Suzanne. I use alot of white vinegar to clean too.

  10. Melody says:

    I started makeing all my cleaners homemade about a year ago..I now make my laundry soap,after seeing it on your post.

  11. Patrice says:

    I’m looking forward to trying some of these. I’m getting more sensitive to chemicals every year. I’ve been using only the laundry detergent that you gave a recipe for. It’s awesome. It actually works pretty well for cleaning spots on the walls too. I make a batch every two weeks now! The kids haven’t had rashes and we’re saving money. Cool!

  12. Nancy in Iowa says:

    Like what Woodwife wrote – my mother (don’t know about Grandma!) always washed all our Florida windows – including jalousies – with white vinegar and wiped dry with newspaper for a no-streak finish. Of course, when I was a little older, I got the job! Yech – hated the jalousies in the breezeway – had a lot of knuckle cuts.

  13. Drucillajoy says:

    Just wondering, why the white vinegar? Does it have a special power, or maybe less smell? I use cider vinegar & it works great…had a cat that was peeing a few places he shouldn’t & it worked better at neutralizing the odor than the flowery smelling products made to clean up after animals. I use it all the time to get water deposits off stuff…canning jars that have been used to root a plant..the animals water bowls..faucets..anything…way cheaper than that CLR stuff & just as good…plus the smell gives me inspiration as to what to cook next πŸ™‚

  14. Michelle says:

    To clean our fiberglass shower I spray the shower with water, sprinkle on a generous amount of baking soda and squeeze a little cheap shampoo on. Then scrub it with a shower puff thingy. Doesn’t take much work at all, PLUS no bad smells! I also do the same for my toilet.

  15. Jerry says:

    To Drucillajoy: Vinegar has Acetic Acid in it. This is the cleaning power.

    Also: Professional window cleaners have used one simple solution for the last 20 years: Dawn dish washing liquid in their water. I too have used this solution for at least 10 years and nothing beats it. It takes very little in a pail of water, and leaves the windows completely streak free. But here’s the real secret: Did you ever wonder why professional window cleaners use squeegees? Because that’s all you need! Using the Dawn, and a professional squeegee with real “live rubber” (not that cheap stuff that comes in most squeegees) you will be able to clean your windows to perfection in a fraction of the time! I’ve have my brass squeegees for 15 years now and they are just to the point of needing the rubber replaced. Easily done and cheap too! I have 13 windows, a total 26 surfaces (inside and out) that I can clean in 20 minutes flat. I know because I’ve timed myself. The trick is to wipe your squeegee with every swipe with a cloth. You’d be amazed how quick it is once you get the hang of it without all that time rubbing and rubbing. πŸ™‚

  16. LisaAJB says:

    This is great! I make my own cleaner too. I don’t remember the measurements off hand, but it’s mostly alcohol, white vinegar, and water with some ammonia and a small amount of dish soap. I use it to clean everything, but I’ll be cleaning the toilet with your stuff from now on. Oh, and if you have a recipe to get rid of the soap scum and water spots on the shower door, that would be great. I’ve been using non toxic Method shower cleaner on that. It’s the only cleaner I buy, and I’d like to have an alternative if there is one. Thanks for the share.

  17. Drucillajoy says:

    Jerry…I was not asking ‘why vinegar’ I was asking why the white vinegar…as I stated, I know all about how effective vinegar can be. thanks

  18. CindyP says:

    Drucillajoy: you can use ACV, it has the same acidic level as white vinegar, white is just cheaper πŸ™‚

    I use a vinegar/water mix for most all of the cleanup. If it needs something more, I use some of my dishwasher detergent —

    1 cup washing soda, 1 cup borax, 1 cup canning salt, 1 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup citric acid — Put in a container with a tight fitting lid. Don’t allow it to get wet! The citric acid when mixed with water will harden up. Use 2 Tbl per load. Also, I use white vinegar in the rinse compartment.

    I also use the baking soda/vinegar then follow up with hot water when it’s done fizzing in the drains to keep them clean and fresh!

  19. farmershae says:

    I REALLY need to start doing this. We’ve started using borax more often, but could do much better. Thank you for the ideas!!

  20. judydee says:

    CindyP–Thanks for the dishwasher detergent recipe. I’ve never seen this one. Wondering if there could be place for all non-food recipes to be collected and saved/printed out? You know, for cleaners, soaps, lotions, etc. that I’ve seen in comments and on the forum?

  21. northcountrygirl says:

    Mom always cleaned the windows with vinegar and water and wiped them dry with newspaper. I will have to try these green cleaners. Sounds good to me.

  22. glenda says:

    I made some laundry detergent, but we didn’t like it at all. Maybe my recipe wasn’t a good one. I know it involved a bar of soap, washing soda and water. The clothes did not come clean. I still have a half gallon of it just sitting on the shelf.

    I will be saving all these recipes.

  23. LauraP says:

    I’m a big fan of natural cleaners and find the biggest perk for me personally is avoiding all the fragranced products — seriously, I have the worst allergies to so many perfumes and fragranced products. I can walk through a field of ragweed and have less trouble than I do in the detergent aisle of the grocery store.

    A tip for those with hard water – I run a pint of white vinegar through the dishwasher (empty load) once a week to control the mineral deposits. It might sound like a lot of vinegar, but this 5 years of trial and error has proven this formula to be ideal for our hard water.

  24. Liz in Wis says:

    …add a drop or two of essential oil, what a great idea; enjoyed reading all the comments!

  25. mamawolf says:

    Glenda: Try Suzanne’s recipe for laundry soap – Borax powder, washing soda, baking soda and a bar of soap (I use Felsnaptha but Kirk’s soap is just as good; I find these at ACE Hardware). For a regular load I use 1/4-1/2 cup depending upon the “dirt” factor. The clothes are always clean and fresh smelling. Another bonus is that I no longer need to use fabric softner and there is less lint in the dryer lint screen.

  26. JOJO says:

    how often do you fill the rinse solution compartment with vinegar?

  27. JOJO says:

    —I also meant to ask if someone konws how to clean the diswasher (empty)–what to use.
    Thank you.

  28. CindyP says:

    JOJO — I fill the rinse compartment with vinegar every few loads or so. It doesn’t take much…if the compartments empty I fill it up, if it’s not I close the door πŸ™‚

    judydee — each comment in the forum has a print function, there’s a little printer right above the comment, you can print which ones you’d like πŸ™‚

  29. BuckeyeGirl says:

    @ JOJO If the Vinegar doesn’t do it, and it may not if you have rust spots, try couple scoops of “Tang” drink mix, or several packets of Kool-Aid. (I use the lemon aid since it’s a neutral color) Either works. It’s the citric acid in both that does it.

  30. Carol says:

    Thanks for the recipes. I make my own laundry detergent, but haven’t found one I like for washing the dishes. I do them by hand. One recipe I tried curdled and didn’t do a good job. Any good recipes for dish washing? Thanks.

  31. JOJO says:

    Cindy–I did the vinegar in the rinse compartment of the diswasher, and the dishes are squeaky clean, and the glasses sparkle like new, even better than the store bought rinse aids, thank you so much for the tip.I purchased a gallon of vinegar for less than one of those little rinse aid bottles. I filled a smaller bottle and keep it handy under the sink.

  32. Martha in KS says:

    I’m new here but wanted to share something about dishwasher detergent. My plumber told me to not use powdered – use liquid instead because the powder builds up inside your pipes. Maybe homemade dissolves completely. Might let some sit in water to test it.

  33. Sirje says:

    Wish I could make these myself! In Germany you can’t even buy more than a small packet of baking soda. Three packets about the size of a packet of dry yeast… which is another thing you can’t buy here…cost about 1 euro, depending on where you are.

    White vinegar is no problem, but you need a doctor’s prescription and a good reason to acquire about an ounce of hydrogen peroxide. And ammonia? BLEACH?? Forget it. It’s very strange.

  34. Karen in Ohio says:

    White vinegar in the wash also gets the laundry cleaner, by a lot. I was so surprised.

    One of my daughters is a climber, and one time she came home with her car loaded with the stinkiest, nastiest clothes and sleeping bag. I had her shove it all in the washer, then we added a cup of baking soda in with the clothes. Smell all gone. She was thrilled (and so was I!).

  35. stacey says:

    i love homemade cleaners. I make a versiion of your kitchen cleaner. I also add two squirts of dish soap & about 10 drops of tea tree oil. i’ve been using this receipe for over 10 years now.

    my soft scrub is just baking soda on it’s own. works wonders.

  36. Kristen A says:

    Holy #$@%!!!! Michelle! I have lived with hard water stains ever since we built our house 5 years ago and have tried EVERYTHiNG to get rid of them. Nothing has worked. Just for fun, I thought I’d try your suggestion. What did I have to lose (besides hard water stains)? Lo and behold, IT WORKED!!!!! It worked. It worked. It worked. Now my shower, and soon to be tubs, will be sparkling! I can’t thank you enough for posting your “secret”. And thank you Suzanne for inspiring all of us to be more eco conscious, and frugal! I have already made your laundry detergent and am gearing up to make your chocolate spa and lavender basil soaps. Not to mention cheese. I love your site! Thank you for your efforts and inspiration.

  37. mamajhk says:

    Several years ago I bought the book Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean by Linda Cobb. She uses a lot of the same type recipes that Suzanne does. I use her non-abrasive souring powder (for disinfecting) recipe which is: 4 parts baking soda and 1 part borax. I put this in a labeled shaker container. I also use her grease cuting scouring powder which is 4 parts baking soda and 1 part washing soda. Also stored in a labeled shaker container.
    Just made and used Suzanne’s recipe for glass cleaner and so far so good. I use cloth diapers as my cleaning “rags”.
    i have just been on this site a few days and have enjoyed it a lot and have gotten a lot of good (why didn’t I think of that) ideas

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