Do it Yourself Cleaners – for the house and for you

Now that I rarely go to the store it really irks me to make a trip because we’ve run out of toothpaste or cleaner of some kind. And with so few labels to read I can scrutinize the heck out of everything.

My goal this year is to come up with solutions for everything I buy. I’ve learned how to make my own lotion, salve and lip cover. I’ve learned how to mix my own facial oil which actually works better for me than lotion although when I have time I still plan to mix some of that into lotion form since I think in the summer it may be nicer to have a lotion to put on frequently.

I’ve been making my own toothpaste which works and tastes great. I’ve been making my own underarm deoderant which works fine for me but I’m not training for the half marathon this winter so perhaps that one isn’t a fair test yet.

I’ve been making my own vapor rub, both for us and the kids and it’s nice to know it’s not petroleum based and contains the same active ingredients as Vic’s.

I’m still testing dish soap, dishwasher soap and laundry soap recipes but hoping to share those with you soon. You can bet your bottom dollar they are earth friendly (not just claiming to be) and contain nothing creepy.

The last thing I’m geared up to do but still looking for time to make is a year’s worth of soap – both bar soap and liquid soap.

The great thing about all of these things is that by buying a small arsenal of essential oils and using pantry ingredients plus a few specialty items like sodium carbonate (washing soda) or potash (lye) you can make your own solutions to what encompasses multiple aisles at the druggists or grocers. You invest one time in spray bottles and recycle food or lotion bottles to store things in.

There are no planetary resources that go into manufacturing, distributing, marketing, corporate research and develop which may include animal testing, and there are no bottles for you to recycle when you are done. It really doesn’t get much more sustainable than that. And you just can’t beat the cost of making things using stuff you already have in your pantry.

Once you’ve built up a nice library of essential oils, that is.

If stored properly, essential oils will last for years. You can buy essential oils at almost any health food store but I’ve found the quality of oils from Mountain Rose Herbs to be amazing and they don’t have those “not for human consumption” warnings on them which is nice if I plan to use them in a toothpaste or mouthwash. I’m increasingly wary of the source of all my spices and oils in the wake of food recalls related to black pepper this year.

Please consider trying some of these solutions and let me know what you think!

Daytime Face Oil for Aging Skin
This is great for rosacea-prone skin as well
2 Tablespoons sweet almond, olive or apricot oil
1 teaspoon any or all: jojoba oil, borage seed oil, carrot
10 drops evening primrose oil
15 drops German chammomile essential oil
5 drops lavendar or geranium essential oil
5 drops palma rosa oil
Spray clean face with a lavendar or rose and water spritzer (add EO to distilled water in a spray bottle) then gently massage in the oil. After a few minutes if it feels like there is excess oil you can blot it with a tissue but it seems to soak right in for me.

Nighttime Face Oil for Aging or Rosacea-Prone Skin
2 teaspoons wheatgerm oil
2 teaspoons avocado oil
30 drops jojoba oil
10 drops borage seed oil
20 drops evening primrose oil
10 drops German chammomile oil
15 drops Geranium oil
10 drops Carrot oil
Use as the day time oil.
Note: I am just using the daytime oil which seems to work fine for me. I am adding some olive oil that I infused with chammomile, comfrey and borage flowers last summer since I have it on hand. I use that same infused oil in my lotion mix and my salve since it is so anti-inflammatory and soothing.

Window and Glass Cleaner
For windows, glass and any shiny surface I use vinegar.

Scrubbing Cleaner
For anything needing scrubbing powder (like the shower or sink basin) I use baking soda (sodium bicarbonate.) This includes the stove top with it’s baked on gunk that I’m afraid to scratch, as well as my white tiled bathroom floor and grout. I remember whining to my grandpa once when I was tasked with cleaning the bathroom as a small child. “How do you expect me to get it clean?” I asked. “Put some elbow grease into it, kid” he said. So add elbow grease to my list too.

Carpet Stain Remover
For carpet stains I use borax which you can buy with most laundry detergents. It’s sold as a laundry booster. Blot your carpet stain dry, sprinkle borax on, let it dry and vacuum it up.

Disinfectant/Cleaning Spray
Dash liquid soap such as dish soap or Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap
2 Tablespoons vodka
5 ml lavender essential oil
5 ml niaouli essential oil
5 ml lemon myrtle essential oil
3 ml oregano essential oil (you can use pine if you like that scent but I abhor that pine smell)
32 ounces distilled water (I’ve used filtered and it seems to last forever without molding)
Mix everything together and put into a spray bottle.

2 Tablespoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vegetable glycerine* (you can omit and use this as a powder which you sprinkle on your toothbrush instead)
10-20 drops essential oil like clove, cinnamon or mint
Liquid stevia to taste

2 oz water
6 drops tea tree oil
6 drops peppermint, cinnamon or clove oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz vodka

1/4 cup vodka or witch hazel
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vegetable glycerin (optional)
10 drops tea tree oil
20-40 drops essential oil of your choice (lavendar, rose geranium, clary sage, vanilla, clove or citrus would all be nice. More masculine scents might be fir, sage or bay laurel)

Air Freshener
Add any combination of essential oil drops to water to get the strength and scent you love. Spray with abandon, avoiding eyes. You can also place your liquid in a shallow bowl of pebbles with a bamboo skewer to scent the room, or use direct essential oils to scent pine cones or dried flowers in a bowl potpourri style. Some stores also sell those plug ins with blank “filters” that you can simply put your own essential oils on and plug into an outlet. Compare this with those chemical laden “air fresheners”.

Remember the first R is “Reduce.” By reducing the number of personal or household products you buy you really are making a difference.

Update: I had totally forgotten about this link which I posted sometime last spring. This site has some really simple and effective home made cleaning solvents too.

Pay special attention when they say “According to a study at Virginia Tech, spraying hydrogen peroxide and vinegar right after one another is just as effective at killing germs as lung-irritating, stream-polluting chlorine bleach.” How cool is that?

* I recently read something that said you should avoid toothpastes with glycerin in them because it coats your teeth, making it difficult for them to remineralize so I’ve been leaving this out.

28 Responses to Do it Yourself Cleaners – for the house and for you

  1. So… vodka for mouthwash! Hmmmm… so do you have to spit it out after swishing?! LOL!

    Vinegar is a great class cleaner and it is also a good pet odor remover as well.

  2. Love this list! Last year I switched out all my cleansers for vinegar and baking soda based cleaners. My house is just as clean (or dirty, depending how you look at it) as it ever was. I was always taught to use elbow grease, whether I use it or not is up for speculation.

  3. KFG – you only have to spit it out if you use tea tree oil, the mint you could choose your preference. :) I remember when I was a kid we got on an airplane and the old man in front of us drank his cologne the whole time. And it was NOT homemade.

    Julia – I’m not surpised at all. Some days my elbows seem to have more grease than others too. :p

  4. not surprised at all that you have already done this, not that you love the list.

  5. One ingredient you should check out is grapefruit seed extract. It has many uses, but I use it mostly in my homemade sanitizer spray for cutting boards, milk pails, kids potty etc. I was looking for a safe alternative to commercial udder teat dips and sanitizers for milk utensils. My homeopathic doctor said that some homeopathic clinics use the combination of grapefruit seed extract and tea tree essential oil as a sanitizer cleanser. I also use it as a preservative in homemade soaps and lotions. It is an antibacterial/antibiotic so we gargle with it when we get sore throats and drink tiny amounts if we have an infection. I don’t know if you have this book yet, but it is my favorite for making your own body care products, Earthly Bodies and Heavenly Hair by Dina Falconi.

  6. Hi Emily – thanks! I have some in the fridge but wasn’t too sure exactly how to use it. I also have that book. Is there somewhere in particular you remember reading about how to use it? There is so much info in that book and the other EO book I have that I take them to bed and just open and read until I fall asleep so I’ve missed a lot of info I’m sure.

    The other EOs in the cleaner recipe were chosen because of their antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial properties and I consulted with someone knowledgeable before changing out the pine. I’d love to learn more about grapeseed oil!

  7. Last year a member of a forum I read regularly posted this link: – I’d been using grapefruit seed extract to sanitize cutting boards and fruits/produce and decided to stop using it after I read that.

  8. I have been looking for stuff like this–been making my own carpet freshener and using vinegar for a fabric softener. But now we’re in trouble! Just put in an order at Mountain Rose Herbs, wee!

  9. Interesting Auburn. I’ve never seen it recommended in my books as an anti-bacterial so maybe that’s why. I’ll stick to what I’m using!

    Melissa, isn’t that site dangerous? All the sprouting seeds and herbs. And then when you watch the how-tos next thing you know you are making elderberry syrup and cough drops!

  10. So, Annette, what did you buy the grapefruit seed extract you have in the fridge for?

  11. I read that it helped to preserve the shelf life of homemade lotions, which I’m confident it does simply because of the citrusy goodness, however that translates into chemistry talk.

  12. With baking soda, vinegar, and tea tree oil, you can change the world — make it a cleaner place! :-) My original (early ’90s) source of all homemade cleaners is Clean and Green, by Annie Berthold Bond. Now most of her basic recipes are on (search on “Non-Toxic Cleaning”). I also have a mini library of “cookbooks” (and scribbled recipes in drawers) for personal care items. It’s so satisfying to make, use, and gift your own stuff!
    Also … I’ve used GSE as a natural preservative in hand creams and other products for years. You don’t have to refrigerate it, but refrigerating your resulting creams etc. will keep them good longer.

  13. SGFB – I can’t wait to go check out that site! Do you have recipes on your blog for other things? Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  14. This is the first I had heard anything negative about the use of GSE. But it seems there is controversy over just about everything these days especially when it comes to self treating with ingredients we can grow or make ourselves. When I first purchased the grapefruit seed extract it came with a booklet on all its uses, but mostly we have just used it and had significant results. We haven’t had an emergency visit to the doctor in need of antibiotics in years. I’ve had better results gargling with it than hot salt water when I have a sore throat, a few times the sore throat and cold have disappeared completely after use. I don’t think that this could have been attributed to the placebo affect, but I guess synthetic additives not mentioned on the bottle? Well, I just ordered another bottle, but when that runs out I guess I’ll just have to make my own and see how it compares

  15. This list is excellent! I use a combination of baking soda and borax as scouring powder. I have recipes for laundry soap and dishwasher soap at mmy site if you haven’t checked yet. Even dh who does most of our wash approves of the laundry detergent recipe. I’m going to use my batch of “botched” bar soap in my next batch of laundry detergent.

  16. Emily, if it’s working for you I wouldn’t change a thing. I wish I hadn’t followed every fad diet the wind blew at me in the 80′s and 90′s – I’d probably be healthier for it.

    Angela, I like the borax but I know lots of folks are afraid of it. I think if used in small doses it’s great but people get the mistaken idea that just because something is natural it’s not harmful. I’ll have to check out your dishwasher soap recipe and see how it compares with what I am trying! The laundry soap I’m waiting to make my soap to use it in. I’m totally going to save my bacon grease now to use in my soap. That is funny your dh thought bacon would be a good soap scent! So masculine. Bacon is the new vogue, right?

  17. I love making my own cleaning products. Generally I pretty much use vinegar, baking soda and castile soap. I should learn to mix up my own facial oil, I love Mountain Rose Herbs Wild Rose Facial oil, my skin loves it!

  18. Chiot’s Run – thanks for stopping by! I love castile soap but it clogs my drains so next on my list is making liquid soap. It’s a similar process to making cured hard soap so I’m a little intimidated but excited nonetheless. Sometimes I feel like Ma Clampett over here. You never know if that pot is boiling laundry or soap or dinner.

  19. These are great to have in one place. I also want to put in a good word for grapefruit seed extract for cleanser, internal and external; it helped me get through @ a month of travels in South America without getting any stomach bug, though my very careful travel companion did get sick. I had a drop a day in water, plus used it on my toothbrush. Clove is my favorite in toothpastes and gargles.

  20. Localart – I think there is something to the fact that your travel companion was careful too. We are so sterile in this country that we have no gut flora left and that is important for warding off bugs. We should spend more time cultivating good bacteria. The old timers used to say you had to eat a peck of dirt to stay healthy. My kids should be in good shape. ;p

  21. Annette, this is a part of my life I’ve been wanting to change. I currently buy organic yada.. yada.. yada.. and find that they to can contain, well, not the best in ingredients. It’s so funny how I’m really adventurous when it comes to cooking, processing animals, and the such… yet find it scary to make my own toiletries. Thanks for this!!!

  22. Diana, it’s so hard to stay on top of these companies making “natural”cleaners and there is no regulation whatsoever. It’s better to have one small thing of bleach and use it judicously since you know exactly what’s in it I think, although I know folks who don’t have any bleach in the house at all. Good luck making that transition!

  23. Originally there were 4 R’s. The first is “refuse”. Then reduce, reuse, recycle. If you refuse to use it, bring it home or support making a product it won’t have to be reduced, reused or recycled.

  24. ET I love that! I bet the producers lobbied to get rid of the first R. :)

  25. Hey, I know this is kind of an old post but I wanted to thank you for posting all these recipes. I’m definitely going to try the toothpaste one (possibly add glycerin though, my dentist actually recommend I switch to glycerin as I have some cavities he says the coating the glycerin does will help keep them from getting worse) and I was wondering if you knew of anything that would work as a replacement for the vodka in the mouthwash. I live in an on campus apartment at my college and any alcohol, regardless of what you have it for, is against the rules here.

  26. Hi Alexander – That is really interesting about the glycerin and cavities. I’ve heard of oil pulling, wonder if it works the same way as swishing with coconut oil does maybe. I’ve just been using it w/o the glycerin then following up with a shot glass of water and a drop of peppermint oil or clove oil added in lieu of the mouthwash. I’m sure you could omit the vodka in it, it’s probably better for the good germs in your mouth not to kill them all off.
    There is some really interesting stuff about reversing cavities here: I love his blog, it’s nice when my green-ness and science agree. ;)

  27. Thanks so much for sharing this!!

  28. Pingback: June UFH Challenge Round 4: Everything Else | Sustainable Eats & the Dancing Goat Gardens Communal Project

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