DIY: Homemade Household Cleaners

DIY Homemade Household Cleaners

Here it is–the post you’ve all been requesting and eagerly anticipating: How I clean my toilet!

Sort of.

Last week I wrote about why I clean my own home. It isn’t the right choice for everyone, and hiring someone to help isn’t even an option for everyone.

For us, though, it fits with our lifestyle.

We try to live simply and make our actions as gentle as possible on both our health and the environment. However, I’m not about to spend twice as much time, effort, and money to accomplish the same task, so I sought solutions that were easy and efficient.

With those goals, we’ve experimented with making our own household cleaners using less-toxic ingredients and less packaging; initially intended to be a short-term experiment, we liked them so much we’ve been using these favorite recipes for several years.

Glass Cleaner

  • 1/3 cup Vinegar
  • 1/3 cup Vodka or Rubbing Alcohol
  • 1 tablespoon Cornstarch (optional)
  • 5 drops of Essential Oil (optional)
  • Water

To a clean, empty spray bottle, add vinegar and alcohol. If your windows are particularly dirty, add cornstarch for more scrubbing action. We’ve never found the cornstarch necessary, but if you do choose to add it, be sure to shake the solution well before every use so it doesn’t clog your spray bottle. Add essential oil if you prefer a fragrance. Then, fill the remainder of the bottle with water.

Shake, spray on your mirror or glass, and wipe with a microfiber cloth. If you don’t use it all, label the bottle and store it in a childproof location.

Warning: If you clean your glass doors too well, kids, adults, and birds will run into them at full speed. Dirty fingerprints and window clings can save lives, and these can even add privacy.

Bathroom Cleaner

For light jobs, the glass cleaner recipe above works just fine. For heavier jobs, spray, then let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing and/or add the following:

  • 5 drops Dawn Dish Soap
  • 1/3 cup Baking Soda instead of cornstarch

If you (like me) prefer to have just one bottle of multi-purpose cleaner, stick with the glass cleaner. For tricky bathroom jobs, sprinkle baking soda over the worst areas and then spray them with your multi-purpose cleaner.

For even heavier jobs like a filthy toilet bowl, pour in 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup vinegar, let sit for 15 minutes, then scrub and flush.

If you let the kids watch the toilet volcano reaction, maybe they’ll volunteer to clean next time!

Granite Cleaner

  • 1/3 cup Vodka or Rubbing Alcohol
  • 2 drops Dawn Dish Soap
  • 5 drops of non-citrus Essential Oil (optional)
  • Water

In a clean, empty spray bottle, add the alcohol and Dawn. Add essential oil if you prefer a fragrance. Finally, add water until the bottle is nearly full. Put the top on, shake gently, and it’s ready to use. If you don’t use it all, label the bottle and store it in a childproof location.

Acids such as vinegar and citrus can damage granite, so make sure to use non-citrus essential oils and avoid vinegar in this cleaner.

If you’re thinking of installing granite counters, I highly recommend a variegated pattern. You won’t be able to see the dirt, so they’ll always seem clean!

Laundry Detergent

  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1 bar of Soap or Fels-Naptha, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup Baking Soda
  • 1 cup Borax

Be sure to use actual soap and not an oil-based beauty bar like Dove. In a food processor, pulse the washing soda and soap until the soap is cut into small beads. Add the baking soda and borax, place a towel or other cloth over the machine to trap the dust, and pulse briefly to mix.

Pour into an air-tight container of your choice, and use 1-2 tablespoons per load of laundry. I also use vinegar in place of fabric softener–the smell rinses out completely and it keeps your clothes soft and your washing machine clean and fresh.

For even softer laundry, make and use these wool dryer balls. One skein of yarn made 5 balls, and our laundry is soft, fluffy, and fresh without the dryer sheet residue.

I’m hearing more and more about Soap Nuts, but I haven’t tried them yet. Some swear they’re the best thing since sliced bread, and others complain that they leave orange stains on white clothes. If you’ve used them, please leave a review in the comments below.

Also, I’ve heard rumors of a laundry fairy that will match all the socks and put all my clothes away. If you see her, please send her my way 🙂

Leather Cleaner

  • 1/4 cup Oil
  • 1/2 cup Vinegar
  • 5 drops of Essential Oil (optional)

We use extra virgin olive oil that doesn’t have any scent, though others recommend linseed oil or coconut oil. Since coconut oil solidifies below 76 degrees, this should be reserved for use in summer in warm climates. The vinegar scent dissipates quickly, and we’re a mostly fragrance-free household, so we skip the essential oils.

Pour the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake well, spray on a rag, and wipe down your furniture and any leather in your vehicle. You’ll swear it’s like you got a brand new car! Let it dry for at least 20 minutes before sitting on your ‘new’ leather.

Some articles recommend against using oils on your furniture, though they seem to be advertising their own expensive products instead. Here’s the main one so you can decide for yourself.

Dusting Spray

This last category seems like a marketing scheme to me. Just as some holidays seem to exist only to boost Hallmark’s sales (did you know that October has both a National Bologna Day and a National Mincemeat Day?), specific sprays for dusting seem to do little more than pad the pockets of the companies that manufacture them.

The vast majority of the time, a damp microfiber cloth works like a charm.

If your wood furniture needs a little extra love, the leather cleaner works well for dusting too. And if your non-wood furniture requires more than just water, the glass cleaner works like a charm.


The main ingredients for all of these recipes can be found in almost any grocery store. Vinegar and baking soda are located with the baking supplies, rubbing alcohol is with the first aid supplies, and Fels-Naptha and washing soda are often on a low shelf near the laundry detergent. Depending on your state’s liquor laws, cheap vodka might be available in your grocery store or it might require a special trip to the liquor store. Essential oils can be a bit trickier because many are offered by multilevel marketing companies, though Amazon has oils as well as all of the other products listed above.

Have you tried any DIY cleaners? Which recipes are your favorites?

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The What-The-Hell Effect
Why I Clean My Own Home

Comments 13

  1. I’ll have to try the leather cleaner! The only thing I dislike more than cleaning and treatment leather furniture is purchasing the expensive cleaners and conditioners.

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      We’ve been using it a few times per year for several years and it has been wonderful. I agree- it’s much nicer to use ingredients you already have in your kitchen than to spend $$$ on a bottle that takes up space and is only useful for one purpose. Please let me know how you like it.

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      We use vodka for the granite cleaner because the smell is less intense than the rubbing alcohol. With the all-purpose cleaner, though, the vinegar already smells a little so we use rubbing alcohol because it’s less expensive. While you do smell the vinegar, the scent only lasts for a few minutes and it’s less harsh on the eyes and nose than a lot of the storebought solutions.
      I’m with you on scents. I used to love perfumes, but now they drive me nuts and I hate smelling other people from a mile away. It seems weird that everything (shampoo, deodorant, lotion, detergent, cleaners) has a different scent that’s competing for your attention and they don’t usually mix well.

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  2. I’m with Ty, Julie. Your leather cleaner couldn’t have come at a better time. My tired leather chair has been mocking for at least six months now. I can’t wait to give it a good cleaning.

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      Isn’t it funny how we remember to dust the tables but forget the couches and chairs? The dirt isn’t as noticeable, so it flies under our radar. At least now you’ll see a huge change and get to enjoy the results for the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving!

      1. It is. I happened to be retrieving something from behind the big leather chair and I noticed an unseemly amount of dust in one of the chair’s creases. Yuck! I’m jumping on it today. Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

  3. I make all my own cleaners too! I admit, I’ve never made my own leather cleaner though – thanks for that! Dawn is great to keep on hand to make cleaners. One magical recipe I use is dawn and vinegar – this will successfully remove the toughest soap scum.

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      It is fantastic! If the shower is icky we use Dawn too, but it isn’t great for glass and mirrors because it will leave streaks, and I love just having one bottle that works on the whole bathroom.
      Good for you for making your own cleaners. It’s so much less expensive and less toxic.

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