homemade natural non-toxic green household cleanersDuring the warm weather, when I have windows open in every room, I feel OK using cheap, heavy-duty traditional cleaners. When the windows close for the season, though, I usually turn to store-bought “green” cleaners. For the most part, I’m happy with them. They work well. They’re everywhere. They’re not that expensive. Still, I can’t help but wonder: Did I just pay four bucks for a bottle of diluted vinegar (which I can get for 70 cents a quart)? Could I make my own cleaners for a fraction of the price?

I asked Jennifer Cottell, a local mom and trustee and legal advisor for the Holistic Moms Network, for the recipes to her best DIY green cleaners and put them to the real-mom test (Cottell’s a real mom, but she’s also really dedicated). I then rated them on a scale of 1-3:

  • 1=It’s easy. It’s cheap. It works. Do it!
  • 2=Worth a try
  • 3=In my next life

Head to the next page for the results—>


Linoleum and Tile Floors: Distilled White Vinegar and Water

Rating: 1

Directions: Combine 1 cup water to 1/4 cup vinegar.

Confession: It’s been about a decade since I cleaned a floor with a mop and bucket. I’m a Swiffer Wet Jet addict. But I understand that SWJ is possibly the most un-eco-friendly and un-budget-friendly cleaning tool around, so I dusted off the bucket and gave this vinegar concoction a try. It was super easy and worked totally well. I can’t say I’m going to give up SWJ cold turkey, but I’ll definitely use this again. I’m also going to look into the Rubbermaid Reveal, a cleaning tool that’s like SWJ but with reusable pads—and your own cleaner.

This recipe is safe for hard wood floors, too, though I’m of the opinion that nothing’s quite like Murphy’s Oil Soap for hard wood. Which brings me to….

Hard Wood Floors: Lemon Juice and Olive Oil

Rating: 3

Directions: Combine 1 cup lemon juice to 2 tablespoons olive oil

This felt sticky, and I didn’t see much, if any, cost savings over Murphy’s (which seems relatively free of harsh chemicals—even the guy in my local health food store recommended it), so that’s what I’m sticking with. You can also use these ingredients as a furniture polish: Use 1 cup olive oil to ¼ cup lemon juice. Cottell advises using an old ketchup bottle instead of a sprayer.


Glass Cleaner Option #1: Rubbing Alcohol

Rating: 2

For shiny, streak-free faucets, mirrors, and windows, Cottell recommends a dab of isopropyl alcohol on a rag. This worked well … but, yikes, I felt woozy after using it! And is it safe to put a rag with rubbing alcohol in the washer/dryer? It is convenient, though, for spot cleaning (as in, you’ve already cleaned the mirrors, but just before company comes, you notice a few spots; a dab of alcohol is easy and does the trick).

Glass Cleaner Option #2: Distilled White Vinegar and Dish Detergent

Rating: 1

I’d always heard that distilled white vinegar is great as a glass cleaner (and everything else, it seems!), so I scoured the Internet for the most effective vinegar-based recipe with the fewest ingredients. I came up with this one.

Directions: Combine 2 cups water, 3 tablespoons vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish detergent. Mix ingredients together in a spray bottle.

How easy is that? The site I got this from recommends using crumpled newspaper instead of a rag or paper towel to reduce streaking, but when I tried that, I got black smudges on the white trim of mirrors. I used a paper towel, and it worked fine.


Bathroom Surfaces: Baking soda and distilled white vinegar

Rating: 3

Directions: Sprinkle baking soda on surface and wipe with vinegar-dampened rag.

Sprinkle, dampen, cap bottle before 5-year-old spills contents. Too much going on for me. I’m sticking with the store-bought stuff.

Toilets: Powdered Borax

Rating: 1

Directions: Sprinkle borax into toilet bowl and leave for at least an hour, preferably overnight, then clean with a brush. You can also add a few squirts of lemon into the bowl, which has an antibacterial effect.

This couldn’t be easier or cheaper, and it’s just as effective as traditional toilet bowl cleaners. There’s no fragrance, though, so you might miss that “clean” smell, but the lemon will help somewhat with that. (In general, you can usually add a few drops of an essential oil to achieve a particular scent.)

Cottell also recommends pouring in ½ gallon white vinegar (to dissolve hard water deposits) every couple of months; this, too, should sit overnight if possible before being swished around.


All-Purpose Cleaner: Castile Soap and Distilled White Vinegar 

Rating: 2

Directions: Mix together 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar, and 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap (often found in the cosmetics section).

Love this! I was concerned at first when gobs of soap developed in the spray bottle, but it worked great. I would’ve given this a 1 except it wasn’t ideal for a greasy stovetop, and it’s always nice to cut down on the amount of cleaners you need. Thankfully, there is one product that is an all-purpose cleaner and superb degreaser …

Stove Degreaser: Seventh Generation All-Purpose Cleaner

Rating: 1

Even Cottell turns to the store-bought stuff sometimes. This all-natural cleaner is just as good as any traditional one, and you can get a version that does double duty as an EPA-registered disinfectant. Go ahead and spend $3.50 on this! 

What homemade cleaners have you made and how did they fare?