How to Make Your Own Green Household Cleaners

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I make a lot of my own all-natural cleaners. After receiving a number of questions about them, I figured I should put together some of my favorite green cleaning recipes.

Not only are these homemade cleaners green for the environment, but they also save me green. Their ingredients are incredibly inexpensive, making them a fraction of a fraction of store-bought cleaners – even the ones I buy on sale with coupons. Most of these recipes are based on white vinegar, which you can buy super duper cheap at Costco or Sam’s Club.

Plus, these homemade recipes are safe for kids and pets. (Which means you can ask your kids to help clean the bathroom without the slightest bit of guilt. ;-)) And, I’ve found that the recipes I’m sharing today work just as well as the store-bought stuff.

All Purpose Cleaner

I keep at least two bottles of this APC in my house at all times – one in the bathroom and one under the kitchen sink. The recipe is very easy (and forgiving – don’t freak out about exact measurements) and works great on anything you would have used a spray cleaner on.

I use it on my glass stove top, on countertops in kitchen and bathroom, for a quick bathtub clean-up, and to disinfect the seat and sides of the toilet (don’t get me started on the gross-out factor of little boys and toilet seats!)

  • 4 cups of warm water
  • a squirt of dish detergent or Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (I love the Peppermint Scent)

Mix everything together in an empty spray bottle and start cleanin’!

The vinegar smell dissipates almost instantly, so don’t worry about your house smelling like salad dressing. A few drops of your favorite essential oil will also mask any initial odor, if it bothers you.
Volcanic Toilet Bowl Cleaner

This is my sons’ favorite cleaner – it’s part science experiment, part boy-explosion, all wrapped into one!

  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup baking soda (also dirt cheap at Costco)

Pour the baking soda into the toilet bowl and swish it around with the toilet brush. Let it sit for a couple of minutes.

Pour in the vinegar and stand back – the toilet will start to bubble! Once the bubbling stops, use your brush to thoroughly scrub the toilet bowl. Then use your All Purpose Cleaner and a sponge or microfiber cloth to clean the seat and sides of the toilet.

Hard Water Spot Remover

Straight-up white vinegar is the best thing I’ve found to deal with hard water spots and build-up. In Israel, I ran vinegar through our Shabbat kettle (mei cham) and was always amazed at all the grey flakey bits that magically disappeared.

To get rid of the hard water build-up on my shower heads, I just unscrew them and soak them overnight in a bowl of vinegar. I also spray vinegar straight onto my glass shower doors to remove those icky spots. And, I run it through my dishwasher to prevent build-up on the filter.

You can also use a glug of vinegar in your laundry in place of fabric softener – it’s all natural and works just as well as Downy.

Miracle Glass Cleaner

This is the “recipe” that first got me hooked on green cleaning. It could not be easier and my windows look just as good as if I’d cleaned them with Glass Plus. You can also use this for shining up bathroom mirrors and chrome faucet handles.

  • Club soda
  • Empty spray bottle

Pour the club soda into the spray bottle, spray and wipe. That’s it!

Seriously, I told you it was easy. The club soda can be flat – it doesn’t matter. Just use a lint-free cleaning cloth so you don’t wind up with fuzz all over the window.

Liquid Laundry Detergent

I have used this recipe on and off for the last three years. It takes a bit of effort, but the recipe makes a ton, so you should have plenty to use for at least two months, if not much longer (we do a fair amount of laundry).

I worked it out once and using this detergent costs less than $.01/load – and you get to avoid petroleum and phosphates. Priceless.

Disclaimer: I will admit that I also buy detergent when I can get it for less than $2/bottle. But this detergent really does clean quite well. If your loads are especially soiled, I recommend that you boost the stain-fighting power by adding a scoop of Oxiclean to your loads.

  • 1/3 bar Fels-Naptha Bar Soap or 1/2 bar Ivory soap, grated (see below for instructions)
  • 1/2 cup washing soda (found in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores)
  • 1/2 cup borax powder (also found in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores)
  • 2 gallons water, divided
  • large bucket with a lid (you can get these from food supply stores or even Walmart or Kmart)

1. Use the grater attachment of a food processor (or a cheese grater) to grate the soap. Put shavings in a  large pot together with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Boil until the soap is fully melted, stirring frequently. The water will be very sudsy.

Add washing soda and Borax, stirring constantly until powder is dissolved. Remove from heat.

Pour four cups of steaming hot water into a large bucket. Add the soap mixture and stir thoroughly.

Add 22 cups of water (1 gallon + 6 additional cups) of warm tap water to the mixture and stir again. I use a really long-handled wooden spoon.

Put the cover on the bucket and let it sit – away from curious pets and children – for 24 hours. The mixture will become very gelatinous, especially on the top. It will look a bit like egg-drop soup, but with more lumps.

Use 1/2 cup per load for a top-loader, or 1/8 cup for a front loader.

** Note that while Borax is all-natural, it is poisonous to humans and pets if ingested. Make sure you lock away any left-over powder.

Do you clean with homemade cleaners? What are your favorite recipes?

Are you at least a little bit intrigued by my egg-drop soup / laundry detergent? Or will you be sticking to Tide?


  1. Mara, this is a great post! May I please play Devil’s advocate, because I’m very torn about using homemade cleansers. Three questions:
    1) is your bathroom really CLEAN after you clean it with homemade stuff? Like germ-free clean? I’m having a hard time finding a cleaning service that will use bleach- or ammonia-based cleansers in my house, and I find it upsetting, because I like my bathroom to be practically sterile. I just don’t find that happens with homemade stuff. I’m neurotic about about germs and such.
    2) I’ve tried vinegar based cleansers and to be very frank, they stink. The smell doesn’t dissipate. I had a house cleaner do my windows with white vinegar-based cleanser (she insisted), and my house smelled like a jar of Batampte Half Sours. How do you get the smell to disappear?
    3) Baking soda gets so cakey. I’ve tried using it in my laundry, and I get dried remnants sticking in crevices of the drum. How do you keep baking soda from getting all cakey and clumpy?

    • Susie – Glad you liked the post. I am the first to say that this may not work for everyone, so if it doesn’t fit for you… don’t sweat it!

      1. Yes – definitely feel like it’s clean. Vinegar is super antibacterial. But honestly, I can’t stand the smell of store-bought cleaners, eschew bleach (except in really rare and super gross situations) and generally am not a germaphobe (I’m more in the “exposure to germs builds a healthy immune system for kids” camp). So… having said all that, while I feel good about the level of clean, you may prefer the “clean smell”.

      2. I have not had the problem with vinegar. Are you using it straight? Or cut with water? I never use more than 50/50 vinegar/water, so maybe that helps. You can also add some essential oils – up to like 20 or more drops for a squirt bottle.

      3. I don’t use baking soda in my laundry as I had the same problem. Using in the toilet bowl has never given me that issue – have you tried it in the Toilet?

      HTH. Let me know if you try it and what you think.

  2. Larry Lennhoff says

    Anyone have a good homemade floor cleaner for wood floors? Leaving no scent behind is crucially important.

    • I’ve heard that vinegar and water is good for many wood floors, but not the pre-finished ones, which is what I have. 🙁 Just spray it on, the dry mop. Anyone else?

  3. Tziporah says

    This is a great post! I love the bathroom cleaner. I always seem to run out of that and don’t want to run to the store for one thing. And I bet my boys would love to see the bubbles!

  4. You have no idea how excited I am to see this post! I am all about homemade cleaners and saving $$$ by making things that worked just as well for my grandmother before the chemical products were available! I have been making my own laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, foaming liquid soap, mouthwash, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body scrub, cleaning products, mosquito repellent…you name it…and I love the simplicity and cheapness of it all! My next attempt will be deodorant…I know, I’m scared, too. We’ll see if that one will actually fly. Hoping to make something healthy, cheap AND effective (most important).

    I’ll have to try the vinegar/water mix w/ Dr. Bronner’s. I am also bothered by the lingering vinegar smell and am about to try some cleaners that are essential-oil based (with antibacterial properties) and vinegar-free…Just not sure if they’ll be as antibacterial as the vinegar is. Also looking forward to trying club soda on the mirrors!

    My laundry detergent recipe is very similar except I leave it dry and I add baking soda. I’ve been using homemade for over a year and I agree…it’s the way to go!

    Anyone have a homemade shower cleaner recipe that won’t peel up the caulk? Vinegar peels it, so after I got the shower recaulked I tried a hydrogen peroxide & rubbing alcohol base, too, but it’s still peeling…:(

    Shabbat Shalom!

    • That’s such a bummer about the caulk. I was going to suggest peroxide, but I guess you’ve already tried that. 🙁 Anyone else?

  5. I’ve loved this post 🙂 thanks for all the tips!
    Anna,please send me recipes for your laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioner. it sounds amazing 🙂
    heard baking soda (NOT baking powder) is the best deoderant around! – mix 1/8 teaspoon soda with 1/4 teaspoon water – dissolve, and apply.

    good luck 🙂

    • Thanks for the deodorant tip – I’ll have to try it!

      My shampoo and conditioner is shamelessly simple. Shampoo: 1 tbsp baking soda per 1 cup warm water. You can apply it by putting the mixture in a recycled shampoo bottle, or by sprinkling the baking soda in your palm and wetting it to make a paste before applying to your hair. I’ve done it both ways and like the first way best. I’ve been impressed with how squeaky clean and soft it leaves my hair even though it doesn’t lather up – and I have thick, mid-length, oily hair that needs a daily wash. You don’t want to increase the baking soda proportions even though you might be tempted at first b/c it’s not lathering – more baking soda will leave your hair “hard”. I’ve read that your hair may go through a “detox” the first month of only baking soda – feeling greasier than normal – and after that your hair’s original natural properties of shine and softness will return and you’ll actually be able to wash your hair less often. I’ve read it’s the chemicals in our shampoos that change our hair composition and make us have to wash more often. To help my hair make the transition I’m alternating days with baking soda and regular shampoo until I finish up the shampoo I have. For more specific instructions or troubleshooting this is a great page:

      For conditioner I use extremely diluted Apple Cider Vinegar with water (1:9) in a spray bottle. I use Bragg’s and use it only once or twice a week.

      Dry laundry detergent:

      Small batch – 1 small (4.5 oz) bar soap, grated (if using a large laundry bar like Zote’s, I only grate 1/4 of the bar)
      1 cup borax
      1 cup washing soda
      1 cup baking soda
      Stir all ingredients together well. Use 1 tbsp per load (1/2 tbsp for small loads). I store mine in a large plastic yogurt container.

      Large batch – 5 lb box of Borax
      4 lb box of baking soda
      4 lb box of washing soda
      4 bars of soap, grated/shredded in a food processor
      Store in a bucket.

      Hope this helps!

  6. I had fun making/using your all-purpose cleaner (smelled great w/ the essential oils – no vinegar odor!), toilet bowl cleaner and glass cleaner today! Thanks so much for sharing those! Funny experience with the club soda – when I opened the new bottle, put the soda in my spray bottle and screwed the lid on tight, the club soda started spraying out entirely on its own! I thought maybe the spray bottle was too full and in a few seconds it would stop, but it just kept spraying! This totally had me mystified. When I would unscrew the sprayer just a little it would stop, but would start spraying again when the top was on tight. I then realized the air pressure causing it to spray was from the carbonation bubbles! lol 🙂

  7. Is it safe to use essential oils in the vinegar/water solution I use to clean my baby’s high chair?

  8. Thanks! Tried the all purpose cleaner today and it worked really well and the vinegar smell went away pretty quickly. Really curious to try the toilet bowl cleaner- time to stock up on vinegar!

Leave a Comment