Living a Better Life
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Michelle Jones - Founder and Publishing Editor of


Recipes for Homemade Household Cleaners

by Michelle Jones


Using homemade cleaners can be good for your wallet and the environment, and believe it or not, many of them are quite easy to make!  We have had several requests for our favorite recipes so I thought it was time I get these written down for you.  There are plenty of great environmental books and Web sites that cover this subject if you would like more information but here are a few of my favorite recipes to get you started.  More...


Please note… When making homemade cleaners store any unused solution in an airtight container and label clearly.  All cleaning products should be kept out of the reach of children, whether store bought or homemade.  I do not recommend cleaning with ammonia at all, just the smell of it is enough to knock you over, but it can also be very irritating and should NEVER be mixed with bleach.  Also, although vinegar and bleach are both great cleaners as I will explain further below, do not mix them together either!

Window Cleaner

Mix 1/4 c. of vinegar with a quart of water and store in a clean spray bottle (or the last glass cleaner spray bottle you purchased when it becomes empty; be sure to rinse well before filling with new cleaner).  You can also add a little lemon juice if you’d like.  Use newspapers or reusable cheesecloth instead of paper towels.

Wood Furniture Polish

Mix together 1/4 c. vinegar and 1/2 c. olive oil and rub into wood furniture with soft cloth.  You can also make this up in smaller or larger batches as needed (even by the teaspoon), it’s wonderful!  Please note, use sparingly as to not damage fine wood surfaces, you might try a test spot first.  Although rubbing a regular amount of this homemade cleaner onto furniture will bring out a beautiful shine, you really only need a very light coat, and maybe just a few times a year.  Other than that, just wiping the furniture with a dry dust cloth each week should be sufficient.  

General Household Cleaner

Mix 1/4 c. baking soda with a quart of warm water and store in a spray bottle as directed above.  Rinse surface with plain water after each use.

Laundry Fabric Softener

Add 1 c. of vinegar or 1/4 c. baking soda to laundry during the rinse cycle.  This also helps keep the laundry smelling fresh if you’ve previously left the wash in the machine too long... like overnight! ;o)  I've been using this trick for many years and sometimes when it's really bad (like when the wash is left for even more than a day) the best thing to do is add the vinegar to the rinse cycle and let it sit for at least an hour.

Carpet Freshener

Sprinkle baking soda on carpets and let sit for a while before vacuuming.  I have heard you can also use cornstarch but I have never tried that. 

Bathroom and Toilet Cleaner

Mix 1/2 - 1 c. bleach with 1 gallon of warm water.  Be careful not to get this on your clothes or bathroom towels and rugs… unless they are already white!  For big cleaning jobs keep the room well ventilated and work quickly.  Although bleach is a very inexpensive cleaner and great disinfectant, it is also toxic and should be handled carefully.

Sink Drain Cleaner

Pour 1 c. of baking soda into drain and then add 1 c. of vinegar.  Mixture will foam and work on clog, let sit for a while before rinsing with warm water.  If sink is still clogged repeat.  Also, to keep our kitchen sink smelling fresh I like to toss a lemon or orange peel down the disposal whenever I think about it.  Just make sure there are no seeds still on the peel because they can get stuck in the disposal blades and be a real pain to get out.

These are just some of the wonderful household cleaners you can make at home.  If you have a favorite homemade cleaner you would like to share with us please contact me at, I would love to hear from you!

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Readers' Recipes for Household Cleaners:

Laundry Soap

"Hello, I found a laundry soap recipe in a homesteading magazine and have been making it ever since.

1/3 bar of Fels Naptha soap
1/2 cup washing soda (not baking soda)
1/2 cup borax
1 T. essential oil (optional)

Grate the Fels Naptha into saucepan with 6 cups of water, cook over medium heat until soap melts. Add the soda, borax & oil. Stir until dissolved. Leave on heat 5 minutes. Remove and let sit for another 5 minutes. Pour 1/2 of mixture into a gallon jug. (I use old plastic vinegar jugs that have been washed clean.) Fill 1/2 way with hot water and shake. Fill to top with hot water. Shake again and leave for 24 hours, will gel to the consistency of egg whites. Use 1/2 to 1/3 cup per load.

I live in a very small rural town and found all of the items at the local grocery store. The oil I purchased at a natural foods store. I have tried lavender & almond--the almond won out by far. Next I intend to try a lemon/citrus. The soda & borax are great for many other uses too.

Great job on your magazine!"

- Tina Spaulding of Maine 

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Have a cleaning recipe to share?  Send us an email at


Copyright © 2007 by Michelle Jones, author of Dealing with Debt, Frugal Family Recipes and Basic Budget Planning... for Those Who Hate to Budget. All rights reserved.

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