The Basics of Homemade Cleaners

Understand How to Make Non-Toxic Homemade Cleaners from Natural Ingredients

Once upon a time, things were different in America’s cleaning cupboards. In the days before the chemical revolution of the 20th century, our ancestors relied on naturally occurring materials and substances to help them with the housework. These included things like pure vegetable soaps, grease-cutting vinegars, abrasives like calcium carbonate and baking soda, citrus oils to remove odors and grime, and essential oils of plants like birch and lavender to sanitize surfaces in the home.

Not only did these homemade concoctions work well in many circumstances, they had the additional advantages of being inexpensive to make and completely non-toxic to use. For these reasons, many people are happily rediscovering the art and science of do-it-yourself cleaning products and creating much healthier homes in the process.

The biggest surprise people have when they decide to make their own cleaners is how many they can make from so few ingredients. Indeed, an almost endless variety of safe homemade substitutes for toxic chemical cleaning formulas of all kinds can be easily prepared from just a handful of common natural materials.

With these items in hand, you can make almost any kind of formula and clean almost anything. Keep in mind as you go that though these ingredients are natural, they clean because they’re powerful. The compounds they contain, while natural and biodegradable, are still chemically active and should be used with a healthy amount of respect. In addition, some readers may find that certain natural oils are irritating, and therefore personally unsuitable for use.

An excellent recipe-filled resource for learning more about making and using your own natural cleaners is the book Better Basics for the Home by natural household formula expert Annie Berthold-Bond. This volume is highly recommended to anyone who wishes to take non-toxic cleaning into his or her own hands. It will show you how to take the following basic ingredients and transform them into amazing sprays, cleansers, waxes, polishes, and more. For the short term, we’ve included some sample recipes in the following pages that will help you harness the inherent cleaning power of these safe and natural materials. Here are the core natural ingredients your natural cleaning cupboard should contain.



Baking Soda

Deodorizer, non-abrasive scouring powder


Floor and furniture wax


Deodorizer, non-abrasive scouring powder, all-purpose cleaner, mold inhibitor, rust stain remover

Carnauba wax

Wood floor and furniture wax

Citrus fruit like orange, lemon

Grease cutter, deodorizer, flea repellent and lime

Eucalyptus oil

Insect repellent

Favorite essential oils

Air freshening, scenting homemade formulas

Hydrogen peroxide

Bleaching agent and antibacterial

Jojoba oil

Wood polisher

Lavender oil

Disinfectant, deodorizer

Natural vegetable-based liquid soap

General detergent product substitute

Neem tree oil

Insect repellent

Olive oil

Wood polisher

Washing Soda (sodium carbonate)

Grease- and grime-cutter, wax remover, deodorizer

White Distilled Vinegar

Dissolving hard water mineral scale and greasy build-up, removing tarnish, cleansing wood and glass

Tea Tree Oil

Antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral agent; deodorizer


Metal polish

To learn more about natural homemade housecleaners check out Ecolife's Do-It-Yourself cleaning section.


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