Guide to Green Living

Friday, July 28, 2006

Natural Cleaning Recipes

These are a few recipes for cleaning different surfaces in your home. They consist of environmentally friendly products and can be used in place of harmful commercial cleaners.

All surfaces – There are quite a few different recipes for all purpose cleaners that can be used on basically any surface in your home. One such recipe consists of 125 mL of pure soap, 4 litres of hot water, and an optional 60 mL of lemon juice to cut grease and to add a fresh scent. This can be used on all surfaces and should be rinsed off. The amounts of soap and lemon juice can be increased for tougher jobs. Another recipe is made up of 50 mL baking soda, 250 mL ammonia, 125 mL white vinegar, and 4 litres of warm water. Take note that ammonia is a dangerous substance and should be handled with care. Another cleaner can be made by dissolving 4 tablespoons of baking soda in a litre of warm water. Use a sponge to clean the surface then rinse with clean water. The baking soda will act as an abrasive to help remove dirt.

Scouring – One recipe for scouring powder is made by dissolving 10 mL of borax and 50 mL of pure soap flakes into 375 mL of boiling water. Let the mixture cool and add 50 mL of whiting (this is a chalk powder that will act as an abrasive). Pour the mixture into a sealed plastic or glass container and shake well before using. Another recipe entails mixing pure soap with either table salt or baking soda and scrubbing with a firm bristle brush.

Smells – Baking soda is a great deodorizer because it neutralizes both basic and acidic smells. An open box of baking soda in your fridge or pantry will reduce any unwanted food smells. Baking soda can be sprinkled on carpets, upholstery or mattresses before vacuuming to get rid of any bad smells. Sprinkling some baking soda in the bottom of your garbage bin will reduce bad food odours.

Dishes – To make your own dish soap place 500 mL of pure soap flakes in a pot and mix with 4 litres of water. Heat the mixture on medium heat until it boils. Let it cool before you use it. You can also add some vinegar to it for tougher grease stains. This soap cannot be used in dishwashers, so to make a soap that can, mix equal parts borax and washing soda.

Drains – There are a couple of recipes for environmentally friendly drain cleaners. The first is a mixture of 250 mL baking soda, 250 mL salt, 125 mL white vinegar and a kettle’s worth of boiling water. Pour the baking soda, salt and vinegar down the drain, followed by the boiling water about 15 minutes later. The baking soda and vinegar will react to cut through the fatty acids in your drain, and the salt will act as an abrasive. You could use the same method without the salt and with about half the baking soda. In this case you would only have to wait 5 minutes before pouring the water down the drain.

Ovens – Oven cleaners can contain some very dangerous compounds, and their fumes are usually toxic. Some more natural alternatives to commercial oven cleaners are available. One such alternative is to sprinkle water in the oven. Add some baking soda and scrub with very fine steel wool. Wipe off the mixture and the dirt with a damp sponge, rinse and dry. If there is a bad spill in your oven, sprinkle water, then salt on it while the oven is still warm. Once the oven has cooled, scrape away the spill and wash the area.

Toilet bowls – For stains in your toilet, make a paste about the consistency of toothpaste using borax and lemon juice. Apply the paste to the sides of your toilet and let it sit for about 2 hours. Scrub the surface thoroughly and rinse. Another technique is to sprinkle baking soda on the sides of the bowl and add vinegar. Scrub the surface with a toilet brush. For regular cleanings, use any all purpose cleaner or a simple mixture of vinegar and water to prevent stains from building up.

Carpets, rugs and upholstery – To clean and deodorize your carpet or upholstery, sprinkle baking soda liberally on the surface, leave it for about an hour, and then vacuum. For tougher stains, sponge a mixture of vinegar and water on the stain, sponge with clean water and then pat it dry. Soapy water with vinegar can also be used in the same fashion.

Countertops – For tough stains on countertops, let a few drops of lemon juice sit for a few minutes then scrub with baking soda. Other all purpose cleaners can be used on such stains, along with vinegar diluted in water. Make sure to wipe the cleaners off before you use the countertop again.

Mirrors and glass – A solution of diluted vinegar can be used for regular cleaning of glass surfaces. The smell of vinegar, though it disappears once the vinegar has dried, is not appealing to most, and so a few drops of lemon juice on a cloth can have the same effect. Another method is to wash the surface with pure soap and water, then rinse with a mixture of 4 parts water and 1 part vinegar.

Furniture – To remove dust and fingerprints from furniture, use a damp wash cloth to wipe and then dry immediately with a soft cloth. For tougher cleaning jobs, mix about 750 mL of olive oil with about 250 mL of vinegar. Apply to the furniture with a clean, soft cloth and wipe dry.

Lime and mineral deposits – Lime and mineral deposits can build up on bathroom and kitchen faucets. To remove them, soak cloths in vinegar and wrap the cloth around the affected faucet. Leave the cloth to sit for about an hour (depending on how tough the deposits are). This will soften the deposits so they can be easily wiped away.

Microwaves and refrigerators – To clean the inside of your microwave or refrigerator, use a mixture of equal parts water and baking soda. This will get rid of stains and smells from your appliances. For tougher stains in your microwave, place a mixture of 30 mL of lemon juice in about 300 mL of water. Turn the microwave on for 2-3 minutes until the water boils. The same can be done with a mixture of 30 mL of baking soda in water, or a few slices of lemon in water. The steam from the boiling water, along with the lemon or baking soda component, will loosen the food in your microwave so it can easily be wiped away.

Metals – Commercial metal cleaners are not very friendly products. There are many natural cleaners that work as well as commercial ones but are much less harmful to your health and to the environment. To clean copper, you can use lemon juice or a lemon slice dipped in salt as a scrubber. For brass pieces, make a paste using lemon juice and baking soda (this can also be used to polish and clean copper). Rub the paste on the surface with a soft cloth, rinse and dry. Chrome and stainless steel can be cleaned using a cloth dipped in undiluted white vinegar. Wipe and dry the surface. Before you use any of these techniques, make sure that the metal you are cleaning isn't plated, or else the cleaning will remove the plating from the metal.

Note: When cleaning, try to avoid using disposable cloths or paper towels. Instead, try reusable cloths.

Have any tips of your own? Add them in the comments!


  • I really liked this post! We are always trying to find ways to help the environment, and your ideas are budget-friendly, too! Thank you so much!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/19/2009 10:21 p.m.  

  • I'm switching over to all natural products. This site has been a tremendous help. I've already purchased baking soda and vinegar. Tried the combination on the toilets, and was quite pleased with the results.

    By Blogger Lisa, at 5/14/2009 10:20 p.m.  

  • Such a great article which there are quite a few different recipes for all purpose cleaners that can be used on basically any surface in your home. In which This can be used on all surfaces and should be rinsed off. The amounts of soap and lemon juice can be increased for tougher jobs. Thanks for sharing this article.

    By Anonymous Alison, at 3/12/2012 5:55 a.m.  

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