I have a confession to make… I’m lazy when it comes to cleaning. In fact, that is why I started using multipurpose homemade green cleaners in the first place… I could clean the majority of my house without the need for a bucket full of cleaning products.
Green Cleaner Troubles…
Unfortunately for my DIY green cleaners, vinegar stinks and borax is controversial.
Try to make a green cleaner without either of those and it is tough to make an effective one, especially because my non-negotiable standards are:
- It must not leave the surface worse than before I cleaned it (no trading dirt for bacteria for chemical residue)
- It must not kill my children if they accidentally ingest it
- It must work (or course!)
- It must be able to be used for more than one thing so I don’t end up with a closet full of bottles
- I don’t have to find a hazardous waste disposal location to get rid of it
Vinegar: The Problem
Vinegar has gotten a reputation as an all purpose green cleaner on its own and while it certainly has its place in a natural home, it isn’t the panacea it is made out to be for a few reasons:
- It doesn’t actually remove dirt very well. In fact, the “cleaning” action often associated with vinegar is simply degreasing as many surfaces contain both grease/oil and dirt or is a result of the cleaning cloth used.
- It may not disinfect well either. Research is still divided on this, but vinegar may not be an effective natural disinfectant and experts typically recommend other well-proven substances like hydrogen peroxide instead if disinfection is the goal.
- It stinks. Not a scientifically backed problem but one that my kids make sure to point out every time I use it.
It CAN be a great degreaser and I have used it as a rinse aid in my dishwasher when we’ve lived in places with hard water, but on its own, it isn’t a cleaner per se. That being said, I do still keep a bottle of white vinegar with organic orange and lemon peels around the house for degreasing and descaling, I just don’t use this as my all purpose cleaner.
Borax: The Problem
You know when kids get in a fight and you try to find out what actually happen but get a long story and multiple answers? That is how I feel when it comes to borax. On the one hand, it is touted as a great green cleaner, but on the other people claim that it is harmful and deadly.
As I’ve explained before, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle with borax being generally safe to use in cleaning but not in personal care products as much of the research on the actual dangers of borax is actually on boric acid (not the same thing chemically).
While I would still feel safe using Borax for certain purposes around the house, I’ve also been experimenting with alternatives, as the mention of borax as an ingredient in a natural cleaning recipe will typically get dozens of comments from those on both sides of the debate and there are safe alternatives.
Unfortunately, my original all-purpose cleaner that works really well contains borax and doesn’t work well without it, so I was back to the drawing board!
The time… oh, the time…
The other part of the story about why I don’t exclusively use DIY cleaners anymore is because of time. I have (almost) six kids and a dog, and a house, homeschooling, and a blog, and even a couple of friends. I wouldn’t trade any of those things for the world, but to keep all of them happy and healthy requires time.
I still do make many of my own natural cleaners and virtually all of our food from scratch, but I had to free up some time and when evaluating my options, I realized that homemade cleaning products was one area I could do this. To be fair, when I first started out, this wasn’t possible, both because of our budget and because there were few or no good natural cleaning options available to purchase.
Thanks in large part to people like you who research and choose healthy options, there now are natural cleaning options available to purchase so DIY isn’t the only option. I’ve also gotten quite a few questions from readers who don’t want to make their own cleaners and am glad to find budget-friendly and effective natural options to share.
My Favorite Pre-Made Cleaners
Short story… I’ve finally found several pre-made cleaner concentrates that I absolutely love, that are cost effective and that work really well:
- Dr. Bronner Sal Suds Concentrate– A coconut-based natural formula that cleans exceptionally well. In fact, one drop added to two quarts of water is enough to clean carpet stains. A teaspoon in a quart of water is enough to clean most surfaces and this is a very effective spray laundry stain treatment when diluted with water.
- Bon Ami Powder– A natural powder-based cleaner and scouring powder that works great on tough stains and grime on surfaces like showers and tubs.
- Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castille Soap Concentrate: For personal care uses, gentle house cleaning, foaming hand soap and more.
- Laundry Soap– I still make my own most of the time but will buy BioKlean liquid laundry soap or Ecover zero if I’m pressed for time or traveling.
Again, I still think DIY cleaners are awesome and a great alternative to harmful chemical cleaners, but I’m excited to have found another good option. Simple recipes like homemade all-purpose cleaner and vinegar based cleaners are great, but I’m also glad to have some pre-made options to choose from when I want to.
30+ Uses for Green Cleaners
With just a few green cleaners (homemade and from concentrate) it is possible to literally clean your entire house from top to bottom. In fact, for about $50, I can clean my house naturally for over a year!
Here’s how I use these basic green cleaners in our home:
- All Purpose Cleaner: Dilute 1 teaspoon of sal suds concentrate into a spray bottle (at least 16 ounces) on all hard surfaces in our house. (Homemade option: this all-purpose cleaner recipe)
- Dish Soap: As a natural dish soap I dilute 1/4 cup sal suds in a 16-ounce foamer bottle. (Pre-made option: EcoMe Dish Soap)
- Glass and Windows: I dilute 5 drops of Sal Suds concentrate in a glass spray bottle with filtered water and wipe with microfiber. (Homemade option: This is one area where vinegar is effective and can be used to make a simple cleaner for glass with this recipe).
- Fruit and Vegetable Wash: 1 drop of Sal Suds concentrate (or 1/2 teaspoon of liquid castille soap) in a sink or bowl full of water to wash produce.
- Laundry: 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of Sal Suds concentrate per laundry load as needed. This homemade version also works really well and there are other good pre-made options like BioKlean liquid laundry soap or Ecover zero.
- Stainless Steel: To clean stainless steel without streaks I dilute a few drops of Sal Suds in a spray bottle of water.
- Stain Treating: There are many natural ways to treat stains (here’s a helpful chart), and 1/4 cup Sal Suds Concentrate diluted in a spray bottle of water is a great all-purpose pre-treat for stains.
- Carpet Cleaning: To clean carpet naturally I pre-treat stains with a 1:10 dilution of Sal Suds in water and then use 1 drop of the concentrate in a steam cleaner (full tutorial here).
- Bathroom Cleaning– Make a floor to ceiling bathroom cleaner with 1 tablespoon Sal Suds concentrate in a spray bottle of water with 10 drops of lemon essential oil (optional, but for freshness).
- Hard Water Stains: To remove hard water stains I use either Sal Suds all purpose cleaner or Bon Ami.
- Glue and Adhesives: Use a 50:50 mixture of Sal Suds and water. Spray on, let sit 5 minutes and scrub off.
- Oven and Stove: I make a natural scouring powder for use in oven and stove cleaning or use Bon Ami.
- Floor Cleaning: I add 1 tsp of Sal Suds concentrate to a mop bucket to mop the entire house.
- Grout Cleaner: I use a 1:3 Sal Suds dilution to clean tile grout or use homemade scouring powder or Bon Ami for tough stains.
- Blinds: I make a spray of 1 tablespoon of Sal Suds in a spray bottle of water to clean blinds or if I’m feeling really ambitious, I take them all down and add to a bathtub full of warm water with 1/2 cup Sal Suds, soak for 15 minutes and scrub. Air dry before hanging.
- Urine stains: a 1:15 dilution of Sal Suds with 5 drops of lemon essential oil works great on urine stains and smells in the bathroom. For mattress urine stains, I sprinkle with baking soda, then spray with this mixture and wipe up.
- Cloth Diapers: To pre-treat and wash cloth diapers (no residue and completely removes ammonia smell) I pre-soak in the washing machine and add 3 tablespoons Sal Suds and 1 cup baking soda.
- Shave Soap: In a foamer bottle, I use a (1:5) dilution of Liquid Castille Soap as a shave soap.
- Foaming Hand Soap: Liquid Castille soap diluted in water makes a great foaming hand soap that costs pennies per bottle. Here’s how I make it.
- Face and Body Wash: Combined with raw honey and water, liquid castille soap makes a great face and body wash.
- Shampoo: Castille Soap and coconut milk make a moisturizing shampoo.
- Baby Wipes: Diluted in a foamer for DIY baby wipes (I wipe with cloth wipes).
- Dog Wash: A few drops to a teaspoon of liquid castille soap makes an effective pet wash.
What types of cleaners do you use? A skeptic like I was? Will you give it a try?