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 castile 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 castile 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 castile Soap as a shave soap.
- Foaming Hand Soap: Liquid castile 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 castile soap makes a great face and body wash.
- Shampoo: castile 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 castile soap makes an effective pet wash.
What types of cleaners do you use? A skeptic like I was? Will you give it a try?
Discussion (309 Comments)
Just ordered some! I really don’t like “traditional” cleaners, but making my own is so far down my priority list… I’m excited to give it a try; love the versatility! One question though regarding your dilutions… are those for the old concentration or new??? Thanks for the post!
Katie - Wellness Mama
I tried to post the dilutions for the new formula but I’m still experimenting with it, so you could probably dilute even more than I listed.
The new bottles are designed to make it much easier to mix your solutions without having to think about dilution ratios. And even though the Bathroom bottle says “bathroom” on it, this is essentially equivalent to the prior 1:1 “tough stuff” ratio. So if you need to clean something like a tough stain or heavy grease, you can use the Bathroom solution.
I have been trying condense my cleaning supplies post to save room and just to make life easier. And so I have made many DIY cleaners and while I knew it was cheaper, and better for me than commercial products, I still was not 100% pleased. I work at a laundromat and took a couple of my homemade cleaners to work to try to avoid all the chemicals. Like you, I found that that film you spoke remaining on the surfaces. so I did order the basic kit and I’m very anxious for it to arrive. I think it is going to be exactly what I need and want. Thank you
Katie - Wellness Mama
I hope you love it as much as I do…
I just bought this product and I am using it for almost everything with success… But I would love to know what is the ratio to deal with mold in the bathroom. Thanks!
Currently we use a combination of Simple Green (given to us, trying to use it up on the stove and floors), Melaleuca bathroom cleaner (also a gift, use in toilets and sinks), Dr. Bronner’s dilutions for general degreasing, body soaps, and laundry soap + washing soda and vinegar, vinegar + baking soda for baaaaaaaaaaaasically everything else. Plus elbow grease. I also threw out my borax but I can still make laundry soap just fine. To get rid of the vinegar smell I just add a few drops of EOils, I honestly can’t smell the vinegar tang after that. I also use vinegar for window washing, furniture freshening, carpet spritzing and cleaning. Microfiber cloths are a big help for streaks.
I’d love to know how are you making laundry soap without the borax?
Try Norwex! You can clean most things without any chemicals and they actually come clean! I am not a Norwex Consultant – just a very happy customer. If you don’t believe Norwex cleans thoroughly with only water, search for the YouTube video showing bleach wipes versus Norwex Environment Cloth using a black light to prove the bacteria from raw chicken were removed. They also have great earth – friendly chemicals for washing clothes, descaling the shower, unclog going drains, etc.
Katie - Wellness Mama
I wrote a review about Norwex here: https://wellnessmama.com/4702/norwex-microfiber-review/
Katie Do you still do just water with the Norwex cleaning products or do you now add BB with them?
love your review and seriously agree with you on Norwex!!
This sounds amazing! I’ve not heard of them but have struggled with the same things you did. I want to know that I’m really cleaning something while also feeling good about not covering everything in chemicals. Thanks so much for sharing.
Now that it is twice as concentrated would I cut the dilutions you listed in half?
Katie - Wellness Mama
I tried to post the dilutions for the new formula but I’m still experimenting too, so you could probably dilute even more.
What was the date of changing the formula? I bought branch basics from your post in the fall. It is as wonderful as you say but did not clean a few cookie sheets that were tough with baked on residue. It really does clean everything I ordered the large with the bottles they sent along and glad that I did it made everything so easy.
I think the new bottles are designed to make it easier to mix your solutions without having to think about ratios, but yes, the old concentrate ratios can just be cut in half!
I use DoTerras concentrate cleaner. And I use it for EVERYTHING!!! Like your it just requires different dilutions for different things. I only use three though- one for my kitchen and surfaces like that (ie coffee table), one for my bathroom, and one for fabrics and carpets. It’s amazing and smells like orange cinnamon. You can also use it for dishes mirrors (with vinegar but I can’t really smell it over the DoTerra.) It’s about $13 for the concentrate but it lasts so it seems to eve.mn out price wise. I’ve gotten rid of all our chemical cleaners. Oh! The best part I was able to get sharpie out of my boys untreated light wood bunk beds. Something I tried doing with every product known to man with no luck. I just put a little of the undiluted cleaner on a wash rag and scrubbed. Voila! Magic erasers that are all natural and smell great 🙂
I was just going to post the same comment!! Yes!!!! Love the all natural, laundry detergent and cleaner!! Wonder if the author every tried it??
how does it do with cleaning in dishwasher and for laundry? I’ve been looking for something like this!
Katie - Wellness Mama
I was so hesitant to try it because it took me a long time to figure out a good homemade dishwasher detergent… I was seriously surprised at how well it actually worked. For laundry, it removes stains, underarm stains (I just scrubbed with a natural brush) and odors. I have also used it on thrift store clothes that had a fabric softener smell and it got the chemical smell out the first time.
What concentration ratio did you use for the dishwasher? I have been using your DIY dishwasher detergent, and it works well with the dishes, but the dishwasher itself gets build up on the surface which bothers me because I feel like my dishes aren’t getting as clean. I am about to purchase BB, but I want to be sure about the dishwasher detergent, since that’s the main reason for me purchasing it.
Katie - Wellness Mama
They suggest “Yes, you can use BB in the dishwasher! Just mix 1-2 tsp in 1 cup of water, and add the mixture into the machine itself (i.e., skip the detergent dispenser). Your results will depend on your water hardness, so we recommend playing around with the mixture over several uses: if you have hard water, you can increase your concentrate; if you find BB leaves any streaks, you can decrease your concentrate. ” I actually add 2 tsp into the dry powder dispenser and it has worked great
THANK YOU!! Your comment at the end is what I have been looking for everywhere! I wondered about just put it in the dispenser. Do you still like it for the dishwasher and laundry?
Katie - Wellness Mama
Yes! I use it constantly.
I know it’s been several months since this posting but I’ve been so excited about finding something that actually WORKS!!! I’ve been wanting to love Branch Basics, but was always disappointed in the dishwasher results. We have very hard water and BB alone never worked. I finally combined Wellness Mama’s dishwasher detergent powder with BB, and vinegar as a rinse agent and everything comes out super clean. The Wellness Mama detergent didn’t work alone either, but together these things work like a charm. Glasses are shiny, silverware is clean, and Tupperware isn’t slimy. I put about 1 t BB, 1 heaping T Wellness Mama detergent, and several T vinegar in each cycle. Sounds like a lot of steps, but it goes super quick and it’s the only inexpensive, natural solution I’ve found that works here. Thanks for all the recipes on this blog and for your hard work!
Doesn’t work for dishwasher. It left a milky residue and the dishes didn’t come clean at all.
The dishwasher can be tricky. Some people get great results and others have to experiment with different amounts and diluting it versus straight concentrate. The actual dishwasher machine and the water (hard water vs. soft water) play a role. I’ve found that 1-2 T of concentrate tends to work pretty well for people. But please do keep in mind, that the soap is very versatile and was not formulated specifically for the dishwasher.
Biokleen’s dishwasher detergent is incredible. I had wanted to replace the odd drawer dishwasher that came in our home because it can only use powder, but afte I discovered and tried Biokleen, I made peace with the machine. (Still miss my old Miele).
I have used it for both. It seems to work well. However my husband is a pre washer when it comes to dishes and our kids are teens so we have no real “dirty” laundry.
I live in Canada, so can’t get Branches. Currently, we use all Melaleuca Company products. What do you think of them? Have you ever had concerns with them?
Katie - Wellness Mama
I have used Melaleuca. It doesn’t work as well as BB but it is pretty good as far as ingredients…
Donna Marie Mineo Paradowski
I use vinegar homemade cleaner .. I soak orange (or any citrus) peels in it for a better clean (from the citrus oils) and it scents the vinegar so it doesn’t stink.
I use THIEVES by Young Living as an all-purpose cleaner. It’s made from essential oils Cinnamon, Cloves, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, and Lemon. I also made my own by following directions I got from a You Tube post. You just buy the basic ingredients from the grocery store, boil them up and you’ve got a huge supply. It even tastes fantastic. So you can either join up with the company, it’s MLM which some people don’t like, or you can DIY!! This is not meant to be used as a shampoo necessarily or to wash your hands but I doubt it would hurt! I’ve even sprayed it in my mouth. No problem.
what is MLM?
Katie - Wellness Mama
MLM= Multi Level Marketing, also called network marketing.
LOVE Thieves Household Cleaner! I use it for everything, including carpets, and I’m still on my first bottle (purchased May 2015 – it is currently 3/4 full and it’s the small 14.4 ounce bottle)! This with baking soda is all I use now for scrubbing bathtubs, showers and the stove. I use nothing else for cleaning my house!
Thieves household [email protected]!! or any young living product!! absolute fav ! i just use it for my own wants and needs, no MLM 🙂
I have used and distributed Melaleuca products in the past and they will disclose some of their ingredients but will also say that they have a “proprietary formula” and this they will not disclose. So, on some of their products there was no way they would tell me ALL of the ingredients. For this reason I stopped using Melaleuca.
I started using Branch Basics for cleaning after seeing another of Katie’s posts on it and it’s great. BUT I found it to be pretty drying as a hand soap, so I have therefore not used it as a shampoo or face wash or anything like that. Anyone have a similar experience or thoughts?
Hey Ephie, it’s typically the water that can dry out the skin and adding more soap concentrate helps make it less drying because of all the coconut oil!
I have found that Ava Anderson Non-toxic’s moisturizing hand soap is absolutely amazing. It’s the first soap I’ve ever used that doesn’t require me to put lotion on after using it. They have a full line of non-toxic products for body and home. I can’t leave my personal website on here, but you can easily find the company website by googling them 🙂
Oh, and also- you can put it in a foaming dispenser- 4 parts water, 1 part soap. Lasts much longer that way 😉
Thanks so much for the tip! I checked out the products and they look great. I will definitely be giving them a try!
Branch Basics just discontinued their soap concentrate because they realized the company in charge of mixing their formula was making additives that are less than eco friendly in other words, synthetic. Katie, instead of just pulling your branch basics info off of your site, you should inform the people who follow your page.
Hi Lila…. I don’t disagree. I removed the links as I research and do plan to write a follow up when I feel that I have enough information to be able to share the situation fully. From what I have found in researching so far, the formula they have was safe, but it just had a synthetic ingredient that they were unaware of due to a disclosure issue from their formulator.
Katie I find that this kind of situation happens often from the products you choose to promote for monetary gain, I feel i can no longer trust your recommendations for products in the future. I do appreciate your opinions however i hope these repeated situations will cause you to reevaluate all the items you are currently affiliated with and that you would put more time in researching things more thoroughly before promoting products to your audience.
Hi Randy, thanks for your comment and I’m sorry you feel that way, as I always research and test with my own family every product before I ever promote it on the blog, which I fully disclose here: https://wellnessmama.com/affiliate-disclosure/. I’m not sure what you are referring to other than BB in this post, but I am also upset that the product was misrepresented (though again, even the emerging results of toxicity reports show that it is still safe).
Have I made mistakes in my usage and recommendations in the past? Of course, I’m only human, and I’ll very likely make more in the future, just as you will. The truth is, there are many products I could promote and make double the amount I do, but which are of inferior quality. I only promote those items which I personally purchase and use for my own family, so I can assure you if I make a mistake in the product I’m promoting, it’s affecting my family’s health as well (tough again, with BB, I’m yet to see any evidence that it is not safe for use, but I am very upset about the misrepresentation). I’m also constantly researching and re-checking the research on any recommendations and updating if I find a better product. I certainly don’t do this perfectly, but I do it out of a genuine desire to find the best options for my family and for readers.
Randy, you are being way too hard on Wellness Mama. If the people that own Branch Basics were duped about the ingredients, how in the world could WM be held accountable? I still trust that Branch Basics is 100 times more safe than what’s in the local grocery store products for cleaning. I also know that if WM has a safety issue with a person or product she will not endorse it, for any amount of money. She’s very respected in the community and if a product is good enough for her family, it’s sure good enough for mine!
Hi Katie, Looking forward to a follow up post on BB discontinuing their soap. Such an unfortunate situation. Please share your insight with us as soon as possible!
I just wanted to let you know BB is completely safe. Just because it has a synthetic does not mean it’s bad. Good synthetics exist. However, BB was discontinued because they don’t have a full ingredients list. thought I should let you know!
I still love BB. I don’t think it is a huge deal that one part was synthetic when I don’t feel any reactions to it like I get with other cleaners. I don’t use it on my body anyway. It works beautifully and I’m so glad I knew about it before they discontinued it and ordered enough to last me a while. I hope it comes back or that they reformulate and it works as well.
I love Branch Basics and am running very low while waiting for their new formula to come out. I found that when used on laundry after I had previously used “regular laundry detergent” my clothes smelled bad but that went away after awhile. Basically the Branch Basics was detoxing my clothes. It doesn’t get my mascara completely off but I use it to wash my face and it isn’t drying so I use a little mild soap for that. However, after I wash my face with BB I go one step more and spray it on both sides of a round flat disposable cotton pad and go over my face again. It exfoliates my skin and is not drying. Shocking in fact to see how much makeup is still on mys skin I do this. I’ve never had smoother cleaner skin.