Why I Stopped Using Only DIY Green Cleaners

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DIY Green Cleaners
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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:

  1. It must not leave the surface worse than before I cleaned it (no trading dirt for bacteria for chemical residue)
  2. It must not kill my children if they accidentally ingest it
  3. It must work (or course!)
  4. It must be able to be used for more than one thing so I don’t end up with a closet full of bottles
  5. 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:

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Stainless Steel: To clean stainless steel without streaks I dilute a few drops of Sal Suds in a spray bottle of water.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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).
  10. Hard Water Stains: To remove hard water stains I use either Sal Suds all purpose cleaner or Bon Ami.
  11. Glue and Adhesives: Use a 50:50 mixture of Sal Suds and water. Spray on, let sit 5 minutes and scrub off.
  12. Oven and Stove: I make a natural scouring powder for use in oven and stove cleaning or use Bon Ami.
  13. Floor Cleaning: I add 1 tsp of Sal Suds concentrate to a mop bucket to mop the entire house.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. Shave Soap: In a foamer bottle, I use a (1:5) dilution of Liquid castile Soap as a shave soap.
  19. 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.
  20. Face and Body Wash: Combined with raw honey and water, liquid castile soap makes a great face and body wash.
  21. Shampoo: castile Soap and coconut milk make a moisturizing shampoo.
  22. Baby Wipes: Diluted in a foamer for DIY baby wipes (I wipe with cloth wipes).
  23. 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?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


309 responses to “Why I Stopped Using Only DIY Green Cleaners”

  1. lisa Avatar

    Hi there, I love Sals Suds, but don’t like buying more plastic. Do you have an effective alternative that doesn’t use plastic packaging?
    Thank you

  2. Laura Flanagan Avatar
    Laura Flanagan

    Hi Katie,

    Great article, I love your blog, it’s been a godsend. Just curious as to why you don’t use Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds as a laundry detergent? I want to try it as your other suggestions for washing detergent are not available in Ireland. Would love to hear your thoughts.


      1. Sophie Lanser Avatar
        Sophie Lanser

        Hey Katie!

        Do you think Branch Basics works better than Sal Suds overall? Or do you find them comparable? I’ve been wanting to try BB but the price of Sal Suds… you just can’t beat it.

          1. Lynn Avatar

            Hi Katie,

            I’m just wondering more about the Branch Basics vs Sal Suds situation. I have purchased Branch Basics but I found the price to be ridiculous…even as a concentrate. Neither have I found it to be particularly good at laundry…it works better with their version of oxyclean and with vinegar, but it still isn’t perfect. I don’t mind that I have to do some extra work, but for the price….I really don’t want to have to jump through hoops to get my laundry clean. I’m willing to jump through more hoops for a more reasonably priced product. So, can you be a little more specific about the pros and cons about the two? I’m thinking of trying Sal Suds. Not sure what the differences are.

            Thanks for all your content.

          2. Katie Wells Avatar

            I find that sal suds is very effective for laundry, even for tough stains, and that less is needed. I use branch basics for everything else around the home because i do think it is the most non-toxic option and it works really well, but laundry can be tougher.

  3. a. chandler Avatar
    a. chandler

    first, thanx very much for your amazing site and its amazing information! i had cancer and i have to make my own everything as much as possible! i’m allergic to the world basically—just kidding—it seems that way since i’m allergic to gluten, shellfish, peanut and many nuts and grains, poison ivy and all of its family(pistachio, cashew, mango), ragweed(its relatives banana, zucchini, sunflower, melons), pine(its relatives are all evergreen type trees), and 27 tested contact and inhalable allergens to start! i have to steer clear of many of the chemicals that you are using for cleaning! sal suds would be great for cleaning except it contains pine family ingredients and other irritants to me! the potassium cocoate soap of dr. bronner’s is great for alot of stuff and luckily i retried it again after 30 years of not trusting it when i was younger and itched for days from it! the problem was my fault because i used it full strength and possibly that the formula was more irritating then, since it did not have all of the oils in it then! i still can’t use it on my body though(terribly itchy), just my hands! i was using borax since a child(64 yrs. old), but, now realize like you that there may be issues to be concerned about! vinegar in any form is an amazing product! however, after thinking long and hard what is vinegar first and foremost, an acid—mild yes, but, still an acid! so, i proved i was right that vinegar is harsh on rubbers, plastics, and vinyls or any chemical closely connected to them! i cleaned my freezer rubber seal to remove mold accumulation—-first with a vinegar rub, next with a peroxide rub, and finally with an alcohol rub—-that order because of the chemical reaction between peroxide and vinegar can create peracetic acid when mixed, and the vinegar weakened the rubber as it did when cleaning my urinary bag! this, also, made me take it out of my homemade swiffer formula cleaner! instead of using vinegar, water, alcohol, detergent drops, and fragrance, i use alcohol, water, glycerin, menthol, and a few drops of caprylyl glucoside! the floor has never looked better! finally, peroxide is gaining world attention as the better cleaning agent than bleach! i use it as one of my go-to items—–water, peroxide, alcohol, baking soda, glycerin, menthol, vinegar—–not mixing them together! remember, just because a chemical, agent, food, or any item is natural or green doesn’t mean that it is safe! the ewg is a good guideline place for info! but, even they make me question some choices listed as safe and others as not! keep up the good work and keep trying to find better solutions, since the world needs more people concerned about it!

  4. Melissa Avatar

    Ahhh! If vinegar isn’t disinfecting, then my local hospitals are going to have a huge problem, because that is what they clean the bathrooms with. And this is all within the last month (June 2019) that we have not only seen it and smelled it, but were specifically told that’s what they now use. This is two completely different health systems I am speaking about.

  5. steve Avatar

    in several of your recipes you write to dilute and use in a spray bottle. to what size spray bottle are you referring? since the size will determine the final concentration.

  6. Tina Avatar

    I thought sodium laurel sulfate was bad to use and I saw in Sal Suds they use it…..now I am confused.

  7. sheri Avatar

    I have been getting my Sal Suds from Amazon. This time I got it from Dr. Bronner’s site. What a difference in product. Dr. Bronner’s site smells like a pine tree and very clear. The stuff I have got from amazon is cloudy and does not smell. So watch what you are getting.

  8. Stephanie Ciancio Avatar
    Stephanie Ciancio

    I tried sal suds as laundry detergent and it didn’t go well. Maybe it’s the water quality, though San Francisco has generally great water. Clothes felt rough and sticky. Back to Ecos bulk detergent. Glad that I can do other things with sal suds!

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