Simple household cleaners

simple home cleanersI am not an early adopter, but once I find something I like I am fiercely loyal. This was my trajectory with simple cleaning products. If you haven’t already made this switch, like 10 years ago, I’m here to say it’s easier than you think and yes, they work.

You can see most of my kit in the picture.


There are recipes for making your own laundry soap, but I’ve heard that they can be hard on fine fabrics, so I use a “green” commercial laundry soap. No dryer sheets—they coat your clothes and your dryer filter, and that coating can eventually cause your dryer to fail. No bleach—it’s not good for human or pet health or the environment, and like dryer sheets I consider it unnecessary. I do use a stain spray because I have a six year old boy and, yes, I totally cheated by not including that in the picture (it ruined the composition).


Switching to homemade bathroom cleaners requires an upfront investment that quickly pays off:

  • two spray bottles
  • funnel
  • tea tree oil plus a good-smelling essential oil (if you use lavender oil or lemon oil, you’re adding to the antibacterial properties of the tea tree oil, borax and vinegar)
  • borax (look for it in the laundry soap aisle)
  • white vinegar (oh, wait, I already had that)
  • liquid dishsoap (had that too)
  • baking soda (…had it)
  • water

Glass cleaner: mix 1/4 c. white vinegar with 2 c. water in a spray bottle (that’s an “official” recipe—I don’t actually measure); the vinegar scent quickly disappears and if I wipe sufficiently there’s no streaking.

Surface cleaner (I do measure these ingredients): dissolve 1 t. borax in 2 c. hot water and let cool before adding in a spray bottle to 1/2 t. liquid dish soap; 3 T. white vinegar; 5 drops tea tree oil; 15 drops good-smelling essential oil

Boosting the surface cleaner: if you use bar soap (see my recommendation for an alternative to shaving cream), or have mildew on your tile grout, or for some other reason you need to scrub your sink, bathtub or tile, baking soda works well; spray surface cleaner or glass cleaner (vinegar kills mildew), sprinkle baking soda, and scrub away with a sponge or old toothbrush; of course there are mildew and soap scum sprays that allow you to skip most of the scrubbing, but over the long term they’re not good for tile or grout and they’re not good for human health.

Toilet bowl cleaner: I use borax the way I would any other powdered toilet bowl cleaner, i.e. the borax crystals boost the friction power of the toilet brush and act as an antimicrobial agent.

plastic sink uncloggerUnclogging the sink: you’ve probably heard that commercial drain cleaners can ruin your pipes if overused; a better alternative to removing the horribleness that prevents the water from draining is a saw-toothed piece of plastic designed just for this job.

(Yick. Glad to be done writing about bathroom cleaning.)


Oven: you know those oven cleaner sprays that smell so toxic–especially when heated–that you need to leave the room or house when they’re doing their job? yeah, toxic. I have an ordinary oven and, because of multiple bubbling over incidents, it needed to be cleaned. I used a plastic scrubber (that blue thing in the picture that originally had a ball shape), some baking soda and my spray glass cleaner, and some cloth rags I threw away when I was done. Because I am a careless/distracted cook, I should probably just line the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil (I found 100% recycled aluminum foil at my food coop).

Surfaces: I use a clean dishcloth and a little soapy water.

Garbage disposal: I run the disposal with a chunk of fresh or frozen lemon.


Hardwood, laminate and tile floors: for normal dirt, I vacuum or use a dry Swiffer to pick up hair and other bits, then get on my knees with a cloth rag and warm water (wring most of the water out)—it’s more work than just going over the surface with a wet Swiffer cloth, but also more effective. I was told by a hardwood floor specialist to never use Murphy’s Oil Soap.


I use a cloth rag. No spray.


If you have other suggestions for simple, green cleaners, please share them!


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