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Recipes for earth-friendly household products – Start your own “Cleaning Formula File”

Cleaning on a shoestring budget can be approached two ways–from the standpoint of time or money. You can create your own homecare products. Home-created products often are less expensive, but require time to prepare. Many store bought cleaning products are basic ingredients that have been pre-mixed, perfumed and packaged in bottles or aerosol cans. These store products may cost more but take less time to
prepare. Be sure to read labels of commercial products carefully, since many products are abrasive and damage surfaces.

Try your own homecare products. You may like them even better. One way to save money and at the same time help our ecology is to make your own cleaning supplies. Why not start a new section in the kitchen recipe file and call it “cleaning formulas”. For just pennies you can make many types ofhousehold cleaners and you’11 save time as well as money ifthese recipes for homemade cleaners are close at hand when you need them.

Many household cleaners can be made with basic supplies that you probably already have in your kitchen or laundry area Bleach, ammonia, vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and salt are a few ofthe inexpensive and readily available compounds that can be used for many cleaning tasks around the house.

Mixing up large quantities ofthese recipes ahead and keeping them in a handy cupboard can save even more time. It’s a good idea to label each cleaner and put on it some instructions for its use along with any cautions as to how it should not be used.

Basic ingredients for creating products: (All of these products can be purchased at your grocery store): Ammonia, Vinegar, Baking Soda, and Washing Soda

REMEMBER! NEVER mix chlorine bleach, or any cleaner with chlorine as an ingrediant, with ammonia or any other chemical cleaner. Death could result.

General Household Cleaners
(All of these recipes can be place in a spray bottle, and labeled with contents, spray and used to wipe off general cleaning areas). Can replace store bought cleaners: i.e. 409, Fantasik, etc.)

  • 2 tablespoons anti-bacterial liquid dish soap, 1 quart water. Mix and use for general household cleaning.
  • 4 tablespoons household ammonia to 1 quart of warm water (for heavy, greasy soil) i.e. countertops, cupboards, greasy ceilings in the kitchen etc. When ammonia is used, put on label “contains ammonia”. Avoid spilling ammonia on painted or varnished woodwork, as it may injure the finish.
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar to 1 quart of warm water (for water spots).
  • 1 tablespoon washing soda to 1 quart of warm water.
  • First remove surface soil with sponge or cleaning cloth, then apply/spray on surface, rub dry and polish with newspaper or cloth.
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp Castile soap, 1 tbsp Borax. Combine all the ingredients and add to a spray bottle.
  • 1/2 tsp washing soda, a dab of liquid soap, 2 cups hot tap water. Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake until the washing soda has dissolved. Apply and wipe off with a sponge or rag. Tip: If you’re out of washing soda, use 2 1/2 tsp of borax, instead.

Air Fresheners & Odor Removers

Auto Maintenance

Bathroom Cleaners

Kitchen Cleaners

Laundry Cleaners

Living Room Cleaners

Metal Cleaner

Painting Tips

Pest Control

Air Fresheners & Odor Removeres


General Fresheners

  • Baking soda. Place a couple ot tablespoons of baking soda in a dish and leave on the counter.
  • Citrus (lemon, grapefruit, or orange) and water. Place slices of your fruit in a pot. Add enough water to cover fruit. Simmer over low heat for an hour or two.
  • Cinnamon, cloves, and water. Boil these spices in a pot of water.
  • Potpourri. Make your own potpourri from your favorite herbs and spices.

Kitchen and Cooking Odors

  • 1 tbl. white vinegar, 1 cup water. Boil ingredients in a small pot.
  • Vanilla. Place pure vanilla on a cotton ball in a small saucer. Place where needed. NOTE: Vanilla contains alcohol and should be kept away from children.
  • Baking soda. Open a box of baking soda and place in the refrigerator to eliminate odors.

Carpet Deodorizers

  • 1 cup Borax, 1 cup baking soda, 10 drops essential oils. Combine and store in an airtight tub.
  • Box of baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda over carpet and let rest overnight. Vacuum.

Specific Odors

  • Perfume – Soak or spray with white distilled vinegar (in both instances let set for a few hours before rinsing, or for spraying just let the smell dissipate)
  • Chemical Smell in Fabric – Soak overnight in 1 cup of baking soda before washing as usual.
  • Soot —Washing soda (wash area with 1 gallon to water to ¼ cup washing soda; let set for an hour or so before rinsing).
  • PVC/Plastic – Set plastic shower curtains, etc., in the sun, or wash with soap flakes and water once a week (about ¼ cup to 1 gallon warm water). Alternatively, set the plastic item in the sun as often as possible.
  • Biological Odors – Many biological odors contain both alkaline and acidic components, hence the alternating of baking soda and vinegar. When in doubt for any biological odor, follow directions for “Pet Pee,” below.
  • Pet Pee – Vinegar and Baking soda, alternating. (Place white distilled vinegar in a spray bottle and spray it straight onto the pee assuming the area can handle moisture; let kit set for an hour or so before rinsing. Follow by sprinkling the area with baking soda. Mist the baking soda with water. Let it set for a few hours before vacuuming. Keep alternating until the odor is gone.)
  • Perspiration — Baking soda. (Scrub a thick baking soda paste into the perspiration on the fabric; let set for an hour before laundering as usual. For personal hygiene, powder baking soda under your arms, making it slightly moist beforehand to help is stick if needed.)
  • Vomit – Vinegar and baking soda, alternating (follow directions for “Pet Pee”)

Auto Maintenance

Car Soap

  • 1/4 cup vegetable-oil-based liquid soap, warm water. Mix ingredients in a pail. Use sponge to apply to outside of the car.

Vinyl Cleaner

  • 1 tsp. to 1/4 cup baking soda, water. Mix to form a paste. Apply with sponge and rinse well.

Car Wax

  • 1 cup food-grade linseed oil, 4 tbl. carnauba wax, 2 tbl. beeswax, 1/2 cup vinegar. Put ingredients in top half of a doulble boiler (set over water) or saucepan. Heat slowly until wax is melted. Stir. Pour into a heat-resistant container. After wax has solidified, take it out of container and run on the car. Saturate a corner of a cotton rag with vinegar and polish the wax to a shine.

Tar Remover

  • Food-grade linseed oil. Wet rag with linseed oil and rub.

Bathroom Cleaners

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

  • Baking soda: Sprinkle baking soda in and around toilet bowl. Let sit for a few minutes. Scrub Clean.
  • Washing Soda and Baking Soda: Sprinkle ingredients in bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes. Brush.

Scouring Powder

  • 1 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup vinegar: Mix in small bowl and rub on surface  with a damp sponge. Let stand a few minutes. Rinse well.

Soft Scrubber

  • 1/4 cup baking soda, vegetable oil based liquid soap: Mix ingredients to form a paste. Apply with sponge. Wipe clean.
  • Simply pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda into a bowl, and add enough liquid detergent to make a texture like frosting. Scoop the mixture onto a sponge, and wash the surface. This is the perfect recipe for cleaning the bathtub because it rinses easily and doesn’t leave grit. Tip: Add 1 tsp of vegetable glycerin to the mixture and store in a sealed glass jar, to keep the product moist. Otherwise, just make as much as you need at a time.

Tub and Tile Cleaner

  • 1/2 tsp. washing soda, 1/4 to 1/2. vegetable-oil-based liquid soap, 3 tbl. vinegar, 2 cups of hot water: Mix ingredients in a spray bottle or pail. Apply and wipe clean.
  • Baking Soda and Water: Sprinkle baking soda on surface. Scrub with a damp sponge. Rinse well with water.
  • Baking soda and Vinegar: Sprinkle baking soda on sponge. Add vinegar and apply. Rinse.
  • Cream of Tartar and Peroxide: Mix to make paste, apply, rinse well.
  • 1 cup baking soda, ¼ cup salt, 10 drops citrus essential oil, 5 drops tea tree essential oil. Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight tub.

Kitchen Cleaners

All Purpose Cleaner

  • 4 tbl. baking soda, 1 pint of warm water. Dissolve baking soda in water. Apply with sponge. Wipe clean.
  • 1 tsp. vegetable-oil-based liquid soap. Squeeze of lemon, 1 quart of warm water. Combine ingredients in a bucket. Apply with a sponge or a rag and wipe clean.
  • 1/8 cup washing soda. 1 tbl. vegetable-oil-based liquid soap. 1/4 cup vinegar. 2 gallons of hot water. Mix ingredients in a pail. apply with a mop or cloth. wipe clean.
  • Mix vinegar and salt, dissolve 4 tbsp of baking soda in 1 qt. of water. For stubborn stains, use drops of lemon juice directly or combined with cream of tartar.

Oven Cleaner

  • small box of baking soda, water, few drops of vegetable-oil-based liquid soap, and mild abrasive pad. Sprinkle water over base of oven. Cover with baking soda. Let sit, preferably overnight. Wipe with pad. After bottom is cleaned, put a few drops of liquid soap on a sponge and wash the side and top.
  • Sprinkle on baking soda and water; pour salt on spills while warm, scrub next day
  • 1/4 cup ammonia placed in the oven overnight
  • use oven liners.
  • 1 small box baking soda, 1 cup liquid Castile Soap. Combine ingredients and mix until smooth. Apply to a cloth and wipe clean.

Drain Cleaner

  • 1/2 cup baking soda, 3 cups of boiling water. Pour baking soda down the drain. Add boiling water. Let rest 10-15 minutes. Rinse. Repeat this process every month or so.
  • 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup vinegar or lemon juice. Pour baking soda down the drain. Add vinegar or lemon juice. Let rest for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with hot water.
  • Pour 1/2 c. baking soda and 1/2 c. white vinegar into clogged drain, flush with one kettle of boiling water, use a plunger or metal snake. Prevent clogs by flushing weekly with boiling water and using drain strainer.

Dish Soap

  • A non-phosphate soap. TIP: Try using only half the amount of automatic dishwashing detergent. It should make little or no difference.

Floor Cleaner

  • Tile Floors: 1 cup vinegar, 1 pail hot water. Mix and apply. Wipe clean.
  • Wood Floors: 1/8 cup vegetable-oil-based liquid soap, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 gallons hot water. Mix and apply. Wipe clean.
  • No Wax Floors: 1/4 cup vegetable-oil-based liquid soap, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 gallons hot water. Mix and apply. Wipe clean.

Floor Wax

  • 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts food-grade linseed oil. Apply with rag. Let rest until floor is dry. Buff completely smooth.
  • 6 tbl. beeswax, 3 cups food-grade linseed oil. Put ingredients in the top of a boiler (over water) and heat-resistant container. Apply.

Pot and Pan Cleaner

  • 3 tbl. baking soda, salt, water. mix ingredients in a small bowl to form a paste. Dip a sponge into paste and rub on the metal. Let dry. Rinse with hot water.

Grease Cutter

  • 1.2 tsp. washing soda, 1 tsp. vegetable-oil-based- liquid soap, 3 tbl. vinegar, 2 cups hot water. Mix ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray and scrub. Wipe clean.

Laundry Cleaners

Laundry Soap

  • Use non-phosphate liquid detergents or laundry soaps.
  • 1 bar Castile soap, grated, 2 cups Borax, 2 cups washing soda, 1 cup baking soda. Combine all of the ingredients and store in a covered jar. Use ¼ cup per load.

Laundry Bleach

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice.
  • To whiten and brighten colors, use 1/2 cup Borax.

Laundry Softener

  • 1 cup dried lavender buds, 1 quart white vinegar, 2-4 drops lavender essential oil. Combine the mixture and let it sit for a week.

Rust Spots

  • Mix 1/4 cup lemon juice and salt and rub on spot.

Laundry Starch

  • 1 tbl. cornstarch, 1 pint cold water. Place in a spray bottle and shake to dissolve cornstarch.

Ring Around The Collar

  • Apply hair shampoo with toothbrush before laundering and/or Apply paste of soda and vinegar, rub, and wash as usual.

Living Room Cleaners


  • 1 cup distilled water, 3 drops essential oils. Combine in a spray bottle and use with a cotton cloth.
  • Use a feather duster
  • vinegar – spray on and wipe down with a soft cloth.

Glass Cleaner

  • 1/8 cup vinegar, 1 cup water.Mix ingredients in a spray bottle. Shack and apply. Wipe clean.
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. vegetable-oil-based liquid soap, 3 tbl. vinegar, 2 cups water. Put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, and use as you would a commercial brand. The soap in this recipe is important. It cuts the wax residue from the commercial brands you might have used in the past.
  • 3 tbl. cornstarch, 1/2 cup water. Mix ingredients in a small bowl. Dip cotton cloth into mixture and wipe. Film will disappear, so keep rubbing. Lemons. Wet a rag with lemon juice and rub.
  • 1 cup vinegar in 1 quart warm water; rub dry with newspapers.

Carpet Stain Remover

  • Club soda. Apply to stain and scrub.
  • 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup water. Mix and scrub. Rinse with water.

Furniture Cleaner

  • For wood:
    • 1/8 cup linseed oil, 1/8 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup lemon juice. Mix ingredients. Using a soft cloth, rub into wood.
    • 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/8 cup lemon juice. Mix and apply in a thin coating. Rub well with cloth.
    • Mix 2 part vegetable or olive oil and 1 part lemon apply with soft cloth.
  • For Leather: 1/4 cup olive oil, a few drops of lemon oil. Mix ingredients. Saturate cloth and apply.
  • For Vinyl: 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 tsp. vegetable-oil-based liquid soap, and water. Mix ingredients, Saturate cloth and apply.

Metal Cleaners

Aluminum Cleaner

  • 2 or 3 halved lemons or 1 grapefruit, cut four ways, water. Put citrus and water in the tarnished pan and stew on low heat for an hour.
  • 2 tbl. cream of tartar. Mix ingredients to make a stiff paste. Rub on metal and let dry. Wash paste off with hot water and dry with a cloth.

Brass And Copper Cleaner

  • Flour (enough to make a paste), 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 cup vinegar. Mix ingredients to form a paste. Rub onto the brass and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse with water and dry with a cloth dampened with a little vegetable oil.
  • 2 tbl. salt, 1 tbl. lemon or lime juice, 1 tbl. vinegar. Mix salt, juice and vinegar in small bowl. Rub with a sponge and let dry. Rinse with hot water.

Chrome Cleaner

  • 3 tbl. baking soda, water. Mix the baking soda and water to make a paste. Apply. Rinse.
  • 1/8 cup cider vinegar. Saturate a sponge with a vinegar. Rub and rinse.
  • Use baby oil to polish.

Silver Cleaner

  • 1 tbl. salt, 1 tbl. baking soda, a few sheets aluminum foil, and water. Put foil in the bottom of a big pan.  Add 2 or 3 inches of water (enough to cover the silver), baking soda and salt. Bring to a boil. Add silver pieces and boil 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pan. Rinse well and dry.
  • Baking soda and water. Mix ingredients to form a paste. Use a soft, wet sponge to apply the mixture to the silver. Rinse in hot water and dry with soft cloth.
  • Toothpaste. to clean off tarnish, coat silver with toothpaste. Run under warm water and work into a foam. Rinse. Use toothpaste for stubborn stains or intricate grooves.
  • Soak silver in 1 qt. water, 2 tbsp. baking soda, 1 tbsp. salt and small piece of aluminum foil.

Stainless Steel Cleaner

  • 3 tbl. baking soda, water. Mix the baking soda and water to make a paste. Apply with green scouring pad. Rinse well to remove all residue.
  • Vinegar. Saturate a sponge with vinegar. Rub the metal. Rinse and polish dry with soft cloth.
  • Olive oil or club soda. Rub with a sponge dampened in olive oil or club soda to remove streaks or stains.

Painting Tips

Choosing Paints: Latex paints. Whenever possible, use latex instead of oil-based paints. TIP: Avoid using spray paints. Apply paint with brush.

Paint Strippers: Heat, Sandpaper.

Paint Brush Renewer: Hot Vinegar. Soften hard paint brushes in hot vinegar for 10 minutes. Wash in warm water and soap and let dry.

Paint Thinner: Water is a paint thinner for latex paints.

Pest Control


General Insect Repellant

  • Apply lavendar oil to your body


  • Dried bay leaves. Crumble and place in doorway and windows sills.
  • Vinegar and water. Wash countertops with equal parts vinegar and water.
  • Lemon or cream tartar. Find where the ants are entering and place tartar or squeeze lemon juice in the hole or crack. Put the peeling around enterance.
  • Apply a line of cream of tartar, red chili pepper, paprika, or dried peppermint where ants enter house.


  • Powderd sugar and baking soda. Mix equal parts of the two and sprinkle where cockroaches might live.
  • Boric acid. Use where the cockroaches will walk through it. ( KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN AND PETS!)
  • Smear grease or vaseline around inside the rim of jar containing a banana. Make a ramp with a tongue depressor or popsicle stick. Pests are attracted by food; but are trapped in the jar.


  • Citrus and Cloves. Flies are repelled by these ingredients. Scratch the skin of an orange and leave out. Hang cluster of cloves.
  • Mint or Basil. Mint planted around the home repels flies. A pot of basil on a table or window sill repels flies.
  • Flypaper. Use yellow paper and honey to make your own.


  • Vinegar (amount depends on weight of pet) water. A ratio of 1 tsp. of vinegar to 1 quart water (per 40 pounds of pet weight) in their drinking water.
  • Vacuum. Vacuum, remove the vacuum bag, seal it, and dispose of it immediately outside of the house.
  • Brewer’s yeast with garlic. Give the pet one tablet for each 50 lbs of weight.
  • Sprinkle fennel, rue, and rosemary near pet’s area to repel fleas .

Mice & Rats

  • Traps.
  • sprinkle chopped bay leaves and cucumber skins around cracks and crevices


  • Burn citronella candles.
  • Plant basil around the house.
  • Provide bat roosts. Bats are one of the best predators of insects.


  • Cedar chips
  • Dried lavender
  • Equal parts dried rosemary and dried mint. (Place wherever clothes are stored.)

Silverfish: 1 part molasses and 2 part vinegar. Place this mixture near the problem area.

Snails and Slugs

  • Put out shallow pan containing beer in infested area
  • overturn clay pots to lure from heat, capture and collect and dispose.

Aphid Control: 1/2 cup chopped green onion tops and 1 quart water. Let stand overnight. Strain and use as a spray.


  • Apply soapy water to leaves, rinse.
  • 1/4 c. cayenne pepper in 1 pint water to spray on garden plants.
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