DIY Eco-Cleaning Products

As readers of this site may already know I am taking the challenge to live Plastic Free for July (thanks to the amazing initiative of Western Earth Carers who invented Plastic Free July). In a previous post (click here to see it) one of my 5 Steps to going plastic free was to make your own cleaning products. It is fun, easy and SO much better for the environment.

If you want to investigate all the dangerous chemicals we use in our homes (and the effects they have) then see my preivous post about it here but I can sum it up in a nut-shell. Lots of chemicals we find in home products are linked to major health issues such as cancer, fertility defects, liver damage, kidney damage and central nervous system damage. These are then they are poured straight down the drain into our waterways and oceans where the creatures are ever so delicate. Needless to say, it wreaks havoc on our ecosystems. And worst of all, these products come wrapped head-to-toe in single-use plastic packaging. Yuck. There is a better way… in fact there are lots of better ways!!! (Another benefit is that they are a lot cheaper than the nasty chemicals too).

Your Eco Cleaning Essential

There are a few ingredients that you cannot live without if you want to make your own cleaning products. I try to get most of my ingredients from ‘eco stores’ like Planet Ark but if you aren’t near their every single one of these can be found in supermarkets.

Note: I am aware that some of these come wrapped in plastic – namely the lids of the Essential Oils and the Washing Soda packet. I am trying to source alternatives. Looks like I will be filling the Dilemma Bag. :(

  • Bicarb Soda (aka Baking Soda) – This miracle powder does everything. It cleans, deodorizes, scours and softens water.
  • Lemon Juice One of the strongest food-acids around and effective against most household bacteria.
  • White Vinegar Another hero. Cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, stains and wax build-up.
  • Borax (aka Sodium Borate) – Cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors, changes light globes. (Might not do the last thing actually)
  • Washing Soda Cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Be carfeul though – washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
  • Cornstarch AKA Corn Flour Can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
  • Soap – Unscented soap in is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. I buy a natural soap bar and grate it before using.
  • Essential Oils – The ‘essential’ Essential Oils for basic house-cleaning are lavendar, lemon and Eucalyptus. Most of these oils have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and they smell bloody lovely. I always keep a lavender by the bed to help me nod off (and to keep mosquito’s away!) .
  • Olive Oil – A great alternative furniture polish (the most basic will do!)

Easy Surface Cleaner

This can be used on any type of counter – I use it in the kitchen, bathroom, wooden furniture/boards. The only thing vinegar shouldn’t be used on is marble as it can damage the surface.

  • Bicarb Soda
  • Vinegar (in spray bottle)

Note: White is most versatile but Apple Cider can be used on surface darker than the vinegar

Method

  1. Sprinkle Bicarb Soda over the surface
  2. Spray Vinegar over the surface (do a little jig while you hear it fizz)
  3. Wipe off with a damp sponge/cloth

If it is a particularly stubborn stain: Make a paste with the vinegar and bicarb and leave for 15 minutes before wiping off.

Dishwashing Detergent

This is care of the Plastic Free July website. Thank you! :)

  • 1 Cup borax
  • 1 Cup baking soda
  • ½ Cup salt

Method

  1. Mix ingredients and store in a reusable and resealable container.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the mixture to the soap compartment.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar in the rinse agent compartment.

Gentle Microwave/Oven Cleaner

  • 1 x lemon
  • Water
  • Microwavable container

Method

  1. Slice up lemon and place in water
  2. Zap in Microwave for 5 – 10 minutes | Bake in Oven on 200C (390F) for 40 minutes
  3. Then use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the inside (once oven is cool). The mess will wipe off really easily without the use of harsh, toxic chemicals.

Strong Oven Cleaner

  • 3/4 Cup Bicarb Soda
  • 1/4 Cup Salt (table is fine, sea salt is better, Kosher is best)
  • 1/4 Cup Water

Method

  1. Dampen the oven surfaces with sponge and water.
  2. Mix bicarb soda, salt and water to make a thick paste
  3. Spread throughout oven interior – liberally on tough mucky areas
  4. Let sit overnight
  5. Remove with spatula and wipe clean.
  6. Rub gently with fine steel wool for tough spots

Window or Mirror Cleaner

  • 1 Cup White Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 3 Cups Water
OR if you don’t like the smell of vinegar…
  • 1 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Vinegar
  • 3 Cups Water

Method

  1. Mix vinegar and lemon juice with water
  2. Pour into a used spray bottle
  3. Spray onto window/mirror and scrub with newspaper (don’t use paper towels – they will streak!)

My Crazy Bathroom Cleaning Technique

Whenever I do this I have ‘Maniac’ playing in my head and fully pretend that I am Alex Owens from Flashdance – get my head shaking around and stomping my feet. This is of course not necessary but neither are cupcakes 99% of the time – they’re still fun though.

  • Bicarb Soda
  • Vinegar (in spray bottle)

Method

  1. While you shower in the bathroom you intend to clean close the door, cover bath and shower plugs and allow the room to steam up
  2. Have bicarb in a shaker and put on a shower cap
  3. Sprinkle bicarb everywhere (sink included) – 3Tablespoons should be enough for whole room
  4. Spray all over the room with vinegar
  5. Use a damp sponge to scrub surfaces, sinks and towel racks
  6. Use old stockings to clean around taps
  7. Use on old toothbrush for corners
  8. Even do the walls! Use a broom

Tip: You can upcycle a shaker out of anything… e.g. an old coffee tin with holes in the bottom or a plastic bottle with hole in the lid or just use an old Parmesan shaker. 

Bathroom Mold

  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Water

Method

  1. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle
  2. Spray onto areas with mold
  3. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower/bath

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

1/4 Cup Bicarb Soda
1 Cup White Vinegar

Method

  1. Mix Bicarb Soda and Vinegar
  2. Pour into basin and let it set for a 10 minutes
  3. Scrub with brush and rinse

Clothes Washing Powder

  • 1 Liter Boiling Water
  • 2 cups Bar soap (grated)
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups Washing Soda

Method

  1. Add finely grated bar soap to boiling water and stir until soap is melted (do this on a low heat)
  2. Pour the soapy water mix into a large, clean bucket and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
  3. Add 6 Litres of water and stir until well mixed.
  4. Cover bucket and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry (You will need to stir the soap each time you use it as it does gel – maybe a fun job for kids?)

Furniture Polish

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Method

  1. Pour oil and lemon juice into a jar
  2. Stir to combine
  3. Dip a dust cloth or rag into oil, blot the oil by folding the cloth together, and then dust your furniture

Unclog a Drain

  • 1/2 Cup Baking Soda
  • 2 Cups Boiling Water
  • 1/2 Cup Vinegar (if stubborn clog)

Method

  1. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain followed by the boiling water.
  2. If it is reeeeally blocked chase the baking soda with a 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover – allowing the crazy fizzing which means it is breaking up all the gunk.
  3. Flush that with 2 litres of boiling water

Carpet Cleaner

  • Vinegar

Method

  1. For pet stink and stains in carpets, mix equal parts of vinegar and water. Apply to affected areas.
  2. Blot with an cloth until moisture is absorbed.
Note: Soda Water also works but it is hard to find plastic free. Perhaps Mineral Water would work as it is the carbonation that lifts the stain. Will keep you posted next time there is a carpet accident at home! :) 

Natural Air Fresheners

All that commercial air fresheners do is mask a smell and/or coat our nasal cavities. I don’t like the idea of that especially when you read the ingredients you find in them. So here are some really simple and natural ways to… well… freshen your air!

  • Mix a bit of Bicarb Soda or Vinegar with Lemon Juice in small dishes around the house – this will absorb odours!
  • Keep a spray bottle with water and 10 drops of lavender oil by the door. Spray before guests come in so they get a beautiful, relaxing welcome!
  • Mix eight tbsp with three drops of your favourite essential oil. Place in a decorative bowl or vase
  • Dab some essential oil on a light bulb. When on, the heat will diffuse the fragrance.
  • Prevent cooking odors by simmering vinegar (1 tbsp in 1 cup water) on the stove while cooking.
  • To get such smells as fish and onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar and wash in soapy water.
  • If you grind your own coffee keep the grounds on the counter
  • Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove before guests arrive. (I then use left overs in my tea!!!)
  • Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in room
  • The greenest tip of all… Get some houseplants!

DIY Citrus All-Purpose Cleaner

I love citrus. At the moment every time I walk into the lunchroom I get these beautiful wafts of oranges and mandarins. Then comes afternoon tea and I get to devour a nice fresh lemon… don’t judge me… I am pregnant and I am allowed to eat weird stuff! But it did pain me to see all the peels getting chucked in the trash especially considering that so many cleaners boast about their citrusy scent or about how powerful they are due to the use of real lemons! As with most things I have decided that it would be much easier (and healthier) to go straight to the source, which is always nature.

Looks almost good enough to eat!

Unless you have your own citrus tree (lucky you) you might not get through enough peel to make a lot of this. Firstly, as long as you put it in the fridge your peel will last up to ten days. Secondly, a good trick is to put a container in the kitchen at your office and ask people to put their peel there instead of the bin. Anyone that follows my Facebook page may remember that at first I got called a ‘freak’ for this email request BUT by the end of the week I had had plenty of interest in the recipe and I had enough peels to make a good few batches of cleaner. Once it is ready I am going to take it into work (along with the recipe) to show people how well it works. Sharing the eco love people!

What You Need

  • Citrus peels – any kind! If you want an extra strong cleaner use only orange peels
  • Bicarb soda
  • White vinegar
  • Essential Oil (optional)
  • Something to scrub with – scourer, dish brush, nail brush
  • Old jars
  • Old spray bottle (use one of the containers that used to hold your nasty cleaner!)

Method

1.  Gather your peels and place in a bowl.

2. Cover with water and then sprinkle bicarb soda quite liberally over them.
3.  Dip the peel and give a quick scrub. Place the scrubbed peel into a colander. (This is to remove all the nasty chemicals from the peels and make it a truly natural cleaner).
4.  Once all the peels have had a quick scrub rinse them thoroughly.
5.  Place all the peels into a jar.
6.  Fill the jar up to the level of your peels with vinegar.
7.  Store in a dark, cool place for between 2 weeks and a month. Shake it once a week if you remember – make sure the lid is on tight!
8.  Shake the mixture vigorously then pour the mixture into a container, straining the old peels.
9.  Mix 1 part vinegar mix with 1 part water and pour into your spray bottle! If you would like add ten drops of an essential oil with antibacterial qualities (i.e. teatree, lavender or lemon).

It is a fantastic cleaner and will work on most surfaces (not glass) and strong stains. Be careful if you use only orange peels as the oil in orange peel is very strong and can be quite abrasive. It is always best to do a spot test.

At first I had hoped that this could be used as a detergent but I want to actually test that recipe before I just send it out there as I am not sure quite how well it will work. This one I have used before and it is tried and test! As soon as I try the detergent mix though I will make sure I report back to you all.

Happy Cleaning!

P.s. This is also a great plastic free cleaning recipe if you are partaking in Plastic Free July. See here to register