Cleaning economically


Below is a list of common, environmentally safe products that can be used alone or in combination for numerous household chores.

Homemade Cleaning Solvent Recipes

Combinations of the products listed above provide less harmful substitutions for many commercial cleaning products. In most cases, these are also less expensive, so you can try making your own cleaning products using the formulas listed below.

It is best to keep all home-made formulas in well-labeled containers/spray bottles, and out of the reach of children.

All-Purpose Cleaner:

Another alternative is to use microfiber cloths that lift off dirt, grease and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals, as they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands, and good quality cloths can last for several years.

Air Freshener:

Bathroom Mold:

Mold in bathroom tile grout is a common problem and can become a health concern.

Carpet Stains:

When Using a Heavy Duty Carpet Cleaner:

Fresh Grease Spots:

Sprinkle corn starch onto spot and wait 15 – 30 minutes before vacuuming.

Chopping Block/Cutting Board Cleaner:

Coffee & Tea Stains:

Stains in cups can be removed by applying vinegar to a sponge and wiping.

To clean a teakettle or coffee maker, add 2 cups water and 1/4 cup vinegar; bring to a boil. Let cool, wipe with a clean cloth and rinse thoroughly with water.


Dishwasher Soap:

Mix equal parts of borax and washing soda, but increase the washing soda if your water is hard.

Dishwashing Soap:

(Commercial low-phosphate detergents are not themselves harmful, but phosphates nourish algae which use up oxygen in waterways.)

Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of vinegar to the warm, soapy water for tough jobs.


(This is not an antibacterial formula. The average kitchen or bathroom does not require antibacterial cleaners.)

To disinfect kitchen sponges, put them in the dishwasher when running a load.

Drain Cleaner:

*Caution: Only use this method with metal plumbing, because plastic pipes can melt if excess boiling water is used.

*Also, do not use this method after trying a commercial drain opener–the vinegar can react with the drain opener to create dangerous fumes.

Fabric Softener:

To reduce static cling, dampen your hands, then shake out your clothes as you remove them from the drier.
Line-drying clothing is another alternative.

Floor & Furniture Cleaners & Polish:

Most floor surfaces can be easily cleaned using a solution of vinegar and water. For damp-mopping wood floors: mix equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and water. Add 15 drops of pure peppermint oil; shake to mix.

Floor Polish:

Furniture Polish:

Varnished Wood

Unvarnished Wood 

Laundry Detergent:

Lime Deposits:

Lime Deposits in a Teakettle

Remove Lime From Bathroom Fixtures

Squeeze lemon juice onto affected areas and let sit for several minutes before wiping with a clean with a wet cloth.

Marks on Walls & Painted Surfaces:

Metal Cleaners & Polishes:


Using a soft cloth, clean with a solution of cream of tartar and water.

Brass or Bronze:


Polish with baby oil, vinegar, or aluminum foil shiny side out.



Clean with toothpaste, or a paste made from of salt, vinegar, and flour.


Stainless Steel:

Clean with a cloth dampened with undiluted white vinegar, or olive oil.

Stainless Cookware:

Stainless Steel Sinks:

Pour some club soda on an absorbent cloth to clean, then wipe dry using a clean cloth.

Mold and Mildew:

Use white vinegar or lemon juice full strength. Apply with a sponge or scrubber.


The common mothball is made of paradichlorobenzene, which is harmful to liver and kidneys. Cedar chips in a cheesecloth square, or cedar oil in an absorbent cloth will repel moths. The cedar should be ‘aromatic cedar’, also referred to as juniper in some areas.

Cedar chips are available at many craft supply stores, or make your own using a plane and a block of cedar from the lumberyard.
Homemade moth-repelling sachets can also be made with lavender, rosemary, vetiver and rose petals.
Dried lemon peels are also a natural moth deterrent – simply toss into clothes chest, or tie in cheesecloth and hang in the closet.

Oil & Grease Spots:

For small spills on the garage floor, add baking soda and scrub with wet brush.

Oven Cleaner:

Paint Brush Cleaner:

Non-toxic, citrus oil based solvents are now available commercially under several brand names. Citra-Solve is one brand. This works well for cleaning brushes of oil-based paints.

Paint brushes and rollers used for an on-going project can be saved overnight, or even up to a week, without cleaning at all. Simply wrap the brush or roller snugly in a plastic bag, such as a used bread or produce bag. Squeeze out air pockets and store away from light. Simply unwrap the brush or roller the next day and continue with the job.

Fresh paint odors can be reduced by placing a small dish of white vinegar in the room.

Rust Remover:

Scouring Powder:

Shoe Polish:

Sticker Removal from Walls:

Toilet Bowl Cleaner:

For simple cleaning, rub in baking soda with a damp sponge and rinse with fresh water.

For tougher jobs, wipe surfaces with vinegar first and follow with baking soda as a scouring powder. (FYI: Vinegar can break down tile grout, so use sparingly.)

Wallpaper Remover:

Water Rings on Wood:

Water rings on a wooden table or counter are the result of moisture that is trapped under the topcoat, but not the finish.

Window Cleaner:

*Be sure to follow the recipe, because using too strong a solution of vinegar will etch the glass and eventually cloud it.

Don’t clean windows if the sun is on them, or if they are warm, as they will streak. The All-Purpose Cleaner (above) also works well on windows too.

A growing number of commercial non-toxic home cleaning products are also available, as healthier and environmentally responsible alternatives. Your use of these products helps promote the growth of green businesses which are contributing to a sustainable economy.

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