How to Make Homemade Cleaners That Work

A man cleaning a window with a sponge

Paul Bradbury / Caiaimage / Getty Images

Whether you're sensitive to harsh commercial household cleaners, or you'd rather fill your home with more natural ingredients, there's no shortage of greener cleaner recipes. You probably already have the ingredients you need at home to make healthier house cleaners.

What You'll Need

Check your pantry for the following ingredients:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Dawn dish detergent (the original blue version)
  • Essential oils
  • Fresh lemon

You'll also need recycled (and relabeled) or new spray bottles you can buy at the grocery or home improvement store. The following recipes show how these ingredients can be mixed and matched to make a variety of cleaners appropriate for every room in your home.

Why Dawn Works

No one really knows why the original blue Dawn dish detergent works so well. It's mild, yet it's proven to remove tough grease. Dawn made its mark in 1989 when it was successfully used to safely remove thick crude oil that coated the feathers of marine birds resulting from the Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred off the coast of Alaska.

Recipes for All-Purpose Cleaners

Multi-purpose surface cleaner: This mix takes a minute to make and you can use this cleaner on virtually any surface in your home. Use on wood furniture and hardwood floors, but wipe wood surfaces completely dry after cleaning. Fill 1/3 of the bottle with white vinegar and fill the rest of the bottle with tap water. The vinegar scent starts to evaporate after spraying your cleaner, but adding essential oils will help mask any lingering smell. Add at least three to five drops of your favorite essential oil to the bottle. Some favorite essential oils for cleaning solutions include lemon, orange, lavender, pine, and eucalyptus.

Window cleaner: Clean your windows and mirrors using the same white vinegar and water mixture as above. But sometimes, a special ingredient may be necessary to blast through the smudges on your windows. Dawn and vinegar work wonders for that extra smudge-cutting and cleaning mixture. Mix in a spray bottle 1/4 cup of white vinegar with 2 and 1/2 cups of water, plus 1/2 teaspoon of Dawn dish detergent. Rinse windows and mirrors with clean water to clear off any suds. Cleaning windows and mirrors can become a fragrant chore with this mixture. Use this mixture on your windows indoors and outdoors. Window squeegees are easiest to use. But if you prefer, use a lint-free towel, wiping windows with a Z-shaped motion.

Recipes for the Laundry

Stain remover mix: If you have pets or kids, you'll especially appreciate having a stain removing recipe on hand. Mix 2 parts hydrogen peroxide with 1/4 part baking soda. Mix well and pour into a spray bottle. Spray on the stain and let sit for a few minutes before scrubbing with a rag, brush, or old toothbrush. Let dry, then wash the item with the regular laundry.

Stain remover with Dawn: Sometimes all you need is a few drops of Dawn dish detergent and a toothbrush to pre-treat a tough stain. If Dawn alone doesn't help, then try again by mixing 2 parts of hydrogen peroxide and 1 part Dawn mixed in a spray bottle. Spray generously on the stain. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Scrub with a towel, brush, or old toothbrush. Blot with paper towels, let dry, and the stain should be gone or you can also toss the item in with the regular laundry.

Recipes for Kitchen and Bath

Disinfectant surface spray: For an extra-strength antibacterial cleaner for your kitchen and bath, use the general recipe of filling a spray bottle with 1/3 white vinegar and the rest with water, then add specific essential oils. The essential oils that tend to effectively destroy several bacterial, fungal, and viral pathogens include cinnamon, clove, thyme, rosemary, and tea tree. These particular essential oils may have a potent, earthy scent rather than a floral or citrus fragrance.

Garbage disposal cleaner with lemon: For regular cleaning and maintenance of your garbage disposal, make sure to run it every day or at least every other day. To freshen the disposal, toss in a half of a lemon. Turn on the disposal with the lemon in it and run until the lemon is completely broken down.

To dislodge food particles stuck in your disposal's blades, take this additional step: Add a few ice cubes into the garbage disposal about once or twice a week and turn on the disposal until the ice is broken down, then run the tap water for a minute.

Drain cleaner: Shower, bathtub, and sink drains become quickly clogged from hair, soap, fats, and oils. (Remember, soap is made from fats and oils.) Many cleaning recipes to unclog drains call for vinegar and baking soda, which may produce lots of foaming action, but likely won't be enough to dissolve or blast away the gloppy clog. But one simple ingredient should cut through sluggish drains, and that's Dawn detergent. Add a few drops into the drain and follow with boiling water or scalding hot tap water. You'll likely need to repeat a few times to dissolve the greasy mess.

Bathroom air freshener: With a dropper, add several drops of your favorite essential oil directly on the inner cardboard section of your toilet paper roll. Aim for fresh, clean, and soothing neutral scents such as lavender or vanilla.

White Vinegar vs. Distilled White Vinegar

Both white vinegar and distilled white vinegar are used for cooking and cleaning. White vinegar has a higher acidic content and harsher flavor than milder distilled white vinegar. White vinegar has more cleaning power.