The Only 10 Things You Need To Buy To Make All Your Own Natural Cleaning Products

March 3, 2017
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Before you bust out the glass-cleaner and mop for the annual ritual of spring cleaning, take a close look at the ingredients list in your cleaning products. Common ingredients include phthalates, sodium hydroxide, chlorine, and ammonia, all of which can be bad for you if they get on your skin or settle in your body— exposure through repeated cleanings can damage your health.  You can avoid them by skipping store-bought cleaning products and making green, natural versions at home instead.  DIY-ing it isn't for everyone, but if you like the idea of knowing exactly what’s in the sprays and soaps you use to clean your home—and are keen on using only natural ingredients—making your own green cleaners is definitely for you! Here's everything you need to get started:

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Castile Soap

All-natural castile soaps like Dr. Bronner's aren't just good for washing dirt and grease from your body—they're also great for household surfaces. You can use castile soap to make a homemade herbal soft scrub, a bathroom cleaner, for mopping floors—even to tackle pest infestations on plants. Unlike synthetic soaps, it’s safe and free of harmful chemicals, and gets an A-rating from the Environmental Working Group. Just be sure not to mix it with vinegar! Though both are powerful cleaning agents, when combined, they cancel each other out. (If you want to use both, use the soap first, then follow with the vinegar.)

Buy it: $15.99 at Amazon.com

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Essential Oil

For sparkling rooms that also deliver a little aromatherapy treatment, try making easy DIY household cleaners from herb-based essential oils. Essential oils are 100 percent plant extract, and because many of them have antibacterial and antifungal powers, adding them to your homemade cleaning products can enhance their effectiveness. A great way to get started is with the Aura Cacia Discovery Kit, a collection of four organic essential oils that includes some of the best oils for cleaning: tea tree (the best multipurpose oil for floors), peppermint (which acts as a mild pest repellant), eucalyptus (which has disinfectant properties) and calming lavender.

Buy it: $17.99 at Amazon.com

Related: 6 Times You Should Never Use Essential Oils 

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Witch Hazel

Mildly astringent witch hazel is fabulous for cleansing and toning skin; it also lends oomph to a homemade disinfecting spray for exercise equipment and yoga mats. If you're going to be using it for skin care as well as cleaning, look for an organic brand like Humphrey’s Organic Witch Hazel.

Buy it: $8.39 at Amazon.com

Related: 7 Cleaning Mistakes You’ve Been Making Your Whole Life

 

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Borax

Borax is naturally-occurring sodium borate compound, mined in Boron, California, that's a powerful, multi-purpose cleaning agent around the home. The most common brand, 20 Mule Team Borax, can be used for unclogging drains, making homemade laundry detergent, and combating ants, or for a homemade oven cleaner.

Buy it: $11.96 at Amazon.com

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Lemons

Lemons can freshen more than just your food. A powerful antibacterial and grease fighter, lemon can be used to remove mineral deposits from showerheads, to polish and dust furniture, and to sanitize cutting boards. (Read about 12 Things You Can Clean With A Lemon).

Buy them: at the grocery store, natch. Or get 12 organic lemons for $19.98 at Amazon.com.

Related: What's The Better Mold Cleaner—Lemon or Bleach? 

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Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is one of the cheapest, most effective natural multitaskers out there. A mineral compound consisting of magnesium and sulfate, unlike table or kosher salt, epsom salt doesn’t contain sodium—and you shouldn’t eat it. It’s most commonly used for bathing but can also be used as a safer alternative to bleach for cleaning tile and grout. Look for an unscented version, like Epsoak, from San Francisco Salt Co, if you plan on using it in combination with essential oils.

Buy it: 12.99 at Amazon.com

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Baking Soda

Load up on this next time you’re at the store. Baking soda deodorizes and dissolves grease and dirt, and makes a gentle but effective scrub for sinks, grout, or to get rid of mold. (Just don’t use it in combination with vinegar, as they neutralize each other.) Baking soda’s alkaline properties make it especially effective at breaking up stinky molecules—use it to deodorize wastebaskets, the fridge, or mix it with essential oils to freshen up carpets.

Buy it: $10.65 for a 4-pound box at Amazon.com.

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Washing Soda

If you’re looking to liberate your laundry routine from petroleum-based chemicals, chlorine bleach, artificial fragrances, and optical brighteners, grab a box of washing powder, aka sodium carbonate. You can usually find it in the laundry aisle of your supermarket. Combine it with borax and soap for a DIY laundry detergent, use it to boost the power of your usual detergent when dealing with pet urine or other difficult messes, or use it for dishes—in combination with baking soda it makes a homemade dishwasher powder. (Just be careful: though it looks like baking soda, it's far more alkaline, and is not safe to bake with!) 

Buy it: $9.85 for two boxes at Amazon.com

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Distilled White Vinegar

If you’ve been reaching for bleach for everyday disinfecting around house, it’s time to get a gallon of white distilled vinegar to use in its place. Save bleach for when you need to thoroughly decontaminate a surface from pathogens: when it comes to your immediate health and the health of the planet, vinegar is a natural disinfectant that’s strong enough to handle everyday tasks. Just don’t mix it with baking soda or castile soap—the acidic vinegar and the alkaline baking soda and soap neutralize each other. Instead, scrub or wash with the soda or soap first, then follow with a diluted vinegar- and essential oil- spray.

Vinegar also makes a good glass cleaner, helps de-grime toilet bowls, effectively removes salt stains from floors, clothing, and leather, and eliminates hard water deposits. But don’t use it on granite or marble.

Buy it: Look for distilled white vinegar at your grocery store, or buy two 32-ounce bottles or Spectrum Organic Distilled White Vinegar for $19.60 at Amazon.com.

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Olive Oil

Olive oil’s usefulness extends beyond the kitchen: it adds luster to car interiors (mix it with lemon juice to make a wax for the dashboard and steering wheel) or for dusting surfaces in your home, can be used to clean garden tools and stainless steel furniture, and restores butcher block countertops and cutting boards.

Since you’ll presumably be cooking with your olive oil and not just cleaning with it, make sure to get a real extra-virgin olive oil, such as California Olive Ranch, which is certified by the California Olive Oil Council for the best flavor and health benefits. (Related: the imposters that may be hiding in your olive oil)

Buy it: $19.37 at Amazon.com

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Glass Spray Bottles and Sprayers

A reusable bottle with a sprayer is great to have for dispersing your homemade cleaners. You can re-use sprayers from store-bought containers onto old vinegar bottles (be sure to use the sprayer from a non-toxic product!). Or buy a dedicated glass bottle, like these sturdy specimens from Sally's Organics, which are tinted to protect delicate essential oils from degradation from UV light.

Buy it: $10.98 for 2 at Amazon.com 

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Biodegradeable Sponges

While you're at it, you might want to upgrade your sponge situation with Twist Naked Sponges. These tough, all natural, 100-percent biodegradable cellulose sponges are made without chemicals or colors. They’re sturdy enough to use for cleaning your countertops over the long haul—just run them through the dish washer, or boil them when they need to be sanitized.

Buy it: $2.05 for 2 at Amazon.com

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Zap Cloth

Also handy to have around: Zap Cloth, a machine-washable microfiber cloth that can be used with just water to effectively clean glass and windows, leaving them streak-free. (Read 7 more secrets every house cleaner knows and you should too.

Buy it: $7.49 at Amazon.com