Cleaning up your act: 7 simple natural DIY cleaners May 09, 2015 13:36 2 Comments

It’s odd to think, but conventional household cleaners really are far from clean!  

Commercial cleaning products tend to contain toxic chemicals (many of which are particularly unsafe for pregnant women, young children or pets), and can adversely impact aquatic wildlife when released into waterways.  

And have you read those labels?  Frankly, I just don’t feel comfortable having baby crawling about on or eating off a surface coated with something that comes with a poison warning!


Good news is that you don’t actually need these store-bought cleaning products to keep your house in tip-top shape – you can easily make inexpensive and effective cleaners that are safe for baby and you (and much kinder to the earth!).

Can't believe that they work?  Well, how about if I told you that when my helper joined my household (I lived without for a long time) and learnt my DIY cleaning recipes, she was so impressed that she shared them with all her friends?  Not only was she taken by the efficacy of the cleaners, she really appreciated how gentle they were on her hands after all those years of using harsh solvents!

And it’s not hard at all to make your own.  In fact, you probably already have all the ingredients you need in your house!  


Common household items with cleaning superpowers

Distilled white vinegar

The champion of natural cleaners.  This acidic superhero can cut grease and wipe out tarnish, soap scum, mineral deposits and more.  Plus, it creates an environment that inhibits the growth of mild, mildew and some bacteria including salmonella.

Where to buy?  Supermarkets or grocery stores.  

Baking soda

Absorbs odours and a great natural abrasive. 

Where to buy?  Supermarkets, grocery stores, baking supplies stores.   


The acid in lemon juice remove dirt and rust stains (I use them on my knives).  Especially effective when mixed with salt – a brilliant scrubbing paste.  They also deodorise (I put lemon halves in my fridge - after I juice them, of course).

[I have to admit though that I'm not crazy about using them where there is an alternative, because I just can't see myself adding lemon-squeezing to my list of chores on a regular basis - but they are great at what they do so I have to honour them here.]

Where to buy?  Supermarkets, wet markets, whatever. 


Its granular texture makes it perfect for scouring.  Try it mixed with lemon juice for an effective rust or mould & mildew remover!

Where to buy?  Supermarkets and grocery stores.

Tea tree oil

Extracted from the tea tree plant, tea tree oil is known for its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.  It's potent so don't go overboard.

Where to buy?  I know there are some big companies out there (and yes, I buy from them), but when I'm just using it for cleaning, I don't need anything fancy.  Try departmental stores.

Liquid castile soap

Okay, you may not already have this in your home - but now that you know about it, what's keeping you?  This vegetable oil-based soap efficiently loosens grime and dirt (like other soaps) but is far gentler - and so versatile!

Where to buy?  Supermarkets.

Making your own: Recipes 

Now that you know the cleaning properties of each of these ingredients, you are actually well on your way to concocting your own DIY cleaners.  Afterall, there are no hard and fast rules for proportions, and you can easily make it up as you go along.  But I know some of us prefer to start the exploration off with some clear instructions, so here’s sharing 7 simple DIY recipes!

1. All purpose cleaner 

Mix 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp liquid castile soap and 2 cups water in a spray bottle.  Shake well.

I use it on everything, including the dining table and for small floor clean-ups.

Tip:  If you haven't got baking soda, just the soap and water work great too!

2. All-purpose disinfectant

Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 10 drops of tea tree oil in a spray bottle.  Shake well.  

I use this on the potty, changing pads, and on areas in the house that are prone to mould or mildew growth.

If you're dealing with mould or mildew growth, spray it on the surface and let it sit for 30 minutes before wiping off the mould or mildew.

Tip:  If you don't have tea tree oil on hand, just vinegar works fine.  I actually use just a 1:1 vinegar-water spray on baby's toys and playpen.

3. All-purpose abrasive cleaner

For a mild abrasive, mix 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap with 1/3 cup baking soda.

For tougher jobs, combine 1 2/3 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup liquid castile soap and 1/2 cup water.  Mix well and add 2 tablespoons vinegar.  Apply immediately, scrub and wipe off.

Great substitute for Cif.

4. Glass and window cleaner

Mix together water and vinegar in a 1:1 ratio.  

To remove the waxy buildup left by conventional glass cleaners, add 1/2 teaspoon liquid castile soap to 1 cup each of water and vinegar.

5. Oven cleaner

Dampen the inside of the oven with water and sprinkle liberally with baking soda.  Leave it for 20 minutes, then scrub.

If your oven needs a bit more work, make a scrubbing paste by mixing together 1/4 cup liquid castile soap, 3/4 cup baking soda and 1/8 cup vinegar.  Spread that on the inside of the oven, let it sit for several minutes, then scrub.

This has got to be my favourite DIY cleaner because I've always been uneasy about coating my oven with those chemical-laden oven cleaners!

6. Toilet cleaner

Sprinkle baking soda all around the inside of the toilet bowl.  Pour 1 cup vinegar into the bowl over the baking soda and scrub with a toilet brush.  Let it sit for 20 minutes before flushing to rinse. 

7. Floor cleaner

Fill your pail with enough water to mop (about 4 litres), and mix in ¼ cup vinegar and 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap.  This is safe for most types of floors, including parquet and laminate.  But if your floors are ceramic or a delicate stone like marble, leave out the vinegar!

Oh, and don't worry about your house smelling of vinegar - it dissipates real fast.


What I love about making my own cleaners? Besides the safety to children and pets, the eco-friendliness and the cost savings (which can be significant especially when you’re now buying “green”-branded cleaners!), it’s awesome that my under-sink cupboard is no longer stuffed with single-use cleaning products! 

And if you love what we have shared above, head on over to Part 2 of our DIY cleaning feature for more!