Updated: Apr 1, 2021
Tips and tricks for natural DIY home cleaning.
One of the big reasons that making your own cleaning products will support your sustainable home goals, is that your recipes will only contain natural, non-toxic ingredients. Making your own cleaning products can be rewarding, as with any crafting you do for yourself or your home. The ingredients are usually very easy to come by, and here at the shop we have White Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda on refill so it is very low waste as well.
I am a keen crafter and enjoy making things myself but there aren’t always enough hours in the day to DIY everything. Instead of sharing a blog of recipes for you to make, I wanted to look at the key ingredients you can keep in your cupboards and how to use them safely. If you want to start green cleaning I hope that this will be a helpful place to start and I may do a part 2 with recipes later in the year.
Vinegar is an effective cleaner because it is highly acidic. It can easily break down soap scum, limescale and grease making it a good all-rounder for different rooms and surfaces in the home. It can also be used to remove stains, such as grass and sweat stains because they themselves are acidic, and will dissolve when they meet the acid in the vinegar.
It is too potent usually to use neat and so you should dilute it in water first. If you're the same as me and really not keen on the smell of vinegar you can add essentials oils to it or infuse it with citrus peels. I made some back in 2020 with orange and lemon peels. To make this you can leave the peels in the neat vinegar in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks. This takes the edge off the smell!
Even diluted there are still some surfaces or scenarios where the acidity would be too strong. These are the main things that you should NOT clean with vinegar:
Solid wood furniture or floors as it could ‘eat away’ at the protective surfaces and leave water marks.
Natural stone, granite or marble floors and surfaces as it could cause pitting and takes away the natural shine.
Delicate fabrics could stain or be damaged by the acid.
Kitchen knives as they will dull over time.
Any mess or stain that includes protein, such as egg, as it will coagulate turning to a gooey, glue-like substance that is harder to clean.
With that in mind, there is a lot that you CAN clean with vinegar, including the shower, sinks, carpet, windows, toilet and limescale in the kettle to name just a few. Just simple water and vinegar makes an excellent glass or mirror cleaner, and it doesn't leaves streaks behind.
There are ways to combine other ingredients with vinegar to change the cleaning quality. A word of caution here, as there are some ingredients you should never mix with vinegar as it isn’t safe, including Hydrogen Peroxide and Bleach. This is a useful article by Reader’s Digest with more details on what happens when you mix these dangerous ingredients.
A lot of places recommend using vinegar and baking soda together for clearing a clogged drain and it feels like it must work because it creates a lot of fizzing. When I read the article above about not mixing the two together I did a bit more digging around the topic of drains. I’d recommend taking a look at this article as well, to see what is actually happening beyond the plug hole and unfortunately, I’d say there is evidence that these two don’t work as well together as they do when apart.
Also known as sodium bicarbonate, it is usually found in the kitchen because of its use in baking. It is actually a kind of salt with a slightly higher than basic pH (eg. it is an mild alkali). It is often used as a natural deodoriser because it is able to neutralise the acidic molecules it comes in contact with. As well as it’s useful chemical properties, it is also a good abrasive and can give your elbow grease a natural boost.
Baking soda is an incredible cleaning force that has numerous uses and benefits. You can use it neat, or create a paste with water, to clean grease off of pans, hobs or ovens. It can be sprinkled on carpets, on pet beds or in shoes then hoovered up to get rid of odours. You can clean your bathroom tiles, the grouting or remove marks on painted walls, and it can even revive tarnished silver jewellery!
As with the vinegar, I looked around to see if there are any words of warning when it comes to cleaning with baking soda and there are a few things you should NOT clean with it, including:
Glass, ceramic and mirrors may be scratched or dulled because it is abrasive.
You absolutely can use baking soda to de-grease your pots and pans, but rinse it off after as prolonged contact with aluminium will cause it to oxidise (rust).
Marble or wood – over time it will remove the protective layer and could cause damage to surfaces and furniture.
Skin and hair as it will remove the natural oils, your skin is also slightly acidic and neutralising it will leave it dry and cracked.
Gold or gold-plated jewellery and ornaments as it is a soft metal it will quickly get damaged by abrasive baking soda.
This ingredient is found in a lot of different food and beauty products as a preservative. As with baking soda and vinegar, something that you can ingest is usually considered quite safe, but in a pure powder form it is a very potent acid. I’d urge you to be careful about how you store it, please don’t eat it and protect your eyes and airways from powder in the air.
It is an organic acid that naturally occurs in citrus fruit. Lemon juice is often included in a lot of green cleaning recipes because it contains 5 – 8% citric acid, but it can be bought in powder form – usually as the active fizzing agent in bath bomb recipes!
One common use for citric acid is breaking down and removing limescale or calcium build up. You can use it to clean your kettle effectively, your coffee pot or your toilet. It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and can be used as a less toxic alternative to bleach for cleaning off mould and mildew. Similar to baking soda it is effective at removing odours from shoes, but can also be used to scrub the outside of trainers to restore the rubber to it's former glory.
As with vinegar, citric acid should NOT be used on surfaces such as wood, stone or marble as the acidic pH would be too strong and could damage it.
As well as being a natural way to fragrance your home, they also have added cleaning benefits when added to your homemade recipes. Here are just a few ways you can use them:
Lavender Oil – natural disinfectant, anti-bacterial and deodoriser.
Lemon Oil – can be used against grease.
Peppermint Oil – anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, a natural insecticide and pest repellent.
Tea Tree Oil – anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and helps to combat mildew and soap scum.
Pine Oil – often used in toilet cleaner as it can kill yeast spores and E.Coli.
Eucalyptus Oil – antiseptic, antimicrobial, prevents mould and is anti-inflammatory so could help with seasonal allergies.
Essential oils are in a concentrated form and should always be diluted in water for cleaning to prevent skin irritations, or respiratory reactions. If you have pets, there are certain essentials oils that are not safe for them around the home, so please be very careful, as with all the ingredients listed here.
I hope you found this interesting and helpful. I certainly enjoyed the research and found it informative! Let me know if you’d be interested in a part two that includes recipes and other natural ingredients for cleaning. Also, feel free to come and chat all things green cleaning with me in the shop.
Take care and speak to you again soon!