Commercial cleaning products have been shown to trigger asthma, headaches and more. Below are some task-specific recipes that won’t lead to teary disaster.
Toilet Bowl Scrub with 1/2 cup of borax to brighten and disinfect. For daily maintenance, brush the bowl with baking soda and let it sit for a bit before flushing. Add white vinegar for a little extra stain-lifting fizz.
All-Purpose Cleaner Use on any non-wood surface.
1/2 cup borax 1 gallon hot water
Mix until borax is dissolved; mop or spray and wipe surfaces.
Floor and Wall Cleaner Use this on any floor, including wood, and on walls.
1 cup white vinegar 1 gallon hot water 1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup liquid soap (optional) 1 to 2 tablepoons pine or lemon oil (optional) For extra cleaning power, add liquid soap. Add pine or lemon oil (essential oil of lavender or rosemary are less-intense alternatives) to condition unlaminated wood floors. Mix all ingredients and clean floor or walls with mop or damp rag. Follow with a clean-water mop if you use soap.
Glass Cleaner Shine on without toxic ammonia-based products.
1/4 cup white vinegar or 1 tablespoon lemon juice 2 cups water 3 to 4 drops liquid soap (optional)
Mix and spray or wipe on; for the best shine, use old newspapers!
Encrusted Gunk Buster Avoid chlorine-based scrubs by making your own scrubbing bubbles.
Baking soda, washing soda or salt
Wipe surface with hot water; sprinkle on soda or salt. Let sit for a few minutes, then scrub with a rag, sponge or brush.
Fume-Free Oven Cleaner Avoid caustic lye-based products and still make your oven sparkle.
1 cup baking soda 1/4 to 1/2 cup washing soda 1 tablespoon liquid soap Hot water Few drops white vinegar
Make sure oven is off and totally cool. No need to disconnect power. Wipe off surface soot and any fresh spills. Combine dry ingredients and gradually add hot water until you have a thick but malleable paste. For greasy ovens, add an additional 1/4 cup washing soda. Add vinegar (watch it fizz!). Coat all oven surfaces and leave overnight. Wipe off with warm water.
Soft Scrub Use this non-scratching, chlorine-free paste on enamel or porcelain.
1 cup baking soda or borax Warm water 2 to 3 drops liquid soap
Combine baking soda or borax with enough water to form a paste. Add liquid soap. Apply to surfaces, let sit at least 5 minutes, and scrub with a non-abrasive sponge. Rinse and wipe off residue.
Grout Cleaner Kill mildew and whiten grout without chlorine.
Baking soda White vinegar or hydrogen peroxide
Combine ingredients to make a paste. Let stand 30 minutes or more, then scrub.
Lye-Free Drain Cleaner For a clogged drain, use a plumber’s snake or an untwisted coat hanger to pull out as much gunk as possible. Pour 1/2 cup baking or washing soda down the drain; gradually add 1/2 cup white vinegar. Let fizz and dissolve. Carefully pour in boiling water from a tea kettle. Wait half an hour. Repeat as necessary. Before calling a plumber, let things cool off and snake again.
Before you roll up your sleeves, remember, even all-natural cleaning ingredients can be irritating. Open windows to ventilate rooms while you clean, and wear gloves. Store all cleaning products, including homemade mixtures, in sealed containers in a cool, dry place.