Monday, July 12, 2010

Homemade Cleaners That Work

Organic Housekeeping: In Which the Non-Toxic Avenger Shows You How to Improve Your Health and That of Your Family, While You Save Time, Money, and, Perhaps, Your Sanity
After reviewing Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets, I came across Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck. I am extremely impressed with this book. It covers a wide range of topics, including clearing clutter, cleaning kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, laundry, lawns and more--all with natural products, which usually save you money and are safer for your home (and kids) than their chemical-laden counterparts. Regardless of where one falls on the "green" spectrum, this book is quite balanced. I appreciate all the ideas for how to use vinegar, baking soda, Borax, hydrogen peroxide, and more.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas for homemade cleaners:

Dishwasher Detergent: make your own using an equal amount of  Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and 20 Mule Team Borax. (I used 1 c. of each and stored my mixture in an empty pickle jar). This works well, although my glass came out a little cloudy. Be sure to use vinegar or a rinse agent.

Showers: Remove soap scum with Borax (wet the surface, and scrub with a brush dipped in Borax), or use hot vinegar and scrub. Wiping the sides of a newly cleaned tub or shower with a cloth dampened with Murphy's Oil Soap will delay the recurrence of soap scum. Rinse well.

Remove mildew with full strength white vinegar. Wipe it on with a rag, or spray and let it sit for awhile. Another option is to apply hydrogen peroxide and allow it to dry. Repeat as needed.

Laundry detergent (not in the book): Grate one bar of Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soaplike a block of cheese. (You can put it in the blender once grated to break it up if desired). Add 1 c. 20 Mule Team Borax and 1c. Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda. Use 1 tablespoon for lightly soiled loads and up to 3 tablespoons for heavily soiled loads. My boys get their clothes really dirty, and this detergent mix works great. (I usually add a bit of OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover to each load).
(I buy my Fels-Naptha and washing soda at our local Ace Hardware and Borax is available just about anywhere--Target, Walmart, KMart, etc.)
This is much cheaper than commercial detergents, and I think it is better for my kids (one of my boys is eczema-prone).

Speaking of laundry, I better get to it!

Have a great Monday. Please feel free to share any homemade cleaners you use and what your experience with them has been.


  1. AnonymousJuly 13, 2010

    Thank you so much for these great ideas! I have heard that you have to be careful using Borax (can cause cancer, etc). Do you feel concerned using it at dish washing soap?

  2. heya, the napa soap has lead in it. my friend found this out and she uses Dove soap in its place:) hope that helps!!

  3. Hi oneneedfulthing, to answer your question--
    not really because it rinses away.
    There is an article with more info here

    I looked but haven't come across anything that says it can cause cancer. Feel free to send me a link if I'm missing it.

    Hi Gen,
    Thanks for the heads up, but I don't think it has lead in it. The label says the ingredients are: Cleaners, soil and stain removers, chelating
    agents, colorants, perfume.
    But specifically, here is the complete list of ingredients from their site (
    Soap (sodium tallowate*, sodium cocoate* (or) sodium palmate kernelate*, and sodium palmate*), water, talc, cocnut acid*, palm acid*, tallow acid*, PEG-6 methyl ether, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate, titatium dioxide, fragrance, Acid Orange (CI 20170), Acid yellow 73 (ci43350)

    If your friend feels more comfortable with Dove, though, great! (Plus, it smells good) :)

  4. i heard that if you put a pkg of lemon koolaid in the dishwashing mixture that it helps alot with the cloudiness. I think it is because of the citric acid.