hands in rubber gloves spraying bottled cleaner at germs

Many store-bought cleaning products contain toxins, such as synthetic fragrances, propylene glycol, and ammonium hydroxide. They may smell good, but the odor could be harming you. Making your own cleaning products is an easy way to save money and reduce toxins in the home. If you have children, this can even be a fun family project.

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With just a few basic ingredients, you can make a variety of products. These staple ingredients include baking soda, borax, washing soda, lemon juice, white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, castile soap, and essential oils. To minimize packaging waste, save your spray bottles and jars to store your homemade cleaning potions for re-use and buy materials in bulk — you’ll also save money.

Here are four simple, natural cleaning recipes that will have you saying goodbye to germs in no time.

Natural Disinfectant


  • Fill a dark spray bottle with 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • Fill a separate spray bottle with white vinegar

To disinfect surfaces, such as counters, door knobs, tabletops, sinks, cutting boards, and even the toilet, spray a few times from each bottle (the order doesn’t matter) and then wipe. This system can be used on produce, but rinse with water before eating. Note, the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide should never be mixed together in the same bottle before applying, as it causes the hydrogen peroxide to break down and could explode.

Research from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University shows this simple system is highly effective at killing a variety of germs, including E. coli and Salmonella. Although vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are both strong disinfectants on their own, they are particularly potent when they team up. Exercise caution and keep them in separate bottles.

Powdered Laundry Detergent*


  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 bar of soap (Fels-Naptha or Castile bar soap are popular options)
  • Several drops essential oil (optional)

Finely grate one bar of soap by hand with a box grater or in a food processor. If you want an unscented laundry detergent, use unscented bar soap.

Add the bar soap, washing soda, borax, and essential oil (if desired) into a mixing bowl and stir. Put the mixture into a sealed container. Use one to two tablespoons per load of laundry as the water is filling the washing machine.

* Note: This detergent can be used in both standard and high-efficiency (HE) washing machines.

Laundry Stain Remover


  • 2 parts hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 part liquid dish soap (Dawn is often recommended)

Dish soap is good at breaking down oil, while hydrogen peroxide allows stains to fade or disappear. Shake the bottle before applying and beware that hydrogen peroxide can have a lightening effect, so use with caution on colored items.

Mix the two ingredients together and add to a dark bottle or store in a dark place, as peroxide breaks down in light. Apply the mixture an hour or two before laundering.

Powdered Dishwasher Detergent


  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1/4 cup citric acid
  • optional: several drops of essential oil

Mix together ingredients and store in a sealed jar. Use two tablespoons per load and pour in a couple tablespoons of vinegar in the rinse compartment to help remove sediment.

Disinfecting or cleaning your home doesn’t require products that are laden with harmful chemicals. These easy-to-create recipes are made with all-natural, safe ingredients. And by making them yourself in reusable bottles and jars, you can reduce waste as well — the perfect formula for a clean, eco-friendly home.

Editor’s note: Originally published on November 25, 2014, this article was updated in September 2018.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.