hands in rubber gloves spraying bottled cleaner at germs

Many store-bought cleaning products contain toxins such as propylene glycol, ammonium hydroxide, and synthetic fragrances. 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.

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 and reuse them to store your homemade cleaning potions 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.

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Natural Disinfectant

Ingredients:

  • 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • White vinegar

Fill a dark spray bottle with 3% hydrogen peroxide and fill a separate spray bottle with white vinegar.

To disinfect surfaces, such as counters, doorknobs, 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: Never mix together the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in the same boddlbefore 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*

Ingredients:

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

Ingredients:

  • 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 lighten fabrics, so use it 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

Ingredients:

  • 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 of 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 June 2021.


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.