Recipes, people, places and things we love — every month. Head to Substack to support our work. Visit  Later


Your ultimate guide to natural cleaning—that will save you money!

Photography by Tracey Creed
Assisted by Amandine Paniagua
Research by Amandine Paniagua
Words by Tracey Creed

Published July 30 2020

This natural cleaning guide was the result of exploring mainstream alternatives — for the most part, we are cleaning with baking soda, white vinegar and essential oils. And since streamlining our cleaning we have significantly reduced our spend on maintaining clean, healthy living spaces — we save approximately $256 per year. Here we have a tight curation of the Internet’s DIY cleaning solutions — what we use for our household, all plant-based and non-toxic, keeping vibrations high. Cleaning as meditation begins here.

All-purpose cleaners for general cleaning

Marketing is fundamentally irrational and manipulative. There is no need to purchase various products for seemingly similar tasks. This multi-purpose cleaner is exactly as it implies in function — multi-purpose.

Multi-purpose baking soda cleaner paste

Applications This baking soda paste is what we use for everyday cleaning, and for almost all surfaces in our home. Apply a small amount of paste with a damp sponge to clean kitchen tops (including marble and granite), sinks, bathtubs and showers and stovetops. Afterwards, rinse well with warm water. Additionally, baking soda paste can be used for the following:

— Removing stains from (and maintaining) wooden cutting boards. Apply baking soda paste to a damp washcloth working the paste into surface stains. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

— For spaces or surfaces that require disinfection, spray surfaces with sodium percarbonate/oxygen bleach while scrubbing with the paste to brighten and disinfect. Rinse thoroughly with water.

— ¼ cup liquid castile soap

— ¾ cup baking soda

— 5-10 drops of lemon essential oil

Add the ingredients to a small bowl and stir to combine to a creamy paste — the consistency of buttercream icing. Once stored this paste will dry, slowly add additional extra castile soap or water to thin into a workable paste. We would also recommend storing the paste in a glass jar to prevent plastic from leaching into your cleaner. An empty food jar will suffice.

Multi-purpose baking soda abrasive cleaner paste

Applications This baking soda paste is used for deeper cleaning, for cleaning baked on grime. We find that using a combination of a baking soda paste and white vinegar spray is more than adequate for cleaning our oven, including the time we needed to clean several years of food residue off Trace’s benchtop oven.

— Deep cleaning your oven. Spread the baking soda paste on the inside of your oven avoiding exposed heating elements. Leave for an hour, ideally overnight to bind grease. Using a scourer, scrub your oven until clean. If required, use the multi-purpose vinegar spray to help remove stubborn grease.

— Polish your pots, pans, and cookie sheets. Using a damp sponge or scourer (for a deeper clean) apply the baking soda paste working in circular motions to remove any stubborn food residue.

— Removing tarnish marks or rust from silverware and bakeware. Combine a ½ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of white vinegar with hot water in your sink. Place your baking trays, tins, flatware, whichever requires a deeper clean to soak for 30 minutes to an hour. Using a metal scourer or natural fibre scrubbing pad, scrub gently to clean.

baking soda

— white vinegar

Add equal parts baking soda and white vinegar to a small bowl and stir to combine to a creamy paste —as above. Thin with vinegar as required and prepare only what you require for your current cleaning session. Storage is not recommended as the immediate chemical reaction between the two substances is what makes this paste effect for cleaning.

Citrus vinegar multi-purpose spray

Applications This version of a white vinegar spray provides a wonderful opportunity to make use of citrus peels that might otherwise go directly to compost or even landfill. You can use this to wipe down benches, shelving, basins and walls, to clean most surfaces including tiled floors. Do not use citrus on marble or granite, as the low pH etches natural stone.

— Sink disposal cleaning. Grind the vinegar-soaked peels in the garbage disposal and then follow with boiling water rinse to deodorise and clean.

— ¼ cup white vinegar, infused with citrus peels

— 1¾ cups water

— 30 drops of essential oils

We save our citrus peels in the freezer (lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruit, everything!) And once the bag is full, we transfer this to a jar (we use a 3L glass jar, bulk is best!) and fill with white vinegar (any white vinegar) and close the lid. Leave it for about two weeks.

Strain the mixture (this avoids citrus pulp clogging the spray cap. This is your “concentrate”. The orange peels will infuse the vinegar with natural scent and colour.

Combine the infused white vinegar, water and essential oils to a 500 ml (approximately 16-ounce) spray bottle. Use what you have on hand, a repurposed spray bottle, whatever works. Shake thoroughly and begin.

Recommended essential oil combinations

— 15 drops each of Lavender and Lemon

— 10 drops each of Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Wild Orange

— 30 drops doTERRA On Guard®

— 15 drops each of Grapefruit and doTERRA On Guard

Sal’s Suds multi-purpose cleaner

Applications This non-acid DIY all-purpose cleaner is what we use for much of our deeper cleaning. Spray directly onto surfaces like basins, benchtops (including marble and granite) using a washcloth. We like these ones.

— Fill a bucket with warm water, adding a splash of this plant-based non-toxic cleaner (essential oils optional though highly recommended) wiping down walls, baseboard and floors, any large surface really.

— white vinegar

Sal's Suds

Combine equal parts vinegar and Sal's Suds into a spray bottle and swirl to combine. Start spraying.

Alcohol-based DIY spray cleaner

Applications More recently alcohol has been used to clean anything and everything, we use this DIY alcohol spray cleaner to clean marble and granite, food surfaces typically that may or may not require disinfection.

— 3 tablespoons rubbing alcohol

— 1½ cups water

— 1 teaspoon castile soap

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle, shake, and CLEAN!

DIY recipes for cleaning floors

Applications This is an effective non-toxic plant-based floor cleaner that can be used on almost any floor (laminate/ tile/hardwood). The water loosens and wipes away dirt, Sal’s Suds boosts the grime-fighting power, and rubbing alcohol leaves an odourless streak-free glean. Prepare as much as required depending on the floor area you have to cover.

— Sweep or vacuum to remove dirt and debris (especially if you have pets or live in a dusty area). Spray a small area lightly with homemade floor cleaner and wipe clean. Continue in small sections until the floor is clean.

— 1 cup distilled water

— 1 cup rubbing alcohol

— 3-4 drops Sal’s Suds (liquid soap)

Combine all ingredients to a spray bottle and swirl to combine.

NOTES Mist floors with a spray bottle instead of using a bucket of solution. The extra liquid takes more time to mop up and can cause water damage.

To restore wood floors

Applications Maintaining hardwood floors requires consistency to your cleaning ritual. A daily sweep and prompt wipe up of spills will keep floors looking great without much mopping. For floors that shine, use the following, preparing as much as required depending on the floor area you have to cover.

— You do not want to use too much or you will have greasy floors! Shake frequently and spray lightly. Working in small sections, clean with a cotton cloth or an old towel will suffice until the entire floor is evenly coated. Once finished, return to the area where you started and buff your floors using a hard bristled brush.

— 2 tablespoons olive oil

— 1 tablespoon white vinegar

— 20 drops essential oils

Add ingredients to a small bottle with a mister.

Cleaning hardwood floors with white vinegar

Applications Natural and non-toxic, white vinegar disinfects, deodorises and cleans most hard surfaces while essential oils clarify.

— Boiling water

— ½ cup white vinegar

— 30 drops of your favourite essential oils

Fill a bucket with approximately 4 litres (1 gallon) of boiling water, adding the white vinegar and essential oils.

Recommended essential oil combinations

— 10 drops each of Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Wild Orange

— 30 drops doTERRA On Guard®

— 15 drops each of Grapefruit and doTERRA On Guard

DIY dishwashing liquid

Applications If you prefer a liquid, you can make your own from a solid soap bar which is both economical, entirely plant-based and non-toxic. Amandine prepares dishwashing soap for the house and recommends using traditional Marseille soap, below we have included links to sourcing authentic Marseille soap online.

— Alternatively, you can use either solid Marseille or Aleppo soap, directly using the dish brush to lather soap. With origins in the Syrian city of Aleppo, the soap is incredibly hydrating and nourishing, ideal for those with eczema, acne and otherwise problematic skin.

Yields approximately 1.5 L (approximately 50.7 fl oz) of dishwashing liquid.

— 3 cups of filtered water

— 30 g grated solid soap bar

— 70 g liquid black soap

— 2 teaspoons baking soda

— 2 tablespoons washing soda

— 15 to 30 drops essential oil

Combine the above ingredients (excluding the essential oils) in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine, heating until water starts to boil. Remove from heat and if using, add 15 to 30 drops of essential oils at this stage if desired.

Allow the mixture to cool and when it starts to solidify, blend well with an immersion blender ideally until the mixture thickens, slightly foamy. Using a funnel, refill your old dishwashing liquid bottles, leaving empty space at the top for shaking. This mixture will separate, shake well before using.

Recommended essential oil combinations

— 15 drops each of Lavender and Lemon

— 10 drops each of Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Wild Orange

— 30 drops doTERRA On Guard®

— 15 drops each of Grapefruit and doTERRA On Guard

DIY blocked drain cleaner

After you unclog a drain, follow these guidelines to prevent the issue from recurring:

— Never put fats (think coconut oil, butter, peanut butter, and other high fat foods) down a drain or garbage disposal. If rinsed down your sink, fats will cool, solidify and clog your pipe. These foods can be composted.

— Install a hair filter in bathroom drains. Never flush hair down drains, including toilets. When cleaning, wipe loose strands up and throw them away in the trash.

— Flush kitchen drains once per month with the following solutions to keep drains running at full capacity.

Liquid dish detergent and hot water Works on grease clogs or fat narrowed pipes. Hot water melts some of the grease narrowing the pipes, and the dish detergent helps to dissolve the fat. Try this on slow-draining kitchen drains.

— water

— dishwashing liquid or Sal’s Suds

Heat 2 litres (a large pot of water) to a boil then stir in a few tablespoons of natural hand washing dish detergent or Sal's Suds. Slowly pour the nearly boiling water down the drain and then flush with hot tap water. Several rounds may be required until water flows unobstructed.

Salt and hot water Works on grease or soap clogs and fat or soap narrowed pipes. Try this on slow-draining kitchen and bathroom drains. Hot water melts some of the grease or soap, that is narrowing the pipes. The salt has an abrasive texture that acts as a natural scouring agent.

— 2L boiling water

— 1½ cups salt (you can use any type of salt)

Pour the salt down the drain and then follow slowly with the boiling water. Flush with hot tap water. It may take several rounds of salt and hot water rinses until water is free flowing.

Naturally, deodorise toilets and smelly pipes

Applications We prepare this solution every other month for our bathrooms. Originally I had used the Aesop Post Poo Drops, however living with six people, this DIY version is equally effective, takes all of five minutes and not a lot of money. Yields 80 ml.⠀⠀

— 1 teaspoon rubbing alcohol⠀⠀⠀

— 20 drops of essential oil blend, orange, clove and eucalyptus

— 20 drops of essential oil grapefruit⠀⠀

— 20 drops of essential oil lemon⠀⠀

— 80 ml water⠀

Combine all ingredients to a small bottle and mix well. Dispense into the toilet basin after flushing, with the help of a pipette. Extra drops in the will help intensify the fragrance.

I also use these drops when cleaning bathroom basins to invigorate the space and deodorise pipes.

DIY recipes for garment and textile care

Our laundry supplies consist of laundry liquid, stain removal bars and room sprays used for invigorating linen storage spaces, curtains, rugs, your duvet, wherever you need. Further below, we include tips for reducing spend on caring for your garments and household textiles.

Laundry liquid

This is the recipe Amandine’s mum prepares for her laundry, again using Marseille soap.

— 60 g of Marseille soap chips (minimum 72%)

— 2 tablespoons baking soda

— 2 tablespoons crystal soda, optional

— 3 litres filtered water

— 30 drops essential oil

In a large pot, heat the water until boiling. Stop the heat. Add Marseille soap chips, mixing well with a wooden spoon for the chips to melt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda with a bit of water, then pour into the pot as the water starts to cool and mix well. Allow the mixture to cool, mixing occasionally. Add essential oils and mix.

Combine the following between the containers of your choice, filling up to ¾ to allow shaking. Shake thoroughly before use, as the liquid will slightly harden and pour in the usual compartment of your washing machine.

Regularly clean your washing machine with tumble dry 90 degrees, adding 500 ml of white vinegar to remove soap residue into the pipes.

DIY stain removers

Most stains can be removed by either the following:

— Solid stain remover bars, like this one.

— Sodium percarbonate/oxygen bleach, for both colours and whites. We use this to maintain our towels and sheets and remove skin stains from our garments.

— Dishwash liquid worked into stains using a soft brush (an old toothbrush works well here), followed by an oxygen bleach soak for more stubborn stains, then laundering either by hand or machine, depending on the garment.

To reduce climate impact, effort and money when caring for garments and textiles, we recommend the following:

— Lower the temperature. All garments can be and are best laundered on a cold wash which saves money heating water. Read, lower power bill.

— Launder only when necessary. Our clothes do not require as frequent laundering as we might think. And where possible, once you have separated your clothing loads, save up as much as you can to reduce the number of loads you wash.

— Reducing dryer loads (assuming you have a dryer) can have a significant impact on your power bill. Use the dryer as required. Whether you have an apartment with a small balcony or yard, where possible, air dry. If you can, build a pergola or similar to protect your laundry from the rain, and choose a sunny place. Dryers should be used as the last option.

Room spray

Applications While linen and room sprays appear to be different products. They are not. Spritz your linen closet, carpets, pet beds, drapes (all from a distance of approximately 30 cm). Heck, spritz your entire home. We recommend citrus essential oils such as wild orange, tangerine and grapefruit for spaces that require an elevated mood (because we all have those days where we’re feeling tired and uninspired!) For those needing to, wanting to sleep well, before bed, spritz over your pillowcase, your entire bed perhaps for a more restorative slumber.

— ½ cup water, alternatively rose water for fitting essential oil combinations

— almost ½ cup distilled water

— 2 teaspoons witch hazel

— 40 drops of essential oils

Combine the following to a 500 ml (approximately 16-ounce) spray bottle. Shake thoroughly and spritz.

Recommended essential oil combinations

— blood orange, tangerine, lemon, cedarwood

lemon eucalyptus, cedarwood

— lavender, bergamot, ylang ylang, lemon

Making your own candles

Amandine and I gather in the kitchen and make candles every other month. It takes us an hour, and we make six or so to ward off mosquitos and flies, another six for focus, that cleanse our spaces. You can watch a quick video here.

Your first step is to measure out your wax. Select your vessels and for each size, add your wax (we used a soy wax) 1.5 cm from the rim—double this weight by 2.25.

Melt wax. Once melted, add your essential and or fragrance oils. We use 10% by weight. So if I weigh out 200 grams of wax, I would mix in 20 ml of oil.

Stick your wicks in place. Pour the wax into vessels. Leave to set for 8 to 12 hours. It was pretty warm when we prepared these. In winter months, they set faster.

Recommended essential oil combinations repelling mosquitoes and flies

Oils—eucalyptus, lavender, geranium, clove, cedarwood, lemongrass and citronella.

Recommended essential oil combinations for creating mood

Mental clarity and focus—peppermint, lemongrass, cypress, palo santo, frankincense, vetiver, bergamot

Spring cleaning—tea tree, eucalyptus, lemon, lavender, cinnamon bark

Winding down, meditation state—frankincense, sandalwood and myrrh, vetiver and patchouli

Deep dreams—lavender, chamomile, neroli, sandalwood

Mixing the oils is a sensory experience and a personal one, so adapt to your needs and state.

Everyday cleaning supplies

Cleaning cloths For the bench, house cleaning in general, Nawrap Binchotan Dishcloths are a must-have. These binchotan charcoal infused cotton dishcloths work to naturally absorb odour and are incredibly absorptive. I’ve had mine for over two years now, it’s used everyday. One has a small hole but due to the fabric weave, it is still just a small hole. For light cleaning I highly recommend these beautiful Bianca Lorrene Knitted Cloths. Both I have had for over three years now, they have held up wonderfully, even put through a clothes dryer.

— Scouring For deep cleaning and scouring, copper sponges are a more economical alternative to the standard scourers typically found in supermarkets. Copper sponges can be washed, significantly extending the useful life of this product — and then they are recyclable.

Dish washing In order to clean dishes effectively, we have found that all we need is a standard dish brush and bottle brush. Redecker makes wonderful wood and fibre brushes that will biodegrade at the end of their useful life. For dishes that require more than a light scrub, these Copper Pot Scrubbers are machine washable and eventually, recyclable.

— Mops To mop, this quick-loop mop — a modern Version of The Cuban mop with washable and therefore reusable cotton cloth offers a simple, low-cost cleaning solution for hardwood, tile, or laminate floors. For difficult spots, this Redecker fibre scrub brush will supercharge the cleaning process.

— Sweepers Pre mop, sweep with a broom or for small spaces this Iris-Hantverk dustpan and brush set will suffice.

— Toilet brushes Made from natural coconut fibre bristles, rubber wood handle and cotton lanyard, this brush can be returned to the earth in its entirety at the end of its useful life.

Gloves And if you want to protect your nails, these If You Care, Household Gloves are made from FSC certified natural rubber, washable and long-lasting — also ideal for less favourable jobs.

Wool dryer balls can be used to create space between your laundry (3-6 wool dryer balls in with each laundry load), allowing hot dryer air to better circulate, reducing drying times by up to 25% in large loads, 40% in smaller loads. Wool dryer balls can be used up to 1,000 times.

Supplies for DIY cleaning

— Baking soda Purchase soda specifically for cleaning. Arm & Hammer Baking Soda granulation is designed specifically for deodorising, not baking. Ideal for absorbing odors, baking soda is used in cleaners as a

— White vinegar Any white vinegar will do, we usually buy a big 4 L bottle for $2 from the supermarket. Vinegar's acidity is what makes it so ideal for cleaning. Given vinegar is ultra acidic, it counteracts build up like soap scum, sticky food spills, grease and more.

— Sodium percarbonate, aka oxygen bleach Very efficient to preserve whites, clean and disinfect without chlorine or phosphate. Will dissolve coffee, tea, wine, fruit, grass stains. Also really effective on skin stains, as on collar shirts. Work better with warm water, from 40°C to 60°C, to clean for example reusable diapers or bath garments. Use gloves when manipulating.

— Crystal soda A powerful degreasing agent, disinfectant and cleaner. Help get rid of the most tenacious spots. To be used on resistant garments and fabrics, such as bath towels or coloured textiles.

— Solid soap 100% natural soap made from olive or palm oil, 68% minimum and no fragrance. This oil content imparts either a natural green or beige colour. If the soap is any other colour, it is not authentic. Authentic Marseille soap or Savon de Marseille has been produced in Marseille, France, for some 600 years. Authentic Marseille soap will be stamped ‘Marseille soap-makers’ alliance’. Some authentic options available for Marseille soap include Marius Fabre 400g or also available in 1kg, Savonnerie du Midi 900g or 200g (La Corvette is in partnership with the maker Savonnerie du Midi), Le Serail, Fer a Cheval 250g or 600g (La Maison du Savon de Marseille is a brand partnership with the maker Fer a Cheval.

— Rubbing alcohol Not the same as isopropyl is a cleaning solution that for the most part contains between 60% and 90% alcohol with 10 – 40% purified water. Rubbing alcohol is most easily acquired from major supermarkets, hardware stores or a chemist.

— Witch hazel Not used for cleaning, we use witch hazel to prepare room spray — witch hazel (also used as a facial astringent) helps the essential oils and water combine so the scent lingers longer.

— Essential oils Each aromatic plant essence has specific therapeutic properties so understanding which oils to use when is vital. By inhaling essential oils you’re taking in highly concentrated active forms of flowers, leaves, barks and roots — that said, buy organic or natural, never synthetic. Always buy your oils in small quantities from reputable suppliers and store them away from direct light and heat to retain the oils active properties.

Elaine So introduced me to essential oils several years ago when at the time I was exploring alternatives to the large quantities of ibuprofen I was taking for chronic headaches — and some skin issues. If you are interested in accessing doTERRA essential oils at membership pricing use this link to purchase. We also purchase essential oils via iherb, mostly the organically sourced oils from Aura Cacia and NOW.

How much money you can save preparing your own cleaning products

These figures are based on a family of four, two adults and two children. Amandine adapted these from a zero waste book of hers, using the above recipes and local pricing. As such all amounts are in NZD so use the below as a pricing guide for your region.

Citrus vinegar multi-purpose spray (4.5 L) — $11.70 per year With an approximate usage of 4.5L (equivalent to 9 x 500 ml bottles) preparing your own multi-purpose spray as per the recipe included in this article would cost $11.70 ($1.30 per bottle) per year. Compared with purchasing 4.5L (equivalent to 6 x 750ml plastic spray bottles) of conventional multi-purpose cleaner at $3 each per year would cost $18. This figure is based on a cheap generic brand. Household brands are priced at around $6 for 500 ml representing a saving of $42.30.

Multi-purpose cleaner paste (1 cup, approximately 300 g) — $4.58 per year With an approximate usage of 1 cup per year. Preparing your own cleaning paste would cost $4.58. This conventional cleaning paste option, while costing $0.28 cents less per 100 g, contains antifoam and fragrance. Alternatively purchasing a natural cleaning paste, an equivalent volume would cost $14.95.

Dishwashing liquid (6 L) — $4 per year With an approximate usage of 6 L (equivalent to 1.5 L prepared x 4) would cost $21.12/$3.52 per preparation as per the recipe included in this article. Comparing like with like, ecological or non-toxic dish wash liquid would cost approximately $7.50 for 1 L, equivalent to $45 per year. Not only will you save around $40, you’ll also not be contributing to the plastic waste issue.

Cleaning your oven with multi-purpose cleaner paste and spray — $0 - $4.58 per year This figure is based on cleaning your oven 4 times within a 12 month period. Depending on the size and state of your oven you could either make do with your prepared paste or require an additional batch which would cost an additional $4.58 — commercial oven cleaner is say, $5. And while you’re not saving money, considering they are amongst the most toxic and represent the most significant health risk we would recommend preparing your own from baking soda and vinegar.

Hardwood floor cleaner with white vinegar — per year $23.40 This figure is based on preparing the recipe in this article, cleaning hardwood floors with white vinegar weekly. Each 4 L preparation would require 125 ml of white vinegar which would cost $0.45 per clean. Purchasing a 750 ml household brand floor cleaner prepares 30 L, therefore requiring 7 bottles per year at a cost of $41.53.

Room spray — per year $10.80 This really depends on how much you are willing to spend, though at the lower price point, natural air spray acquired from the supermarket would retail for approximately $18 per 100ml. The version we prepare, with rose water is approximately $16 and without, using essential oils and witch hazel or alcohol $2.70. Both create a clearing, meditative spritz.

Natural stain remover stick — per year $5 Not typically a laundry item on high rotation, stain remover is useful when required. At a lower price point, you’ll spend $5 per 375ml of liquid, the commercial, chemical in-wash kind. $12 for 1kg powder soak — 25 washes, more or less a wash per fortnight. The stick, you’ll spend about $5 and it will last you at least a year.

Blocked drain cleaner — per year $0 - $2.73 Based on purchasing 4 x 1 L bottles at $8 each per year we would save almost all of that (or at least $29) by swapping commercial products for boiling water and salt or if you have it — worm juice from your worm farm.

Natural toilet deodorant — per year $10.80 Figure based on preparing two bottles every three months at a cost of approximately $2.70 per 100ml bottle prepared. Compared to $18 - $35 per 100ml purchased in-store, making your own represents a cost saving of at least $134.

Everything we create is an effort to participate in a culture shift. All products featured are independently selected and curated by the authors, and we only feature items we use or would use ourselves that align with our values. As part of our business model, we do work with affiliates such as Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases if you decide to purchase through our links. The price would be the same to you either way, but if you find value in our work, then these affiliate links are a way to support it. We only recommend brands, makers and products we use — that we support. Transparency is important to us, so if you have any questions, please reach out to us.

Dive deeper

© LAGOM 2024, All rights reserved