Certain ingredients in household cleaning products can harm the planet — and, quite possibly, your health. Are DIY alternatives the solution?
You may take pride in maintaining a tidy home, but your efforts can sometimes do more harm than good as those cleaning products can be filled with harmful chemicals.
Fortunately, there are safer alternatives to nearly any formula on store shelves. Here’s what you should know about how your cleaning products may harm you and the planet and what to do about it.
Why DIY cleaners can be healthier for you and the planet
The most obvious reason that DIY cleaners are better for you is that you can identify every ingredient without a chemistry degree. While you might not want to drink them, you’re more likely to know what to do in case of accidental ingestion without calling poison control.
Preventing packaging waste is another plus of making DIY cleaners. Every year, containers make up a sizable portion of municipal garbage, creating more than 80 million tons of landfill fodder. Many sorting centers only take certain types of plastic, limiting your recycling options.
Allergies are another reason to DIY. Some researchers believe that a home overly purified with harsh cleansers like bleach may increase allergies in children, as their young systems never have the opportunity to develop resistance.
Here are some more perks to DIY cleaners:
- Save money: Instead of buying single-use products, you have ingredients you can use for various purposes — beyond the cleaning cabinet. For example, peroxide also serves as a mouthwash when you have a sore throat.
- Protect your surfaces: Buying a different cleaner for wood, marble, tile and stainless steel can get pricey and complicated. Most DIY cleaners are multipurpose, and you can craft surface-specific versions for especially delicate areas.
- Safeguard your drains: Chemical drain cleaners can damage certain pipe materials.
- Clear your air: Many commercial cleaners contain volatile organic compounds that make indoor air less breathable.
6 DIY cleaning alternatives
Are you ready to save money, the planet and your family’s health? Here are six clean DIY alternatives for commercial cleansers.
1. Floor Cleaner
Why is a clean floor that’s free of chemicals important? Think about where your baby crawls — and you know their little hands are nearly always in their mouths. The following recipe is safe for linoleum, vinyl, tile and hardwood:
- ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
- ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
- 1 teaspoon original Dawn dish detergent
- ½ gallon water
A note on the soap: Many brands have a nasty habit of streaking, which is why you should stick to the pure stuff. The original Dawn is the best choice — if it’s gentle enough to clean up oil slicks, it’s sure to leave your floors sparkling.
What about your rugs? You can also go green with your freshening powders:
- ½ cup baking soda
- ½ cup Borax
- 30 essential oil drops or a teaspoon of a dried aromatic herb like cinnamon or cloves.
Feel free to play with different scents. For example, combining sweet orange and vanilla essential oils can leave your carpet smelling like a Creamsicle. Yum.
2. All-Purpose Germ and Mold Buster
You must keep your bathroom and kitchen counters clean, meaning you need a DIY all-purpose cleaner that decimates grease, germs, and mold.
Here’s your recipe:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons rubbing alcohol
- Tea tree essential oil
Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle. You can also use this mixture on surfaces like light switches to kill germs transferred from hands
3. Drain cleaner
Your pipes are valuable. Treat them gently with the following recipe when they clog:
- ½ cup baking soda
- ½ cup table salt
- 1 cup boiling vinegar
Begin by mixing the baking soda and salt and pour it into the drain. Bring the vinegar to a boil and pour on top, sealing the pipe with a rag to keep the mixture from bubbling out into the sink. After 10 minutes, rinse and repeat if necessary.
4. Carpet and upholstery cleaner
What about those pesky stains on carpets or upholstery? Here, too, you can give commercial cleansers the boot. The right DIY product to use depends on the fabric and type of stain:
- Red wine: Use salt or club soda or mix three parts hydrogen peroxide with one part Dawn dish soap.
- Grease: Start by sprinkling baking soda over the stain and let set for at least 20 minutes before vacuuming. Then, use a natural degreaser like Dawn and water to clean the area and remove any remaining residue.
- Spaghetti: Do your kids get ketchup and sauce everywhere? Start with Dawn dish soap and water, going over the stain with distilled white vinegar, peroxide, or lemon juice to lighten the remaining spots.
- Wax: Use a brown waxed grocery bag and an iron. Place the bag over the wax and run a warm iron over it until it absorbs into the material.
5. Volcanic oven cleaner
Cleaning your oven is akin to cleaning your drains. Dump baking soda liberally over your oven. If you have severely baked-on gunk, you might make a paste of the soda and water and leave it on stubborn spots overnight. Then, put distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle and go to town, making little volcano bubbles erupt. Scrub out the muck with a sponge, using table salt as an abrasive for stuck-on grease.
6. Reusable counter wipes
Did you clean your closet and end up with tons of old T-shirts cut into rags? Put them in an airtight canister with your DIY all-purpose cleaner and use them as reusable cleaning wipes. They’re just as convenient without adding to landfills — simply wash them after use.
Other green cleaning supplies
Along with the above ingredients, it’s wise to keep the following tools on hand in your green cleaning toolbox:
- Rags: Microfiber cloths and melamine foam sponges are other great alternatives.
- Reusable kitchen sponges: You can wash and reuse some brands made with plant-based fibers.
- A duster: Bring back this old-school tool instead of using furniture polish.
- A handy cleaning caddy: This will keep all your tools together.
Planet-Friendly cleaning product alternatives
Instead of harsh ingredients, try these earth-friendly cleaning alternatives you can DIY with simple ingredients you probably have on hand. Save money, the environment, and your family’s health while enjoying a tidy home.
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Author bio: Cora Gold is a sustainable living writer and the Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. Follow Cora on Twitter and LinkedIn.