The Ultimate Guide To Natural Cleaning Products

Here’s a dirty little secret: DIY cleaners made from regular household items are cheaper and more effective than conventional products. Plus, they’re gentler on the planet—and on your health.
The Ultimate Guide To Natural Cleaning Products

(Photo: iStock)

You likely have everything you need to clean your house in your pantry right now. The fact is you don’t need expensive bottles of cleaning products. Everyday household items like vinegar, lemon and baking powder make excellent cleaning products, and they are often cheaper, and more effective than conventional store-bought cleaners. Plus, it’s an easy way to cut back on packaging and be gentler on the planet. Here’s everything you need to start a deep cleanse of your house.

What are some good all-purpose recipes for cleaners?

Save your future self some time by mixing up large batches of general cleaners (be sure to label them and store safely from kids and pets). These recipes, from the David Suzuki Foundation, are great to keep on hand.


Combine 6 cups water, ¼ cup liquid Castile soap and 5 to 10 drops of an essential oil in a large bowl or bucket. Pour into spray bottles.


Combine 1  2/3 cups baking soda, ¼ cup liquid Castile soap and ¼ cup water in a bowl. Mix until it has the consistency of whipped cream. Store in a labelled airtight container. (Oil–based liquid Castile soap is available at health food stores.)


Mix ½ cup white vinegar with ½ cup water, and pour into a spray bottle.

But what if you don’t want your house to smell like a fish and chips shop?

Vinegar is a powerful cleanser with a smell to match. For a more pleasant scent, place a lemon peel in a Mason jar and cover with vinegar. Store for at least two weeks, and then use in the recipe above.

Are essential oils effective?


Essential oils help your natural cleaners (and your home) smell amazing. And many have antibacterial qualities: Thyme, cinnamon and oregano oils inhibit bacterial growth, while rosemary, lavender, cedarwood and lemongrass are antifungal. Just a few drops in a batch of all-purpose spray or scouring cleanser is all it takes.

How to clean with vinegar

Clear vinegar in a glass jar with a handle that is sealed with a cork. (Photo: iStock)

About five percent of white vinegar is acetic acid, making it an effective disinfectant and deodorizer. (Don’t use it on natural stone, however, as it will mark.)

  • A half-and-half solution of water and vinegar is great for wiping down most surfaces.
  • To remove smudges from stainless steel, clean with straight vinegar, and then dip a cloth in olive oil and wipe again for a nice shine.
  • Deodorize your dishwasher by running a cup of vinegar through on an empty cycle.


  • Clean sofa stains by sponging the area with a solution of one part vinegar to five parts warm water. (Test it first on an area that isn’t seen.)
  • Use a half-and-half solution of water and vinegar for windows and mirrors.
  • To remove lime scale from your chrome showerhead, soak it overnight in a bowl filled with equal amounts of water and vinegar, and then wipe clean. (Only use this on chrome—the acid in the vinegar can damage other metal finishes.)
  • Pour a cup of vinegar around the top of the toilet bowl, let sit for 15 minutes and flush.
  • Eliminate yellow sweat stains by soaking the garment overnight in a solution of equal amounts of water and vinegar before laundering.
  • Refresh black clothing that’s starting to grey (likely from detergent buildup) by soaking it overnight in a sink filled with warm water and ½ cup white vinegar. Rinse and machine-wash.


  • Clean eyeglasses with a 50:50 solution of water and vinegar.
  • Clean makeup brushes in a bowl of warm boiled water with 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar.

How to clean with Baking Soda

Glass jar with clamp lid on its side with baking soda spilling out of it on a dark wooden surface.

In addition to the magic it brings to baked goods, sodium bicarbonate is a great deodorizer and gently abrasive cleaner.


  • Remove stains from plastic food containers by scrubbing them with a brush sprinkled with baking soda.
  • Keep an open box in the fridge to tackle food odours.
  • For pots and pans with baked-on food, sprinkle baking soda on your dish cloth on top of your dish soap.


  • Remove crayon marks from walls by scrubbing lightly with a damp sponge sprinkled with baking soda.
  • To get rid of water stains on wood furniture, mix a paste of equal amounts of non-whitening toothpaste and baking soda. Dab a damp cloth in the mixture and rub with the grain to buff out the stain. Dry with a cloth.
  • Freshen up a carpet by sprinkling baking soda on it before you vacuum.


  • To banish mold from grout, apply a paste of baking soda mixed with water. Let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing with an old toothbrush.


  • For brighter whites and colours, add 1/2 cup baking soda to your usual amount of liquid laundry detergent.
  • Instead of fabric softener, add 1/2 cup baking soda to the rinse cycle.
  • To get rid of the smell of smoke or sweat, soak clothes in a sink full of water and a cup of baking soda overnight before washing.


How to clean with lemons


A single lemon on a yellow background

Lemon juice is a mild antibacterial acid that acts as a natural bleach.


  • To clean your microwave oven, place lemon slices in a bowl of water and nuke on high until the window is steamy. Wait 15 minutes before opening the door and wipe away the grime.
  • Remove stains and smells from cutting boards and wood countertops by rubbing them with the cut side of a lemon.


  • For a fresh-smelling furniture polish, mix 1 tbsp olive oil with 1 ½ tsp each vinegar and lemon juice and 2 cups warm water and pour into a spray bottle. (Do a test patch, as wood finishes vary.) It will keep for six months.
  • For a zesty air freshener, simmer lemon peels in a pot of water on the stove.


  • Run the cut side of a lemon over faucets and drains to remove mineral deposits. Rinse and dry thoroughly.


  • Dab lemon juice on yellow sweat stains and let sit for a few hours before laundering.

How to clean with hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide in a small amber jar with a blue lid beside three wooden cotton swabs. (Photo: iStock)

Unlike chlorine bleach, this mild antiseptic breaks down into oxygen and water. However, never mix it with vinegar—it creates peracetic acid, which will irritate your skin, eyes and respiratory system.


  • To disinfect countertops, spray with a three percent hydrogen peroxide solution and let air-dry.


  • To keep houseplants happy (and fungus-free), add 1 tsp hydrogen peroxide to 1 cup water, transfer to a spray bottle and spritz your plants.


  • Instead of toilet bowl cleaner, use ½ cup hydrogen peroxide. Pour, let it sit for 30 minutes and follow up with your toilet brush.


  • To brighten a load of whites, pour a cup of hydrogen peroxide into your washing machine’s bleach dispenser.
  • To remove blood stains, apply hydrogen peroxide directly to the area, let sit for a few minutes and dab with a clean cloth. Repeat as necessary before laundering.


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