April 20, 2008

DIY Green Cleaning Products

One of my earliest memories is of walking along a sandy winding road in Sicily with my paternal grandmother when I was three years old. She had a glass bottle in her hand that had just been emptied of the last of its olive oil. We stopped at her outdoor laundry room - a tub complete with cold running water - and she filled the bottle about half way. What she did next blew my little three year old mind - she bent down, gathered a handful of pebbly sand, which she dropped down the bottle's slender neck. Holding her palm over the opening, she then proceeded to vigorously shake the bottle for several seconds, finally dumping the entire contents back onto the ground, refilling the bottle with water for a final rinse-and-spill to clear out any remaining grains of sand.

And voilá: the bottle was spotless!

Somehow, though our grandparents kept clean and tidy homes without employing cleaning products that have nightmarish lists of health warnings, most of us are only now realizing that you can find much of what you need to clean your home in the pantry.

Here are a few simple recipes, along with some go-to multi-taskers to help you clean your abode without harsh chemicals. I think nonna would have approved!

Multi-Tasker 1: Club Soda
  • Poured into a spray bottle, club soda holds its own against much harsher and pricier all purpose cleaners.
  • Since it is alkaline, it's especially adept at getting out acid-based stains, like coffee.
  • Also a great window cleaner.
Multi-Tasker 2: White Vinegar
  • On its own in a spray bottle, a killer disinfectant.
  • Mix two teaspoons in a quart of warm water to use as a window cleaner.
Multi-Tasker 3: Baking Soda
  • Used dry, it's a great appliance cleaner; wipe it off with a damp sponge.
  • Sprinkled in an oven and spritzed with water, it makes a good (if slow-working: it needs to sit overnight) oven cleaner. After it sits, wash it out with water.
Simple Recipes

Drain Cleaner
1/2 cup salt
boiling water

Pour salt down the drain, followed by boiling water. Run hot tap water until clog clears.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
white vinegar
baking soda

Sprinkle bowl with baking soda and spray with vinegar. Scrub with a toilet brush
Air Freshener
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons baking soda

Mix baking soda and hot water in spray bottle until baking soda dissolves. Spray those nasty odors away!
Copper and Brass Cleaner (I use this one to shine pennies before decoupaging them and making earrings)

Dissolve 1 part salt to two parts vinegar. Soak till shiny. To use as a scrub, increase salt to make a paste and scrub your little heart out!
Laundry Detergent
one part washing soda
one part borax

Mix and use as you would regular laundry detergent.
(Note: both washing soda and borax are available at soaps gone by)

-MaryAnne, wabisabibrooklyn.etsy.com


Anonymous said...

I love all of these ideas! I am going to go and swish some salt and boiling water down my shower drain right now and see if it helps the clogging.

KimmChi said...

Thanks so much for these great tips and recipes, so simple, it's always the stuff you have in your cupboard already that works best!

MaryAnne LoVerme said...

So true!

Anonymous said...

straight club soda is a excellent window cleaner!

AlizaEss said...

Thanks for all the tips- I love drinking club soda but never thought about cleaning with it!! Can't wait to make some laundry detergent.

I've also heard about washing your hair with baking soda and something else?? Anyone heard about that?

KimmChi said...

You can check out Cakehouse.etsy.com's post on washing your hair with baking soda:

Anonymous said...

SAlt and vinegar will also remove mold!

crrieger said...

Consumer Reports has published a list of these homemade solutions for many years and I use the glass cleaner regularly at school to clean desks and benchtops after labs. They are free on their website at this URL:


KimmChi said...

Thanks for the tips christopher!

see steph sweat said...

this is the best!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for these tips! DOes anyone have a green clean solution for silver jewelry? I have some that's tarnished and needs to be dipped/soaked (too many small parts for hand polishing).

Krista said...

Karen -
boil water in an aluminum pan - add baking soda and your jewelry - will instantly remove tarnish!

Unknown said...

Great tips, thank you!

Re. the silver cleaning, I was told it has to be washing soda (sodium carbonate) rather than baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)? You can also do it without boiling by just putting a sheet of aluminum foil in with the soda solution. According to my (chemistry teacher) mom it sets up an electrolytic reaction, afraid I can't remember the details!

Jan said...

washing soda is more caustic (still natural product tho) than baking soda and can be found in the laundry isle usually (A&H Super washing soda is about $3) and you must wear gloves. and it works tons better than baking soda!

Anonymous said...

You don't need to add boiling water to baking soda in order to remove tarnish from silver. Simply make a paste by adding a little room temperature water and baking soda and use it along with a soft cloth (a rag made from an old cotton t-shirt works well) to rub the silver. Rinse off any remaining paste in bowl of room temperature water. I used to help my mum clean her silver jewelry this way and it works wonderfully.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys, I own a great store here in Portland Oregon called Cleaning Green. We feature all Eco friendly cleaning products,recycled toothbrushes,bio compostable garbage bags. If you get a chance to stop by we would love to have you")



Green gifts said...

The idea is great and I would love new ideas like this..thanks for sharing..

Lucchese's Resistol Cowboy Boot said...

found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later ..