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Homemade household cleaners

I love vinegar water. My mom used it as a cleaner when we were growing up and so the smell brings back memories of my childhood home. I've always kept a spray bottle of vinegar water in our home. I have used it for a bunch of small cleaning tasks, but it hasn't been until our most recent move that I have started using it for all my cleaning needs. (Probably because up until we moved to South Carolina I had a housekeeper... read "Domestic goddess"). I want to say what prompted our shift to vinegar water is how environmentally friendly it is, but that's not true. What prompted the switch is how easy it is to make and how inexpensive it is.

What kind of cleaning products did I used to use? I used to use the Swiffer Wet Jet, but you have to buy the Swiffer Wet Jet Cleaner Refills and the Swiffer Wet Jet Spray Mop Cleaner Pad Refills, not to mention have the Swiffer Wet Jet Mop. I also had the Swiffer Dust Mop (needs the Swiffer Sweeper Dry Sweeping Cloths). We had the Swiffer Duster (needs the Swiffer Duster Refills) and the Clorox Toilet Wand with Storage Caddy (needs the Clorox Toilet Wand Refills). Plus we relied a lot on Clorox Disinfecting Wipes. The most offensive of all these cleaners (save for the waste from all these other cleaners) was my Clorox Bleach. We had these cleaners as well: Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface Cleaner, Soft Scrub, and Windex.

When we moved to South Carolina and I started doing all our house cleaning, I couldn't believe how much waste was leaving our house each week. I switched from all the Swiffer products to the O Cedar ProMist System, using vinegar water as the cleaning solution. I also bought the O Cedar Dual Action Dust Mop. I bought these at Target and picked up a couple extra cleaning cloths for them at the same time-- no throwing out, just wash and reuse. I switched from all the other cleaners to Method cleaners.

I still felt like I had a lot of waste and chemicals. Our toddlers are at the age where they want to "help" with everything and imitate everything they see Momma doing. Childproof locks and off-limit areas don't always prevent them from finding cleaners that should be well out of their reach. So I threw out almost all our harsh chemicals and switched almost exclusively to vinegar water. I kept some Method cleaners and put them in a box up on a high shelf in our laundry room. But there were cleaners I just couldn't bear to part with: our Clorox Toilet Wands and my Clorox Bleach.

Switching to vinegar water prompted a huge shift in our thinking. I buy a ginormous jug of distilled vinegar and mix this with water in a spray bottle. I use the vinegar water to clean our bathrooms (including the shower and outside of the toilet), the kitchen, our floors, our highchairs, and for detailing our vehicle (car seat buckles, car toys, center consoles, cup holders-- not the leather or our WeatherTech Floor Mats). I even use it as a dusting solution: spray a little on a dust cloth and send my toddlers to work dusting our house. I love that I can leave this cleaner under our kitchen sink and bathroom sinks with no worries. Not that I want our toddlers wandering around our house spraying everything down with vinegar water, but it can't hurt them! Even better, I never run out. Spray bottle empty? Grab one of my giant jugs of vinegar and fill it up right then and there. I love that convenience. No more shopping lists with dust mop refills, Clorox Wipes, on and on and on. No more gearing myself up for a cleaning day only to find out that I am out of bathroom cleaner.

(Don't care for the scent of vinegar? Try My Merry Messy Life's recipe for Homemade Citrus-Infused Vinegar.)

I started thinking about how wonderful it would be for all our household cleaners to be this convenient. What if I could mix up laundry detergent whenever I ran out? What if I could make our own hand soap refills? What if whenever I ran out of something, I just needed to make a quick trip to our laundry room to whip up a new batch? Also, what if all these cleaners were environmentally friendly and non-toxic? What if I started saving money doing all this? I spent a lot of time Googling. I didn't want to switch from my beloved Tide Pods to something equally as horrible for the environment and my kids (OxiClean). I wanted to find ingredients I could use across the board for my cleaners.

Then I stumbled across my new favorite blog: "My Merry Messy Life," specifically her Green and Natural Cleaning Recipes and Buying Guide. Yesterday my husband and I started buying our materials for making our own household cleaners.

Whole Foods
Dr. Bronner's Organic Castile Soap Citrus Orange, 32 oz. $15.99
Dr. Bronner's Organic Castile Soap Lavender, 32 oz. $15.99
Dr. Bronner's Organic Castile Soap Peppermint, 32 oz. $9.99 (on sale)
Now Essential Oils Lemongrass, 1 oz. $6.99
Now Essential Oils Lavender, 1 oz. $11.99
Total: $63.95

Ace Hardware
20 Mule Team Borax, 76 oz. $5.49
Total: $9.78

Total: $11.97

Now Essential Oils Tea Tree Oil, 4 oz. $18.00
Toilet brush with holder $12.00
Glycerin Vegetable Kosher, 32 oz. $13.47
Total: $59.72

Hydrogen Peroxide, 64 oz. $1.99

Grand Total: $215.68

Lowe's does not carry Super Washing Soda or Borax, but the gal at Whole Foods recommended we try Ace Hardware (where she said they for sure carried it) or Wal Mart (where she thought they might carry it). We went with Ace Hardware where we could for sure buy it. We then went to Target; they carried Borax for about $1.50 less than Ace Hardware but didn't have Super Washing Soda. My husband feels Wal Mart probably carries both for less. Also, some of the ingredients that we bought in store are less expensive on Amazon. We wanted to make everything today, so we went with the in-store option, but next time I buy I will make sure to go with the less expensive option. The reason I bought 3 different kinds of Dr. Bronner's Organic Castile Soap is to give myself some variety when making my various cleaners, same with the lavender and lemongrass essential oils. The tea tree oil was purchased for its antibacterial properties.

What are we making with these ingredients?

All these recipes are from My Merry Messy Life:
I am really excited about her uses for hydrogen peroxide. I cannot wait to get rid of our bleach. And our Clorox Toilet Wands. We have already phased out our Clorox Wipes. I use a rag sprayed with vinegar water instead and haven't looked back. Maybe one day I will make Homemade Reusable Disinfecting Wipes, but for now our system is working great. The only cleaner I haven't been able to replace yet is Windex. The Method window cleaner is streaky-- not too bad for bathroom mirrors but horrible for the windshields in our vehicles.

My husband is super excited about the economics of switching to our own homemade cleaners. Yes, we spent all this money up front, but to make the homemade laundry detergent I used 1/2 cup of the Borax, 1/2 cup of the Super Washing Soda, 3/4 cup of the lavender Dr. Bronner's Organic Castile Soap, and a little over 20 drops from the lavender essential oil. I hardly put a dent in our supplies and it made 2 gallons of laundry detergent! If you read My Merry Messy Life's posts with the recipes, she includes the math of how much it cost her per ounce to make and how much it costs per ounce to buy the conventional products. Also, all the ingredients we bought are used in all these other recipes. While my husband keeps a close eye on the bottom line for our family budget, I focus on convenience. Being pregnant with our fourth and a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, I like when things are easy. It took roughly 10 minutes from start to finish to make the laundry detergent; how much easier can it get? I can tell you that was 100% easier than dragging all the kids to Costco! For once, my husband and I are in firm agreement on something-- homemade is the way to go for us! :)

The last point that my husband and I love about all these homemade cleaners is that they are non-toxic. While, thankfully, our children have never eaten anything life threatening, we have needed to call poison control several times in our 5-years of parenting. It is such a comfort to know that we have safe products in our home, the reason why my mom used vinegar water as my siblings and I grew up. I know that Borax raises eyebrows on the "green" blogs, but I have done some reading and for now we are using it. I like that My Messy Life includes links for more information on Borax and I also found this blog post helpful when making our decision: Crunchy Betty's post, "Getting to the Bottom of Borax: Is it Safe or Not?" Of course there is a lot you can read Googling the topic, but I found those 2 posts to be very informative.


I have been getting a lot of questions about our homemade household cleaners. Here are a few:

1. What do you do about the vinegar smell?

First of all, the vinegar smell doesn't bother me, at all. I don't really measure the vinegar and water when mixing it into a spray pump or our floor mop. For the spray mop, I do put in more vinegar than for just our everyday spray pump (read the above post to find out what I use the vinegar water to clean). I find the vinegar smell dissipates quickly and, as I said, it doesn't bother me.

If it bothers you, check out these recipes for citrus smelling vinegar: My Merry Messy Life's Homemade Citrus Infused Vinegar or The Busy Mom's Homemade All-Purpose Citrus Spray.

2. I like the idea of making my own non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners, but do they actually, you know, clean?

Short answer: yes, they do. I would suggest researching some of the properties you are unsure of, like vinegar, baking soda, super washing soda, citric acid, or borax. My Merry Messy Life has really turned me on to Dr. Bronner's Organic Castile Soap. Our homemade foaming handsoap is way better than the store bought foaming handsoap refills. I have very dry skin (genetics and washing my hands all the time with potty training twins!) and the homemade foaming handsoap is so moisturizing!

3. Okay, but what about the laundry detergent? How does that clean?

My Merry Messy Life's laundry detergent recommends 1/3 cup detergent per load. I have been using:
  • a little less than 1/3 on very small loads
  • 1/3 cup on small/normal loads
  • a heavy 1/3 cup on normal loads
  • a really heavy 1/3 cup for large/normal loads
  • 2/3 cup on large loads.
When I was shopping for ingredients, the gal at Whole Foods told me that many of her homemade laundry detergents made her clothes dingy. I have had a similar experience with previously sampled homemade laundry detergents and store bought biodegradable detergents, so I upped the borax in my detergent (heavy 1/2 cup compared to the 1/2 cup called for in the recipe). I've also been careful to separate our laundry into brights (color), whites, and darks; washing like colors together has really been working. I've also been much more proactive about stains, rinsing them out when the boys take their clothes off to change into pajamas and not letting dirty clothes sit in the hamper. Big changes around here! I've actually been staying on top of our laundry. ;)

As a former Tide Pod user, I have not noticed a difference between our laundry washed with Tide Pods and our laundry washed with our homemade cleaners and neither has my husband.

4. How long does it take to make your own detergent and cleaning products? I don't think I would be able to stay on top of that.

I'm a homeschooling stay-at-home mother to a preschooler and toddler twins with our fourth baby on the way, not to mention a Navy wife. I thrive on convenient. The detergent seriously took 10 minutes start to finish, including set up and clean up. Making vinegar water requires popping open my jug of vinegar, pouring it into my spray bottle or floor mop, and pouring water on top. I have a funnel for making the other cleaners and all my cleaning materials are kept in the same bin in my laundry room. I grab my Pyrex mixing cup, my funnel, and whip up my next batch. Sound easy? It is. If you compare it to a shopping trip with kids, it is almost perfect (it would be even better if magic cleaning elves popped out of the homemade cleaners and did the actual cleaning!).

5. How much did all this cost?

I love that on all the homemade cleaner recipes My Merry Messy Life includes a price breakdown when comparing her formerly used store bought cleaning products with her homemade cleaning products. Check out her price breakdowns! We essentially started from scratch when we started making our own cleaning products. I had to buy a toilet brush because I didn't own one; we had always used Clorox Toilet Wands. I also bought gallon jugs to hold our detergent since we only used Tide Pods before. I think My Merry Messy Life reuses her old laundry detergent jugs. We have hardly put a dent in the supplies I listed in the above blog post.


Katy Blevins said…
I've been toying with the idea of making our own cleaners for awhile now. This is a great post and gives me a good bit of information in one place so that I can get started. Thank you!! Found you on HDYDI!
Corinne Schmitt said…
I prefer homemade cleaning solutions over harsh chemicals but since vinegar is one of the most useful ingredients, they don't always smell great. I love your suggestions! Now I can avoid the chemicals and have a great-smelling clean too. So glad I found your post on the HDYDI link up.
Kimber said…
Corrine, she also has a recipe for citrus infused vinegar so it has a citrus scent instead of the vinegar scent!
Mum of One said…
I only just discovered the power of vinegar for cleaning my microwave....I know, I know, but honestly I had no clue. I am guessing I should probably use itv a lot more too! Love Method shower cleaner a bit addicted to the smell. Thanks so much for linking to the #pinitparty. Have pinned. :)
Kate Bristow said…
I want to “Thank You” for all of your information and the research you had to do to get it. You were very informative.
Kimber said…
Thank you, Kate! Glad it helped you out! We are still using exclusively all these homemade household cleaners and love it! :) The other day I "bleached" my kitchen sink by making a baking soda paste and letting it sit for 20 minutes before scrubbing it off. These non-toxic and biodegradable options have been working out well for our family!
Carissa Eppler said…
I started using vinegar and baking soda a few years ago for my household cleaning and since then I’ve found there is nothing vinegar can’t do. I’m still shocked
visit website said…
Thank you for sharing! Probably because I'm a professional cleaner I was very skeptical about green cleaners, but you made me curious and I will try.Maryland Carpet Cleaners Ltd.
gain mark said…
Hey thanks for these useful recipes my friend! I would definitely try out these recipes for home made green cleaning products. Actually my friend’s house cleaners also use these home made products. So I was also thinking to make my own products.
Bo Tolbert said…
It was a good decision that you made the switch to using natural cleaning products. Not only are they cheaper, but also very safe to use. At the very least, you won't have to worry is someone in the house is sensitive to harsh chemicals, which are usually present in most commercial cleaning products. Thanks for sharing!

Bo Tolbert @ HJS Supply
Kimber said…
Thank you for your comments! We are very happy with our homemade household cleaners. I love not having to make a trip to the store when I need more cleaners. Making them has been most convenient. I also love reducing our impact and it has made me look at other areas of our life where can also reduce our impact (and make our house safer for curious children!).
Seo Sea said…
IPAX Caribbean is a manufacturer of superior quality cleaning products that are environmentally responsible for the industrial and commercial workplace. Our products prove that cleaners can be universal, powerful and safe, without being hazardous. Each IPAX solution is a proprietary formula and the result of careful scientific research and development. IPAX products are of the highest quality and excellence with a dedication to, production quality, Green Cleaning, Environmentally friendly Products, Biodegradable Cleaning, Eco Friendly , Earth Friendly, Safe cleaning , Non- Toxic, Green Seal Certified, Multi Propose Cleaning, Hospital Cleaning , Industrial Cleaning, NEUTRAL DISINFECTANT, application technology, operational performance and human safety.
Jacob said…
We recently did the same thing, and I wanted to share three things with your readers. One, we spend a fraction on our cleaning supplies now. Two, they work as good if not better than the ones we used to buy in the store. Three, they are healthy for my family to breathe and I can rest assured they do the same when they grow.

Jacob @ Arkansas Bag

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