Only 30% of the chemicals found in household cleaning products have been tested for human use and environmental safety. This means that it is not known how the other 70% of the chemicals used in cleaning products could affect human or environmental health. The average American household has 63 different synthetic chemical products, amounting to about 10 gallons of harmful chemicals. However, the average household also has most of the ingredients necessary to do the same cleaning without all the chemicals. All of these ingredients can be used to make solutions that won't irritate skin, create toxic fumes, or harm the health of you and your family.

Some basic ingredients typically found in pantries that can used as cleaning alternatives are:

  • Baking soda: cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours.
  • Soap: unscented soap is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Avoid any soaps that contain petroleum distillates.
  • Lemon Juice: disinfects, effective against most household bacteria, cuts through grease.
  • Borax: cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.
  • White Vinegar: cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains, and wax build-up.
  • Washing Soda: cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans walls, tiles, sinks, and tubs. Don't use on aluminum.
  • Cornstarch: cleans windows, polishes furniture, shampoos carpets and rugs.
  • Olive Oil: picks up dirt, polishes wood.

The ingredients above can be combined in different ways to make effective cleaning solutions. Below are recipes for common household cleaning needs.

All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix ½ cup vinegar and ¼ cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into ½ gallon of water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc.

Air Fresheners:

-Place small dishes of lemon juice with vinegar or baking soda around the house to absorb odors.
-Prevent cooking odors by simmering 1 tablespoon of vinegar in 1 cup of water on the stove while cooking. To get smells off of utensils and cutting boards, wipe with vinegar and wash with soapy water.
-Keep fresh coffee grounds on the counter.
-Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on the stove.
-Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in the room.

Carpet Stain Remover:
Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution directly on the stain and let it sit for several minutes. Use a brush or sponge with warm soapy water to clean the stained area. For grease spots, sprinkle cornstarch onto the stain and wait 15-30 minutes before vacuuming. For a heavy duty carpet cleaner, mix ¼ cup each of salt, borax, and vinegar. Rub the paste into the carpet and let it sit for a few hours, then vacuum.

Chopping Block Cleaner:
Rub a slice of lemon across the chopping block to disinfect the surface. You may want to let the lemon juice to sit for ten minutes before wiping clean.

Coffee and Tea Stain Remover:
For cups/mugs, apply vinegar to a sponge and wipe. For tea kettles and coffee makers, add 2 cups of water and ¼ cup vinegar. Bring to a boil or start a brew cycle. Once cool, wipe with a cloth and rinse with water.


-Plastic Containers: Soak overnight in warm water and baking soda.
-Garbage Disposal: Grind up lemon or orange peels in the unit.
-Carpets: Sprinkle baking soda and let sit several hours before vacuuming.
-Basements and Garages: Set a sliced onion on a plate in the center of the room for 12-24 hours.

Dishwasher Soap:
Mix equal parts borax and washing soda. If you have hard water, increase the amount of washing soda.

Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar, and 3 cups hot water. Use a spray bottle or dampen a clean cloth. To disinfect kitchen sponges, put them in the dishwasher when running a load.

Drain Cleaner:
Pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup of vinegar. After 15 minutes, pour boiling water down the drain to clear away any residue.

Fabric Softener:
Dampen your hands before removing clothes from the dryer to reduce static. If possible, line dry clothing.

Floor Cleaner:

-Vinyl and Linoleum: Mix 1 cup vinegar and a few drops of baby oil in 1 gallon of warm water.
-Wood: Apply a thin coat of 1 part vegetable oil, 1 part vinegar. Rub in well.
-Brick and Stone Tiles: Mix 1 cup white vinegar in 1 gallon of water. Rinse with clear water.
-Other: Most floor surfaces can be easily cleaned using a solution of vinegar and water.

Furniture Polish:
Add a few drops of lemon oil to ½ cup of warm water and apply with a cotton cloth. To remove scratches from wood furniture, rub the area with a walnut.

Laundry Detergent:
Mix 1 cup of Ivory or Fels Naptha soap, ½ cup of washing soda, and ½ cup of borax. Use 1 tablespoon of the mixture for light loads, 2 tablespoons for heavy loads.

Mold/Lime Remover:
For mold, mix one part hydrogen peroxide and two parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the areas with mold. Wait at least an hour and then rinse. Alternatively, vinegar or lemon juice can also be applied to either mold or lime deposits with a sponge.

Mothball Alternative:
Sachets of cedar chips, dried lemon peels, lavender, rosemary, vetiver, and/or rose petals can be used to repel moths.

Oven Cleaner:
Moisten all sides of the oven. Spread a paste of ¾ cup baking soda, ¼ cup salt, and ¼ cup water over all surfaces. Let the paste sit in the oven overnight. Use a spatula to remove the following day and wipe surfaces clean. For tough spots, rub gently with steel wool.

Scouring Powder:
For stovetops, refrigerators, and similar surfaces, apply baking soda with a damp sponge.

Shoe Polish:
Apply olive oil with a few drops of lemon juice to shoes using a thick cotton or terry rag. Leave for a few minutes and then wipe clean with a dry rag.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner:
Mix ¼ cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour in basin, and let sit for a few minutes. Scrub with brush and rinse. Alternatively, a mixture of 2 parts borax and 1 part lemon juice will also work.

Tub and Tile Cleaner:
For simple cleaning, rub baking soda on tile with a damp sponge and rinse with water. For tougher spots, wipe surface with vinegar before rubbing with baking soda.

Water Rings on Wood:
Try gently applying toothpaste or mayonnaise to a damp cloth and rub over the water ring. Once the ring is removed buff the entire wood surface.

Window Cleaner:
Mix 2 teaspoons of white vinegar with 1 quart of warm water. Use crumpled black and white newspaper or cotton cloth to clean the window. Be careful to follow these proportions as too much vinegar in the solution could cloud the glass. The All-Purpose Cleaner described above can also be used on windows.