4 Easy, DIY Non-Toxic Home Cleaning Products
August 4, 2019 • 3 min read
Mainstream cleaning products are laden with harsh chemicals, toxins and hazardous substances, all that we end up breathing in while we use them. In efforts to turn our homes into eco-friendly havens that also benefit our own health and well-being, there’s been a rise in the popularity for DIY home cleaning product formulas. Going back to the basics, using recipes our grandmothers cleaned with, and being mindful of what and how we consume is top of mind, and easier to achieve than it might seem. Not only will we be benefiting our health, but the environment as well. DIY cleaning products require less wastage, less plastic use, and less nasty chemicals that get washed into our waterways.
We worked with Pearl from Olly Olly Toxin Free, a Toronto-based platform helping us make our own cleaning products in an easy and budget-friendly way. Pearl has been using these products for years, teaches workshops in the city and has shared with us her favourite and most effective formulas.
All-Purpose Spray: 4 Ways
This spray is the easiest to make and also the hardest working. You can use it on most surfaces and can find these ingredients easily online, in your local supermarket, or in your pantry as is. Here it is, in four different ways.
This product has a shelf life of 1-2 months.
Formula – 1:1 parts vinegar to water
This is a simple and effective cleaner that gets the job done. Supermarket vinegar (5% acetic acid) reduces most surface bacteria and should be enough for regular home cleaning. If you need extra germ-killing power, use cleaning vinegar (10-12% acetic vinegar). You can infuse the vinegar with pine needles, dried lavender or citrus peels for a lovely scent.
Note: Do not use vinegar on natural surfaces though, such as wood or marble as they are porous, meaning vinegar will erode them over time. Also, don’t mix the vinegar with hydrogen peroxide or castille soap.
Many people are worried about vinegar not fighting norovirus (which it doesn’t), however we don’t need to be cleaning our house on an everyday basis as though we are fighting norovirus. The next formula is more intense, for those worried about germs.
2. Hydrogen Peroxide
Formula – 1:2 parts hydrogen peroxide to water
If you’re looking for something with more of a disinfectant nature, hydrogen peroxide is a great cleaning agent. Studies show that hydrogen peroxide is more effective than household vinegar, and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention states that 3% hydrogen peroxide is a stable and effective disinfectant when used on inanimate surfaces. You can add lemon or tea tree oil to the mixture for a clean scent.
Note: For storing, hydrogen peroxide should be in a dark glass spray bottle as it begins to break down in light.
3. Castille Soap
Formula – 1 tbsp castile soap to 1 cup water
Pearl recommends Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap (this soap is amazing and is truly all purpose. It can be used as a body wash, cleaner, dish soap and so much more, effective in killing 99% of germs. If you have this in your home already, this is a super easy recipe to make!).
4. Sal Suds
Formula – 1 tbsp Sal Suds to 4 cups water
Sal Suds are also excellent disinfectants, killing 99% of germs. This works really well in the kitchen and is a great de-greaser.
Note: When mixing up this formula, first add the water, then the Sal Suds, otherwise it will bubble everywhere.
3-Ingredient Sink & Tub Scrub
This is Pearl’s all-time favourite DIY cleaning product. It was the first one she ever made, and after seeing how easy and effective it was, she started making all of her own cleaners.
- 1 cup baking soda
- 1/3 cup liquid castille soap (Dr. Bronner’s works amazingly well here, and you can choose your favourite scent. Citrus or eucalyptus is great for keeping things fresh).
- 1 tbsp hydrogen peroxide
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until it becomes a paste (same consistency as toothpaste). Store mixture in an air-tight container (glass works best), and make sure you leave about an inch room from the top, as the mixture will expand. The formula should keep for about 3 months. When you are ready to use it, scoop some out and use on your sink or tub with a sponge or eco-friendly brush.
For hard stains and mold, you can try adding a bit more hydrogen peroxide or tea tree oil.
Natural No-Rinse Daily Shower Spray
This products has a shelf life of around 3 months
This is Pearl’s version of Method Home’s Daily Shower Spray. She’s also added some essential oils for good measure. When she first became conscious of cleaning products, she went with Method Home, thinking they were a natural option. She unfortunately bought into their greenwashing, getting drawn in with their refill bottles, only to discover that many of their products are actually rated D and F for safety on EWG.org. This is what prompted her to begin making her own cleaners with actually natural ingredients.
- ¼ cup vodka or grain alcohol (you can substitute this with rubbing alcohol for a cheaper alternative)
- ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide
- 1 cup water
- 15 drops eucalyptus oil
- 5 drops ylang ylang oil (optional)
- 2 tbsp dishwasher rinse agent (optional)
Once you’ve mixed everything up, store it in an opaque bottle, as hydrogen peroxide begins to break down in light. All of the above ingredients can be sourced in glass or bulk, depending on where you live, helping you to lessen your plastic footprint. Pearl recommends Eco Max Dishwasher Rinse Aid (if you decide to use it), which has clean ingredients. While this does come in (post-consumer) plastic, if you have glass tiles and chrome fixtures as she does, it’s worth it. It helps to leave everything streak-free.
To use, shake and spray after every shower, no rinse needed. This spray won’t get rid of existing mildew, but it will keep it away, preventing new mildew from forming.
Laundry Soap Berries: 4 Ways
Soap berries are all the rage currently, as they are an eco-friendly option that can be used in so many ways. Soap berries grow on trees, and they are actually nut-free! They are natural and plant-based, unlike many chemical detergents, releasing saponin when agitated, a natural surfactant. When Pearl began her DIY cleaning product journey, she enlightened her mom about soap berries. Her mom just laughed, as these were what they used to use for laundry in China, before mainstream detergents were on the market
Place 4-5 berries in a cloth sack. Toss the sack into laundry on soak cycle, using any temperature water (cold is the eco-friendliest temperature to wash your clothes on). This works great for lightly-soiled clothing. You can use this sac up to 10x or until the berries become thin and start to disintegrate.
Put 4-5 berries in a cloth bag and pre-soak them with hot water for 10 minutes. Toss the berry sack with the liquid into laundry machine. This works as a better option for clothes that are dirtier. You can reuse the berries up to 10x.
Alternatively, you can make a big batch of liquid detergent with ½ cup soap nuts and 3 cups of water in a pot, bringing it to a boil. Simmer the berries for half an hour or until about 2 cups of liquid is left. The berries will become soft and be able to be mushed with a spoon. Let this cool and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Use 3 tbsp per load of laundry.
Make a liquid batch of berries as per the above-mentioned recipe. Once done, freeze the mixture into ice cubes. This extends their life and can be used up to 6 months. You can add 2-3 cubes per load of laundry. This also works great for a sink load of dishes, where 1 cube is needed.
Make a liquid batch of berries as per the above-mentioned recipe again. Place everything into a blender. Careful, as this will make a LOT of foam. Instead of wasting it, you can use the foam to shampoo and shave with! The foam will dissolve overnight, where you can then use the liquid for laundry or dishes.
You can add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the liquid to give it a nice scent. For an extra boost, you can add 2 tbsp of washing soda and/or 1 tbsp safe bleach to each load. For heavy duty stains, rub Sal Suds onto the spot and leave for 30 minutes to overnight.
Compost the berries once you are done with them
You might also like: Why the KonMari Method is NOT Sparking Joy for the Earth
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