Advertising
Advertising

21 Homemade Cleaner Tips That Actually Work Better Than Commercial Cleaners

21 Homemade Cleaner Tips That Actually Work Better Than Commercial Cleaners

You may have heard of cleaning with vinegar and baking soda, but you may doubt if they really work. I can assure you that they absolutely work – and work effectively.

Let me be honest: cleaning is not my favorite thing to do. Moreover, unpleasant odors and the air-contaminating nature of commercial cleaners always troubled me and caused me to put off cleaning.

We know most commercial cleaners are harmful to our health and the environment. The challenge is to make an old habit into a new lifestyle. You can find the health and environmental effects of commercial cleaning products by checking the EWG rating by Environmental Working Group. The rating criteria include concerns with asthma, skin irritation, and cancer. Try looking up your “natural” commercial cleaner’s rating.

In search of more pleasant and natural cleaning methods, I dumped all commercial cleaning products and replaced them with non-toxic homemade cleansers about a year ago. I can breathe much better while cleaning, and I am very pleased with this lifestyle change, which will last for the rest of my life. More importantly, these homemade cleaners not only efficiently clean almost anything, but also often work better than commercial cleaners. These are cost-effective too.

The essentials:

  • Vinegar (distilled white vinegar) removes water-based buildup particularly well. It also removes mold and wax, and disinfects and deodorizes surfaces. White vinegar consists of 5 percent acetic acid and 95 percent water. The smell of vinegar lasts only for a short while after cleaning. Lemon juice can also be used instead of vinegar.
  • Citric acid is lesser-known, but cleans exceedingly well and is a cost-effective agent of homemade cleaners. It is a weak acid from citrus fruits and is commonly used for preserving and flavoring food. An advantage over vinegar is that it has no smell. It comes as a form of crystalline powder, and you can buy it readily online such as Amazon. If you don’t have it, you can use vinegar instead, though I think citric acid cleans better.
  • Baking soda (Sodium bicarbonate) deodorizes, whitens, and works as scouring powder. If kept it in a closed container in a dry place, it lasts for several months. You can test if your baking soda is still effective: drop a small amount of vinegar (or lemon juice or a citric acid solution) on a pinch of baking soda. If it is active, you will see foaming as a result of a chemical reaction.

I keep vinegar, citric acid powder, and baking soda readily available, each in its own plastic sauce bottle.

  • Biodegradable cleaner is especially suited for removing grease such as oily tableware and cookware. I use Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds biodegradable liquid cleaner, which gets an A grade on the EWG rating.
  • Castile soap is mainly made from olive oil and/or coconut oil and is safely used for body cleaning. It is milder and more versatile than Sal Suds biodegradable cleaner, but may be less economical for cleaning purposes.

The following are useful cleaning tools that will save your time. While not biodegradable, these are considered non-toxic – and also save water.

  • Melamine sponges make your cleaning life much easier in various ways. The secret of the “magic” is that a melamine sponge works like super-fine sandpaper. Other than Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, you can buy inexpensive alternatives with the same quality at discount stores or online. (Note: an ingredient of melamine sponges called formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfite copolymer is not the same as a toxic chemical formaldehyde.)
  • Microfiber cloths trap dust and wipe dirt without leaving lint on the surface, due to their ultra-fine synthetic fibers.

Note: Before applying any of the cleaning methods below, I recommend testing first at an inconspicuous area.

Everyday Cleaning

2-43936630_efc181a7a1_o-_cleaning-by-ryan-harvey_flickr_edit_edit_770x433
    Cleaning by Ryan Harvey via Flickr

    1. Take Advantage of Melamine Sponges, and Keep All-Purpose Sprays Made of Vinegar, Citric Acid, and/or Biodegradable Soap Handy

    Melamine sponges are surprisingly versatile. With just a little water, it even removes permanent marker and cleans sneakers’ surfaces. While a melamine sponge cleans just about anything, it is not recommended to use for glossy or varnished surfaces in order to avoid scratches. You can cut the sponge with a kitchen knife to small pieces for handy uses. Although it is reusable, it shrinks as you use.

    All-purpose Homemade Cleaners:

    • Vinegar solution
      Mild: 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar + 1 cup water
      Strong: 1 cup distilled white vinegar + 1 cup water
    • Citric acid solution
      Mild: 1 teaspoon citric acid powder + 1 cup water
      Strong: 2 ½ teaspoons citric acid powder + 1 cup water
    • Dishwashing soap
      Mild: ¾ teaspoon Sal Suds + 1 cup water + optional: a few drops tea tree oil
      Strong: 2 teaspoons Sal Suds + 1 cup water + optional: 5-10 drops tea tree oil

    Keep each solution handy in its own labeled spray bottle. Strong solutions do not mean harsh solutions. Personally, I use strong solutions for almost any cleaning. You can adjust the proportion of a solution according to your needs.

    Advertising

    Above all, a combination of a melamine sponge and a strong citric acid solution works best to remove tough stains on various surfaces quickly and easily.

    Baking soda can also be added in the vinegar solution, though the mixture leaves somewhat dull texture on the surface. Baking soda in this use mainly acts as scouring powder, but a melamine sponge works better for this purpose.

    Citric acid solutions above have stronger acidity than that of vinegar solutions above because an acetic acid in white vinegar is already diluted by water to only 5 percent, whereas acid in citric acid powder is 100 percent. Vinegar or citric acid powder can also be used without adding water for some cleaning.

    Dishwashing soap above is based on Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds biodegradable cleaner, which is concentrated. Please follow appropriate measurement of the particular biodegradable soap.

    Tea tree essential oil is widely used as an antibacterial agent.

    2. Shine Windows and Mirrors with Microfiber Cloths, Melamine Sponges, Vinegar, or Citric Acid

    To wipe off dust on windows or mirrors, use a dry microfiber cloth or dry melamine sponge.

    For heavy cleaning, clean with a slightly moist melamine sponge or microfiber cloth. You can also use an extra-mild solution (1 teaspoon of vinegar and 1 cup of water, or ¼ teaspoon of citric acid and 1 cup of water). Finish with a dry microfiber cloth to remove water residue.

    To remove tough water residue or streaks, fine steel wool works quickly. Although steel wool does not scratch ordinary glasses, it is always safe to test the surface first.

    3. Freshen Your Room with Rubbing Alcohol Spray, or Eliminate Room Odors with Vinegar or Baking Soda

    Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) spray removes room odors quickly – this certainly works! Optionally, you can add a few drops of essential oils that have a deodorant property, such as lavender, to diffuse a pleasant scent. Vodka spray also seems to work, though I haven’t tried that yet.

    Another way to remove room odors is to leave a bowl filled with vinegar or baking soda in a room.

    Laundry

    3-2609350734_7efc5d958f_o_laundry-room-by-paula-henry_flicker_edit2_770x578
      Laundry Room by Paula Henry via Flickr

      4. Wash Clothes with Biodegradable Cleaner

      A commercial detergent Tide Free & Gentle, which I used for years, is labeled “Free of Dyes & Perfume; Dermatologist Tested.” Nonetheless, I was stunned to find an F grade on the EWG rating. Sal Suds biodegradable cleaner washes clothing well, yet is not harsh on the skin. I use 1-3 tablespoons, depending on the load. Alternatively, washing soda or Castile soap can be used to clean clothes.

      Advertising

      Optionally, baking soda can be added in the wash cycle to remove odors and whiten clothes.

      5. Rinse Laundry with Vinegar, and Dry Clothes Faster with Wool Dryer Balls

      White vinegar (¼ cup-1 cup, depending on the load) can be added in the rinse cycle. It softens clothing without leaving the vinegar smell. Why does this work? It is an alkali and acid reaction: an acid of vinegar neutralizes the clothes soaked with alkaline soap. The vinegar softener also works well with laundry with a commercial detergent. A word of caution: Do not add vinegar in the wash cycle – doing so will cancel out effectiveness of cleaning ability.

      Dryer balls soften laundry and shorten drying time: they keep clothes from tangling by bouncing around inside the dryer. The more balls (3-6) you use, the faster your clothes will dry. An eco-friendly option would be 100 percent wool dryer balls rather than their plastic or rubber counterparts.

      Bathroom

      4-bath-by-enrico-corno-1220567_freeimages_edit_770x513
        Bath by Enrico Corno via Freeimages

        6. Make Toilet Bowls Sparkle with Vinegar or Citric Acid

        Commercial toilet bowl cleaners are among the harshest with a strong smell and eye-irritating agents. You can clean a toilet bowl in a more pleasant way.

        For regular cleaning, spray vinegar or a strong citric acid solution (2 ½ teaspoon of citric acid and 1 cup of water), and leave it for 15 minutes to 1 hour (the longer, the better). Scrub with a brush, and flush. Alternatively, you can spray dishwashing soap, though I found it is less effective for this cleaning.

        For deep cleaning, spray a strong citric acid solution, and sprinkle ½ cup of citric acid powder inside the toilet bowl including under the rim. The powder kept in a sauce bottle serves nicely for this job. Optionally, you can add ¼-½ cup of baking soda. Leave it for an hour to several hours. Scrub thoroughly with a brush, and flush well. Now you have a shiny toilet bowl!

        When you see black streaks running from under the rim inside the toilet bowl, it may be caused by mold in the toilet tank. To prevent this, periodically add 1 tablespoon of baking soda into the toilet tank.

        7. Cleanse Bathtubs and Sinks with Citric Acid or Biodegradable Soap

        After I tried everything for cleaning a bathtub – from vinegar and baking soda to grapefruit and salt, I chose citric acid as a winner. It cleans thoroughly with ease.

        Spray a citric acid solution (1-2 ½ teaspoons of citric acid and 1 cup of water) inside the bathtub, sprinkle citric acid powder, and leave it for 30 minutes or more. Scrub with a scouring pad or melamine sponge. If needed, spray an additional citric acid solution when scrubbing.

        Dishwashing soap can clean the tub quickly without waiting time, though it is better to leave it for a while so that the dirt comes off more effortlessly.

        To clean a sink, spray a citric acid solution or dishwashing soap. Leave it for 15 minutes and scrub.

        Advertising

        For stubborn stains, spray vinegar or a strong citric acid solution (2 ½ teaspoon of citric acid and 1 cup of water) over the stain, and lay a paper towel over it. Spray the solution again over the paper towel, and cover the area with plastic wrap to keep from drying. Leave it for several hours before scraping off the stain.

        8. Wipe Away Soap Scum on Glass Shower Doors with Melamine Sponges and Citric Acid

        Without too much effort, you can restore a murky glass shower door to a translucent door!

        Spray a citric acid solution (1-2 ½ teaspoons of citric acid and 1 cup of water) on shower doors, leave it for several minutes, and rub it off with a melamine sponge. Soap scum comes off effortlessly. Wipe away the scum on the surface with a microfiber cloth or a paper towel. You may need to repeat this process a few times until you no longer see white streaks on the door surface.

        9. Destroy Calcium and Lime Deposits on Faucets with Vinegar

        The spout head of a faucet can easily get stains from buildup of hard water minerals. A vinegar pack serves well to remove this. Pour a small amount of vinegar into a fold-top sandwich bag. Wrap it around a faucet’s spout head, soaking the stain in vinegar, and fix it with a rubber band. Leave it for several hours before scraping away the stain.

        To restore the shine on the faucet body and handle, water residue can be wiped away with a dry microfiber cloth or a paper towel moistened with a vinegar or citric acid solution.

        10. Kill Mold and Mildew with Hydrogen Peroxide or Vinegar, and Prevent the Regrowth with Tee Tree Oil

        To get rid of mold and mildew, spray hydrogen peroxide (3 percent), and leave it for 10-20 minutes. Wipe off, and allow the surface to dry completely. Alternatively, vinegar works too. Leave it for one hour before wiping. (Caution: Don’t mix vinegar and hydrogen peroxide as it may produce a harmful acid.)

        To prevent mold and mildew spores from growing, spray a tea tree oil solution (1 teaspoon of tea tree essential oil and 1 cup of water). Do not wipe away, and let it dry.

        11. Unclog Drains with Baking Soda and Vinegar

        To unclog the drain, pour a mixture of ½ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of vinegar into the drain. Leave it for 15 minutes, and pour hot water.

        Kitchen

        5-3186998166_d89571a77a_o_kitchen-by-ryan-boren_flicker_edit_770x511
          Kitchen by Ryan Boren via Flickr

          12. Clean Tableware with Melamine Sponges or Biodegradable Soap

          A melamine sponge with a little water easily cleans tough stains and rust on porcelain, silverware, knives, and plastic with a non-glossy surface.

          To remove grease, use a small amount of dishwashing soap (¾-2 teaspoons of Sal Suds and 1 cup of water, for example). In most cases, hot water with a cellulose sponge or melamine sponge does a sufficient job when cleaning non-greasy, non-smelly tableware by hand, thereby also saving water.

          Cellulose sponges are biodegradable and mostly made from plants such as wood pulp and cotton fiber.

          Advertising

          13. Let Stainless Steel Cookware Glitter with Vinegar or Citric Acid and Melamine Sponges

          You can restore the shine of cloudy stains inside stainless steel saucepans in 10 minutes.

          Pour or generously spray vinegar or a strong citric acid solution (2 ½ teaspoons of citric acid and 1 cup of water) over the stain, leave it for 5-10 minutes, and gently rub it with a melamine sponge. Don’t scrub too hard as doing so can scratch the surface. Also, don’t use a melamine sponge on a glossy surface of stainless steel.

          14. Remove Heavy Stains on Ovens and Stove Drip Pans with Baking Soda and Vinegar

          To clean brownish buildup stains on stove drip pans, make a paste with baking soda and vinegar, and apply the paste on stains. In order to keep moisture, put each drip pan into a plastic bag separately. Leave it overnight, and scrape off the paste. For inside the oven, cover the area with a plastic wrap after applying the paste.

          15. Get Rid of Fruit Wax with Vinegar

          To remove wax on fruits or vegetables, put them into an extra-mild vinegar solution (1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 quart of water) for 10-20 minutes. Alternatively, rub non-porous fruit or vegetable with a scouring pad moistened with vinegar. Personally, I also wash them with hot water.

          16. Eliminate Fishy Odor with Lemon Rind or Vinegar

          To remove an odor like a fish smell on the tableware or on your hands, rub them with inside of the leftover lemon rind. Otherwise, soak the tableware in a vinegar solution. Dishwashing soap works as well.

          17. Wipe off Sticker Residue with Melamine Sponges or Orange Essential Oil

          Sometimes you may want to recycle a nice container that has a sticker and date stamp on it. To remove sticker residue, a melamine sponge or a cloth with a few drops of orange essential oil will do wonders. For tough sticker residue on a glass container, fine steel wool works too.

          A melamine sponge also removes a date stamp on a container, though it can scratch and haze plastic or metal surface. Rubbing alcohol also works on a glass container. Having said that, acetone (nail polish remover) works most effortlessly to remove a date stamp on most materials, but use it sparingly as it is toxic with a large amount.

          Living Room

          6-my-living-room-by-samantha-villagran-1233805_freeimages_edit_770x513
            My living room by Samantha Villagran via Freeimages

            18. Restore White Keyboards and Computer Surfaces with Melamine Sponges

            Melamine sponges easily clean finger marks and stains on white keyboards and computers. Years-long stains on my old white MacBook effortlessly wiped out in a few minutes. Gently rub the surface with a slightly moistened melamine sponge.

            19. Polish Wooden Furniture with Olive Oil and Lemon Juice

            You can polish varnished wooden furniture with an equal part of olive oil (or vegetable oil) and lemon juice (or vinegar).

            20. Disinfect Air-Conditioning Filters with Vinegar

            To keep indoor air fresh, it is recommended to clean air-conditioning filters every two weeks. (I know it is just an ideal.) Vinegar disinfects the filters. After vacuuming an air-conditioning filter, soak it in a solution of an equal part of vinegar and lukewarm water for 1-4 hours. A large sink may fit to do this job. Don’t rinse the filter; let it dry naturally.

            The Last Resort

            7-pumice-stone_via-popsugar_crop_770x530
              Pumice Stone via Popsugar

              21. Erase Extremely Tough Stains with Pumice Stone or Sandpaper

              When anything else didn’t work in removing an extremely stubborn stain, scraping it off with pumice stone or fine sandpaper could be a solution for non-glossy or unvarnished surfaces. Good luck!

              Related: 50 Cleaning Hacks for Your Home That Will Make Your Life Easier 

              Featured photo credit: Baking soda vinegar and lemon on the white background by Focal point via shutterstock.com

              More by this author

              21 Homemade Cleaner Tips That Actually Work Better Than Commercial Cleaners

              Trending in DIY

              1 11 Killer Ways To Get Rid Of Roaches Without Harming You 2 12 Quick And Safe Ways To Get Rid Of A Stye 3 Complete Guide To Getting Rid Of Flies In The House 4 Bedroom Makeover 101: Enhancing The Most Important Place In Your Home 5 7 Effective Ways To A Happy And Healthier Home You Probably Never Knew

              Read Next

              Advertising
              Advertising
              Advertising

              Last Updated on March 13, 2019

              How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

              How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

              Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

              You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

              Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

              1. Work on the small tasks.

              When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

              Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

              2. Take a break from your work desk.

              Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

              Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

              Advertising

              3. Upgrade yourself

              Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

              The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

              4. Talk to a friend.

              Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

              Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

              5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

              If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

              Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

              Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

              Advertising

              6. Paint a vision to work towards.

              If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

              Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

              Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

              7. Read a book (or blog).

              The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

              Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

              Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

              8. Have a quick nap.

              If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

              Advertising

              9. Remember why you are doing this.

              Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

              What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

              10. Find some competition.

              Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

              Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

              11. Go exercise.

              Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

              Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

              As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

              Advertising

              Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

              12. Take a good break.

              Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

              Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

              Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

              Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

              More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

              Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

              Read Next