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 Websites to Sell Used Stuff Profitably

              Read Next

              Advertising
              Advertising
              Advertising

              Last Updated on September 16, 2019

              How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

              How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

              You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

              We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

              The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

              Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

              1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

              Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

              For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

              Advertising

              • (1) Research
              • (2) Deciding the topic
              • (3) Creating the outline
              • (4) Drafting the content
              • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
              • (6) Revision
              • (7) etc.

              Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

              2. Change Your Environment

              Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

              One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

              3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

              Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

              Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

              My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

              Advertising

              Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

              4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

              If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

              Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

              I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

              5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

              I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

              Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

              Advertising

              As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

              6. Get a Buddy

              Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

              I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

              7. Tell Others About Your Goals

              This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

              For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

              8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

              What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

              Advertising

              9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

              If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

              Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

              10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

              Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

              Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

              11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

              At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

              Reality check:

              I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

              More About Procrastination

              Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

              Read Next