Sustainable Ingredients for DIY Household Cleaners

One of the first things we re-evaluate in our homes when we start our sustainable journey is our cleaning products.  There are new brands everyday in the sustainable market but I think we need to take a moment to consider the oldie but goodies.  There are natural, cheap and very accessible cleaning ingredients that you can purchase in bulk.

I love this idea because there are so many cases where it feels like it is more expensive to replace my normal low cost products with a sustainable product. I’ve wondered in the past if living sustainably or eco-friendly is a privilege that is afforded to those of us who can afford it. Honestly, that is a whole other problem to digest.

I’m not knocking innovation. Engineering still flows through our blood and innovation is a key part of that. However, I am always sensitive and aware of providing great recommendations to everyone, regardless of means. Also, I’m cheap. I’m always looking for things that check both boxes of frugal and sustainable. You’d probably be surprised how often you can be both! At the end of the day most everyone can make changes to our lifestyle to help leave to world better than we received it.

What are my staple ingredients for and what do I use them for?


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  • Castile soap – Soap making of course.  I regularly make my own hand soap and this is my main ingredient!  You can purchase in bulk with no added ingredients or scent.  Dilute it down to your preferred consistency.  You can also use castile soap to make shampoo, body wash, and liquid laundry detergent.  I’ll also add it to a bottle with essential oils and water to have a countertop and hard floor cleaner.
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  • Baking soda – Talk about a multi-tasker, this guy is great for killing odors.  Besides keeping it in the fridge for odor control, I use it to keep my rug smelling fresh between carpet cleanings.  It’s used in laundry and dish detergent recipes, as well as bathroom cleaners. It is absolutely amazing as a mild abrasive.  I recently cleaned a stovetop with YEARS of baked on gunk using hot water and baking soda.  I had tried everything including (gasp) oven cleaner, and nothing worked.  Bring in the baking soda and presto; I was honestly pretty shocked. Try not to judge me too much with the oven cleaner. We all have our shameful moments.
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  • Vinegar – It’s another heavy hitter in the natural cleaners world. I’ve switched exclusively to vinegar as a fabric softener and and a JetDry replacement in the dishwasher. There’s no lingering smell of vinegar and I absolutely do not regret the switch. In fact, if you’ve ever forgotten about a load of laundry in the washer, don’t fret, a half cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle will make all right in the world. Vinegar is a great general cleaner for your countertops and hard floors but the only downside is the smell.  You can add essential oils, citrus peels or lemon juice to mellow the smell if it is just too strong for you.  It’s a wonder for hard water deposits and water spots in the shower. The uses go on and on. STOP buying all those chemicals!

  • Essential Oils – Add to any of the above ingredients to add pleasant scents to your cleaning products.  I love tea tree oil, lemon, orange, and spicy cinnamon blends for their crud cutting properties as well.  You’re not going to get a better-quality scented product, it’s easy to make and a few drops go a very long way.  Be sure to find a good quality natural essential oil brand.  I’ve used essential oils for over a decade for everything from cleaning, diffusing, homemade lotions, and beauty products. I’m extremely picky about what I use and I’m very cost conscious. I’m in LOVE with Plant Therapy, Rocky Mountain Oils, and Rose Mountain Herbs. I just don’t think you can beat the cost and quality but feel free to prove me wrong! Do your research but absolutely avoid the grocery store fragrance brands.
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  • Steamer/Hot Water – Sometimes we overlook the obvious but I’ve used a steam mop on our wood and tile floors for years.  It does a great job of cleaning and disinfecting.  The mop head is washable, so I’m just cleaning with good old H2O.  I’ll use hot water on stubborn stuck on messes paired with some baking soda.
Image by Frank Habel from Pixabay

  • Borax – This one is controversial. I can’t in good conscious say it is fully sustainable because of the mining practices. If you are looking for good DIY ingredients for dry laundry detergent or dishwasher detergent, you’re going to be hard pressed to avoid this ingredient. I’m keeping it on my list because I still use it in moderation and the 20 Mule Team Borax has been lauded as the cleanest borax mine in the world, BUT it is a personal call.

So my point is just because these ingredients are (for the most part) super cheap and accessible, it doesn’t mean they are sub-par.  I switched to largely using my own cleaning products about five years ago and haven’t looked back.  It’s not as intimidating as you would think.  You can whip up most things you need in minutes and it’s also septic safe

If you’re feeling feisty, start trying out your own recipes.  My only caution is to try test patches to make sure you don’t damage any finishes in your home.  I’ve had no issue using these ingredients on pretty much everything in my house but I’m cautious with our wood floors and natural stone.

If you want to try some natural cleaner recipes but aren’t feeling the experimental vibe, check out some recipes for my favorite cleaners and feel free to adjust and explore to find the right recipes that work for you!

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