Making your own cleaning supplies is very easy, quick, cheap, and green. You will be reusing spray bottles which would have gone to waste, you will be reducing your carbon footprint by avoiding transporting water, and you will avoid polluting streams and lakes with phosphates, and the air of your house with strong, unpleasant fragrance and pernicious chemicals.

One of those chemicals is called 2 butoxyethanol, which is present in most commercial cleaning products, in quantities too small to be listed on the labels. However even at those concentrations it has been shown to be absorbed easily through the skin both from contact and vapors. It is carcinogenic, it affects the kidneys and reproductive health (and if female reproductive health isn't visual enough think "testicular atrophy"). Have I convinced you? DIY!

Some people swear by using a solution of 50/50 water and vinegar for just about everything. Not only am I not too fond of the smell, but I don't think it works very well either. I tested various recipes I found on the web and finally came up with my own. The first one is great at dissolving grease and is perfectly safe to use on food preparation surfaces: the alcohol evaporates and the only other inedible ingredient it contains is soap, but there is so little of it the spray can be used without the need to rinse. The second can be used to clean your oven (without killing your braincells or endangering your unborn child) AND your toilet. I like using the glass cleaner for ceramic sinks as well as glass and mirrors. The dishwasher detergent can also be used as a scrubbing powder with bleaching power (and without the harmful vapors). Finally the spray for your shower curtains can double as a fruit and vegetable cleaner.

I mentioned this is cheap and it is: however buying all the ingredients the first time you make these will cost more than a single spray bottle of all purpose cleaner. This will be a considerable long term savings, as you can make many many batches with your supplies.

One last word of caution: always label the bottles properly and include a list of the ingredients. These are perfectly safe to use as directed, and they're definitely less toxic than most commercial cleaners but in case of accidental ingestion you still need to be able to tell the poison control center what the product contains. It's a lot easier to check the bottle rather than look up this instructable while your kid is vomiting and 911 is on the line....

Step 1: Spray for food preparation surfaces

DIY cleaners (or their commercial green counterparts) have the reputation of not working as well as the hard core heavy duty eco-unfriendly brands. I would say this recipe works better than the Seventh Generation brand but it does require a bit (just a tiny bit) more scrubbing than Fantastic.


1/4 tsp citrus essential oil (orange is my favorite, but any citrus will do)
1 drop (or one gell) of soy lecithin (optional)
1 tbsp rubbing alcohol (optional)
2 tsp citric acid (or 1 1/2 cup distilled vinegar)
2 tbsp liquid castille soap

One empty, clean, 32 oz spray bottle with the label removed.

Whisk together essential oil, lecithin and alcohol in a small bowl. Add citric acid and, if necessary, enough hot water to dissolve the citric acid (alt. instead of citric acid, add vinegar). Mix in the liquid castille soap.
Pour all ingredients into an empty 32 oz spray bottle. Fill bottle to top with warm water and shake vigorously.

Shake the bottle before each use, spray the surface generously and allow it to sit for a few minutes before wiping it off. Most dried-out, encrusted food spill will come right off without any effort.

UPDATE: Since I published this instructable a year ago my recipe has changed a bit. This version is quicker to make and cheaper. The results are just as good.

2 tbsp scented liquid castille soap (so I can omit essential oils)
2 tsp washing soda
1 tsp citric acid
1 drop soy lecithin (OPTIONAL -- it makes the counters silky smooth but don't buy it just for this)
tap water to fill a 32oz spray bottle.

Pour washing soda and optional lecithin directly into your spray bottle, and fill half way up with hot tap water. Close it, shake it, allow the soda to dissolve. Then add liquid castille soap and swish it around gently to combine it without creating an eruption of bubbles. In a separate container mix your citric acid with a cup of hot tap water till it dissolves. You COULD put the citric acid in your spray bottle directly, but then you can expect your mixture to foam up, as the washing soda reacts with the acid, and the soap may turn white and gooey. Even when you dilute the citric acid first, you'll get some bubbling action, but the reaction will be muted. Once things have settled down, add enough cold tap water to top off your spray bottle. You're done.

For problem spots like red wine stains on white formica surfaces, mix together 1 part citric acid with 2 parts baking soda. Sprinkle over the stain, mist with this cleaner (or even plain water) till the powder fizzes, let sit a few minutes and scrub it off.

Notes on ingredients:
I prefer citric acid rather than vinegar because it has no smell and has the same effect: it treats the water, enhancing the performance of the soap and preventing white mineral deposits and streaks. Citric acid is a bit harder to find: in Brooklyn Sahadi's carries it but they call it lemon salt. Kosher grocery stores call it sour salt. Brewing and soapmaking supply stores carry it, and it will cost less there than in grocery stores. If you use distilled water rather than plain old tap water you can skip both the vinegar and the citric acid.

The purpose of the lecithin is to disperse the essential oil in the water -- but is also enhances the performance of the cleaner. Don't ask me why, I don't know. But I tried it with and without, and including lecithin made the cleaner perform better. Plus it makes my Paperstone counters feel silky smooth.

The alcohol's purpose is also to help disperse the oil -- at this concentration it's not going to disinfect anything.

Use liquid castille soap (such as Dr. Bronner's, available at Trader Joe's or at the Vitamin Shop) rather than regular liquid dishwashing soap if you're interested in avoiding the chemicals I mentioned in the intro. Another option is to grate two tablespoons worth of soap off a bar such as Ivory and dissolve it in boiling water.

The citrus essential oil helps dissolve grease -- in addition to making everything smell great. If you like you can combine different oils. Rosemary, for example, is reputed to have antiseptic properties which might be useful in a cleaner.

Updated ingredients:
Washing soda is sodium carbonate, which is more alkaline than sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda). Including it makes the spray more alkaline, which improves its cleaning potential (more of the splatters in kitchen are acidic -- tomatoes, wine, etc). By including washing soda I no longer need expensive essential oils or the rubbing alcohol. Reducing the number of ingredients also makes the spray faster to make... In NYC washing soda in in the laundry aisle of practically any supermarket. I've heard it can also be found in pool supply stores, sold as "soda ash."

Thanks for the information on <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2-Butoxyethanol" rel="nofollow">2 butoxyethanol</a>. I had no idea. I've put together a list of things I need to buy to make these cleaning products and I'll be making them right after I go grocery shopping next.<br /> Cheers!<br />
&nbsp;I'm glad you'll try it -- it's super easy and cheap. But I've experimented more, and although sometimes I still include lecithin, I wouldn't bother if I didn't have it on hand -- in other words, it will work just fine without it, don't buy lecithin just for this purpose.
Good!&nbsp;Cause I'm having a hard time sourcing lecithin!&nbsp;:P<br />
Check health food stores or soap making supply shops online. I found mine in the form of granules in a local health food store, a 500 gram bag, for under $10. Works great as an emulsifier in natural body care products, add the granules to smoothies etc, so it's very much a multiuse product. Worth having on hand :-)
<p>For your window cleaning recipe one of the ingredients is rubbing alcohol. If you go to a store that sells paint supplies there is a solvent/cleaning product called &quot;Denatured Alcohol&quot;. It should work just as well, and I'm 99.99% sure it's cheaper.</p>
That's a good tip, thanks!
Another tip: denatured alcohol is very toxic. It's poisoned - or 'denatured' - to prevent people from drinking it. I personally wouldn't add it to a 'green' cleaner. I also make my own cleaners &amp; buy my essential oils in bulk from specific suppliers. Some oils, such as orange dark, are very cheap. I buy the stuff by the liter as it's multipurpose &amp; can be added to difusers, bath salts, air deodorizers, facial products, laundry loads &amp; cleaners.
I love that your spreading these recipes. One thing I would like to say about the all purpose cleaner or and cleaners that contain Castile soap (or baking soda) and an acid (citric acid, vinegar, lemon juice). These should not be mixed, not because it's dangerous, but because it cancels the cleaning power. They are effective because they are acidic or basious (if that's a word). When you mix them you get something in between. Here's and article that explains it better. http://lisa.drbronner.com/?p=292
<p>i get what you are saying. One would think that combining an alchelid and acid would cancel each other out, wouldn't you? But, in fact if you have a blocked or slow moving drain a common recipe is to pour baking soda down the drain followed by vinegar, which is mostly acetic acid, it will create a chemical reaction resulting in foaming and bubbling. It's safe, it only creates carbon dioxide. Which the plant life loves. Bottom line, it depends on what you are combining.</p>
I'll check out the article (a little rushed right now) but I do want to say that pretty much all cleaners combine basic and acidic ingredients -- but that doesn't mean the end result is neutral! It all depends on the quantity and pH of the various ingredients you're using. Some cleaners such as glass cleaners) you want to be acidic, others, (like all-purpose sprays) are better if they're a bit basic. Not TOO basic mind you, or you'll harm painted surfaces, for example. Just the right pH... hence mixing acids and bases to get just the right combination...
<p>On your recipe that uses lecithin. On a side note for your readers, lecithin is a fat emulsifier. It keeps fat/grease type substances from solidifying. If anyone wants to know where to find it, any health food store should have it. It's a common product.</p>
An emulsifier doesn't keep fat/grease from solidifying, it keeps fat/oil from separating from water. Health food stores do carry it, but usually as a food supplement enclosed in a gel pill, which can work if you need just a little but it gets to be a pain if you want to use more.
<p>Love it, works well.</p>
I just want to let you know that I would definitely buy any book with these recipes; they're wonderful.
Love your tips. Thank you so much for the recipes. <br> <br>To clean a plastic shower curtain, I have successfully washed it in the machine, with a white bath towel and a little bleach and soap. If it gets too wrinkly on the spin, (use gentle cycle to avoid this), throw in the dryer for a few minutes, and hang immediately. Looks like new, and mine lasted 5 years that way.
Sounds like a good idea, I'll try that, though I might not dare put it in the drier: if it's wrinkly, hanging it will &quot;iron&quot; it out, slowly (in a day or two).
Is Borax the same thing as washing soda? Can I use it in the recipe?
After some research, it would appear that Borax is not washing soda. Or did you think I was too stupid to know what a eugoogooly was?
Be very carefull using Borax, it's toxic...<br>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borax
Perhaps I should specify in the instructions that this and other cleaning products should not be eaten or drunk... Borax is perfectly safe to handle, but yes, you should avoid eating it. That said, if a drop of mixture containing borax touches your lips, there's no need to panic and rush off to the emergency room. It would take a full teaspoonful of the stuff to kill an average adult -- so you'd need to drink an awful lot of foul tasting cleaner to get sick.... An interesting aside: boric acid, used to kill ants and cockroaches, is just about as toxic as salt for people -- it take the same amount of boric acid as salt to kill a person.
No, sorry I didn't answer, I didn't see your first question. And now it's too late to answer. However, borax is often used in DYI (and some commercial) products too, so you're not that far off. And if you don't have washing soda you can make it by baking sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda). You can also experiment with baking soda instead of washing soda, but when I tried that the resulting spray left a little grainy residue on the surfaces after they were cleaned.
Thank you! I eventually found some washing soda at Whole Foods and I'm trying out your recipe! Works great! Thanks for the instructable.
Do you have to use crumpled newspaper? Can you use a rag or a sponge, etc?
I don't know about a sponge, but I've used both a cotton rag and paper towel and they work fine.
just be careful to not spray any ammonia based cleaner on tinted windows
Thanks for the tip! I'd never heard of that, and I don't remember ever seeing any such warnings on commercial cleaners with ammonia, so it's good to know.
Your materials list says &quot;baking powder&quot;. I think you mean &quot;baking soda&quot;, yes?
Absolutely right. It should be baking soda. Thanks for catching that, I updated the instructable and fixed the mistake.
It's just a grand'ma recepie, not an innovation!!! even it's green!
Absolutely right. Making your own cleaning supplies IS something grandma (or rather, great grandma) used to do, but it's something marketers have tried to make us forget -- for good reason. I calculated the cost of the all purpose cleaner to be 64 cents vs. $2.60 and up for commercial cleaners which foul up your air. Meanwhile the shower spray costs 36 cents vs up to $7.50! Those are profit margins chemical companies are loath to give up, so they try to make you think it's impossible.
<em>calculated the cost of the all purpose cleaner to be 64 cents vs. $2.60 and up for commercial cleaners which foul up your air. Meanwhile the shower spray costs 36 cents vs up to $7.50! Those are profit margins chemical companies are loath to give up, so they try to make you think it's impossible.</em><br/><br/>Is that good or bad for us?<br/>
It's bad if they fool us into thinking we can't do it ourselves... It's good because the high prices make it worth the time and effort to make our own...
Grandma still has a lot of secrets up her sleeves.... she may have taken time to make her cleaner but darn it it was cheap. Today, we have forgotten this and pay through the nose to save time. I used to buy this stuff to clean my car & bike but at 6 euros a spraycan ($8.50ish), i'm trying your version!
To clean a car or a bike I would probably put a bit more alcohol than I have in the all purpose recipe, and omit the lecithin.
Using my own calculations it costs me approx 70 cent to make 1.00 worth of cleaner. Thats still 1 quarter. They add up quickly. Even if i take into consideration I have my go to the store on discount day and pick up the 1.00 bottle for me... thats still .70 vs .90. I definetely give you the thumbs up for the recipes. BTW if you take that borax and mix it into light corn syrup or even Mint flavored Jelly you can make an Ant Killer that is compareable to Tarro bait.(Spelling?)
Yes, the actual cost varies depending on how much you pay for your ingredients. I would imagine that a borax/sugar jelly would work for ants, but I like to use diatomaceous earth better (food grade is much safer for people and just as lethal for insects). It's not poisonous (it kills them by cutting them up and dehydrating them) so they don't build up immunity and toddlers and pets don't risk accidental poisoning (my dog loves to chew on ant baits whenever he can find them...)
I like your pesticide too.

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Bio: I am a paper engineer, writer, maker and chemist wannabe. In addition to pop-up cards I design and build furniture, lights, costumes or whatever I ... More »
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