Picture of Clean Green
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....
radokapi5 years ago
Thanks for the information on 2 butoxyethanol. 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.
belsey (author)  radokapi5 years ago
 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.
radokapi belsey5 years ago
Good! Cause I'm having a hard time sourcing lecithin! :P
satoko68 radokapi2 months ago
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 :-)
aj349976 months ago

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 "Denatured Alcohol". It should work just as well, and I'm 99.99% sure it's cheaper.

belsey (author)  aj349976 months ago
That's a good tip, thanks!
satoko68 belsey2 months ago
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 & 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 & can be added to difusers, bath salts, air deodorizers, facial products, laundry loads & cleaners.
tmoney4381 year ago
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
aj34997 tmoney4386 months ago

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.

belsey (author)  tmoney4381 year ago
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...
aj349976 months ago

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.

belsey (author)  aj349976 months ago
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.
Window Cleaner11 months ago

Love it, works well.

Frederbee2 years ago
I just want to let you know that I would definitely buy any book with these recipes; they're wonderful.
swu32 years ago
Love your tips. Thank you so much for the recipes.

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.
belsey (author)  swu32 years ago
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 "iron" it out, slowly (in a day or two).
sn0re4 years ago
Is Borax the same thing as washing soda? Can I use it in the recipe?
sn0re sn0re4 years ago
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?
mguer133 sn0re4 years ago
Be very carefull using Borax, it's toxic...
belsey (author)  mguer1334 years ago
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.
belsey (author)  sn0re4 years ago
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.
sn0re belsey4 years ago
Thank you! I eventually found some washing soda at Whole Foods and I'm trying out your recipe! Works great! Thanks for the instructable.
billgates274 years ago
Do you have to use crumpled newspaper? Can you use a rag or a sponge, etc?
belsey (author)  billgates274 years ago
I don't know about a sponge, but I've used both a cotton rag and paper towel and they work fine.
zidakano4 years ago
just be careful to not spray any ammonia based cleaner on tinted windows
belsey (author)  zidakano4 years ago
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.
leemck5 years ago
Your materials list says "baking powder". I think you mean "baking soda", yes?
belsey (author)  leemck5 years ago
Absolutely right. It should be baking soda. Thanks for catching that, I updated the instructable and fixed the mistake.
vfavia6 years ago
It's just a grand'ma recepie, not an innovation!!! even it's green!
belsey (author)  vfavia6 years ago
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.
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.

Is that good or bad for us?
belsey (author)  Rock Soldier6 years ago
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...
bpfh belsey6 years ago
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!
belsey (author)  bpfh6 years ago
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.
spydyr belsey6 years ago
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?)
belsey (author)  spydyr6 years ago
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...)
iPodGuy6 years ago
belsey (author)  iPodGuy6 years ago
I like your pesticide too.