What You'll Need
Baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate) A deodorizer and gentle scrub; softens hard water, removes acidic stains, and polishes shiny surfaces like stainless steel without scratching.
Distilled white vinegar A deodorizer, disinfectant, mild acid, and preservĂ‚Âative; breaks up dirt, grease, mineral deposits, mold, and soap scum.
Essential oils Aromatic plant oils; some, including eucalyptus, lavender, and tea tree, are natural disinfecĂ‚Âtants and antifungals. Pure essential oils can irritate eyes and skin upon contact, so handle carefully. Pregnant women should consult a health-care practitioner before using. Available from mountainroseherbs.com and natural foods stores.
Lemon A deodorizer, stain remover, and grease cutter; acts as a mild bleach when exposed to sunlight.
Olive oil A natural oil that helps to nourish and polish wood.
Plant-based liquid soap Gentle soap made with oils such as olive ("Castile soap"), palm, and coconut, rather than petroleum derivatives or animal fat. Available from natural foods stores and drbronner.com.
1/2 cup baking soda
Plant-based liquid soap
1/2 of a lemon
Pour baking soda into a bowl. Add just enough liquid soap to make a creamy paste. Spread mixture on the flat side of lemon and scrub. The lemon acts as a sponge and leaves a natural citrus scent. Use a damp rag or sponge to wipe away any residue. You'll find the paste will stay moist for a few hours.
Helpful Hint To save leftover scrub, add in a few drops of vegetable glycerin (a thick, clear syrup derived from plant oils, available from mountainroseherbs.com) and seal in a glass jar.
1/2 teaspoon Castile or plant-based liquid soap
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
Pour all ingredients into a spray bottle and shake. Spray onto window and wipe clean with newspaper or a 100 percent cotton cloth.
Helpful Hint The liquid soap included in this recipe helps remove any streak-causing wax left on the window from commercial cleaners used in the past. You can eliminate the soap after a few washings. Safety note: Always be careful to label containers of homemade cleaners intended for storage and keep them well out of the reach of children.
1/8 cup plant-based liquid soap
1/8 cup distilled white vinegar
1 gallon water
10 drops essential oil (scent of your choice)
Mix all ingredients in a bucket and mop as usual.
Helpful Hint For ceramic and stone floors, eliminate soap (which leaves a film) and use 1/4 cup of vinegar with 1 gallon of water. Don't use water on unsealed wood floors. Instead, combine 2 cups of vinegar with 1 tablespoon of olive or jojoba oil in a bucket. Spread a thin coat over the floor with a mop or soft cloth. Let it soak in for 20 minutes; dry mop to absorb excess liquid. Open windows to air out the vinegar smell.
2 cups distilled white vinegar
Pour vinegar into a spray bottle and spray on infected area. The smell will dissipate in a few hours (open a window to speed up the process).
Helpful Hint For areas with persistent mold problems, use tea tree oil instead of vinegar, combining 2 drops of tea tree oil with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle. A natural antiseptic and fungicide, tea tree oil costs more than vinegar but will kill most types of mold and help prevent new growth. kristen pakonis is a freelance writer with a master's degree in environmental education. She lives in San Francisco.
Text by Kristen Pakonis