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Clean and Green Homemade Cleaners

DIY green cleaners are not recommended for disinfecting against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection.

Find EPA-approved disinfectants here.

Homemade cleaners are a great alternative to store-bought chemicals. They are less likely to cause harm or irritation, they are environmentally friendly, easy to make, and you know what is in them! You can also control the strength of the cleaners as you control the ingredients.

Though can find "green" cleaning products in the store, they may still contain harsh irritants. Check out our simple and affordable green cleaning recipes below!

DIY All Purpose Cleaner recipe safe for water systems

DIY All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe

  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 12-20 drops essential oil
  • 1 tsp castile or phosphorous-free dish soap or washing soda
  • 2 cups boiled or distilled water
  1. Fill cleaning spray bottle with 2-4 cups (see below for variations on this recipe based on strength desired) distilled or boiled (cooled) water.
  2. Add all other ingredients. Shake well.

What should I know before getting started?

  1. Though green cleaners are gentler on us and the earth, they should not be consumed.
  2. Microfiber towels can save a lot of time with simple tasks like dusting.
  3. Hot water will clean much better than cold water.
  4. Always start with as mild a cleaner as you can. If it doesn't work even after applying some elbow grease and letting it sit, try a stronger cleaner.
  5. Know the different types of cleaners because that will help you make a cleaner.

What are the different types of cleaners used for?


  • Good for removing dirt, fat, and grease.
  • Conventional Cleaner: all purpose cleaner, oven cleaner
  • Alternatives: Baking soda (mild), Borax (moderate), Washing soda (strong)


  • Breaks things down like rust, mineral deposits, hard water stains. Good for glass, windows, brass, copper, tiles, and mold.
  • Conventional Cleaner: toilet bowl cleaner, tub and tile cleaner, mold solutions
  • Alternatives: vinegar, lemon juice


  • Good for removing dirt, fat, and grease.
  • Conventional Cleaners: laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, cleansers
  • Alternatives: washing soda/borax, soap nuts/granules, vegetable coconut oils


  • Aka “Cleansers.” Wears off dirt by rubbing. Found in powders & scouring pads. Can scratch surfaces.
  • Conventional Cleaners: scouring pads, steel wool
  • Alternatives: baking soda or salt, borax/washing soda, mesh pads

Bleach and Sanitizers

  •  Whitens. Removes stains. Disinfects or reduces numbers of bacteria. "Sanitizers." Helps areas smell better.
  • Conventional Cleaners: most common household product is chlorine bleach.
  • Alternatives: sunlight/citrus, hydrogen peroxide, borax or vinegar, tea tree and lavender oils

Air Fresheners

  •  Helps the air smell better
  • Conventional Cleaners: plug-ins and sprays
  • Alternatives: open windows, essential oils, lemon or lime juice, simmer spices on stove, baking soda 

What about Ammonia and Bleach?

Ammonia and bleach are inexpensive and effective at cleaning and disinfecting. They can be used sparingly and diluted as a last resort in household recipes. However, NEVER mix ammonia and bleach together! (i.e., spraying shower with bleach and glass cleaner (ammonia) on mirror) Mixing these chemicals together can produce highly toxic fumes. A few more safety tips:

  • Chemicals can lose their effectiveness. Don’t mix more than you will use.
  • If you mix any chemicals together, do so in a well-ventilated area.
  • Label mixed solutions carefully and keep out of reach of children or near food.
  • Never mix in food containers.
  • Store original chemicals in original containers.
  • Never mix bleach with anything but water. Mixing with other chemicals may cause toxic fumes

What are some simple green cleaner recipes?

  • Recipe 1 (Mild)
    - 1⁄2 cup vinegar
    - 1⁄4 cup baking soda
    - 1⁄2 gallon hot water
    Mix ingredients in spray bottle. For very light jobs, you can also just use baking soda with water or 1 ⁄2 cup vinegar with 1 quart water.

  • Recipe 2 (Moderate)
    - 2 Tbsp borax
    - 1/4 cup vinegar
    - 2 cups hot water
    Mix borax and vinegar with water in spray bottle.
  • Recipe 3 (Strong)*
    - 3 Tbsp white vinegar
    - 1/2 tsp washing soda
    - 1/2 tsp castile soap
    - 2 cups hot water
    Mix ingredients in spray bottle. Apply and wipe clean. This is an extra-strength recipe and works well as a disinfectant.

  • Recipe 1
    - 3 Tbsp vinegar
    - 1 quart water
    Mix ingredients in spray bottle. For a stronger solution, mix half and half vinegar and water.

  • Recipe 2*
    - 1/4 cup vinegar
    - 1 Tbsp corn starch
    - 1 quart warm water
    Mix ingredients in spray bottle.

  • Recipe 3
    - 3 Tbsp vinegar
    - 2 cups water
    - 1/4 to 1/2 tsp liquid detergent
    Mix ingredients in spray bottle, shake up. Good for especially dirty windows.

Tip: Newspapers leaves a streak-free shine!

  • Recipe 1 (Mild)
    - 1/4 cup baking soda
    - 1 cup vinegar
    Mix ingredients and pour into basin, allowing to sit for 3 - 30 minutes, Scrub with brush and rinse.

  • Recipe 2 (Moderate)
    - 1/2 cup borax
    - 1 gallon hot water
    Mix solution and scrub basin. Borax helps get rid of stains better than baking soda.

  • Recipe 3 (Strong)*
    - 1 cup borax
    - 1/2 cup vinegar
    Sprinkle borax around basin and spray with vinegar. Leave overnight. Then scrub with brush. This cleaner is extra strength.

  • Recipe 1
    - 3 cups hot water
    - 1/2 cup vinegar
    - 1/4 cup castile soap
    - 1 tsp borax
    - 1 tsp tea tree oil
    - 1/2 tsp essential oil (optional)
    Mix ingredients in spray bottle and shake gently. Spray and wipe.

  • Recipe 2*
    - 1/2 cup vinegar
    - 1/2 cup borax
    Mix with water and spray.

  • For Tough Stains
    - 1/4 cup of bleach per 1 quart water
    Spray, let sit for 15 minutes before rinsing.

  • For Mold
    Use a stiff brush with castile soap and baking soda and scrub. Make sure to wear a mask and gloves because mold spores can be inhaled.

  • Wood Floors
    -1 cup vinegar per pail of water
    - 2 Tbsp olive/vegetable oil
    - 2 Tbsp vinegar
    - 1/4 cup lemon juice
    Mix together, spray, and mop.

  • Linoleum/No Wax Floors*
    - 1/4 cup washing soda
    - 1 Tbsp castile soap
    - 1/4 cup to 1 cup vinegar
    - 2 gallons hot water
    Mix washing soda with water before the rest of the ingredients. For extra polish, add 6 tablespoons cornstarch per cup of water.

  • Laminate Floors*
    - 1/2 cup white vinegar
    - 1 gallon warm water
    Mix ingredients. Don't over wet floors. Instead, apply with spray bottle. Mop. Consider using a microfiber mop.

  • Recipe 1*
    - Pour 1/4 cup baking soda followed by 1/2 cup vinegar. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Follow with 2 quarts boiling water. 

  • Recipe 2
    - Pour 1/2 cup borax in drain followed by 2 cups boiling water.

  • Recipe 3
    - Use a plumber's "snake" with boiling water.

  • Wood Cleaner*
    - 2 Tbsp olive oil
    - 2 Tbsp white vinegar
    - 1/4 cup lemon juice
    Mix ingredients and rub into wood using a soft cloth. Rub in the direction of the grain.

  • Furniture Polish*
    - 1 lemon
    - 1 tsp olive oil
    - 1 tsp water
    Make fresh for each use. Extract the juice from the lemon and mix with the oil and water. Apply a thin coat on wood and let sit for 5 minutes. Use a soft cloth to buff.

  • Tips
    - Rub toothpaste to remove watermarks.
    - Mix 2 tsp lemon oil and 1 pint mineral oil in a spray bottle. Let stand several hours then polish.
    - Melt 1 tbsp carnauba wax with 2 pints mineral oil.

  • Garbage Disposal*
    - Grind ice with either used lemon, lime, or orange rind in the disposal. Ice also sharpens the blades of the disposal.

  • Refrigerator Cleaner*
    - 2 Tbsp baking soda
    - 1 quart warm water
    Dissolve baking soda in water. Wipe down. You can also make a paste using less water to scrub more stubborn spots. A small, open box of baking soda will keep your refrigerator smelling fresh.

  • Cutting Board
    - To sanitize cutting boards, spray with vinegar, then spray with 3% hydrogen peroxide (but don't mix together in one bottle). Let sit 10 minutes.

  • Chrome/Stainless Steel*
    - 2 Tbsp baking soda
    - 1 quart water
    Dissolve the baking soda in water, wipe on, rinse.

  • Copper
    Rub lightly with fine, non-iodized table salt wetted with vinegar or lemon juice.

  • Brass
    With a soft rag, apply with equal parts of salt, cornstarch, and a little vinegar or lemon juice. Rinse with warm water and mild dish soap.

  • Silver
    - 1 quart warm water
    - 1 tsp baking soda
    - 1 tsp salt
    Line bowl with aluminum foil. Place silver in bowl and cover with boiling water. Add remaining ingredients and soak until tarnish comes off.

We would like to acknowledge and thank Sharon Gibson and Dr. Pamela Turner from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension for providing many of the following recipes.* 

What do I need to know about the ingredients?

Baking Soda

A mild alkali scouring powder that can be used for almost all household cleaning purposes. It also absorbs odors and works great at removing baked-on food from pans and oven. It can remove stains from fruit juices and other mild acids, as well as from glass, tile, and china. Use this for cleaning refrigerators. You can also leave a small box of baking soda in the refrigerator to absorb odors or sprinkle on carpet before vacuuming. You can buy it in the grocery store baking section.

Lemon Juice

Can deodorize, lighten stains and cut grease. It can also kill bacteria remove tarnish from brass, copper, bronze and aluminum but should NOT be used on silver. You can add lemon juice to cleaners to bring out a lemony scent.


Similar in use to baking soda but stronger. Good for sanitizing, freshening laundry and deodorizing. Buy in laundry section of grocery store.

Washing Soda

Strongest alternative to baking soda and borax. Can be used with washing detergents. Use gloves when using this ingredient as it may irritate skin. Buy in laundry section of grocery store.

Castile Soap

A mild high-quality soap made from vegetable oils such as olive, and others. Can be used for all general purpose cleaning. Can be purchased in whole food stores or organic/natural sections of grocery store.


Good for killing germs and deodorizing, can remove some stains from carpets. Good for cleaning coffeepots, chrome, cookware and counter tops. It is an acid so be careful using it on fabrics containing acetate, such as tablecloths.

Hydrogen Peroxide

A mild alternative to bleach. Used for stain removal, killing germs, mold, or mild whitening.

Tea Tree and Lavender Essential Oils

Natural disinfectants. Others include cedarwood, lemon, and spearmint.

Essential Oils

Essential oils can deodorize and naturally provide fragrance. They can be mixed with cleaners, but do your research in advance. Some oils can be sensitizers or have warnings for people with certain chronic conditions. Unless if you know what you are doing, lemon or lime juice are good alternatives.

Soap Nuts

Dried fruit of the Chinese Soapberry. They are natural surfactants (which act like detergents) and have been used for hundreds of years in Eastern countries. You can find them in natural foods stores and online. Oftentimes used for laundry, they release their soapy substance better in warm water than cool and are reusable.