Natural Cleaning Products That Actually Work (and Don't Stink!)

Happy Earth Day tomorrow! I'm packing my bags for a quick New York trip this week. On Thursday I'll be hosting a fundraiser event that I'm really excited about. I have partnered up with the eco and budget-friendly appliance company, Amana, this year to share home ideas and tips that are also green and not expensive. Amana works a lot with a great organization called Trees for the Future. I hope you can join us for the fundraiser if you're in the NYC area. You can learn more about the organization and can RSVP for the event by visiting trees.org/nyc. If you use the discount code AmanaFan, you'll get $25 off. :) 

Several months ago my wonderful friend Mara held a really cool natural beauty night, where we learned all about the best natural, non-toxic products to use on our skin and hair. It was totally eye-opening for me. Since then I've been putting in an effort to use less toxic cleaners in our house too.








For a while, it felt like every recipe for a homemade cleaner was pretty much just white vinegar, which... gag. Not my favorite smell for a bathroom. So I've been testing the waters of homemade natural cleaning products and I've found a few that 1) work really well, 2) don't require crazy amounts of time or weird ingredients, and 3) don't stink like vinegar.


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First up is the most simple. I love the clean scent of tea tree (I don't ever like cleaners to smell too floral or sweet). I bought a starter set of essential oils on Amazon for about $20 and I've been happy with the quality. The set comes with eucalyptus, lavender, orange, lemon, tea tree and peppermint essential oils. Not a bad deal!




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To mix the cleaner spray, reuse an old spray bottle (what I did) or pick up a new one at the dollar store and add one cup of water to every two tablespoons of Castile soap (I used the Tea Tree scent again). You can buy Castile soaps at Whole Foods and Sprouts and even at CVS and Walgreens sometimes. The Lavender scent is perfect for washing bedding! Some of my friends use Castile soap as shampoo and body wash - it's very gentle, but also cleans fantastically.

Then you add a few drops of the tea tree oil to the spray bottle and shake it up well. You'll have an amazing cleaner on your hands that works as well as the other store-bought stuff but has none of the scary ingredients or horrible vinegar smell.

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This next one might feel a little more intense, but it's actually really easy and kind of fun to make. I heard about the idea here first and it's a great one. A single batch will last forever too, so your efforts go far.

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To make your own scrub that will clean all your sinks and tubs like they've never been cleaned before, just start setting aside your eggshells. I put them in a gallon size ziploc, tucked away. Over the course of a couple weeks I'll have three or four dozen eggshells to rinse out, boil for about 10 minutes, and then spread out on cookie sheets. A day or two later, the shells will be completely dried out and very brittle.

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The shells will break down very easily in a food processor (I've heard a coffee grinder works very well). They're so brittle at this point, there's no way any damage would be done to your machine.

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The only "weird" ingredient you'll have to go out of your way to pick up is calcium powder, but it's easy to find at health food stores or online. It's cheap too, just a couple dollars.

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In a bowl, combine 1/2 cup of baking soda, 3/4 cup of calcium powder and about 20 drops of essential oils. I did half a batch of lemon and half of orange.

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This makes enough scrub to fill two pint-size mason jars, which should last you at least a couple months. I saw online that people were reusing parmesan cheese or economy sized spice jars that have that sprinkle spout top, but the mason jars work great too.

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The powder fizzes when it touches water and it really brightens up that porcelain! And the eggshells really scrub well, but it doesn't feel like you're scratching your tub up or anything.

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I use it on my bathtubs and showers, our sinks and even our toilets get a good scrub down once a month (I turn off the water valve at the base of the toilet first, flush the toilet so it's dry and that makes it easy to really clean things well).

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I think next time I might try one of the peppermint oils to mix things up a little.

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My third tip is so, so simple, it's kind of a 'duh' thing, but I feel like not a lot of people do it. We all spend a ton of money on expensive candles and sprays to make our homes smell nice, but homemade potpourri is SO cheap and the scent lingers way longer!

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I love the clean scent combination of lavender and vanilla. You can buy a bag of lavender flowers at a health food store and vanilla beans can be found in the spice aisle at most grocery stores.

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To make the potpourri, bring a big pot of water to a gentle simmer and then add a 1/2 cup or so of lavender flowers, two vanilla beans and several drops of lavender oil (and maybe a drop of vanilla extract if you want it to be extra vanilla-y, or in lieu of the beans if you don't have any). After about 30 minutes, your whole house will smell amazing. I let the potpourri simmer for at least a couple hours on low heat and the scent will last for two or three days. I wish I could say my $30 candle's scent lingered that long!

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The last tried-and-true natural cleaning recipe actually uses vinegar! There is a way to harness the wonderful cleaning power of vinegar while masking most of the intense scent. (I almost wrote pungent there, but eww, no. Not an okay word to use.)

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We're lucky to have an over-abundance of citrus here in sunny Arizona, and lots of friends and neighbors with wonderful trees and more than enough fruit to eat/use for making counter spray. But next time you have a craving for fresh-squeezed orange juice or lemonade, save all the peels in a big mason jar that's filled to the very tip-top with white distilled vinegar. You can add more peels over time, but it's important that all the peels be submersed in vinegar, or you might get mold.

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I like to add some essential oils too, for good measure. After at least two full weeks, the vinegar scent will start to go away, but the cleaning power will remain! Your counter tops will smell citrusy and look brand new! I use a gravy sieve to strain out the cleaner into a spray bottle. 

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Aren't those chalkboard labels cute? I picked them up at Staples I think and I love that I can use my Chalkboard pen on them (which only wipes off with a wet rag), so I don't have to replace the label each time I make a new batch of cleaners.

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So those are my best recipes for natural cleaning products! Not too crazy, but guilt-free, effective and nice-smelling. I also added some other tricks here in this chart below. I was surprised at how well the lemon-juice-instead-of-bleach tip works! I feel like between switching to a front-loading washing machine (Amana really has a great/affordable/eco-friendly one, btw) and taking bleach out of my cleaning routine, I'm really cleaning up my laundry room act! 

Also, if my iron on a damp cloth trick doesn't work for you when trying to remove heat marks on furniture, try the mayonnaise idea here below. I must have a sensitive nose or something because this is another one I don't love the smell of, but it doesn't really linger. And it really does get those heat marks out!


So what works for you? I'd love to hear what your favorite eco-friendly tips are!






This post was brought to you in collaboration with Amana Appliances, an earth-friendly and environmentally conscious company. Learn more here.

40 comments:

Michelle Panting said...

Thank you for the super useful tips! I've been trying to buy more green cleaners, but some aren't as successful as others. The tub scrub seems awesome!

http://www.fullbellywornsoles.com

Jessica Davis said...

Thanks for the tips Jenny. I love the illustration. Who did it?

Agy Lee said...

Gosh, these are really great tips, and I love your illustrations. So far I have tried baking soda and vinegar but I'll venture further now! :-)

lotusmoss said...

These look great--I love the citrus peels in vinegar and can't wait to try a few of these out! Just an FYI though--do not use vinegar on granite or marble--it will etch the surface and strip the sealant! Believe me, I know from my own unfortunate experience....

hollyo said...

Thanks Jenny - Looking forward to trying some of these recipes. However, I second lotusmoss's comment about not using vinegar on stone countertops, since it can etch!

Zoe Royall said...

I've gotten totally into the natural cleaning thing, because I've found that they work so much better than standard store bought. I mixed vinegar, dawn soap and corn starch to beat soap scum and it absolutely kicked the bejesus out of Scrubbing Bubbles. It was SO hard on my hands, so gloves are necessary, but I've never seen my shower/tub so white.

The blog iheartorganizing has an awesome list, but she doesn't mind the smell of vinegar. You can find it here: http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/2013/05/may-mini-challenge-homemade-cleaners.html

I think you can use the citrus peel trick to get rid of the smell and use the vinegar in lots of other applications.

Zoe Royall said...

Also, did you do your own illustration? So fantastic!!

Joyce said...

I love that cute graphic! Did you draw that yourself?

Noor said...

Oh wow, I would love to try some of these. I use vinegar for pretty much everything around the house.

kh said...

This is wonderful! Thank you! And thanks to your sponsor, Amana, too.

Dr. Fox said...

Cute post, loved the graphics. I'm not positive, but I believe you meant to say (for the counter spray) to mix one cup water with 2 tablespoons of castile soap. :)

Jenny at LGN said...

Thanks guys! I'm glad you like the illustrations! They're just scanned-in pen doodles that I filled with color using the paint bucket in photoshop :) Easy!

And YES, Dr Fox! Whoops on the typo! Fixing now!

xo

Elisha said...

I love this post! I'm all about trying to use greener cleaners but they are so expensive sometimes! Going to try a few of these tips for sure!

gardeniasandmint said...

These are fantastic! We're big on natural homemade cleaning products as well. Plus super fans of Dr. Bronners!

xo
Christa
www.gardeniasandmint.wordpress.com

meramatthews said...

Such great ideas, thank you Jenny! I love the scent of lavender too. My mother in law taught me to store bars of lavender soap in my linen closet--the closet smells fresh and every so often you get a pillowcase that smells amazing. I can't wait to try these green ideas at home!

Dianne @ The Winners! said...

This is a wonderful list! I've been looking for a good and natural tub scrub. Am I missing where you say how much of the egg shell to use?

Dianne @ The Winners! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
junebug said...

Really wonderful post. I've been on auto-pilot w/ harmful cleaning products my whole life. [Man, I love a tub that's just been scrubbed with cleanser!] Your suggestions seem so effective, I am going to give them a shot. Thanks for the time & effort you put into this post. The illustrations really are just brilliant. xox

Christine Tse said...

Love this post! Need to try out the vinegar with citrus peel!

Celeste said...

I love this! I have switched to green cleaners (I just threw out the last of the chemical stuff when I moved recently) but the pre-made stuff can be so expensive.

Vinegar is my go-to cleaner for glass and my hardwood, even though it smells. I've never thought to add anything to it to damper the smell, I just deal with it and don't mind it (my husband hates it, though). Taking citrus into consideration now!

One more amazing natural cleaner: Baking soda. It makes towels fluffier, whites whiter, cleans off soap scum from surfaces, brightens sinks, and of course, neutralizes smells. I love it!

Angela said...

What a nice post. Thank you!

Marissa said...

These look great, thanks!

Also, I get all my Castile soap at Target, in the natural beauty products aisle.

Julie Arthur said...

Do the egg shells clog the drains?

Kristin Fleming said...

Awesome! Also your illustrations are great.

Apt. #34 said...

This is SUCH a great idea Jenny. I was just looking for ways to find healthier cleaners to use for dogs. Also plan to share this post on Mark and Graham's channels tomorrow - hope you don't mind!

designloveletters.com said...

Baking soda is the bomb when it comes to cleaning my tub. I've also used it gently as a facial scrub with my soap for years. I love simmering the cinnamon sticks I get at the grocery store or craft store in a large pot of water around Christmas time. It's also a great way to keep the air from getting too dry in your home in the winter. Can't wait to try some of the other concoctions you have shared with us! Thank you!

Mel said...

Thanks for all the useful tips - can't wait to try a few of these.

One bit of warning though- I noticed a commenter already warned against using vinegar on natural stone. Well, citrus will do the same damage (both are acidic). Maybe the peels aren't acidic enough to do damage, but I would test a spot first. I learned this when a guest unknowingly cut limes on my marble cheese board which left terrible etched spots.

Kari@childrensboutiqueresale.com said...

I have used natural cleaners, including my own laundry detergent line for years. Love it!! The only thing I will caution against is vinegar on your granite counter-tops. It will etch it.... I found out the hard way. I would love to try the straight Castile soap version. I buy that in bulk b/c we use it everywhere in our house, including the shower for ourselves. I also love a bit of Castile soap with lots of warm water for cleaning my wood dining table without marring the finish. Love the post and the pretty chart!

Sarah said...

Have you heard of Norwex?? I just had a party & have been using the enviro cloth with anti bac properties & the window cloth to shine & it cleans EVERYTHING. It's quite remarkable. Everything from windows to fabric/carpet stains

Jen said...

Great post. I've been using vinegar but don't love the smell either. I'm going to try the citrus in a jar idea, too. My only "I don't think so" reaction was to the 'walnuts to fill scratches'!!! Ummm, that's just weird
and wouldn't it attract ants? Love your blog.

Adrienne said...

Thank you for taking the time to share all this with us. I just tried one that works great for dust rags.

http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Dusting-Cloths/#step0

Brandi said...

Wow! I posted a natural laundry detergent recipe in honor of earth day this morning! Great minds think alike I suppose!

I'm super impressed with your recipes, here's a link for mine:

http://www.definableliving.com/?p=53

Lily L-M said...

Obviously these look amazing -- like everything you do!

x Lily
http://whilemyboyfriendsaway.blogspot.com/

Freshana Organic Solutions said...

Great post!

mgschnorr said...

Love all these ideas -- thanks.
Where do you get your labels? They're adorable and really MAKE the cleansers look inviting to use.

danielle ericsson said...

Great post, thanks for these helpful tips. I'm currently obsessed with all kind of natural and non-toxic products, so i will definitely try some of these ideas.
Blog for cleaning and home improvement

Meaghan Young said...

I just started using Norwex products last summer! Love that I can use them with plain water for cleaning! I will use essential oils for their fragrance on occasion though!

Georgia Milton said...

All these ideas for green cleaning are great! Very informative and useful post. I'm keen on eco and budget-friendly cleaning, so I'll try some of these recipes.

Cleaning tips and tricks

Becca - Rebecca Atwood Designs said...

Brilliant! I'm reading up on green cleaning and making some recipes today. I'm definitely going to save my egg shells to do the scrub though. Thanks so much!

Patrick Tan said...

Now this is what I call helpful post! Thank you for sharing! -Patrick Tan

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