5 Simple, Natural House Cleaners (Plus Recipes)

natural house cleaners

In a world that is ridiculously saturated with chemicals (in our water, air, food, clothes, beauty products, etc), using natural house cleaners made from simple everyday ingredients seems like a logical step on the ladder to living a healthier, less toxic life [1].

The ingredients in these natural house cleaners are cheap, toxin-free and probably already in your store cupboard!  They also don’t contain any nasty VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are in so many of the scented commercial products we buy – like disinfectant sprays, creams, scrubs, polishes, air fresheners and laundry detergents [1a].

Common side effects of VOCs can include asthma, breathing problems and headaches.  But chronic exposure has also been associated with increased levels of respiratory disease, neurological dysfunction, liver and kidney problems, and cancer [1b].

A 2011 survey looking at the composition of all sorts of scented household products, found that they contained 133 different VOCs, including some classified as hazardous by law.  In fact the average number of VOCs emitted by a product was 17.  And what’s more over 40% of the VOCs contained a carcinogen, such as methylene chloride, acetaldehyde or formaldehyde.
But the most frightening thing of all?  Only one of these VOCs was listed on the product label, as there is no legal requirement for manufacturers to do so [1c].

With every use, residues from these cleaning products build up in your home, accumulating on surfaces, soft furnishings and in dust particles. And over time exposure to VOCs and chemical toxins from these products increases your risk of chronic disease.

So by taking a little time to make your own natural cleaners, you simultaneously reduce your toxin load, look after the environment and save yourself some money!  Surely that’s a no-brainer?

5 Simple, Natural House Cleaners

1  Bicarbonate Of Soda / Baking Soda

Did you know that in 1986 the entire interior surface of the statue of liberty was cleaned with 100 tonnes of baking soda?  Bicarbonate was chosen because it had abrasive but gentle cleaning action and was able to remove unwanted paint layers from the copper surfaces without damaging them [1a].  It’s also an ancient cleaning agent and for very good reason.

  • Drain / plughole unblocker – Pour ½ – 1 cup of bicarbonate down the drain, followed by ½ – 1 cup of white vinegar.  Leave for about 15 minutes, covering the drain if needed.  Then flush with about 5 litres / 1 gallon of boiling water.
  • Oven cleaner – Spread about 1 cup of bicarbonate over the bottom of the oven and mix it with enough water to form a thick paste.  Leave this mixture overnight to break down the grease.  Then the next morning wipe out the bulk of the grease and grime, finishing with hot water and detergent.

2  Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is of course naturally acidic, so has gentle cleaning and deodorising properties [2][2a].  Just avoid using it on marble, natural stone surfaces or things that are brass plated.

  • Chopping Board Scrub – Coarse sea salt / bicarbonate of soda + squeeze of fresh lemon rubbed into the board and left for 20 minutes.
  • Zesty Surface Cleaner – juice of 1 lemon + 1 cup distilled white vinegar + 1 cup water into a spray bottle and applied to surfaces.  A longer contact time will be more effective against microbes.

3  White Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is an excellent degreaser, descaler and mould remover, more than it is a general cleaner of dirt.
It does have antimicrobial effects against various bacterial species, such as salmonella and campylobacter [3][3a].  But these effects work best once an area has been pre-cleaned, which then allows the vinegar better contact with the surface. Leaving the vinegar in-situ for a short time also improves its antibacterial effectiveness.

  • Glass Cleaner & Degreaser – 2 cups of warm water + ¼ cup white vinegar + 1 tablespoon cornstarch.  Pop in an empty spray bottle.
  • Mould and Mildew Remover – Spray neat onto stubborn mould on surfaces such as tile grout.  Leave for about half an hour, then scrub off with a scourer and hot water.
  • Descaler – Fill the kettle with about ¾ water and ¼ white vinegar, boil it up once, then allow it to sit overnight.  In the morning, just tip it away and rinse.

4  Coconut Oil

The most surprising of natural house cleaners right?  Coconut oil is actually a fantastic antimicrobial and has even been found to be as effective as the chemical chlorhexidine at killing bacteria [4][4a].  Plus it shows good antifungal activity against species such as Candida [4b].
Coconut oil is also a great carrier oil, so it’s perfect for mixing with various essential oils to make a stronger antibacterial solution or a naturally scented one.

  • Wood Polish – ½ cup coconut oil + ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, mixed well and applied to wood with a polishing cloth.
  • Antibacterial Skin Treatment/Disinfectant – 100mls Naissance fractionated coconut oil + 15 drops essential oils – eg, tea tree oil / eucalyptus oil / bergamot oil in any combination.  Pour a little onto your hand and rub into your skin where needed.
  • Chewing Gum Remover – take a small spoonful of coconut oil and work it around any gum that is stuck to unwanted places such as hair or fabrics.  Afterward, warm-wash fabrics as normal to remove any traces of oil that are left.

5  Castile Soap

Castile soap is one of the best natural house cleaners.  This is because it mixes well with other cleaning agents, such as baking soda or essential oils.  Plus its gentle versatility means it can be used all around the home, even in the laundry, as well as for making soaps and body washes.  A great castile soap brand to try is Dr Bronners.

  • General Cleaning Scrub – 1-2 tablespoons castile soap + 1-2 tablespoons cream of tartar mixed into a paste.  Rub the paste on the surface, then spray it over with hydrogen peroxide and allow it to sit for a few minutes.  Finally scrub it clean and rinse with water.
  • Ceramic Bath and Tile Scrub – Castile soap mixed with baking soda into an abrasive paste.
  • Antibacterial Spray – 2 cups water + 3 tablespoons castile soap + 20-30 drops tea tree oil.  Spray onto the surface and then wipe off (again just as with any antibacterial product, leaving on for a contact time will improve the effectiveness).
  • Homemade Body Washrecipe here.

Just Add Essential Oils For Natural Scent

So, knowing what we know about scented commercial cleaning products and the VOCs they contain, it’s great to learn there’s an alternative fragrance option for our natural house cleaners, in the form of essential oils.

And there are SO many beautiful essential oils to choose from, there’s a scent for everybody’s taste.  Many of them are also natural antimicrobials and even come with added health benefits, such as stress-relief, anxiety-relief and insomnia relief.
Even better, there are lots of oils to discover!  Here are a selection:

  • lavender oil – antibacterial, pain relief, anxiety relief, improves sleep [9][9a]
  • sweet orange oil – antibacterial against salmonella and E. coli [10]
  • tea tree oil – antiviral against influenza A virus [11]
  • peppermint oil – antimicrobial, headaches [11a][11b]
  • cinnamon oil – antifungal when used in a topical solution [12][12a]
  • lemongrass oil – antifungal when diffused in the air [13]
  • thyme oil – good antibacterial against staphlyococcus, enterococcus, E. coli and pseudomonas, even antiobiotic-resistant strains [14]
  • frankincense oil – diffusion is great for asthma and breathing, sinusitis, bronchitis, stress and anxiety [15]

So next time, instead of using a commercial air-freshener, plug-in or artificially-scented candle which steadily pumps VOCs into your home, why not invest in an essential oil diffuser instead?  The only thing that diffusers emit is water, in the form of mist, plus your essential oil of choice.  Very simple and very natural.

I’ve recently invested in a Tomons Nature Wood Essential Oil Diffuser from Amazon with a mini multi-pack of essential oils to try and I love it!
I diffuse oils in my bedroom and the fragrance also permeates most of the first floor which is great.  I’ve found sweet orange and lavender to be relaxing.  While the stronger oils like tea tree, eucalyptus and peppermint are great for alertness, and clearing your head and sinuses.  But frankincense is definitely my favourite scent so far, woody and slightly citrusy, it’s divine!
(Click on the images below to find out more.)

Please feel free to get in touch with your own natural house cleaners, DIY recipes, tips and experiences, in the comments below…

And if you’re worried about your exposure to VOCs, want to learn more and find out how to lower their levels, read – 12 Of The Best Air Cleaning Plants For Your Home.

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