Using Natural Products In Domestic Cleaning: Part Two

updated: 04/10/2023

Natural House Cleaning Products

Biodegradable House Cleaners At A Glance

Biodegradable cleaners are natural products that are environment-friendly or manufactured in a completely environment-friendly process. They do not have any harmful effects like those of the toxic chemicals and volatile compounds and do not emit any sort of strong volatile fumes that may cause skin or respiratory problems. Another big plus is that they do not leave behind any toxic residues or wastes.

Biodegradable cleaners form the main component of the green cleaning process, which has become the latest trend all over the world. Recent technological advancements have developed new cleaning products that are devoid of harsh chemicals and as effective as traditional detergents.

People all over the world have become extremely environmentally conscious and want to put in every effort to protect and conserve nature. Biodegradable cleaners keep up with this growing trend of environmental awareness. They are safer to use, non-toxic and healthy alternatives to your regular domestic cleaning chemicals. These materials afford greater health benefits by reducing pollution.

The various natural cleaning agents are lemon juice, borax, vinegar, salt, baking soda, washing soda, mineral oil, pine oil, vegetable-based soaps and plants with high levels of saponin. Other biodegradable products include paper towels, bath tissues, hand soaps, doormats, microfibre cloths and mops along with proper cleaning equipment.


Natural Cleaners – An Attempt For Classification

A lot of different ingredients turn up in recipes for natural cleaning products. And you’ve got to wonder whether some of them are all that natural or not. “Natural” is a bit of an ambiguous term that requires clarification. It certainly doesn’t mean “organic” or “of vegetable origin”. Not all “natural” cleaners are organic (e.g. baking soda) or of vegetable origin (e.g. soap, which often contains animal fats). Some writers have a very loose definition of “natural” when writing recipes for home-made cleaning products and tend to mean something like “any raw ingredient that you can buy cheaply in your local shop and use to make your products.” By “natural”, I mean “has the minimal possible effect on the user and the environment throughout the life of the product from extraction/manufacture to breakdown’’.

We can divide ingredients that are used for making home-made cleaning products into Organic and Inorganic. Another way to look at it is:

  • Nice – the product has a low impact on the environment and does not expose you to a barrage of toxins and horrible smells when you use it.

  • Nasty – substance is poisonous, noxious or repulsive.

Organic and Nice:

  • vinegar

  • essential oils

  • glycerine

  • alcohol (either ethyl alcohol or some strong spirit from your local liquor store)

  • cornstarch

  • sugar

  • lemons

  • beeswax

  • olive oil (and any other sort of vegetable oil)

  • soap (which also contains some inorganic ingredients)

  • potash – make your own by taking the ashes from your fireplace (if you burn wood) and making sure they’re ground finely.

Inorganic and Nice:

  • baking soda

  • sand

  • salt

  • petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline). It’s a petrochemical by-product so it is bordering on Nasty, but it is fairly low in toxins when you use it.

  • fuller’s earth

  • borax

  • water.

Inorganic and Nasty

These ingredients did turn up in a book on how to make “natural” home cleaning products. If you are switching to natural cleaners to reduce the toxins you are exposed to, forget it. If you are making your cleaners to save money, you may consider these. Your choice. But remember the golden rule for products in this category: NEVER MIX MORE THAN ONE OF THESE.

  • chlorine bleach

  • ammonia

  • petrol (yes, really)

  • kerosene (I have to admit it’s first-class for removing tar)

  • Detergents.


The Green Cleaning Alternative Works!

Product: Antibacterials

Used for: Disinfecting everything you can think of, ranging from kids’ toys to toilets.

Nasty inside: Tricoslan is an endocrine (hormone) disrupter that doesn’t break down easily. Excessive use of potent chemical disinfectants to sterilise everything at home is probably associated with asthma and other autoimmune problems. An over-cleaned home leads to a bored, restless immune system that starts reacting to non-threats.

Natural cleaning alternative: Soap and water will do most of the cleaning and kill most of the germs you need to worry about. Vinegar, salt, ultraviolet light (sunshine), boiling water and strong alcohol are other natural disinfectants.

Product: Detergents

Used for: Nearly every sort of cleaning imaginable. The advantage of modern detergents is that they easily dissolve in water and remove all sorts of built-up grime and grease.

Nasty inside: Phosphate. It breaks down very slowly and allows too many algae to grow in the waterways, leading to environmental problems. In general, detergents are harsher on the skin and hair, causing dry hair (the least of your problems) and cracking, flaking itchy skin.

Natural cleaning alternative: Soap won’t form that ghastly scum if you use it alongside a water softener such as washing soda. Alternatively, look out for reduced phosphate or phosphate-free cleaning products such as laundry powder.

Product: Synthetic fragrances

Used for: Air fresheners. Also used in a range of other products such as spray-on kitchen and bathroom cleaners, baby products,  cheap perfumes, and cosmetics.

Nasty inside: Toluene, which may trigger asthma and allergies. Synthetic musk, which does all sorts of peculiar things to the hormones if you are exposed to too much of it.

Natural cleaning alternative: Make your natural cleaners and add essential oils. Open windows to remove nasty smells. Use essential oils, pot pourri, and fresh flowers to scent the air delicately. Don’t overuse perfume – just a few dabs on the pulse points will be adequate.

Product: Solvents

Used for: Dry cleaning fluid, spot cleaning treatments. Found in all sorts of common household products.

Nasty inside: It depends on the particular solvent. There are half a dozen different types, and each has its problems. The chlorinated ones are the worst – they can cause permanent brain damage if you inhale them for too long.

Natural cleaning alternative: Oddly, mineral turpentine – which isn’t exactly natural – is one of the least harmful solvents. Strong alcohol also makes a decent solvent for everyday domestic cleaning. Eucalyptus oil makes a good spot treatment.

Product: Ammonium compounds

Used for: Floor,  glass, and bathroom cleaners.

Nasty inside: Ammonia gas in itself is pretty awful if inhaled. It is positively lethal if mixed with chlorine. Never mix ammonia-based with chlorine-based cleaners. However, ammonia breaks down easily and doesn’t last long in the environment.

Natural cleaning alternative: For window cleaning, use diluted vinegar. For cleaning floors, use warm soapy water. For cleaning the bathroom, either use baking soda or vinegar. If you have to use ammonia-based products, make sure that the area is well ventilated.

How To Make The Turn To Eco-friendly Cleaning?

If you are new to the world of natural cleaning products for your house, it may seem a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you still have a cupboard full of commercial cleaners. You possibly feel a bit unsure as well. Can these products do the job of killing germs? Can you clean the toilet with natural products? Do you have to spend a small fortune shopping online for soap nuts and Enjo cloths? What do you need to get started cleaning naturally?

  • Start small. You don’t have to change everything all at once unless there is an urgent health reason. Just make little steps here and there at first. For example, start by using baking soda to clean the bathroom sink and the bath. Then extend it to cleaning the fridge or the microwave. After that, make another change – how about vinegar for window cleaning? The places that are usually the last to switch to natural cleaning products are the toilet (overcoming a deeply ingrained belief that this is a stronghold of germs that needs commercial strength disinfectant to sanitize), the dishes (dishwashing liquid and powder does such a good job, and that foam while you hand-wash dishes is very satisfying and adds some fun to the work) and the laundry (laundry powder works better in cold water than soap does).

  • Use the bottles and containers left from the commercial cleaners to house your new home-made products. Rinse them out well before use. You may also want to re-label them so others in your house know what they’re for. The spray containers are particularly handy, but you’ll need to pump an entire bottle of clean water through the spray system to get it clean.

  • Start with common products. You probably already have vinegar and baking soda in your cupboards for use in cooking. Start by using these – you can clean an awful lot with them. Later on, you can add in other ingredients such as essential oils, borax, soap nuts, Enjo cloths, etc.

  • Remember that you don’t have to use one product for the kitchen and another for cleaning the bathroom. Most natural cleaning products are very good at multitasking.

  • If you’re not sure whether a certain natural cleaner is OK to use on a particular material, don’t. However, remember that water is pretty safe to use with anything, so you can fall back on this as a standby.

  • Don’t get too worried about the “right” essential oil to use. Many recipes for natural cleaning products specify which oil to use. However, these oils can often be left out, as they are mainly there for smell and added disinfectant power (the other ingredients are often also disinfectants in their own right, e.g. vinegar, salt, and vodka). And you can also substitute one oil for another – if you can’t find lemon essential oil, you can probably find tea tree or lavender oil without too much trouble.

  • If you add essential oil to vinegar, keep it separate from the vinegar you use for cooking. Essential oils may be natural, but they should only be taken internally with the advice of a qualified practitioner in alternative medicine (i.e. a doctor).

  • Don’t feel guilty if you occasionally use commercial products. Just remember to wear gloves and not to breathe in. I confess that I used a commercial wood polish because the smell brings back good memories – after all, positive memories and enjoying doing the work boost the immune system.

Natural Cleaning Products For The Home And Their Application

  • Baking soda: Good for cleaning porcelain fixtures such as the bath and the sink. Also good for cleaning the top of stoves, the inside of ovens (microwave or conventional) and for cleaning the fridge. It cuts through grease and absorbs odours. Baking soda is not so good for glass, as it can leave a residue that takes a lot of rinsing to remove.

  • Vinegar: Vinegar is excellent for cleaning most surfaces, including glass. Mixed to a paste with salt, you can also use it to clean metals. Vinegar is a strong germ-killer (that’s why people used it to pickle and preserve food in the days before refrigeration). It mixes well with essential oils, which you can do either to fragrance your home or to add the disinfectant power of plant essences to any home-made cleaners. Make sure that you use white vinegar as a cleaner – the other kinds are delicious for cooking and as a salad dressing, but are either too expensive or too dark for housekeeping purposes. Never use vinegar to clean pearls or marble.

  • Soap: Apart from its regular application,  you can use soaps to clean hard floors, cars, and fabric. With the help of a scrubbing brush, you can spot-clean small bits of carpets. The best way to use soap as a cleaner is to melt it into a gel by pouring boiling water over whatever scraps, slips or chunks of soap you fancy using (in a container, of course).

  • Hot water: Boiling water kills germs and is ideal for sterilizing food surfaces and chopping boards. It can also burn you, so be careful. It combines well with soap for cleaning hard floors and clothes. If you’re hand-washing clothes, use water that you can bear touching. You should never use hot water for removing protein stains – it will set the stain instead of removing it.

  • Steam: Steam is great for loosening grime inside ovens before a good scrub-out with baking soda. Cooler steam (water vapour for those more technically minded) is also ideal for cleaning pimple-prone faces. Specialised steam-cleaning machines are also ideal for carpet cleaning.

  • Essential oils: They are rather disinfectants and air fresheners than proper cleaners. Essential oils work best when mixed with other natural cleaning products. Lavender, pine, tea tree, eucalyptus, and lemon are some of the most readily available and popular disinfectant essential oils (they also have the effect of calming (lavender) and promoting alertness (lemon), which can be a bonus). However, you can use eucalyptus as a stain remover – add it to a soap gel, and it will do the trick.

Save Hundreds Of Pounds With These Eco-friendly Tips!

House cleaning products are expensive. I can go into a supermarket and spend a hundred pounds on cleaning products alone. Now, modern research tells us that many of the products we use and spend so much money for, carry toxins. They are also telling us that these cleaning products can be hazardous to our health in the long run.

Therefore, I decided to do my research, and I discovered many ways to clean your home inexpensively. The recipes I came up with are for natural cleaning products that you can easily make with products you already have in your home.

With the holidays coming up, I am sure you need to save every possible penny. So, let us begin. Below is a list of cleaning recipes for all areas in your home.


  • To wash your windows, use 2 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar to three liters of warm water. Dry with rutted newspaper for sparkling results.

  • Do you have dirty vases in your home? Put 1 tablespoon of vinegar and add warm water. Leave it to soak for 10 minutes. Rub the vases with a soft cloth, then rinse.

Wood Floors:

  • Mix one part olive oil with one part lemon juice. Rub on furniture or apply with a spray bottle, then polish the wood with a dry cloth. Use this mix to make wood floors gleam.

Vinyl, Laminate or Ceramic Floors:

  • Mop vinyl, laminate or ceramic tiled floors with 8 tablespoons of vinegar watered down in 3 litres of hot water.

  • For pet odours and stains in carpets, mix equal parts of vinegar and water. Apply to affected areas. Use the mixture with kitchen paper towels until moisture is absorbed. You may need to repeat the process one or two times.

Stainless Steel:

  • Clean and shine any stainless steel surface with a paste of soda and water. Apply freely with a damp cloth. Leave for about 5 minutes, then wipe.

Microwaves and Ovens:

  • Clean with a cloth dampened in equal parts of vinegar and water.

  • To remove microwave odours, place some lemon slices in a bowl of water. Then put on high for a few minutes.

Baths, shower doors, tiles, and grout:

  • To get rid of body oils and soap scum, use two parts soda to one part vinegar or lemon juice. You will create a thick paste, which you can use with a damp cloth. Leave for 10 minutes, then rub with a brush or sponge. As you rinse it off, you will keep your drains clog-free as well. Use this mix on shower doors, sinks, tiles, and grout. If cleaning grout, rub with a toothbrush.

Mildew and mould:

  • To get rid of black spots, use one part vinegar or lemon juice to one part baking powder. Apply and leave for one or two hours. Rinse off. It may need to be reapplied or left longer, depending on how severe your mould or mildew is.

Air Freshener:

  • Baking soda eliminates odours. Mix 8 tablespoons with three drops of your favourite essential oil. Place in a decorative bowl or vase.

  • Soda in the bottom of ashtrays absorbs smoke smells.

  • Put some essential oil on a light bulb. When on, the heat will diffuse the fragrance.


  • Keep the toilet clean and fresh – put eight tablespoons of soda in the bowl. Leave overnight.

  • Sprinkle soda onto a damp cloth to clean the toilet seat and tank, then wipe with a wet cloth.

Drain cleaner:

  • Use one part soda, with four parts hot vinegar. Leave overnight if possible.

About the author 

Nick Vassilev

Nick blogs about cleaning. He is a cleaning expert with more than 25 years of experience. He is also an NCCA-certified carpet cleaner. Founder and CEO of Anyclean.