Do-It-Yourself Cleaning Products Get All the Results with None of the Chemicals

Katie Larson

My decision to ditch store-bought cleaning products started with a bath, was sparked by a podcast, and was fueled by a book. The smell of the “fresh lemons” and disinfectant was rampant one night after I had quickly cleaned the tub in anticipation of scrubbing my grubby toddler. Convinced the magical little bubbles really made the tub and shower sanitary and germ-free, I plopped my daughter into the tub. As bath time proceeded, I couldn’t help but to notice the smell of chemicals permeating the air.

About a week later as I was sitting in the car on a long commute from work, I was preparing to teach a unit on transcendentalist literature to my juniors by listening to a podcast on living with less. The podcast featured Madeleine Somerville, a writer who focused her research on living off of less all the while becoming more sustainable, and it just made sense to me. Why just teach the essays of Whitman, Emerson and Thoreau when I could be living like them – or at least attempting to live like them in today’s society?

That podcast, and eventually Somerville’s book, All You Need Is Less, changed the way I approached my habits in purchasing household cleaning products, which eventually lead me to discover and explore how to make my own household products, including beauty products, lotions, salves, and soaps.

So I started small, just as the author had suggested, by making my own laundry soap. As each product was used up, I replaced it with a homemade, all-natural alternative. Today I am 95 percent chemical-free in terms of products in my household; the only product I don’t make is dusting spray. On top of that, I managed to reduce my grocery bill and de-clutter the cleaning supply cabinet because many of the cleaners are made from the same ingredients. Win-win!

If you are interested in making a change, here is a recipe to make your own all-purpose cleaning spray which I found, used, and adapted from The ingredients can be found at almost any local grocery store. The spray can be used in both the bathroom and the kitchen.

DIY all-purpose cleaning spray


1 tsp. borax detergent booster
1/2 tsp. super washing soda
1 tsp. liquid castile soap
Essential oils: 5 lemon, 5 lavendar, 10 orange (recommended)
2 cups warm water


16 oz. glass (recommended) or
plastic bottle (temporary)
Measuring spoons and cup
Cheesecloth or sponge (optional)


1. Combine all dry ingredients, castile soap (any scent, but I prefer peppermint or orange due to the extra antifungal and antibacterial properties in the oils used) and essential oils (feel free to mix and match or exclude) into a glass spray bottle by using a funnel.

2. Top the bottle off with approximately 2 cups of warm water, which will help to dissolve the Borax and washing soda. Make sure the water isn’t hot as it will make the bottle hard to handle. The bottle will be warm to the touch. Be sure to invest in good quality glass bottles because they are reusable and the essential oils will not break them down like they will over time to a plastic bottle.

3. Shake it up!

4. Apply the spray liberally to sinks, tubs, toilets, showers, countertops, or toys. Wait a few minutes and scrub.

5. If using in a tub or shower, rinse with water. If using it on countertops, wipe down with a damp cloth. You can also use a cheesecloth, which will help to polish stainless steel and chrome. 

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