Want to get started making homemade cleaners? These are the essential ingredients you should have on hand and ways to use them.
Finding cleaning and disinfecting products at the store is tricky these days. That doesn’t mean you’ve got to worry about getting your home clean enough, though. Next time you’re at the grocery store, stock up on the items below. Then use my homemade cleaner recipes to make effective, safe cleaners for every room in your house.
The Best Homemade Cleaner Ingredients and Recipes
Distilled White Vinegar
The acetic acid in vinegar powers through grease and grime. It also has some antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. But be careful substituting things for vinegar in homemade cleaners.
Take apple cider vinegar (ACV), for example. You can often swap the two in cooking, but ACV can cause problems in homemade cleaners. ACV is apple-based, so it contains pectin, which can leave streaks and attract pests. For best results, if the ingredients for homemade cleaners specify white vinegar, then stick with that.
Soapy water should be your first choice to clean most messes. It’s not glamorous, but it’s good enough for daily soil. Cleaning is a crucial step before disinfecting household surfaces. According to the CDC, you should use soap and water on hard surfaces for that purpose.
Dawn liquid dish soap is my favorite. It’s affordable, and I haven’t found any brand that competes with its grease-cutting abilities. It’s so effective that animal experts use it to clean wildlife after oil spills. The UK alternative is Fairy if you can’t find Dawn. (Or get it here in either country.)
Essential oils aren’t only about adding fragrance to things. Sure, they offset vinegar’s pong, but they also boost its germ-killing properties. Try using tea tree, peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, or thyme in your cleaners. But, if you have a dog or cat, you should stick with lavender or cedar oil. Both are pet-safe but still have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
This inexpensive kitchen ingredient is excellent at neutralizing odors. It’s mildly abrasive, so it’s safe to use on many household surfaces. Since it’s powdery, baking soda is also a fantastic way to absorb unwanted moisture. Sprinkle it in your running shoes after a jog, and it will get rid of bad shoe odors. Or add some to your cat’s litter box to safely deodorize it between changes.
Oxygenated bleach is chlorine-free and color-safe. It’s made from soda ash and works by releasing oxygen when exposed to water. The oxygen molecules rise and lift away the dirt from whatever you’re cleaning. This action makes it fantastic on laundry stains. It also works on outdoor furniture and cleaning grout, too. You can find it under the brand name “Oxiclean,” but most store-brand versions work just as well.
We’re all concerned about killing germs in our homes these days. That doesn’t mean you’ve got to use harsh-smelling cleaners. Hydrogen peroxide is safe if used properly. Never combine it with vinegar, though. (Related: Cleaning Ingredients You Should Never Combine.)
There’s no need for a high-strength peroxide for most household cleaning–the brown bottle from the store is fine. Be sure to follow the homemade cleaner recipe’s measurements, though, and store it in a dark bottle. Exposure to light reduces hydrogen peroxide’s effectiveness.
You already know that rubbing alcohol kills bacteria and germs. That’s why doctors and hospitals rely on it. (And why it’s known as “surgical spirits” in the UK.) It’s also an excellent additive to homemade cleaner recipes.
Besides killing germs, rubbing alcohol evaporates fast. So, naturally, you’ll find it in homemade cleaners designed for use on shiny surfaces. Don’t bother with 90% strength for household disinfection, though: it’ll evaporate too fast to disinfect properly.
An alternative to Rubbing Alcohol: These days, the demand for disinfecting products is high. So, you might have trouble finding rubbing alcohol in the store. Don’t panic — you can substitute specific liquors for it instead. When using liquor to disinfect, make sure it’s unflavored and 120-proof, so it contains at least 60% alcohol. Look for a “neutral spirit” or “rectified spirit.” These have very high concentrations of ethanol alcohol and will get the job done.