DIY Cleaning Products: Why & How to Make Them
My friend Amy Rojas Kantorczyk has used DIY or do-it-yourself cleaning products for her home for many years. I buy eco-friendly cleaning products, which is what Amy uses, but I buy them and Amy makes her own.
I was curious about this and talked to her about it. It was an eye-opening conversation. She shared with me some of what she does and how easy and cost effective it is.
Amy worked for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts for many years and was most recently the Director of Operations at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn in Sonoma, California. She interacted closely with the Housekeeping team and one particular housekeeper inspired her to make her own cleaning products. All it took was white vinegar, baking soda, isopropyl alcohol, and essential oils.
I asked Amy about this and much more. Here is how our conversation went.
Q: What inspired you to make your own cleaning products?
Amy: It wasn’t an environmentalist effort or a desire to remove toxic chemicals from our lives. These were lucky by-products of my original motivation to make my own cleaning products, which was self-interest- I wanted something that worked well and was cheap. I also wanted something that smelled good to freshen up our small apartment.
I started in 2007, and once I used these products I was blown away by their effectiveness. They were the building block from which I incorporated other practices over the past 11 years that end up supporting both the environment and my family’s health. For example, I eliminated paper towels and use aromatherapy to improve our everyday health without relying on pharmaceuticals, even though these were not my original intents.
The irony is that when I started this and I had big cleaning projects I thought these techniques were not going to be as effective, and I went back to the store-bought cleaners only to be disappointed. Although the TV commercials were convincing, they didn’t work as well. I have found that my own products are more effective and much less expensive no matter the size of the project.
Q: How did you start making your products?
Amy: When I had the conversation with that housekeeper, I asked her about the most effective products to use at home. She told me she made her own cleaning products with white vinegar and essential oils and she used one product for everything. I was impressed that someone who did professional cleaning for a living used DIY products in her own home.
I did my own research and found a lot of supporting material. I first tried white vinegar and lemongrass essential oil. I used it in the kitchen and loved the smell. I later used tea tree essential oil to have some variety. Eventually I learned that both lemongrass and tea tree are great antiseptics, antifungals, and anti-bacterials.
The first time I mixed the products I didn’t measure anything. In the bathroom, I poured baking soda on the surfaces, sprayed white vinegar on top, then sprinkled a few drops of tea tree essential oil, and scrubbed. It worked so well! It was the cleanest I had ever seen the surfaces in my apartment. Our apartment smelled so clean, and not chemically clean but really clean.
I haven’t turned back since, except for the few times I have been tempted to try store-bought products when I had big cleaning projects, but I already shared with you that they didn’t work as well. Now, I will never go back to store-bought, chemical products.
Q: You mentioned benefits of essential oils, what other benefits have you discovered from using these products?
Amy: White Vinegar is a natural bug repellant. In some places we lived, I had ants and/or spiders in the house, and after spraying vinegar and tea tree in those areas, the bugs never came back. I have used white vinegar and tea tree with other bug problems and it has worked well.
The top essential oils I use are lemongrass, tea tree, lavender, lemon eucalyptus, and eucalyptus, and using these not only supports cleaning our home, but also supports our health. Lemon eucalyptus is a good insect and mosquito repellant. Tea tree is great for bug bites and acne. Lavender essential oil has really helped my husband get relief from headaches and migraines. Eucalyptus is wonderful for sinuses and congestion, and a good soak after a hard workout or long day of work.
Q: How do you choose which essential oils to use?
Amy: I have chosen by the scents I like most. I use lemongrass essential oil in the kitchen and most other places in the house. I use tea tree essential oil in the bathroom. This is also because tea tree is a stronger disinfectant. I use lavender and eucalyptus mostly for health and include them in baths, soaking, and diffusing.
Q: What advice would you give to someone wishing to start making their own cleaning products?
Amy: I have two major advice points. First, I do not use precise measurements, as I am a busy person, but you can find many recipes on the internet with more detail if that is what you are looking for. But you can have success with going for it using the key ingredients.
Second, I have spoken to a lot of people about using DIY cleaning products. Sometimes I make sample bottles for my friends to try in their home. Anyone who has tried it has seen the results I am talking about. It has been such a successful and transformative experience and they don’t go back to store-bought cleaning products! It makes me proud.
The basic recipe I use is as follows:
- 8 oz spray bottle
- 30 drops tea tree or lemongrass essential oil
- 2/3 cup vinegar
- 1/3 cup water
Mix all the ingredients in the bottle, shake well, spray directly on the surface, and wipe with a rag, just like you would use any other type of cleaner.
You can add baking soda for tougher stains. For a really tough project, like a caked-on stain on the stove top, you can make a paste of baking soda and white vinegar, let it sit for a few hours, wipe, and the stain will lift away like magic. Also, you can add rubbing alcohol to the mixture to clean mirrors, windows, and the chrome parts of your home. I pour a small amount of alcohol on the rag before I use the spray bottle.
Extra tip: making the water hot cuts through some of the tougher stains, grease, and dirt.
Why It’s Important to Clean with Natural Products
After speaking with Amy, I did more research as well. Cleaning products are laden with toxins. Take toilet cleaning products, for example. Most commercially available toilet cleaners contain hydrochloric acid, which is a corrosive, and can cause damage if we touch it or inhale it. They also contain chlorine bleach, which is caustic and can burn and destroy tissue (Jabs, 2012).
There are increasing amount of studies that link household chemicals with health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, gut health, and others (Mercola, 2018).
Additional Benefits of Natural Ingredients
Distilled white vinegar is a mild acid. It won’t harm our skin unless we soak ourselves for prolonged periods of time. That means that we don’t need to use gloves when cleaning with white vinegar unless of course, we don’t want the smell to stick to our skin. It is an antiseptic and effective disinfectant. It is good to combine the use of vinegar with essential oils, to prevent our house or bathroom to smell like a salad.
Baking soda reacts when it is put together with vinegar and helps to lift stains and grime. It also can provide a beneficial scourer, which means it can help rub off stains and debris.
In addition to adding delightful aromas, essential oils are antiseptic and antimicrobial. Most of them have some type of antibacterial, antifungal, and/or antiviral effect. The essential oils I would most recommend for cleaning are tea tree Melaleuca angustifolia, lavender Lavandula angustifolia, lemon Citrus limonum, rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis, and cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum. But there are countless others, so try scents that most appeal to you.
Amy shared a recipe for surface cleaner. Here is a recipe for a toilet cleaner:
- ½ cup of baking soda in a powder shaker
- 8 oz spray bottle
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- 20 drops of tea tree Melaleuca alternifolia
Baking soda and vinegar react quickly. When making this product keep the baking soda in a separate container, similar to a salt shaker. Pour the baking soda inside the toilet bowl and then add the vinegar mixture on top. Let sit for a few moments and scrub.
Conducting a search for DIY cleaning products will lead to a long list of results. Find recipes or solutions that appeal to you. Most importantly, give it a try! As Amy indicated, anyone whom she has recommended to try it has found success.
Related Reads from Me
Jabs, B. (2012). 3 simple recipes for cleaning your toilet naturally. DIY Natural, Cleaning. Retrieved on September 5, 2018 from https://www.diynatural.com/homemade-toilet-cleaner/?awt_l=4jmQT&awt_m=3iICECkOCytFQkt
Mercola, J. (2018). Household chemicals causing obesity. Mercola Take Control of Your Health. Retrieved on October 3, 2018 from https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2018/10/03/household-cleaners-may-trigger-childhood-obesity.aspx