Safe, Environmentally-Friendly and Inexpensive Household Cleaning Products You Can Make Yourself

Many people, especially those with small children, chemically-sensitive persons or pets living in the home, struggle with finding a balance between having a clean home and one that is not stocked with harmful chemicals. This is especially true if someone in your home suffers from allergies or asthma. To find cleaning products that are non-toxic, environmentally friendly, economical and do a good job of cleaning, stay out of the cleaning products aisle and go where the food is. Welcome to the world of “edible” cleaning products! This is not to say that any of these suggestions will actually taste good. However, if a little bit were to end up in your two-year-old’s mouth, you would not be scrambling to find the number for poison control or racing to get to the emergency room. However, as with any cleaning product, be sure to wear protective gloves while using these products as they can be harsh on skin and avoid contact with eyes to prevent irritation. Before you run to the store, check your pantry to see if you already have these items on hand. If not, these items can easily be found at grocery, discount, or drug store and maybe even at your corner convenience store! What’s more, they are all very inexpensive.


Since ancient times, salt has been used as a preservative and as a cleaning agent. Salt granules can act as a mild abrasive to help remove stains or stuck-on food. Furthermore, salt kills germs in a strong solution and helps eliminate odors. Good old table salt works fine, but if you need stronger scrubbing power for tougher messes or rough surfaces like wooden cutting boards, try using kosher salt.

Salt is great for cleaning copper, brass and other metals. Mix equal parts of salt, flour and vinegar or lemon juice to make a paste. Rub the paste on the item and leave on for about an hour. Then rub the paste off with a soft cloth. As with any cleaning agent, be sure to test on a small, inconspicuous area first and be sure to be gentle with delicate or antique metalwork.

Salt can also be used to remove wine stains from carpet. Blot up as much of the wine as possible first and then pour salt onto the stain to soak up the rest. Allow to set for a bit and then vacuum up the salt.

Salt can also help to remove blood stains from clothing. Soak clothing in cold saltwater overnight then launder as usual. This works best on natural fiber fabrics such as cotton or linen.

Baking Soda

Like salt, baking soda can be used as a mild abrasive and helps prevent germs and odors. Unlike salt, however, you want to be careful not to mix baking soda with acidic items such as vinegar or lemon juice (remember the vinegar and baking soda volcano you made in third grade?)

While the debate rages on as to whether keeping an open box of baking soda in your refrigerator really helps eliminate odors, cleaning your fridge with the stuff definitely does. Sprinkle baking soda on a damp cloth and wipe away. If you have spilled food that has set, rub the area with a paste of baking soda and water.

If you have a cat, baking soda in the litter box will help reduce odors. Just add a cup of baking soda to the litter box at the next litter change and be sure to mix the baking soda with the litter.

Baking soda makes a great laundry booster. Substitute half of your usual measure of laundry detergent with baking soda to freshen your laundry and save money.


Like its “basic” counterpart, baking soda, vinegar has numerous uses as a household cleaner. Not only does vinegar help kill germs, but it works great to cut through grease and grime. White vinegar works best and is least expensive. Vinegar does have an odor, but this quickly dissipates once the vinegar evaporates.

Use vinegar as a rinse agent instead of fabric softener. Since vinegar washes away detergent residue, your clothes will feel softer, especially when used over time. Vinegar also helps eliminate underarm stains by breaking down and removing deodorant residue. If underarm stains are a particular problem, apply vinegar directly to the fabric as a pre-treatment and launder as usual.

Take a spray bottle and fill it with equal parts of water and vinegar. This solution is great for cleaning mirrors, countertops, toys, and anywhere else you might use a product like Windex.

To clean the inside of your microwave, put cup water and cup vinegar in a microwave-safe cup and bring to a boil inside the microwave (about 1-2 minutes). Leave solution in microwave with door closed for an hour to allow steam to break down food particles. Dip sponge or cloth into remaining liquid and wipe down inside of microwave.

These are just a few examples of ways your can keep your home clean without using harmful chemicals. Many more are available online. Simply type “cleaning with [product of choice]” into your favorite search engine to learn more.

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