cleaning recipes

Making your own cleaning products can save you buckets of money over the long run, and you'll most likely feel resourceful, creative and awesome while doing so. It's also great because: 

 

  • it can reduce water pollution - no harmful sustances are going down the drain

  • there's little to no packaging to recycle

  • you'll know that your household surfaces are a lot safer (particularly important if you've got young children)

  • if a product runs out, you can quickly make some more without needing to leave the house (assuming you buy in bulk!)

  • less resources are needed to produce the handful of raw materials you need, versus the complex chemical cocktail of commercial cleaning products

  • there's less products to clog up your laundry (baking soda can tackle almost any job!)

  • you'll know exactly what's inside - no hidden surprises

  • there's lots of anecdotal evidence that using natural cleaning solutions can help alleviate skin conditions and some allergies

  • you can tailor them to suit your own preferences (hate the smell of lavender? Use peppermint or orange instead!)

  • you might already have the ingredients you need at home

  • sometimes the homemade version works more effectively than its supermarket counterpart!

While I firmly believe making your own cleaning products can be quick and easy, sometimes the initial trial-and-error is time consuming and can be discouraging. I'd love to share my favourite cleaning recipes that I use within our home, to cut out some of the hard work for you. While my favourites may not be everyone else's, it will be a great place to start if you're new to this and keen to give it a go.  

supplies

My cleaning recipes centre around a small number of ingredients, so there's not much to buy, and nothing goes to waste. While I've got a pretty good stash of essential oils now, when I first started out I bought just lavender and lemon, and that was all I needed to get going. The key ingredients you'll need to start are:

  • Baking soda - you can buy it package-free from Bin Inn, or have a search for a local supplier on Trade Me. I buy 5kg for $12 from this seller on Trade Me (they're based in Palmerston North and allow pick-ups, so I don't need to pay for shipping). If you want to go super budget-friendly and have a few friends to share it between, you can purchase 25kg for $25 at NZ Farm Source 

  • Soda ash - this is a fine powdered version of washing soda, which often comes in the form of larger crystals. I also purchase this from the Trade Me seller listed above, and I buy 5kg for $15. You could alternatively purchase it from Figgy & Co., which is a good option if you need to also purchase...

  • Sodium percarbonate (oxygen bleach) - I buy this from Figgy & Co. and it is also available at Wendyl's Green Goddess

  • Liquid castile soap - I buy this from either Pure Nature or Go Native

  • Essential oils of your choice - I also purchase these from Pure Nature or Go Native

  • Citric acid, if you want to make dishwasher powder - I get mine from a local bulk foods retailer. This is readily available, but if you struggle to find it, Figgy & Co. also sell it

  • Cleaning soap, for dishwashing detergent or washing powder. I currently use Aoraki Natural's Coconut Oil Laundry Soap or Sunlight Soap (after recently finding out that it does not, in actual fact, currently contain palm oil)

  • Large jars - either reuse what you already have, buy a few from your local op shop, or have look at Arthur Holmes 

  • Vinegar - I either buy a 2L bottle of Pams vinegar from the supermarket, or get it refilled at my local bulk food store

  • Borax - not essential, but you if you want to give this a whirl as an alternative option listed in some of the recipes below, you can purchase it from Figgy & Co. or Wendyl's Green Goddess or off Trade Me

Dishwashing detergent

  • 3 cups boiling water

  • 1/2 cup soap (grated, tightly-packed)

Combine, lightly swirl for around 10 seconds and set aside for 5-10 minutes. Once all the soap has dissolved (you may need to gently stir it again), add to the mixture:

  • 1/2 cup liquid castile soap

  • 40 drops essential oil (I use lemon and lime)

  • 2 Tbsp soda ash/washing soda

Stir to combine. After you add the washing soda, the mixture will begin to solidify. Pour into a large jar and leave it to fully set without a lid on. To use, just dissolve a heaped Tbsp into a sink of hot water.

This recipe is originally based on this one by Mommy Potamus. NB: Since originally publishing, Aoraki Naturals now make a Dishwashing Soap Bar that works wonders and is very affordable - I recommend you check that out as another option!

Dishwasher Powder

The right recipe depends a lot on the type of water you have. This one works best for us in Palmerston North, but I'll also include a variation underneath.

In a large jar, combine:

  • 1 cup soda ash (washing soda)

  • 1 cup baking soda

  • 1/4 cup citric acid

  • 1/4 cup salt

  • 10 drops lemon or orange essential oil (optional)

Give it a good shake and use 1 Tbsp per load.

If that doesn't do it for you, and you've got the supplies on hand, try this one from Figgy & Co.:

  • 1/2 cup borax

  • 1/4 cup soda ash (washing soda)

  • 1/4 cup citric acid

  • 1/4 cup salt

  • 1/2 cup oxygen bleach

  • 10 drops lemon or orange essential oil (optional)

Give it a good shake and use 1 Tbsp per load.

All-purpose cleaning spray

There are a million different ways to make your own Spray and Wipe, but these two are my regular go-to versions:

Option 1 - Baking Soda

Combine in a spray bottle:

  • 500ml water

  • 1 tsp liquid castile soap

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 15 drops of essential oil (I use lavender, peppermint or orange)

Option 2 - Borax and Washing Soda

Combine in a spray bottle:

  • 500ml water

  • 1 tsp borax

  • 1/2 tsp washing soda

  • 1 tsp liquid castile soap

  • Essential oils: 4 drops lemon, 4 drops lavender, 10 drops orange

This recipe is by Wellness Mama - check her out, she's got some amazing resources!

Another recent favourite of mine has been brewing citrus infused vinegar - it works superbly, and it's a great way to get further life out of a "waste" product. It’s also incredibly simple to put together - all you do is add your lemon, lime, orange or mandarin peelings (this can include chunks of the flesh) to a jar of vinegar, and keep on topping it up until it’s full (try to make sure that the peelings are submerged in the vinegar). Leave it to infuse on your bench or inside a cupboard for at least 2 weeks. There are a couple of variations you can make - adding whole cloves to this mix smells amazing and adds some more antibacterial oomph, and infusing rosemary instead of citrus works well too. Please note: using vinegar or citrus is not recommended on marble, granite and some wooden surfaces.

Antibacterial spray

I spray this concoction inside the nappy bucket after it has been wiped, over the toilet once it has been cleaned, and inside the laundry tub. It is designed to be sprayed onto the surface and left to set (you don't need to wipe away).

Combine in a spray bottle:

  • 1/2 cup vinegar

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 25 drops tea tree essential oil

  • 25 drops lavender essential oil

TOILET SCRUB

While you can simply use baking soda for this job, I find that it just doesn't work as well as this recipe! This one is by Wendyl's Green Goddess and I make it the original way it was published, using peppermint oil. 

Mix all the ingredients together in a jar or blitz in a food processor:

  • 3 cups washing soda 

  • 1 cup oxygen bleach

  • 1 tsp essential oil

Throw two tablespoons of powder into the bowl, swish around with your toilet brush, leave for 10 minutes, then brush again and flush.

GOO REMOVER

Got stubborn labels stuck on your glass jars like concrete? Not after this, you won't! This one is by 1 Million Women and has proved really handy to keep on hand in the cupboard. 

  • 1/3 cup baking soda 

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil

  • 3 drops of essential oil (eucalyptus works best)

Mix all ingredients together - the mixture will be very runny at first, but as the coconut oil begins to harden it will form a paste. 

 

To apply, peel away as much of the jar label as you can. Apply a thick layer to the whole area and let it sit for a few minutes. It's best to massage it in and warm up the oil a little. You should be able to peel away the leftover paper quite easily after this point, or apply a little friction with a cleaning cloth. Wash in warm soapy water to remove any of the residual cleaner. Store at room temperature to keep the coconut oil from going rock hard.

Cream cleanser

I used to make up a special cream cleanser ("Jif" to all us Kiwis), but nowadays I usually use good old baking soda. No flash method or instructions this time - I just scatter a tablespoon around the bathroom sink, or a couple of spoons around the top of the bathtub, get a hot wet cloth and dip it into the baking soda before cleaning the surface. The water in the cloth gets a nice paste going, and the baking soda works brilliantly to scrub off the grime - too easy. 

Laundry powder

To be honest, I've always found DIY washing powder to be a bit hit-and-miss. However, I have had some success with this recipe from Aoraki Naturals, and I tend to alternate between using this and buying the biggest box of Persil Sensitive that I can find. ​

  • 300g coconut oil laundry soap, finely grated

  • 500g borax

  • 500g washing soda 

  • 400g baking soda 

  • I also add 10 drops of lavender essential oil

 

Using a food processor, blitz half a batch at a time (you can skip this step if you prefer, and just mix everything together in a large container). 

Use 1 - 2 Tbsp per load, dissolve in hot water first for best results. 

LAUNDRY SOAK

This one is a great substitute for Napisan, and it's easy peasy since it's only one ingredient! Dissolve 2 Tbsp oxygen bleach in a bucket of warm water, then add your soiled clothes. Leave soaking for around an hour (although you can leave heavily soiled clothes longer, as long as the fabrics are not delicate). Do not soak any silk, wool, or garments that have leather trim or wooden buttons.