Subscribe -- FREE!
Shel Horowitz's monthly Clean and Green Newsletter
Receive these exciting bonuses: Seven Tips to Gain Marketing Traction as a Green Guerrilla plus Seven Weeks to a Greener Business
( Privacy Policy )

Naturally Frugal Cleaning

Learn to clean more frugally with these suggestions, recipes and tips.

New cleaners hit the market with advertising pitches like "with the added power of baking soda!" and "now with bleach!" Why not just use the baking soda or bleach?

Our kitchen cabinets, the areas under our sinks, and bathroom cabinets are filled with cleaners labeled, "Do not swallow," "If swallowed call a poison control center immediately," and "Do not allow contact with skin." The lists of ingredients on the bottles are barely pronouncable. The fumes are barely tolerable. We label things with poison stickers and use child saftey latches on our cabinets. But why?

There are safer and more natural alternatives! The suggestions below are better for our environment, our homes, and our children - and will save you $$$. So throw away those toxic cleaning solutions and clean naturally & frugally!

Here are just a few tips to help you get started:

(1) Make your transition slowly. Replace your commerical cleaners with a homemade substitute as you run out of each one. Be sure to mix up the new cleaner as soon as you run out of the commerical one so that it will be on hand and ready to use when you need it.

(2) Always keep your cleaners in a baby/child proofed area and store them in the area you will need them in (bathroom cleaners in the bathroom cabinet, kitchen cleaners in the kitchen).

(3) Store your cleaners in reusable airtight containers. Do not reuse bottles from commerical cleaners. Instead purchase empty spray bottles or recycle milk jugs. Be sure to label each container with the ingredients and purpose.

(4) Don't forget to also replace your expensive scrubbers and cleaning tools with cheaper homeade alternatives!

Natural Cleaners

Baking Soda - Baking soda is a great all-purpose, non-toxic cleaner. It cleans, deodorizes, scours, polishes and removes stains. (Note - There's a great article on this site about baking soda, "The Manifold Magic of Baking Soda")

Borax - It deodorizes, removes stains and boosts the cleaning power of soap. It also prevents mold and odors. Great alternative for those who do not want to use bleach.

Cornstarch - cleans and deodorizes carpets and rugs, and can be used in place of baby powder.

Ketchup - cleans copper.

Lemon juice - great for whitening items and removing grease and stains on aluminum and porcelain.

Pure Soap - cleans almost anything and is mild.

Salt - regular table salt makes an abrasive, but gentle, scouring powder.

Washing Soda - Cuts grease and disinfects.

White Vinegar - great for whitening, cleaning hard surfaces and windows, and shining metal surfaces. Also removes mildew, stains, grease and wax buildup.

Forumlas and Solutions

Air Freshener
- Leave opened box of baking soda in room.
- Add cloves & cinnamon to boiling water and let simmer.
- Use fresh flowers and herbs.

Carpet Cleaners
- For deoderizing: sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on carpet, using about 1 cup per medium sized room. Vacuum after 30 minutes.
- For deoderizing: mix two parts cornmeal with one part borax; sprinkle liberally, leave for one hour, then vacuum.
- To soak up big spills: dump cornmeal on the spill; after 5-15 minutes, sweep into a dustpan, then vacuum.
- Put 1/4 cup liquid soap or detergent in the blender with 1/3 cup water. Blend until foamy. Use this to clean spots on the carpet, then rinse with vinegar.

Copper Cleaner
- Pour vinegar and salt over copper and rub.

- 2 cups water, 3 tablespoons liquid soap, 20-30 drops Tea Tree Oil; Mix well in (a spray bottle will work well) and squirt on everything from baby's bottom to the cutting board.

Drain Opener
- Prevent clogging by using drain strainer.
- Pour 1/2 cup washing soda into drain followed by 2 cups boiling water.
- Flush drain weekly with boiling water for prevention.

Furniture Polish
- Mix 3 parts olive oil with 1 part vinegar. Use a soft cloth.
- Mix 2 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice. Use a soft cloth.

General Cleaners (Porcelain, counter tops, etc.)
- Mix baking soda with a small amount of water.
- For stained areas, use paste of baking soda & water, let set a while, then scrub off.
- Mix 3 TBSP washing soda into one quart warm water.

Glass and Window Cleaner
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 cup white vinegar, 1 gallon warm water; Mix the ingredients in a bucket and use to scrub windows.

Laundry Detergent
- Use washing soda or soap in place of detergent.
- Mix detergent half & half with baking soda (use 1/2 the recommended amount of detergent).
- Make a paste of washing soda and water for dirty spots.
- POWDER DETERGENT- basic recipe- 5 cups soap flakes, 7 cups of Borax; you can store this in an old laundry detergent box or a plastic container, and to wash, use only 1/2 cup at a time- make sure to shake it to mix up the soda and borax with the flakes. (for hard water, add 3.5 cups of washing soda to mixture)
- GEL LAUNDRY DETERGENT- 1/2 bar grated soap (Fels Naptha, Ivory or castille bar soap), 2 cups borax, 1 gallon rubbermaid or other plastic container with pour spout; fill the gallon container 1/4 full with water. Add grated soap and soak over night (to speed up this process, you may melt grated soap in water by cooking on low heat); add washing soda and borax, add water to fill container; shake well before using; use only 3/4 cup per load; a gallon of this detergent can cost as little as 75 cents! (For hard water, add 1/2 cup of washing soda to borax mixture.)

Linoleum Floor Cleaner / Wax
- Mop with 1 cup white vinegar in 2 gallons water to remove dull greasy film.
- Polish with club soda.
- Adding sour milk or skim milk to rinse water will shine the floor without polishing.

Metal polish
- 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon salt, I tablespoon white vinegar; Combine salt and flour in small bowl and stir until blended. Add the vinegar and mix into paste. Smear on the paste with a damp sponge or cloth and rub gently. Let the polish dry for about an hour. Rinse well with warm water, buff dry with a soft cloth. (for brass, bronze, copper and pewter; DO NOT use on silver, silver plate or jewelry)

Microwave Cleaner
- Heat 1 c. vinegar in a microwavable bowl for 1-2 minutes (should steam and loosen food inside of the microwave). Wipe out with a washcloth and warm soapy water.

Mosquito Repellant
- Oil of citronella can be burned in candles outdoors. It has a scent pleasing to people but not to mosquitos!
- Plant sweet basil around the patio and house to repel mosquitoes.

Multipurpose Cleaner (Tile and linoleum floors, formica counter-tops, appliances, etc.)
- 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 cup white vinegar, 1 gallon warm water; Mix ingredients and store in tightly-capped container.

Oven Cleaner
- Sprinkle salt on spills when they are warm and scrub.
- Mix 3 TBSP washing soda with one quart warm water.
- Use oven liners (trays) to catch spills and prevent a messy oven.
- Rub gently with steel wool.

Silver Cleaner
- Aluminum foil, baking soda, salt, very hot water; Combine the above ingredients in a clean kitchen sink. Put your tarnished silver and silver-plated items into the sink and let sit for a few minutes. The tarnish will disappear from the silver and reappear on the foil.

Silver Polish
- Rub article with toothpaste and soft cloth. Rinse with warm water & dry.
- Place cut-up aluminum foil in jar with water, add about 1 TBSP salt, mix. Place article in solution for 5-15 minutes. Remove and rub with soft cloth.

Sink Cleaner
- Combine baking soda and salt to scrub stainless steel.

Shoe Polish
- Polish leather with the inside of a banana peel, then buff.

Spot Remover
- Remove spots as soon as they happen.
- Blood stain - gently sponge with cold water, dry with towel. Repeat until stain is gone.
- Red wine - on rugs, dab out moisture with absorbant cloth. Cover stain with salt. Let sit for several hours. Vacuum when dry.
- Ink stains - soak in cold water, then wash as usual. If stain is on white fabric, wet fabric with cold water & apply a paste of cream of tartar & lemon juice, let sit for 1 hour. Wash as usual.
- Perspiration stains - sponge stain with weak solution of white vinegar & water or lemon juice & water.

Upholstery & Rug Cleaner
- Clean stains immediately with club soda.

Wall cleaner
- 2 ounces borax, 2 quarts water; Dissolve the borax in a big bucketful of water. Scrub a really dirty wall from the bottom up. if you scrub from the top down, the dirty water will run down over the dry, soiled wall leaving hard-to-remove streaks.

Window Cleaner
- 1/2 cup white vinegar to one gallon warm water. Just mix and scrub.
- Use straight lemon juice, dry with soft cloth.
- Use plain Club Soda and scrub with old newspaper.

Wood Floor Wax / Cleaner
- Equal portions of oil & vinegar. Apply in thin coat and rub in well.
- Painted wooden floors can be washed with 1 TSP washing soda per gallon hot water.
- Rinse with clear water.

Making / Recycling your own cleaning tools

* Socks - good for cleaning walls, especially textured ones (sponges break off little pieces when you try to scrub textured walls).
* Scrubbers - cut up pieces of mesh potato bags and tie into a small ball - works great for scouring dishes!
* Sponges - throw your dirty sponge in the dishwasher or boil it with a bit of baking soda on the stove to make it look like new again.
* Towels - cut up old towels instead of throwing them away and use them for dish clothes or in the garage.
* Toothbrushes - save that old toothbrush! You can use it to scrub floors, stains on clothing, and more!
* Mop - to make a new mop head, try cutting up strips of old towels, shirts or socks. Rubberband or tie the top ends of the strips together, then secure to the mop stick.
* Window Cleaner - I've heard that newspaper works well to clean windows. You can also try old cloth diapers.

In addition to avoiding toxic chemicals in her cleaning supplies, Michelle Shaeffer has been a work at home mom for more than 10 years and loves to share the tips and strategies she's learned to help other entrepreneurs and small business owners. Catch up with her at

Share this article/site with a Friend

Bookmark Us

Many of the 1,000+ articles on Frugal Fun and Frugal Marketing have been gathered into magazines. If you'd like to read more great content on these topics, please click on the name of the magazine you'd like to visit.

Ethics Articles - Down to Business Magazine - Frugal & Fashionable Living Magazine
Global Travel Review - Global Arts Review - Peace & Politics Magazine
Frugal Marketing Tips - Frugal Fun Tips - Positive Power of Principled Profit

Clean and Green Marketing

Our Privacy Policy

Disclosures of Material Connections:
  • Some of the links on our site and items in our newsletters are sponsored ads or affiliate links. This financial support allows us to bring you the consistent high quality of information and constant flow of new content. Please thank our advertisers if you do business with them.
  • As is the case for most professional reviewers, many of the books I review on this site have been provided by the publisher or author, at no cost to me. I've also reviewed books that I bought, because they were worthy of your time. And I've also received dozens of review copies at no charge that do not get reviewed, either because they are not worthy or because they don't meet the subject criteria for this column, or simply because I haven't gotten around to them yet, since I only review one book per month. I have far more books in my office than I will ever read, and the receipt of a free book does not affect my review.

Site copyright © 1996-2011 by Shel Horowitz