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How to make your own natural cleaning products

2 May 2020 | Julia Watkins

Cleaning products contain some of the harshest chemical ingredients out there, not only are these ingredients potentially harmful to the health, the packaging from traditional cleaning products are harmful to the environment. If you're looking to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals that you use in the home, here are some easy homemade cleaning products to replace common store-bought ones.

Make your own natural cleaning products

Homemade Lemon Liquid Dish Soap

When it comes to hand-washing dishes, I like to use a wooden-handled scrub brush and a bar of savon de Marseilles. A traditional olive oil–based soap, savon de Marseilles has been around for six hundred years and makes an excellent alternative to chemical and petroleum-based soaps. Culturally, we’re in the habit of using liquid soaps for dishwashing, but bar soaps work just as well in terms of cleaning. That said, if you really love your liquid soaps, which I do understand, here is one recipe that is simple and sudsy—perhaps not quite like a big dollop of Palmolive, but definitely more so than plain castile soap.


1⁄2 cup water (preferably distilled) 

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1⁄2 cup Sal Suds

1 tablespoon jojoba or almond oil

1 tablespoon vitamin E oil (optional) 

10 drops lemon essential oil (optional)


Using a small funnel, pour the water and vinegar into a glass soap pump dispenser. Cap and shake well. Add the Sal Suds, jojoba oil, and vitamin E oil and lemon oil, if using.


Tip the bottle upside down and right side up a few times to gently mix ingredients before using.

Homemade Herbal Scouring Powder

make your own natural cleaning productIf you need something slightly more abrasive than the gentle surface scrub on page  77, this scouring powder should do the trick. You can make it the simple way, with just washing soda, baking soda, and citric acid, or if you’re like me and have so many dried herbs you don’t know what to do with them, you can add them to the powder to make it more refreshing and abrasive. Any herb with a nice fragrance will do; my favorites are eucalyptus, lavender, lemon balm, peppermint, and rosemary. If you’d like extra bleaching-power, a few drops of lemon essential oil will go a long way.


1⁄2 cup washing soda, store-bought or homemade

1⁄2 cup baking soda

2 teaspoons citric acid

1⁄2 cup dried herbs (optional)

5 to 10 drops lemon essential oil (optional)


Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and then store in an airtight container.


Sprinkle surface with scouring powder, add water to form a paste, and scrub. Let the paste stand for 10 minutes, then rinse or wipe clean with a damp rag or towel. Be sure to wear gloves, as washing soda is caustic and can irritate the skin.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Tabs

natural cleaning productIf you’re accustomed to using dishwasher tabs but want to avoid single-use packaging, this homemade version is wonderful. However, they’ll leave your dishes spotty with-out the addition of vinegar, so be sure to include the last step where you add it to the rinse compartment. You’ll need a silicone mold like the ones commonly used for  candy-making; just be sure the size of the finished tabs will fit inside your dishwasher.


1 cup washing soda, store-bought or homemade 

1 cup baking soda 1⁄4 cup citric acid

1 cup kosher salt

5 drops essential oil (optional) 

1 cup water

Distilled white vinegar, as needed


Combine the washing soda, baking soda, citric acid, salt, and essential oil, if using, in a bowl and mix well. Add the water slowly to try to prevent too much of a reaction. Mix the ingredients slowly but thoroughly, then spoon the mixture into silicone molds. Allow the mixture to dry and harden for about an hour. Once hardened, remove the tabs from the mold and store them in an airtight container.


Use one tab per load, along with 2 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar added to the rinse compartment.

Homemade Fabric Softener

Fabric softeners sound good in theory—they reduce wrinkles and static cling, pre-vent stretching, fading, and pilling, and leave clothes feeling softer and smelling fresh. But are they worth it? The Environmental Working Group recommends avoiding commercial fabric softeners because they contain chemicals that trigger asthma and damage the reproductive system. They’re also believed to harm the environment and cause indoor and outdoor air pollution. As an alternative, you can add vinegar to the rinse cycle to smooth natural fibers and reduce static cling. If you’re concerned about the smell of vinegar, don’t worry—it dissipates when the clothing dries.


1 litre distilled white vinegar

10 drops essential oil (optional)


Combine the vinegar with the essential oil (if using) and store in an airtight 1 litre glass jar.


When ready to wash clothes, add 1⁄2 cup to the rinse cycle compartment or to the main compartment when the rinse cycle begins.

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This an edited extract from Simply Living Well: A Guide to Creating a Natural, Low-Waste Home by Julia Watkins
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