Make your own cleaning products

Ditch your toxic cleaning supplies and make some welcome credit crunch savings at the same time by mixing up your own household cleaning products. Here's how to spruce up your home armed with many of the common ingredients lurking at the back of your cupboards.

Ten of the best stain removal tips

Household cleaning tips

Declutter your home

Make your own cleaning products

Homemade cleaning tips

  • For frequently used ingredients like vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, buy the supermarket's no-frills brand or find a wholesale supplier that will sell you larger quantities.
  • Scout around for some old-fashioned housewive's manuals in second hand bookshops as these are packed with thrifty cleaning ideas.
  • Be careful when disposing of your old cleaning solutions, as if certain component chemicals are inadvertently mixed they can create a highly toxic effect.
  • If there are some jobs for which you just don't trust a homemade cleaning solution, use eco-friendly brands like Ecover in place of your normal product.

All-purpose surface cleaner
To keep your kitchen dazzling, mix up your own all-purpose surface cleaner. Combine one teaspoon of borax, half a teaspoon washing soda, two tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice, half a teaspoon of vegetable oil based liquid soap and two cups of hot tap water in a spray bottle, shaking well before use.

Removing baked-on grime
Tackle tough grime without chemical abrasive powders by mixing one teaspoon of borax and four teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda.

Drain unblocker
Unblock your drains without pouring harmful pollutants into the water system by pouring down 225g of salt and 115g of bicarbonate of soda mixed together, followed by a kettle of boiling water. For a tougher drain problem, try two tablespoons of soda crystals dissolved into one litre of hot water, leave for 10 minutes and then flush away with more hot water.

Cleaning the oven
Cleaning the oven is always one of the toughest jobs, but there is even a mix-it-yourself recipe for this fearsome task. Simply scrub with one small pot of bicarbonate of soda mixed with a quarter of a cup of washing soda and rinse well.
Get more oven cleaning tips

Cleaning the bathroom
For an all-purpose cleaner, use the same recipe as you have made for the kitchen. For plastic or fibreglass bathtubs, heat white vinegar in a pan, but not to boiling point, and pour carefully into a spray bottle. Spray generously on the surface, then leave for a quarter of an hour before scrubbing down with more neat vinegar and rinsing clean. With porcelain tubs, mix a paste of alum and water or for stained areas mix the paste with lemon juice instead of water.

Tiles and grouting will be left gleaming if you use a solution of two parts bicarbonate of soda, one part borax and one part hot water, and an old toothbrush to apply and scrub. To get rid of limescale build-up, fill a sandwich bag with neat vinegar and tie this around the tap or shower head overnight. Scrub and rinse in the morning. Tackle mould and mildew from condensation by using a spray solution made from one teaspoon of borax, three tablespoons of vinegar and two cups of very hot tap water. Give the toilet bowl an overnight blast by pouring in a cup of borax and flushing the next day.

Cleaning living areas & other chores
Get rid of odours around the house with a homemade air freshener. Combine a teaspoon of lemon juice with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and two cups of hot water in a spray bottle. Create your own carpet and upholstery cleaner by mixing a quarter of a cup of vegetable oil-based liquid soap with three tablespoons of water and whip up to create a foam. Skim this off and use just as you would an ordinary foam carpet cleaner.

For cleaning wooden furniture, create a dusting polish with a quarter of a cup of olive oil and the same amount of vinegar. A spray solution for windows and mirrors, can be made from one part vinegar and seven parts water. Use an old newspaper to remove smears. Soap nuts (from the Sapindus mukorossi tree), are a fantastic natural alternative to laundry detergent and are widely available online, while instead of spending a fortune on expensive fabric conditioners, try using bicarbonate of soda or vinegar for a similar effect.

Further reading:
Clean And Green: The Complete Guide To Nontoxic & Environmentally Safe Housekeeping by Annie Berthold-Bond, Ceres Press.
Talking Dirty With The Queen Of Clean, by Linda Cobb, Pocket Books.
The Cleaning Bible: Kim & Aggie's Complete Guide To Modern Household Management, by Kim Woodburn and Aggie MacKenzie, Penguin.

Note: Always check product specifications for suitability and do a test on a patch that is hidden from main view. Please seek professional cleaning advice first in the event of any uncertainty about the suitability of these tips for the cleaning of your item.