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DIY Spring Cleaning

Spring is here! It’s time to dust off the cobwebs, open the curtains, and let in the light! Once you’ve done that, you may notice it’s also time to do some cleaning...

In the past, this time of year has often found me in front of my cleaning supplies cupboard, wondering what was really in those ancient bottles. Are they safe for the environment? Will they hurt me if I get them on my skin? What will happen to my kid when he (inevitably) licks the floor? How much do I have to spend to get something really safe?

The answer to the last question is thankfully, not very much. In fact, a lot of the ingredients you need to clean your home are probably already in your pantry. 

Looking for more reasons to try making your own non-toxic cleaning products?

  • Most are quick and easy to make

  • Reduce packaging waste

  • Better for us, better for the environment

  • All the ingredients you need are available at the Willy Street Coop!

What You Need to Get Started

  • White vinegar: disinfects and breaks up dirt.

  • Lemon juice: helps break down mildew and mold, cuts through grease, smells great.

  • Baking soda: provides grit for scrubbing and reacts with water, vinegar or lemon juice by fizzing, which can speed up cleaning time. It also deodorizes and brightens.

  • Castile soap: style of soap made from 100% plant oils, no animal products or chemical detergents. All-purpose cleaner.

  • Washing soda: stain remover, general cleaner, helps unblock pipes; should be handled with gloves due to its caustic nature. 

  • Hydrogen peroxide: disinfects and bleaches.

  • Essential oils: generally optional, but they smell a lot better than vinegar.

A note on mixing acids with bases: Mixing an acid (vinegar or lemon juice) with a base (washing soda, castile soap, baking soda) basically cancels out both ingredients. In most cases, if you are using both acids and bases, you will be washing with a base (like castile soap) and rinsing with an acid (vinegar).

A note on borax: Many DIY cleaning recipes include borax. However, the safety and greenness of borax is currently under debate. For this reason, I have decided to leave it off this list. I would encourage you to investigate and make your own decisions about it.

All-Purpose Cleaning Spray

Adapted from “DIY All-Purpose Cleaning Solution” on
1 Tbs. baking soda
1 tsp. castile soap
3-5 drops tea tree oil


Directions: Add the baking soda, castile soap and tea tree oil to a spray bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle with water. Shake or stir to combine.

Liquid Laundry Detergent

Adapted from “DIY Borax Free Liquid Laundry Detergent” on

1/2 c.washing soda
1/2 c. baking soda
3/4 c. liquid Castile Soap
20-50 drops lavender essential oil (optional)


two gallon bucket
measuring cup
2 one gallon containers (old vinegar bottles work great)

Directions: Pour the washing soda into the bottom of the two-gallon bucket. Cover with hot tap water and stir until dissolved. Add the baking soda. Once baking soda is dissolved, fill the bucket with water. Add the castile soap. Don’t try to add the castile soap before the water or it will get too sudsy. Stir to mix and add the essential oil, if desired. Funnel into bottles and label.

Use 1/3 cup of laundry soap per load of laundry. Before using, gently slosh in bottle to mix ingredients thoroughly.

A note on storage: This detergent can clump if stored too cold. To de-clump, gently warm and stir until liquid again.

Soap Nuts

Adapted from “Clothes” on
Another way to DIY your laundry, soap nuts are a berry shell that naturally contains soap called saponin. They are a gentle natural cleaner, great for sensitive skin.

How to Use

  • Place 4 whole soap nuts in a reusable muslin bag (it’s ok to use pieces to make up a whole nut)

  • Put wash bag in the washing machine 

  • Leave wash bag in for entire wash. When finished, remove and lay out to dry

  • Wash bag can be reused for 4-6 washes.

Window Cleaner

Adapted from “Homemade Window Cleaner” on

  • Spouted measuring cup or liquid measuring cup and funnel

  • 1 cup white vinegar

  • 1 c. water

  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice

  • Spray bottle

  • Essential oil (optional)

Directions: Add all ingredients to spray bottle, using funnel if necessary. Add 1-2 drops of essential oil of choice if you like—rosemary or lavender are good choices. Give it a little shake and use like any other window cleaner—spray and wipe!

Dish Soap

Adapted from “Homemade Dish Soap That Actually Works!” on

  • 1 1/4 c. boiling water

  • 1/4 c. (tightly packed) castile bar soap, grated

  • 1 Tbs. washing soda (use a little more for a thicker soap)

  • 1/4 c. liquid castile soap

  • 10-30 drops essential oils (optional; I use 20 drops orange and 10 drops tea tree)

Directions: Add grated castile soap to boiling water and stir until dissolved. Add washing soda and stir. Add liquid castile soap and stir. Let mixture cool, then add essential oils. Transfer to soap dispenser of choice and enjoy.

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