By Contributing Editor Kristina Strain

Formulas for basic cleaning products have been around for hundreds of years. Before capitalism got involved, people kept clean houses using mostly soap and water. The companies, of course, would have you believe otherwise, trotting out commercial after commercial featuring the desperate wife (never husband) trying the new and improved Scrubbing Swiffer or Magic Spray-bottle of Sparkling Cleanness. The truth is, of course, that there’s no magic to cleaning at all. A few basic formulas and some grocery store ingredients are all it takes. Read on.

The universal appeal in making your own cleaning products is that you know exactly what ingredients are going into the mix, like when you cook your own meals. There’s also the pleasure of self-reliance, and the ability to customize your cleaners with essential oils. They’re also a big money-saver. Once you realize how inexpensive homemade laundry detergent can be, you’ll never go back to jugs of blue goo.


To keep my countertops sparkling, I use mostly plain soap and hot water. It’s nothing fancy, but it does the trick. Many commercially sold counter sprays, like Fantastik and 409, are also anti-bacterial, which raises its own set of issues. Triclosan, the compound typically used to make something anti-bacterial, is a pesticide and possibly an endocrine disruptor. If I need a little abrasive action, I use a shake of baking soda, let it sit for a minute, and scrub out with a sponge. Clean as a whistle!


For my stove, I make a thick paste from baking soda and a splash of water. I rub it on and let it sit for a minute, then scrub away with some steel wool. I use baking soda paste on the end of an old toothbrush for other gunked-up areas, such as behind the sink.


A spray bottle filled with half white vinegar, half water is great in the bathroom. It makes excellent mold and mildew-killing tile spray, and is an effective deodorizer as well. It also makes a fine substitute for Windex.

Next: Make Your Own Laundry Detergent