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The Frugal, Homemade Clean!
By Lisa Barthuly

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the art of making things ourselves. Not only are “homemade cleaners” a frugal, healthier option, but it also is a simple matter to create them.

We’ve been hoodwinked! We almost believe we must have every cleaner on the market—one for each room, appliance, and item in our home. Not so!

Much of what is housed in your local store’s “cleansers” aisle is just plain overpriced and potentially toxic! Grab yourself a box or two of some good old-fashioned 20 Mule Team® Borax, take a left, and head to the baking aisle. Huh!? Yes, the baking aisle! Grab yourself a few gallons of white vinegar and a few bags or boxes of baking soda and you’re on your way to making your own cleaners! (Costco® is an excellent place to pick these up at a great price!)



To get going on making your own homemade cleaners, gather all of your ingredients in one safe spot. (Reminder: Although these ingredients are “organic” in nature, they still need to be treated with caution, just as you would carefully handle any “toxic” cleaner. Keep them all away from young-uns, and never mix vinegar and bleach!) This not only keeps you organized, but it also keeps the ingredients put up where no one can mistakenly get into them. With a permanent marker, be sure to identify the contents of all of your containers (spray bottles, cans, boxes, etc.).

I’d start with this list, to get yourself going down the path to making your own cleaners. Many of these items are probably in your home right now.

Natural Cleaners Starter Kit
• Baking soda
• White vinegar
• Borax
• Olive oil

• Lavender Essential Oil
• Tea Tree Essential Oil
• Eucalyptus Essential Oil
• Grapefruit Seed Extract
• Orange Essential Oil

• Empty, clean sprayer bottles
• Old washcloths or rags
• Old toothbrush
• Green scrubbie pads
• Old glass canning jars and old plastic containers (Reuse those sour cream or cottage cheese containers!)
• A permanent marker


You can start out with just one of the above listed essential oils, and if I had to pick just one, I’d go with Lavender or Tea Tree. All of these oils have natural antibacterial properties and require very small amounts to do the job! These frugal, natural cleaners you make up yourself will cost pennies on the dollar compared to their commercial, chemical-laden competitors.

To keep my home clean, I need some basic cleaning supplies. I need a window/glass cleaner, a scrubbing cleaner (for toilets, tubs, etc.), a basic all-around spray cleaner (for countertops, walls, floors, appliances, etc.), and a furniture oil for woods. Now, here are some recipes to mix up with all these goodies!

Window/Glass Cleaner
Take one old, empty, clean sprayer bottle and fill it ¾ with water and ¼ with vinegar. Shake the mixture well, and voilà, you have your own homemade Windex®! Some folks use old newsprint rather than paper towels to wash windows, but beware, newsprint of our day uses toxic inks and chemicals. I use an old rag, or you could “cheat” and go over to and get a Norwex Window Cloth! I have one I have used for a few years; it’s as good as new and can be used with just water to clean mirrors and glass. It works perfectly, and when I’m done, I just toss it in the wash. I love mine!

This vinegar and water solution also can be used wherever you might find mold. I tend to find mold in our window tracks in the wintertime. I just spray a little of this solution on there, grab my old toothbrush, scrub, and wipe out the area with an old rag. (In this case, I’ll toss the rag.)



Scrubbing Cleanser
I love this one! Rather than using the chlorine-laden can of tub- or toilet-scrubbing powders, take a pint- or quart-size canning jar, and fill it ¾ full of baking soda. Put a straw or butter knife down the middle of the jar into the baking soda, to make “holes” in the baking soda so that your oils can really get mixed up well. Dump in approximately 20 drops of Lavender Essential Oil (or Tea Tree, Lemon, or Orange!), put on the lid, and shake it well. Then take a small nail and punch about five decent-sized holes in it. Now you have your own “shaker” of cleanser, which contains no chlorine or chemicals and works even better! I also use this cleanser to scrub my stainless steel kitchen sink, bathroom sinks, and our shower (using one of those old green scrubbie pads). Want a sparkling tub? Use full strength vinegar on an old rag or washcloth to wipe the tub down—clean and shiny! To remove water spots from the shower glass, do the same and then rinse with plain water.

All-Around Spray Cleaner
I use this everywhere! Take one of your old, empty, clean sprayer bottles and fill it ¾ full of water. Add one full dropper of Grapefruit Seed Extract (I buy mine at, and it’s called “Grapefruit Seed Crush” there), a dropper of Lavender Essential Oil, and shake it up well. I use this to clean my appliances and countertops and to get those little fingerprints off of walls. It works on kitchen and bathroom floors too. (I just spray it on the floor and mop it up, or I use one of those handy old rags, get it a bit wet, and wipe up.) It really is an all-purpose cleaner!

Furniture Oil
I’ve seen lots of recipes for this, but the most effective and frugal recipe I’ve found for use on my wood furniture is plain old olive oil in a half-pint canning jar. Fill it about ¾ full with olive oil and add 5–10 drops of Sweet Orange Essential Oil. Shake it up, dab a bit on your rag, and polish up all the woodwork. This one smells great and works even better.



Dishwasher Soap
I mix up this one in one of those old plastic cottage cheese containers. I use 2 cups of baking soda and 1½ cups of Borax (mixed well). When you’re ready to wash a load, fill the soap container in your dishwasher with this mixture, and then fill your rinse container with white vinegar! I tend to over-fill a bit on the vinegar; we have very hard minerals in our water, and I easily use a ½ cup of vinegar per load here. You may need to adjust this depending on the hardness of your water.

One of my personal favorites: I like to keep an old pot simmering on the woodstove, filled with water and a few drops of essential oils and herbs. I especially love Eucalyptus and Lavender, and I have a Cinnamon Stick Blend I make up too. They fill the house with a lovely aroma!

As you can see, a little goes a long way with these frugal, homemade cleaners, and you can get creative and customize these to meet your family’s needs. Look for these and many more helpful, frugal, and homemade cleaning ideas, recipes, and tips in our new E-Book, Homemade Clean1, available at

We can make our own homemade cleaners; they are easy to make and use. Not only are we being good stewards of the money our family has been provided with, but these homemade cleansers also are so much healthier for our families! Happy cleaning!

1. Homemade Clean by Lisa Barthuly, copyright 2008.

Lisa Barthuly is wife to Marc and Mama to four blessings! They live a lifestyle of learning in the foothills of Mount Rainier on their little homestead, with Shalom the Great Pyr, some Nubian goats, a flock of “chicklettes,” and lots of wild critters. They run Homestead Originals (, where they specialize in All Natural Soy Candles and other goodies for the homestead and those in it! Come on by and visit our blog for great ideas, tips, freebies, and contests too!

©2008 The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of The Old
Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC
Reprinted with permission from the publisher.


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