Friday, February 15, 2013

Homemade cleaning products

I'm not known for buying a lot of whiz-bang pre-made cleaning products. I tend to be a lot more basic. Most of my cleaning supplies consist of a healthy dose of elbow grease. But there's one product I adore and I've bought it faithfully for years: Formula 409.

The reason is because it's not uncommon in our house to have oily or greasy messes on surfaces (counters, tables), and good ol' Formula 409 cuts the grease beautifully. I'll usually buy it in gallon jugs at a wholesale grocer and refill my old kitchen squirt bottle.

But it always galled me to buy pre-made 409. Don't know why, it just did. But I kept on buying it.

Finally I got smart and looked in my faithful Cheaper and Better book to see if I could make my own 409.

It had a super-dooper simple recipe for "greasy glass cleaner" which I decided to try.

Dish soap and ammonia are the basic ingredients. Notice how battered my dish soap bottle is. That's because it's probably five years old -- I buy dish soap by the gallon and re-fill this smaller bottle for use in the kitchen.

One cup water, half a cup ammonia, quarter-cup dish soap...

...and whisk.

A single batch fills my squirt bottle nicely.

I've been using this recipe for several months and it works just as well as 409. Duh, why didn't I do this sooner? I get a lot more mileage out of a gallon of ammonia and a gallon of dish soap than I do from a gallon of Formula409.

I realize this probably sounds hopeless naive to many of you. There are endless numbers of admirable people who have been making their own cleaning products for years, and scoff at the notion of buying any commercially-made items. But for me, this is fairly new territory.

Because of this -- because it's fairly new to me -- what are your favorite homemade versions of commercial cleaning products? Post the recipe and share with everyone.


  1. For a long time now, I have been hating using chemicals to clean things up. I love how you went step by step teaching how to make homemade cleaners! Nice!

    1. Soooo happy for this to pop up after a commercial for a $20 bottle of "Amish Wood Cleaner." Huh? I put that in and got this recipe. Use a magic sponge (available at most dollar and $0.99 stores. My [cheapy] kitchen cupboards are covered on the outside with a horrible vinyl. Magic sponge works great on the "frozen grease" that lingers. With that, my FAVORITE for cleaning, disinfecting, etc., is "PURE RUBBING ALCOHOL." I buy the 70+ proof (if I can find it). Dollar stores always have the two lower strengths (Walmart the higher) -- disclaimer: I have used this for years and just noticed the higher content, but I do feel better (even though I cannot tell the difference, lol. Put the rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle (the kind near the samples; many use them to wet hair for many reasons) e.g., to we hair to be cut, etc.
      * NOTE: See the note(s) at the end!! Important!!

      Now, with newspaper (do they still make that?) or, SORRY, paper towels, wipe everything. Chrome, sinks, granite, laminate, tile, fridge, glass/mirrors, even my sealed (with poly) floors . . . (the list is endless. It is gentle, dissipates VERY quickly, smell leaves within seconds. The only problem: It dissipates quickly!!! Scrape seriously dried stuff with a butter knife (this might be a reason to have this Amish soap so you have something will stay long enough to soak whatever it is.

      Thanks for this!

      * DO NOT spray the RUBBING ALCOHOL on wood that is not sealed with a polyurethane!! It WILL turn the finish white!! I promise (get it??)!!

  2. Hi Patrice - thanks for the recipe! I've been really working hard to get down to basic ingredients on everything (cooking from scratch, gardening from seed, and cleaning from scratch). This looks easy, and I'll try it as soon as I use up the last of the commercial stuff.

    I make my own laundry detergent with this very simple recipe:

    Home Made Powdered Laundry Detergent Recipe
    - 2 cups Borax (brand name, not boric acid)
    - 2 cups Washing Soda
    - 2 cups grated laundry soap

    Grate the soap, and mix all the ingredients. That’s it, you’re done! 1/8th of a cup per load.

    I posted a detailed picture tour awhile back here:

    Not only does it clean well, it smells lovely. :)

    ~ Sandy Taylor

    1. Grated laundry soap should say only Fels Naptha.
      K in OK

  3. Vinegar, baking soda, or salt will clean just about anything.

  4. I don't care for chemicals either and recently have taken to using water and soap with a little addition of essential oils. Finally found a line that has very high standards and truly pure oils. Makes all the difference. Cuts through build up and disinfects. And an added benefit is that EO's have been shown to boost our immune system. Also it only takes a few drops. And the oils last a long time.

  5. I'm new at this, too, Patrice. I've tried laundry soap, too. I don't know if it does any better; but it doesn't do any worse, and it definitely lasts longer.

  6. Homemade Windex! (Used for over 25 years by cleaning lady)
    1/2 cup Ammonia (non sudsy)
    1/4 cup Rubbing Alcohol
    1 squirt Dawn
    Fill squirt bottle with water
    Works great!
    K in OK<><

  7. I've seen Laundry Detergent recipes on YouTube with those same ingredients but they add several gallons of boiling water and mix well. K in OK <><

  8. I use tea tree oil, and water in a spray bottle. Tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant and such, I use it everywhere, counters, floors, bathroom.....

    1. How much tea tree oil do you use and how much water for formula? Thanks, Debbie

  9. Vinegar is a staple in our household. I like to put it in the rinse cycle of the washing machine. It really helps rinse out all the soap.

  10. I started making cleaners not only to be thrifty, but because my mom is highly sensitive to fumes and scents.

    Glass cleaner:
    1 cup rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
    1 cup water
    1 tablespoon white vinegar

    All-Purpose cleaner:
    2 tablespoons vinegar
    1 teaspoon Borax
    Hot water
    a few drops of a mild dish detergent
    10 drops of essential oil, optional 
    In a 16 spray bottle put vinegar, borax and  hot water.  Swish around until borax has dissolved.  Add the drops of dish detergent and fill the rest of the bottle with water.  Add the essential oil, if desired.

    I had a powdered laundry detergent recipe that I used for a while and liked very much -- especially since I could use it in the HE machine I had at the time, rather than buying that super-expensive HE detergent.

    Even with vinegar in the rinse cycle to rinse out as much soap as possible, Mom could still smell the Fels-Naptha in the soap. She took it for a while, but finally came and told me. I began substituting regular bar soap, which you can do, though it might not be as effective.

    I stopped, though, because my mom's other problem is that when she uses a product on her skin too much, she becomes sensitive to it and breaks out when she comes in contact with it from then on. The soaps I was using were the very few soaps left that she could use for bathing. Since vinegar and even second rinses weren't getting all of the Fels Naptha out, we were worried that it wouldn't be getting all the residue from these unscented bath soaps out. She would eventually become sensitive to them and have to find something else to bathe with.

    So... if anybody has other ideas for laundry detergent, I'd love to hear them! :)

    One thing I can contribute, though, is the use of a parmesan cheese grater (or the star grating surface on a grater with multiple surfaces). It takes longer, but it grates the soap into such fine shavings, it can be dumped dry into a cold water wash with no concern that it will not dissolve fully.

    1. Not homemade but we use Charlie's Soap in our HE washer. I buy the big bucket and it lasts our household of 7 (3 little children and 4 adults) well over a year. 1 tablespoon for a large load.

    2. I use Zote. It is a plant based laundry soap. I get it at Walmart, Big Lots, or the dollar stores. I use a cheese grater to grate up the bar. It is cheap too. Has a lemony smell.

    3. Thank you both!!! I remember hearing of Zote some time ago, but we've moved since then. I couldn't find it where we used to live, but maybe I'll find it here! :)

      I've never heard of Charlie's Soap. I'm very impressed with what I've read, though. It actually does look economical, and like maybe her skin could handle it! :)

    4. Have you tried soap nuts?

  11. I mainly use vinegar to clean with. But I have made my own laundry detergent for years. There are many different recipes out there for both powder and liquid forms. But basically its just borax, washing soda (which oddly enough only place I've ever found it was WinCo), a bar of soap (Fels Naptha, Ivory, homemade, or whatever), and water. I make the liquid type and it fills a 5 gallon bucket. Which when using it you fill your smaller bottle half full, fill it the rest of the way with water, and give it a good shake before each use. Ends up costing just a penny or two per load! I'm also trying my hand at making homemade soap this next year once we butcher an animal, which that to me seems more daunting than other tasks.

    1. Fred Meyer carries washing soda, at least in CDA they do.

  12. I make liquid laundry soap. Goes a long way and works fine. I used to make the powered but I like the liquid better, plus it's cheaper.

    1. How do you make your liquid laundry soap? Thanks, Debbie

  13. Vinegar. Just plain old vinegar seems to do better than any of the kitchen/bathroom cleaners I've ever bought. Spray, scrub, rinse, done. Which reminds me I need to go clean the shower...

  14. Ahhh, 409, you spray it, you wipe it, and pffft (cannot make the sound with the computer), dirt is gone.
    Every time I would use, or see a bottle of 409, that crazy ditty would run through my head. Good advertising.
    I, too, am learning to make my own cleaners and soaps. I use lots of vinegar as well.

  15. Acidic cleaner:
    1 part vinegar to 4 parts water and a squirt of dish soap

    Alkaline cleaner:
    1 quart water, 2 T. borax, 1 t. baking soda, and a squirt of dish soap

    These are all estimated amounts.

    I want to put in a plug for Charlie's Soap too. I absolutely LOVE this stuff. I used to make my own laundry detergent with the above recipes until I found Charlie's Soap. It cleans clothes better than anything and is unscented. I can't dsecribe it, it just "smells" natural. Very economical too. I bought a 32 lb. bucket about a year ago for $105.00 (Amazon free shipping) and it's only about 1/3 gone. I do about 7 or 8 loads per week avg. Try it, you'll love it! and I'm not getting paid for this.


    1. OK I just looked and it's more like half gone, but still a good deal!

  16. Carlotta Royce, The Homeschool HomemakerFebruary 16, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    Girl, if you have rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, vinegar, soap and vinegar you can make anything and I mean anything you need. If you want to get fancy, add some coconut oil or olive oil and lemon juice to list and you are done and done.

    Not only can you make cleaners from all of this, but most have a medical, beauty, pest control and even gardening applications.

    I have a show coming up on this. My family owned a cleaning business and then I owned one myself. To eliminate overhead and because of quality control and health reasons, we made our own products.

  17. I'm about ready to join the ranks of those who home-brew cleaning products too, but for a different reason. Many formerly terrific products just aren't worth a damn anymore. They've either been diluted to maximize profits, or the watermelon folk (green on the outside, red on the inside) have used environmental claptrap to have effective ingredients lessened or removed altogether. I complained to someone just the other day that I can no longer clean a window with Windex, it doesn't cut the dirt and film and leaves endless streaks. It is NOT what it used to be. Neither are many others.

    Jeff - Tucson

  18. 409's been a favorite of mine for a while, I might have to try that!

  19. I try to make most of my cleaning products too. I'm just plain cheap. I checked Amazon and the author has two different books -- or I suspect the same book with different covers. I opted for a used copy for a penny + $3.99 shipping. Can't go wrong for that.

  20. i think i got recipes from mennonite girls can cook which is canadian blog.
    washing soda at walmart here in ohio.
    noticed dawn dish soap is not what it used to be. others have noticed, too.
    thanks for info on caharlie's soap.
    husband allergic and skin sensitive. looking for cheaper HE soap for his clothes.
    i think canada has a sunlight bar soap but don't know if good for the allergics.
    thanks. deb harvey

  21. I hate cleaning my bath room. I found this easy miracle homemade spray and the work is gone from it. 12oz vinegar warmed up a bit and some "BLUE ORIGINAL DAWN" mix together in a spray bottle. Spray and wait 3-5mins then use a clean cloth to wipe it off. This stuff took off our hard water/rust color right off my white tub. And I think it puts a protective coating on it. I did this about 3 weeks ago and do not have hardly any color on the tub.

  22. I too have joined the ranks of Charlies Soap.....made right here in NC. 1/8 of a cup(liquid). The clothes are clean and you can use in a spray bottle. My daughter introduced me to it. She is expecting any day now and wanted something to wash her diapers in that would be safe for baby and the enviroment.
    Kelly in K'ville, NC

  23. I cent percent agree with the idea of 'home made' cleaning products but if you please tell me from where I should buy those chemicals you used in formulas! Is there any other alternate?


  24. Great review! You hair looks like silk! And Yes it has grown a lot! Thanks taking the time out to do this!

    Commercial Cleaning Supplies