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Make Your Own Natural Cleaning Products at Home

June 29, 2020 4 min read

Next time you’re out of all-purpose cleaner, head to your pantry instead of the store.

Studies show making your own cleaning products may be better for your overall health(1). Some cleaning products are known to release dangerous chemicals that can cause chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions, headaches and in some cases even cancer(1). This is mostly due to poor air circulation in the home. Indoor air is often two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, so chemical fumes can linger longer in a confined space(2)

While it’s easy to make a homemade all-purpose cleaner, it’s important to remember that DIY natural cleaners do not disinfect. This means a homemade cleaner can lessen germs and bacteria on surfaces but it will not kill them the way an alcohol-based disinfectant will(3).

What’s the difference between homemade cleaning products and store-bought?

Many cleaning products on the market currently include harmful ingredients such as ammonia and bleach. While these products help disinfect surfaces from germs and bacteria, they can also release dangerous chemical gases into the air called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds can contribute to respiratory problems such as asthma and cause disease or other illnesses the body(5)

Some air purifiers and cooling fans can release a harmful amount of ozone that can also create or worsen asthma and lung disease. Research shows that fragrances found in products such as air fresheners can react with high levels of ozone in the home. The combination of ozone and chemicals in some air fresheners can create formaldehyde, a human carcinogen known to cause cancer and lung disease(5)

What makes green cleaning products different?

Green or natural cleaning products, including those made at home, should not contain harmful chemicals, so they are less likely to cause health issues. 

Natural cleaning products can be especially helpful for those with preexisting health conditions and weakened immune systems. These products do not cause significant pollution to air or water in the home and can be packaged in recyclable material that is better for the environment.

If you purchase cleaning products instead of making your own, be sure to do your research.The Environmental Working Group Guide to Healthy Cleaning provides safety information on various products available in stores(6). Here are some labels and certifications to look for when buying cleaning products:

  • Green Sealis an independent, nonprofit organization that uses science-based standards to assess product sustainability.
  • Greenguardfocuses exclusively on VOC emissions in cleaning products.
  • Cradle to Cradleonly certifies products that meet their standards for material health, material reuse, renewable energy, carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness.
  • EcoLogocertifies products and packaging for reduced environmental impact.
  • BioPreferredis a program managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make sure products contain a verified amount of renewable biological ingredients.
  • EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE)is a government agency that works to prevent pollution and the risk pollution presents to humans and the environment.

Clean Water Action also claims green products will have the following qualities while non-green products may not:

  • Non-toxic
  • Biodegradable
  • Contains no dyes, chlorine, or hypochlorite
  • Phosphate-free
  • Recycled packaging
  • Bulk packaging
  • Natural fragrances
  • Contains clear labels of “active” and “inert” ingredients

Does homemade cleaner kill germs?

This homemade all-purpose cleaner is great for cleaning appliances, plastic surfaces, dirty walls and more. It’s important to note, however, that an all-purpose cleaner and most types of homemade cleaners do not contain disinfecting properties to kill germs. You should still use an alcohol-based disinfectant to kill germs and bacteria after cleaning. 

Cleaningcan physically remove dirt and grime and in the process, remove some germs and bacteria on a surface but not all.Disinfecting,on the other hand, kills a high percentage of germs on surfaces and keeps them from reproducing and reduces the spread of infection(4)

Cleaner sprays can help remove visible food or liquid on surfaces before disinfecting. When preparing foods like fish or raw meat on kitchen surfaces, always use a disinfectant after cleaning with a homemade all-purpose cleaner to remove harmful bacteria such as salmonella(4)

How do you make homemade all-purpose cleaner?

While there are many DIY cleaning product recipes on the internet, theGreen Building Alliance recommends the following recipe for making an all-purpose cleaner at home with two simple ingredients. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • Spray bottle

Optional

  • Lemon rind
  • Lemon, tea tree or lavender essential oil

Directions

  1. Mix white vinegar with water in a spray bottle to clean messy surfaces and wipe away with a microfiber cloth. 
  2. You can also add a lemon rind or essential oil to make a naturally scented cleaner.

      After cleaning the surface, it’s important to disinfect. Luckily, you can also make your own disinfecting wipes at home too. Alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70 percent of alcohol disinfect surfaces properly and kill germs. 

      Ingredients

      • 1 roll of paper towels
      • Air-tight container that fits paper towel roll
      • 7 cups 91 percent isopropyl alcohol
      • 3 cups water

      Directions

      Mix isopropyl alcohol and water in the air-tight container. Soak a roll of paper towels in the mixture. Once the paper towels are completely saturated in the liquid (about five minutes), use wipes to disinfect surfaces after cleaning with an all-purpose spray. 

      Be sure to let the disinfectant sit on the surface for at least ten minutes before drying. Wiping off the disinfectant too soon will not kill the germs and bacteria which is necessary to prevent illness.

      Safety warning

      When making your own all-purpose cleaning products or disinfectants at home, it is important tonever mix bleach or any bleach-containing product with any cleaner containing ammonia.The gases from this mixture can lead to chronic breathing problems and even death. 

      In summary

      Homemade cleaning products can limit harmful chemicals in your home. Making your own all-purpose cleaner or disinfecting wipes can help clean easy messes around the house without an extra trip to the store. For messes that need disinfecting, be sure to use an alcohol-based disinfectant to kill all germs and bacteria that can cause illnesses. This process will ensure germs and bacteria do not linger on surfaces and maintain the overall health of yourself and your family.

      Regina Kaza - Contributing Writer, Physician's Choice