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Cheap, green cleaning products you can make yourself

Mara Pattison-Sowden 20th Feb 2012 6 Comments

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Cleaning products – we can’t do without them can we? But cleaning supplies are notoriously expensive – and they can contain as much as 90% water! How do we get duped into buying these products instead of making our own cheap green cleaning products.

Once again, clever marketing has tricked us into buying expensive and potentially harmful cleaning solutions. When the same result can be achieved by cleaning with vinegar, lemon juice or other natural products. So if being green is important to you or you just want to save some cash, here’s how you can make your own cheap, effective and green cleaning products.

Killer chemical household cleaners

Not only are they draining our purses, but research has shown that these products often contain toxic chemicals which can build up in our bodies over time.

When you’re scrubbing the bathroom you are inhaling the fumes given off by the products, especially if you’re in a poorly ventilated area. If you are holding a cloth soaked with your regular cleaning product and you’re not wearing rubber gloves, you will also absorb some of that product through your skin.

And for animal lovers, green alternatives may sit better with your conscience. There is evidence that some chemicals in cleaning products cause serious harm to wildlife when they find their way from your drain into rivers and estuaries.

If you’re worried about the list of unpronounceable ingredients on the back of your cleaning bottles, or you just need to hoard a few extra pennies, follow our tips for making your own natural cleaning products and save your cash and your health.

Half-price homemade cleaners

Many pre-war household cleaners were made from food items such as vinegar, lemon juice and beeswax. In the current climate, when we’re all tightening the purse strings, these cheaper alternatives are suddenly sounding like a realistic option again.

Using homemade cleaners is not only going to spare you exposure to potentially scary chemicals, it will save you loads of cash. You can probably make a supply of all of your cleaners for less than a fiver – while you would have spent at least £20 on stocking up on the chemical alternatives.


Before you start re-living your Year Ten chemistry class, follow these safety tips:

  • Natural does not always mean safe.
  • Keep all cleaning products out of reach of children.
  • Always mark your homemade cleaner containers with a list of  ingredients – so if there are any accidents, you can tell the medics what’s in them.
  • Always use rubber gloves to protect your skin when cleaning.
  • Only use recipes from a reputable source (like us!) and avoid those that contain hazardous ingredients such as bleach, ammonia, alcohols, and turpentine.
  • Dispose of your toxic household products responsibly – not down the sink or in the rubbish. Ask your local council for the best way to do this.
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What you need to make your own natural cleaning products

Start concocting recipes that would make granny smile:

Ingredients from your cupboards:

Ingredient: Use: Price:
Lemons Surface cleaner and stain remover.Cut a lemon in half and leave it in the fridge to absorb smells.Mix with salt to clean copper and brass, or mix with water to whiten whites and brighten colours.Shift greasy microwave grime by placing a couple of slices of lemon in a bowl of cold water and switching on the power for a couple of minutes. Bag of four lemons: 80p
Distilled White Vinegar Surface cleaner, stain remover, de-scaler.Vinegar cuts through grease, deodorises and acts as a mild disinfectant.A diluted mix is good for cleaning windows (sponge on, then polish off using scrunched-up newspaper) and for washing floors. 8p per 100ml
Bicarbonate of Soda (baking soda)/ soda crystals (washing soda) Bicarbonate of soda is useful as a deodoriser. To clean surfaces, sprinkle on a damp cloth.Washing soda is good to add to your wash in small quantities for an extra cleaning boost (using it in hard water areas will cut down on the amount of laundry detergent you need) and cleans grease from blocked drains. 41p per 100g/ 9p per 100g
Olive Oil Use sparingly as furniture polish and fingerprint remover for stainless steel. 33p per 100ml
Sunlight Natural bleacher (excellent for whitening nappies). Free!
Tea-tree oil Antiseptic and disinfectant.Effective on mould and mildew. Dilute as a deodoriser for musty clothing. £2.98 per 10ml
Salt Pour on grease spots to absorb and prevent staining. Combine with lemon to clean copper pans. 4p per 100gm
Total: £4.73

So, when you compare those cheap ingredients and easy recipes with stocking your cupboards with leading brand chemical cleaners, what’s the impact on your wallet?


Stain remover  38p per 100ml
Surface Cleaner 20p per 100ml
Descaler £2.01 per 100gm
Room Fragrance 34p per 100ml
Furniture Polish 34p per 100ml
Thick bleach 15p per 100ml
Antiseptic 44p per 100ml
Disinfectant 30p per 100ml
Drain Cleaner 55p per 100ml
Glass Cleaner 20p per 100ml
Floor Cleaner 20p per 100ml
Bathroom Cleaner 30p per 100ml
Multi-purpose Cleaner 25p per 100ml
Toilet Cleaner 13p per 100ml
Kitchen Cleaner 27p per 100ml
Total: £6.06

Your total saving is £1.33 per 100ml/gm of product, however most of us would have the natural ingredients in our cupboards already – so effectively, you could clean your house for free!

We used MySupermarket to search for the best prices of the natural and chemical cleaners described here; however these prices can fluctuate. MySupermarket can also tell you which supermarkets have special offers or 2for1 deals.

Homemade stain removal

Note: Do not use these directly after using a chemical version of the cleaning product as it can cause a reaction.

  • Scratch remover: Mix lemon juice with vegetable oil and rub with a soft cloth.
  • All-purpose cleaner: Mix vinegar and salt to use as a surface cleaner or pour some baking soda and vinegar on a damp sponge.
  • Natural deodoriser: Boil a cup of water with 1 tablespoon of vinegar, great after cooking smelly food.
  • Oven cleaner: Mix vinegar and water into an old spray container and spray the oven. Then apply a layer of baking soda and gently rub with steel wool. Wipe off and rinse dry.
  • Toilet bowl: Sprinkle baking soda in the bowl, drizzle with vinegar and then scrub with a toilet brush.
  • Rust stains: Soak for a couple of hours with a paste of lemon juice and baking soda.  Then wash as usual.
  • Drain cleaner: Pour half a cap of washing soda down the drain with plenty of hot water.
  • Tile cleaner: Wipe with vinegar and follow with baking soda as a scouring powder.
  • Beetroot: Cover the area repeatedly with salt or press the stain between two pieces of dampened bread until all the fluid is absorbed. Wash as normal.
  • Blood: Immediately pour salt or cold soda water on the stain and soak in cold water before washing with biological detergent. For a more stubborn stain, mix water with talcum power and apply the mixture. Allow to dry and brush away before washing.
  • Chewing gum: Put the article in the freezer for an hour, crack the gum off and rub the mark with distilled vinegar, then wash.
  • Coffee: Soak in a warm water and washing soda solution, then wash on a hot setting.
  • Curry: Hold the stain under warm running water until the water runs clear, dab with glycerine and leave overnight. Soak in biological detergent and wash.
  • Fruit juice: Blot the area with kitchen paper to absorb as much of the stain as possible. For silk, blot dry then sponge on distilled vinegar, rinse with cool water and dry clean. For non-silk items, soak in lemon juice for thirty minutes then launder as usual.
  • Fruit and White wine: Immediately pour salt or cold soda water on the stain and soak in milk before washing. It’s a good idea to keep some soda water in the fridge just as a stain remover.
  • Ink: Rub with a cut lemon and sprinkle with salt or rub in a paste made from milk and baking soda before rinsing and washing.
  • Grease: Strain boiling water through white cottons and follow with dry baking soda or rub with washing powder in water. For other materials, blot with a towel, dampen the stain with water, and rub with soap and baking soda. Follow by washing in water as hot as possible using extra soap.
  • Lipstick: Scrape off as much as you can with a blunt knife, then rub with a little soap or washing-up liquid, and wash as usual.
  • Mildew: Pour strong soap and salt on the spots, or spray with vinegar and place in sunlight. Keep the spots moist and repeat as often as necessary. Mix two teaspoons of tea tree oil with two cups of water in a spray bottle and use on mould and mildew. It works best if left on for a while and then rinsed with warm, soapy water.
  • Red wine: Blot with a kitchen towel and then soak in sparkling water/ soda water, then blot again.  Repeat the process.  Finally, sponge with soapy water and blot dry.

HOT TIP: For dry clean-only fabrics rub the stain immediately with an ice cube rather than a cloth to prevent the stain from setting. Try to deal with stains on the reverse of fabric where possible.

Ecological cleaning products

These may not save you money, but if you’re more concerned about being green then these products are a good alternative to more conventional ones. There are plenty of online ecological shops which sell a range of products, including the best known brand: Ecover. For more ways to be green (and save money) check out our article.

Nigel’s Eco Store for a wide range of ecological cleaning products. 

Click to find out more!

Useful Links

  • 10 miracle products every home should have – from aspirin as stain remover to hairspray as surface protector, we’ve got some more amazing miracle product suggestions.
  • Ethical Consumer
  • Green Shop
  • Ethical Superstore

Got more great ideas for green cleaning products? Share them and your experiences of being green in the comments below. Or why not head over to our Facebook page?

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4 years ago

Well worth it, fed up with paying over-the-odds and getting rubbish

Emily Johnson
Emily Johnson
9 years ago

Thanks for this great article and all the help you provide with it. You’re awesome! <3

~ Harlesden Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

13 years ago

I have a brown stain down my wall caused by a leak from the pipes in the flat above. The walls are a light beige/white (called Tusk). I have tried cleaning the wall with Fairy liquid and hot water. Also tried that magic white pad which removes scruff marks from walls but it is still pretty bad. Any ideas or do I have repaint?

Jasmine Birtles
15 years ago

I’ve asked Raechelle and she says ‘I would think using one of those scouring pads (but gently rubbing) starting off initially with some vinegar and water (to get rid of the stickiness) and then coming in with a bit of baking soda and water should do the trick. Polish off with some lemon juice and water (makes every surface shiny) Add a hint not to add to much lemon juice (in fact I find Lime juice works better) or your surfaces will get sticky all over again.’ – hope that helps!

15 years ago

Any tips for getting sticky tape off laminate flooring? Nail varnish remover is a no-go! Have already ruined part of the floor, I’m trying to limit the damage.

The tape is the result of a ‘red carpet’ stuck down with double sided tape after a Hollywood themed party, and have been trying for a month to get it up!

patricia jones
patricia jones
14 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

try old fashioned floor polish. the flat round tins not the spray types. it removes sticky labels too. work in a small dollop and watch the sticky come off. Hope this helps.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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