Essential Ingredients for DIY Cleaning and Beauty

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A DIY Natural community member recently asked this question that left us wondering why we had not written an article about it:

“Do you have a basic list of ‘must-have’ items (an essential oil, beeswax, castile soap, vinegar, etc.) that every DIY-er should have at home? Thanks!”

Sometimes we just need a little nudge to write about the things y’all want to know, so be sure to ask.

Essential Ingredients

Excellent question, right?

I’ll share some of my favorite must-have items for DIY projects, both for cleaners and personal care products. Once you have a good idea of which items are most useful, you can keep these on your grocery list, buy them in bulk, and always look for the best deal to save you a little moolah.

Essential ingredients to have on hand for DIY projects

Aloe Vera Gel (pure): Unlike the green variety you’ll find at the drug store, pure aloe vera gel has no harmful chemicals added, and is moisturizing, healing, and pH balancing. It can be used in many different DIY personal care products, from shampoo to hand creams. (Find pure aloe vera gel here.)

Apple Cider Vinegar: This ingredient is most useful for homemade personal care products. It has astringent properties, restores natural pH levels to skin and hair, and can be great for itchy, dry skin. We use it mostly for our homemade ACV conditioning rinse and treating blemishes. (Find it here.)

Arrowroot Powder: An ingredient similar to cornstarch, arrowroot is not made from corn, so you won’t have to worry about it being genetically modified. Its absorbent properties make it a hard-working ingredient in homemade deodorant or body powders. (Find it here.)

Baking Soda: Found in most kitchens, this cheap ingredient is the perfect gentle scouring agent when used dry or mixed with a little soap. It’s completely safe and non-toxic, and deodorizes everything from carpets to armpits! We scour bathtubs, sinks, and toilets with baking soda, but we also use it as a gentle exfoliating facial scrub, as an ingredient in our homemade shampoo, and in oral hygiene products like toothpastetooth powder, and mouthwash. We keep a natural brand on hand for all of our personal care recipes, but buy the cheap stuff in bulk for cleaning purposes. (Why, you ask? The natural brand is mined directly from the ground in its pure state. The cheap stuff undergoes a chemical process, through which a mined ore, called trona, is heated to make soda ash, then dissolved in water to create baking soda.)

Bar Soap: You should always have several bars of natural store-bought or homemade soap on hand for using in the shower, or for grating into flakes for recipes like homemade dish soap or laundry soap.

Beeswax: This wax is produced in the beehive of honeybees and can be melted down and added to personal care products to harden them or act as an emulsifier. Perfect for lip balms, lotions, or ointments. (As a vegan alternative, Carnauba Wax [from palm trees] or Emulsifying Wax [vegetable based] can be used with similar results.) Find natural, filtered beeswax here.

Borax (Sodium Borate): We always keep a box of borax on hand for cleaning. It’s a must-have for our popular laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent formulas. It’s also a great multi-purpose cleaner, with whitening, stain-removing, and deodorizing abilities. Find it in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores or online here. (Note: It’s MUCH cheaper if you can find it locally.)

Cosmetic Butters: Cocoa butter, shea butter, or mango butter are all superb ingredients for body care or cosmetic recipes. They add a wonderful creaminess to natural products. One or more of these soothing, moisture-rich, healing butters should be a part of your essential DIY ingredient stockpile. Find them all here.

Castile Soap (liquid): This natural olive oil-based soap is gentle enough to use for just about any cleaning project. It’s gentle enough to clean your baby with, but concentrated enough to clean the dirtiest grout! We add it to our facial cleanser, and even use it in our windshield washer fluid. Find it at your local health food store and some large grocery chains, or online here.

Citric Acid: This weak, organic acid can be used in your DIY dishwasher detergent to eliminate streaking and cloudiness, or in personal care products as a natural preservative. Find it in the canning aisle at your local grocery store, at home brewing supply stores, or online here.

Coconut Oil: This oil is a must-have for DIY beauty recipes. It’s good for all-over use, and can be blended into creams, used in hair treatments, or as an after-sun treatment. It has natural antibacterial properties, making it a beneficial ingredient for many products that will end up on your skin. Purchase high quality unrefined coconut oil here.

Distilled White Vinegar: Great for many DIY cleaning recipes. Most hard surfaces in your home can safely and effectively be cleaned with diluted or full strength white vinegar. Vinegar is naturally disinfecting, cuts grease, removes soap residue, and is a great stain remover. It replaces bleach and other harsh chemicals in my home. (Find it in bulk here.)

Essential Oils: If you don’t want to invest in a whole set of essential oils, I would recommend having one or two that contain antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral properties. You can add a few drops to homemade cleaners to boost the cleaning power. Customize personal care products with an oil that’s perfect for your hair/skin type, or just add a few drops to impart a lovely scent. If you only own ONE essential oil, consider the following: tea tree, lavender, peppermint, or lemon — they’re all anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral. Find 100% pure essential oils here.

Hydrogen peroxide (3%): Hydrogen peroxide is not only gentle on the environment, but can also be used to replace ammonia and chlorine bleach. Among its many uses, it is a stain remover, cleaner, and powerful disinfectant. Purchase it at your local grocery store or pharmacy.

Oils (light, non-greasy): Pure oils make up a large part of my DIY ingredient collection. They have superior moisturizing and skin-conditioning properties. I use olive oil in many personal care products, but also cherish my lighter, quickly-absorbing oils like jojoba, grapeseed, or sweet almond. They have found their way into my shampoos, soaps, body scrubs, lip balms, hair treatments, and sometimes I just use them undiluted to moisturize my face. Find pure high-quality carrier oils here.

Vegetable Glycerin: Used as an emollient, glycerin improves your skin’s softness by attracting moisture from the air. I love adding a little bit of this to certain personal care products for added skin benefits. (Find it here.)

Vitamin E Oil: This skin-nourishing oil can be used as a natural preservative in many DIY skin care recipes or as an added moisturizing ingredient. It contains antioxidants, making it ideal for mature or damaged skin. You can use Vitamin E capsules by poking them with a needle and squeezing the oil out, or buy containers of it here that are easy to pour.

Vodka: For sipping, in case your DIY project is a flop. Kidding!!! We use high-proof vodka or grain alcohol as a natural preservative to extend the shelf life of some DIY beauty products. We also use it as the base for our homemade spray deodorant and in our glass cleaner to eliminate streaking.

Washing Soda: Washing soda is a wonderful natural laundry booster, but can also be dissolved in DIY cleaning solutions to help cut grease, deodorize, or disinfect. Find it in the laundry aisle or online here. (Note: You’ll pay about half the price if you can find it locally.)

The list goes on

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ingredients you will need for DIY projects. Just a few of my personal favorites that I couldn’t do without. I’m sure I’m missing many great essentials though.

Help the community by leaving a comment with your favorite essential ingredients for DIY cleaning or personal care products!


About Betsy Jabs

Betsy holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Counseling, and for nearly a decade worked as an elementary counselor. In 2011 she left her counseling career to pursue healthy living. She loves using DIY Natural as a way to educate people to depend on themselves to nourish their bodies and live happier healthier lives. Connect with Betsy on Facebookand Twitter.

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  1. Rhonda says

    I have ordered the Washing soda and also the Borax online delivered to a local store. I ordered thru DoItBest hardware store. Cheaper than the online prices and also NO shipping charge because of being shipped to store.

  2. Erica Bhently says

    I have actually found pure tea tree oil in the vitamin and supplement section of a few of the stores I shop at. Works just like the essential oil for about half the price. I use it for burns and cleaning! Essential oils aren’t really available where I live, and I’m not set up to do online shopping ^^ Just thought this info would be helpful for anyone in a similar situation. I’ve also seen tea tree oil at Wal-mart, as well.

  3. Melanie says

    Yay! Thanks again for this – just a few items left and then I think we’re all set for DIY galore! You guys are awesome! 🙂

  4. Katie says

    Awesome list of tips for the home! I clean as naturally as possible but I am so excited to give some of these other products a try. 🙂

  5. Ruthanne says

    Have you ever thought of making homemade bath bombs? They sell them at Lush &other places, but for $2-$8 each with unknown ingredients, Ive been on an ever-failing mission to make my own. Ive tried dozens of recipes to no avail. The basics are: baking soda, citric acid (for the fizzy effect), essential oil, vit e oil, &witch hazel. Mine never harden correctly,they just crumble. I’d love your input on my problem! My 3 year old is allergic to dyes &perfumes, so it’d be a nice replacement for bubble baths!

  6. Rin says

    Salt, I don’t know all the ins and outs of salt, but it is certainly one that can sneak its way into a top 10 list of household items good for around the home uses! I love DIY natural, I just cleaned the carpet with a nice borax, baking soda and tea tree mix, works a treat. Thank you guys keep up the good work.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      For sure, good call Rin! Salt is great in some of our personal care products as well. Thanks for the kind words…glad you’re loving our content!

  7. linda says

    I would love to hear more about other products and what they do, do you have plans to expand this inforamtion or can I get it off the web, if so what is the web address. Loved this article very helpful, I’ll be changing things up a bit. Thanks again for the info.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Hi Linda, we don’t currently have plans to expand on this information, but stay subscribed because you never know what we’ll write about next. 🙂 I don’t know of any particular website that covers all these natural products in depth, but a little digging around on the Internet will turn up more information for you. Thanks for reading!

  8. Az says

    The only listed ingredient I dont stock at home is vegtable glycerin. I use only bobs red mill pure baking soda if it is going on or in my body. The manufactured soda is ok for cleaning and does contain aluminum, even arm n hammer! FYI

    • Matt Jabs says

      You’re thinking of baking powder, baking soda contains no aluminum. We also use Bob’s for anything consumed and A&H for cleaning.

  9. Loraine says

    I was surprised to see that you didn’t say that you can make washing soda by heating baking soda in the oven. That’s the cheapest way to get it especially for those who can’t get it locally. AND as a non abrasive it unlike baking soda does not leave a residue. Especially helpful for cleaning the shower!