Use This, Not That: Household Cleaners Spotlight

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Homemade Cleaners Alternatives

We’re always getting questions from readers about which cleaning products they should start making to replace their old commercial cleaners. Some of these readers are just beginning their natural, toxic-free journey, and don’t know where to jump in. Others will write to us about how to make cleaners that smell and clean exactly like the ones they’re used to buying off store shelves.

Whatever the reason for these requests, we’re just thrilled there are increasing numbers of people working to get toxic commercial cleaners out of their homes! The increasing costs of cleaners, dangers to our health, and wasteful packaging were enough to motivate us to completely switch over to natural, homemade versions. If you’re still using commercial cleaners and are interested in learning about safer alternatives, we can give you some basic information and simple recipes to replace many of the things you’re currently using.

Why use homemade cleaners?

Whether your reason for making your own cleaners is saving money or keeping toxins out of your household, you’ve come to the right place. We like to encourage people to make their own cleaners for many reasons, including:

  • increasing self-sufficiency
  • reducing waste (plastic bottles, containers, etc. that cleaners are packaged in)
  • eliminating toxins from your home
  • saving hundreds of dollars per year
  • having fun and feeling a sense of accomplishment
  • making extra income by selling homemade cleaners
  • and because they really work!

Which DIY cleaners can replace my old commercial cleaners?

If you’re phasing commercial cleaners out of your home, consider the following natural alternatives to some popular big-brand cleaners:

Instead of Windex®, use…

Our super simple Glass Cleaner recipe. There is a secret ingredient in this recipe that will eliminate streaking and leave your windows sparkling. It doesn’t contain harsh ammonia or chemical fragrances like commercial glass cleaners. (If you really miss the signature blue color, just add a few drops of blue food coloring.) Chances are you already have the ingredients on hand to whip this one up!

Instead of Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes, use…

Our Naturally Disinfecting Cleaning Wipes. They have a lovely scent from the added essential oils, which are also working double duty as a disinfectant. It’s true – bleach isn’t the only thing that can disinfect. In fact, that sterile canister of name brand bleach wipes could be doing more harm than good for the bodies in your house.

One of the best features of our homemade wipes is that they can be washed and re-used to cut down on waste. We keep these under each sink in the house and use them for wiping down almost any surface. (Granite should not be cleaned with these since they contain vinegar.)

Instead of Dawn® Dish Soap, use…

Our Homemade Dish Soap formula. It’s extremely simple and costs pennies to make. You can also make a concentrated dish soap with soap nuts. See our directions here. If you want the cheater’s version of DIY dish soap, we recommend buying this and adding your own pure essential oils to it.

Although Dawn® Dish Soap has been featured as the soap of choice for cleaning animals affected by oil spills, it doesn’t boast a natural list of ingredients. Ironically, some of its ingredients have implications for aquatic toxicity! (See a full list of ingredients and concerns here.)

Instead of Cascade® Dish Detergent, use…

Our Homemade Dishwasher Detergent. We’ve been using this for more than 5 years now with great results! It’s simple enough for kids to throw together. This is a recipe that can require some troubleshooting depending on the type of water you have, so we’ve created a special FAQ page dedicated to making this recipe work for you.

If you’re making this DIY version, you can avoid phosphates, chemical fragrances, and other harmful ingredients that are unsafe for waterways and can have negative effects on our organs and other systems.

Instead of Glade® air fresheners, use…

Our Homemade Aromatherapy Room or Linen Spray. You may never see a more simple DIY recipe again. These air fresheners and linen sprays are completely customizable with essential oils and can be mixed to achieve a specific effect (calming, energizing, etc.).

Still not sounding worth it? Consider this – commercial air fresheners are more likely to add toxic substances to your air than actually freshen the air. Not to mention, most air freshener companies fail to disclose all ingredients, so you can never really know what you’re spraying into the air. Yeah, I can’t believe I actually used to pay money to add chemicals to the air I breathed.

Instead of Lysol® Toilet Bowl cleaners, use…

One of our simple recipes for Naturally Cleaning Toilets. No bleach, no fumes, no need to worry about storing a toxic product where pets or children could get into it.

I remember my mother turning into a crazy woman when she was cleaning toilets – she had us believing we might come just short of death if we got near the toilet bowl cleaner that she was squirting all over. Gloves up to her elbows, the bathroom fan turned on, and that serious “Mom look” on her face. The reason for the show my mother put on – products like Lysol® Toilet Bowl Cleaner are pretty toxic. (Learn more here.)

Instead of Comet®, use…

A gentle Homemade Scouring Powder. It’s all you need to replace things like Comet® or Soft Scrub® products. No harsh ingredients, simple to make, and extremely effective on things like sinks, bathtubs, toilet bowls, grout, icky stovetops, and grease or grime.

Instead of wood polish or Pledge®, use…

A homemade Wood Polish or Dusting Spray. These recipes smell wonderful and contain completely natural products to help care for your wooden furniture.

Instead of Tide® laundry detergents, use…

Our Original Homemade Laundry Soap. This was one of the first DIY cleaners we ever made, saving us hundreds of dollars over the several years we’ve used it. Our laundry is clean and smells fresh without the use of strong fragrances that are found in commercial laundry detergents. (I can always pick out the person in the crowd who washes with Tide® – the smell follows them in an invisible trail.) Only a small amount of our homemade laundry soap is needed for every load, making it a very cost-effective DIY project.

You can also use soap nuts if you want a completely natural way to wash laundry. This mysterious little dried fruit does a fantastic job of disinfecting garments and lifting dirt and grease. Read more about soap nuts and see our instructions for laundering with them here.

Instead of Downy® Fabric Softener, use…

A Scented Natural Fabric Softener or Wool Dryer Balls. For a natural fabric softener, you can choose your own scent by adding pure essential oils. (And no, we don’t have recipes for re-creating your favorite Downy® scent. Keep in mind these products are scented with chemicals and can’t be duplicated with natural ingredients.)

Wool dryer balls are actually more than just a fabric softener. They can also reduce wrinkles while tumbling, reduce drying time as they absorb moisture, and add a soft scent to clothing (if essential oils are dripped on them before use). If you’re not thrilled about making your own, you can purchase them here.

Want more homemade cleaner recipes?

We can’t possibly cover every cleaner in this article, but we’ve written a book that does! DIY Natural Household Cleaners has over 60 recipes for cleaning the kitchen, bath, laundry, and almost anything else you can think of. You can check out more information on the book and get your own copy HERE!


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.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for us to support our website activities, we may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for our endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this website.

DISCLAIMER: Information on DIY Natural™ is not reviewed or endorsed by the FDA and is NOT intended to be substituted for the advice of your health care professional. If you rely solely upon this advice you do so at your own risk. Read full Disclaimer & Disclosure statements here.


  1. Michelle Gilmore says

    Its true, although there are many great tips and tricks passed down from your grandma etc! I’m sorry to say they often wont beat the chemicals of today. We go a step further and also use wholesale stuff which isn’t necessarily brand named, and it’s really strong.

    • Matt Jabs says

      This is conjecture at best. At worst it’s elevating a questionable idea of cleanliness – unnatural chemicals and their unknown affects – over health.

  2. Ruby Coles says

    I was also into making my own green cleaning products, but then I realized, they aren’t so strong as the commercial ones. I had to apply a lot of elbow grease, in order to get stubborn stains out. Thankfully, here are several recipes I haven’t tried out, hopefully they work better 🙂

  3. Julia says

    I LOVE making my own cleaning products – they are so much cheaper And better for us! The latest I have tried is taking the peels of organic oranges, putting them in an air tight jar with vinegar and letting that sit for 2 weeks. After removing the peels I have an incredible all purpose de-greaser/cleaner that I spray everywhere! It’s amazing and hardly smells like vinegar anymore! Thanks for all that you do, I love your blog.

  4. Brittainy L says

    Thank you for everything you all do! My husband and I have spent the last year trying to eliminate all chemical cleaners from our home and have adopted almost all of our recipes from your blog! I was obsessed with febreeze and all other “smell goods” before and was a huge user of clorox wipes. it is amazing how clean and fresh smelling my home is (with two big dogs!) without those cleaners. You all have been such a huge inspiration.

  5. Meari says

    The dishwashing liquid is similar to the laundry soap I make. I plan on trying it, but I’m a big fan of Dawn.