ashley englishDIYsmall measures

small measures with ashley: diy cleaning products

by Ashley

Image above from Natural Home

In my mind, the stretch of days from the Autumn Equinox to New Year’s Day is officially known as “Party Time.” With harvest festivals ushering in the celebrations and then continuing on through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice and New Year’s Eve, September through January present numerous opportunities for hosting bashes and attending soirees.

Bearing this in mind, I thought I’d make today’s “Small Measures” about some affordable, easy and planet-friendly cleaning products you can make in minutes to keep your place looking (and smelling!) its absolute best. I’m personally in party-planning overdrive, so it’s taking up a good deal of my thinking. Our “Nugget Warming” takes place this Saturday evening at our place and I’ve got somewhere around 60 adults and 15 kids coming, along with a gaggle of dogs. Hubs and I, along with the indispensable help of my sister, Devan (who flies into town from Florida tomorrow), will be cooking up a feast of local and seasonal foods. There will be a bonfire with DIY s’mores (I’ve ordered both the “Maple” and “Cardamom” flavors from Whimsy & Spice Confectioners), hard cider and pumpkins and gourds galore. Guests will take home homemade jars of my Cardamom Apple Butter, along with paper bags of homemade Pumpkin Brittle. The whole shebang is being photographed for a book I’m being profiled in, compounding my typical tendency to make my place sparkle. You can see why I’m a bit preoccupied with making things shine like the top of the Chrysler Building)!

To take our place to the next level, I’ll be using my arsenal of ready-in-a-flash cleaning supplies. Many of the ingredients necessary to whip these up are most likely already hanging out in your pantry. It’s amazing what can be achieved with a bit of baking soda, vinegar, olive oil, and some essential oils. So, whether you’re planning an event of your own or simply want to spruce up your digs before the windows come down and Old Man Winter officially moves in, give my homemade cleaning supplies a go (and while you’re at it, you can find the recipe for my all-purpose “So Fresh & So Clean” spray here).

CLICK HERE for great DIY cleaning product recipes after the jump!

Spic & Span Floor Cleaner

The Goods

  • 1 c. white vinegar
  • 1/4 c. baking soda
  • 6–7 drops essential oil of choice (I like to customize my floor cleaner scents to compliment the seasons, using lavender in spring, something citrusy in summer, cinnamon in autumn and pine scents in winter).

The Deal

1. Fill a bucket or your kitchen sink with hot water.

2. Add vinegar, baking soda and essential oils while filling.

3. Stir with a mop to disperse the baking soda in the water fully.

4. Mop floors per usual.

Make It Shine Furniture Polish

The Goods

  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 10 drops lemon essential oil

The Deal

1. Combine olive oil and essential oil in a dark glass bottle.

2. Dab a cloth with the mixture and polish wood furniture per usual.

3. Use within one month, making more as needed.

Odor Out Fabric Freshener

The Goods

  • Baking soda

The Deal

1. Simply sprinkle liberally all over area rugs or carpets and onto upholstered furniture.

2. Leave to sit for at least one hour and then vacuum away.

Green Room Mist

The Goods

  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/4 c. vodka
  • 20 drops essential oil of choice (may be a single oil or a combination of several; for autumn celebrations, I like a blend of cinnamon, clove, ginger and orange, while a blend of balsam pine, juniper and rosemary go well with winter festivities)

The Deal

1. Combine all ingredients together in a refillable spray bottle.

2. Shake for each use and spray as needed.

What about you? Got a low-fi, on-the-cheap cleaning product you’d be lost without? I’d love to hear about it. Otherwise, let the wild rumpus begin! — Ashley

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  • I love this, too. I’ve done quite a few natural DIY cleaning tips on my blog, and they have always been hits. Until you try it, people don’t realize how well they work in comparison to store bought items.

  • I have a TERRIBLE time keeping pace with the destruction three kids, a husband, and three dogs leave behind! But, then again, don’t we all?!

    I love the smell of rosemary and lavender, and use them all the time to freshen rooms. (I think I’ll request to be wrapped in rosemary when I die so I’m surrounded by its scent forever!)

    I hope you’ll be sharing pictures with us after your soirée! It sounds shiveringly exciting! I always get nervous when I know someone’s coming over to visit (clean, clean, clean)! Never have been one to hostess. Have any tips on being the perfect hostess without all the jitters?

  • I switched over all of my cleaning supplies (including laundry detergent!!) last winter. Its great knowing that I have made my home safer, greener, and that I’m saving money to boot! I gave a cleaning scheme make over kit to my Sister-in-Law for her birthday. It was a huge hit!

  • Great post. Floor cleaners on the market are either scarily strong or prohibitively expensive. This is a nice alternative.

  • Oooh – thank you! I love the idea of all natural cleaning products, especially with a very big and nosy kitty in the house!

  • One of my favourite tricks is cleaning out the oven with a paste made of just baking soda and water–you just smear it over all of the problem areas in your oven, leave it overnight, and wipe it all away the next day–it gets pretty much all of the gunk off of the walls and floor of the oven, and without any scary noxious oven-cleaner fumes.

  • When my kitchen sink gets grimy I scrub it with half a lemon sprinkled with baking soda. It makes it shine like diamonds.

    I always tell people that all they really need to clean their homes is vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice. No idea why people still pay too much for stuff at the drugstore!

  • thanks so much for this post! i live in mexico, and the cleaners here are all full of nasty chemicals.

    can you pre-mix ‘the goods’ in larger quantities and add them to hot water as needed? or is it important to mix only when you’re going to use it? (specifically, the floor cleaner) thanks!

  • b-i’d only make what you need, when you need it. vinegar in water, with the baking soda, will start to degrade in potency. you can just make up little batches, in the sink or in a bucket, at the time you’re actually cleaning. it takes just seconds!

  • Where’s the best place to buy essential oils? I would love to switch out all my cleaning supplies with more natural products.

  • i’m so happy you posted this. i’ve been meaning to search the web for these recipes, and now it’s been done for me. thanks!

  • lauren-if you have a natural foods store in your area, you can find a great selection of essential oils there. absent that, i’d check out mountain rose herbs or simplers or aura cacia brands.

  • Thanks for this – simple, clear and not intimidating! I also use vinegar and baking soda to clear and deodorize my kitchen sink drain – I sprinkle the baking soda down the drain, leave it for about 20 minutes then pour the vinegar down – the fizz helps to dislodge pesky clogs!

  • A great alternative to Ajax or BonAmi powder for cleaning the bathroom or kitchen sink:
    2cups baking soda
    2 cups borax(a naturally occuring mineral
    10 drops favorite essential oil – lemon is always refreshing
    Shake all ingredients together. I mix mine in a big plastic mayo jar.

    You could have an alternative lid with holes in it for shaking, but I just pour a little pile onto the kitchen counter, vanity top, bathtub ledge. Wet surface to be cleaned(after a shower is convenient) dab a wet sponge into the pile and start scrubbing! Dab and scrub, dab and scrub, and you will notice that the powder on the sponge is picking up some dirt and turning a tannish or brownish color. Although it takes some elbow work, I’ve found that this concoction seems to help surfaces stay clean longer than using something like Scrubbing Bubbles which I think may leave a residue. When you’re done, simply rinse it all away. Voila! Sparkly freshness – green style, Baby!!

  • I was excited to add borax to my arsenal, but after reading more I’ve decided to keep it in the laundry and not in contact with food items or surfaces. For what it’s worth, you may want to look into that.

    Baking soda is the best thing ever for everything! I even used a baking soda and water paste to clean the siding on my house!

    Also, baking soda paste sprinkled with lemon and left to sit removes all kinds of things from stove and oven.

    I think my favorite secret is denture tablets (2-3) put in my coffee carafe (would work in a thermos too). It takes out everything, and I spent hours trying to get that stuff out before finding out about that trick.

    Mayo on water rings on wood is supposed to do magic, but I just use olive oil.

    If you’re not quite up to making your own dishwashing detergent (for machines) I do recommend Method tablets. They don’t have phosphates and work beautifully.

    I’ve been using a vinegar blend (vinegar, water, a few drops of dish soap (eco friendly) and a few drops of essential oil) for my counters and general kitchen cleaning. I was even happier with that when I got a good spray bottle, believe it or not it made a big difference.

    I love every new green cleaning hint I can find. Awesome!

  • You didn’t mention the classic, vinegar for cleaning windows, but I thought I’d share a helpful hint I learned about cleaning glass with vinegar. Here is the recipe:

    2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar, and up to 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap or detergent in a spray bottle

    BUT, as you’d find if you google “clean windows with vinegar” and hit the first article, if you’re switching to vinegar after using commercial cleaners there will be a fine layer of invisible wax on your windows. That little bit of dishwashing liquid in your window cleaner mix is crucial to removing the wax so you can get a streak-free shine. Without it, your vinegar will produce a streaky glass!

  • Can I just say that I LOVE VINEGAR? I used to think people were crazy when they’d tell me to wipe stuff down with vinegar. But I recently pulled my Lodge cast iron skillet off the back balcony where it had been exposed to elements for 5 years. It was rusted somethin’ fierce.

    I put it in a big bin outside, filled the bin with a few liters of white wine vinegar and left it for a few days, checking on it periodically (because the vinegar can eat through the iron too). After about 5 or so days, it had eaten all the rust off, and my cast iron skillet was at its “raw” state. I wiped the pan with oil immediately, and put it in the oven to season it. i have been slowly seasoning it every time I finish using the oven and turn it off (I wipe the pan again and stick it in the oven) and it’s like it was never rusted!

    I LOVE IT!

    Now I am looking for all sorts of places to use vinegar in the house!

    I just found a bunch thanks to you.

  • Excellent article! I’ve been using more eco-friendly cleaning products for years, but they’re expensive, and I always meant to try and make my own (with my favorite scents, even!) Now I have a great resource for how to do this on my favorite blog. Thanks!

  • Vinegar is also good in the wash, to get stubborn odors (I’m looking at you, smelly dog!) out. Seems to whiten things some, but I have yet to test it and confirm. Just put it in as you would fabric softener.

  • I have WHITE kitchen counters that are at least 40 years old and stain easily. To get the stains out, I pour a little lemon juice on them at night before I go to bed. In the morning I wipe up the lemon juice and the stain is gone without any scrubbing at all!

  • Hi, Ashley.
    It’s been a while since I started reading small measures, and I love it.
    I find it awsome to adapt into my routine things that will make me more comfortable while reducing the environmental impact.

    Well, that said, I got to know eco-cleaning homemade products in here http://elanvitalanthology.blogspot.com/2010/03/eco-cleaning-how-to-week-kickoff.html

    (this lady made a series of posts on her blog going though all stages of house cleaning, which is great and full of recipes.)

    It was great to substitute supermarket products by these new fresh ones. :)

    Thanks for the tips.
    Have a good party tomorrow!

  • Hey Steph. I host a lot of parties and I’ve found only one, sure fire way to minimize those jitters you speak of: a quarter of Xanax and a glass of wine. You’re welcome!

  • My husband always teases me, saying that I’m the hippy version of the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Remember his obsession with Windex? I have my trusty spray bottle of water, vinegar, plus a few drops of essential oils… just a spray here and there makes our home sparkle, without our skin and eyes stinging (the result of many overpowering commercial cleaning agents, now long abandoned).

  • I use vinegar and bi-carbonate of soda to clean everything. A word of warning to people changing over – my bench tops took a couple of weeks to adapt. They didn’t seem like they were cleaning well at first but it was the build-up of all the chemical cleaners. Once they were gone my kitchen was the cleanest it has been in years – with less effort. Those chemical cleaners actually make it harder to clean in the long run.

    Biggest surprise for me was the oven. They do a better job than the harshest oven cleaners. I just sprinkle the bi-carb then spray with vinegar then place wet paper towels over the top and leave for an hour or so. Go back, then use the towels to wipe off the grime. My oven was FILTHY the first time I did it (had been avoiding it because didn’t want to use the oven-cleaners and be exposed to the fumes whilst pregnant) and it wasn’t a problem at all.

    Bi-carb is also great for taking smells (such as garlic) off your hands in a hurry. Just rub it on your hands and wash as usual.

  • It’s so wonderful to see that so many readers have so much to say on this topic, not to mention all of the recipes! My family definitely gives me the crazy eye when I tell them we don’t have any traditional cleaners in the house.

    When we first moved into our new place it was filthy, so I thought I’d bring in the big guns (409, CLR, etc.), but I ended up not even scratching the surface of the dirt and after a four hour scrubbing session in the bathroom all I really got was a massive headache from the fumes. I bounced back with my vinegar and baking soda and the bathroom was clean in literally fifteen minutes flat. The chemicals got put away for toxic trash day and I will never go back!

    It’s also great to know that I can clean without potentially poisoning my pups and that when we bring babies into the mix I can feel safe about my cleaning regimen! Thanks for all of the fantastic recipes for me to try!!!

  • Ashley! I need the recipe for cardamon apple butter!! Please?

    I love the cleaning recipes too! Thanks!

  • Pumpkin brittle? Please say that recipe is over on Small Measures somewhere (I think, Pretendingsanity, that the cardamom apple butter is up there).

  • I love all of the ideas above, and also suggest adding Dr. Bronner’s soap to the cleaning arsenal. Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds is a great alternative to other floor cleaners, and it smells great, too.

    If anyone out there is looking for additional recipes, I’d definitely recommend that you pick up “Clean House, Clean Planet” by Karen Logan. She has loads of ideas and many of them have revolutionized how I clean my own house!

  • pretendingsanity-the recipe for the cardamom apple butter is in my book, “canning & preserving with ashley english.”

    tabitha-yes, the floor cleaner is totally safe to use on wood floors. that’s all i have in my home and it works brilliantly!

  • Another great one is to use a lemon slice and salt to shine copper- just scrub a little bit- amazing!

    Also I clean my windows by crumpling an old newspaper page dipped in white vinegar. Recycling and doesn’t leave fibers behind the way towels do.

  • Love these ideas. The room freshener using vodka is a smart alternative to isopropyl alcohol. And TASTY too! And you’ve given me another subversive idea. I’m making the balsam pine / juniper mixture to spray around my aluminum Christmas tree to really confound the family.

  • Sounds great! Am going to try all the tips :)
    I presume the floor cleaner can be put to use on laminate floors also..?

  • I have just washed my linoleum kitchen floor with vinegar & baking soda, and it has never looked so clean!

  • i like to use vinegar for cleaning. and baking soda too. just never together. they neutralize when mixed, so the recipe is basically like mopping the floor with scented water. and least that’s what i understand.

  • oh yes, i love using these.

    for the toilet: one part vinegar to two parts water, a splash of dish soap, and a few drops of tea tree oil. sometimes i add some other essential oil if i don’t want the tea tree scent…but that’s a very good one for killing bad bacteria.

    ashley, have you ever made your own laundry soap? also easy and gentler!

  • Just found your blog. Love all the great recipes; I’ll definitely be checking back!

    my favorite do-it-yourself kitchen cleaner is Cream of Tartar (yes, the ingredient you use for cooking). When made into a paste I find it’s miraculous for lifting cooked-on blackness from pots, stovetops, ovens, you name it. Also the best greasecutter I have found; I’ve stopped buying the fierce, commercial ones b/c Cream of Tartar works better.

    it’s expensive to buy as a jarred spice & you go through it quickly for cleaning; look for it in the bulk section.