ashley englishsmall measures

Small Measures: Homemade Spring Cleaning Products

by Ashley

I don’t know about where you live, but here in the mountains of western North Carolina, we’ve been a land under siege. Everywhere you look, on every surface you set something and just about anywhere outdoors you might think about sitting, you’ll find a fine, powdery film. Yes, the season of pollen is upon us. While it’s a wonderful thing, full of benefits for winged creatures and flora of every persuasion, it can and often does plague the homes (and sinuses!) of humans everywhere.

Historically, once spring rolled around and homes both large and small began opening windows and emptying fireplaces and wood stoves of ashes for the last time, a thorough scrubbing of the entire dwelling commenced. From the rugs below all the way up to the ash-clad cobwebs hiding in ceiling corners above, spring was the time to get out the grime and bring in the freshness, and that’s exactly what I’m sharing with you today. Using affordable ingredients, many of which you’ll already have on hand, you can whip up an all-natural, inexpensive, homemade arsenal of cleaning products sure to help you spruce up your act and win the battle against pollen everywhere! — Ashley English

Photography and styling by Jen Altman

The full post continues after the jump . . .

Glorious Glass Cleaner

I want my glass and mirrors as streak- and dirt-free as anyone. That said, the intense ammonia scent synonymous with most glass cleaners is often more than I can stand. My solution is this simple vinegar and water blend with a bit of liquid dish or hand soap to prevent streaking. If you really want to whistle while you work, add the lemongrass essential oil suggested. Incredibly uplifting, you’ll be looking for surfaces to spray just to get a whiff of the vibrant scent!

Whenever I have a pretty bottle whose contents I’ve used up, I clean it and squirrel it away for potential use later. The same is true for spray nozzles (although they’re pretty easy to come by at home supply stores). For this glass cleaner, I upcycled a bottle that previously contained sparkling water, as well as a spray nozzle from a used-up Method product. I then affixed a dissolving canning label (available from Ball) detailing the bottle’s contents. Now I’ve got a cleaner that’s easy and affordable to make and in an attractive bottle to boot. Who says your cleaning remedies shouldn’t be as pretty as the space you’re cleaning? This would also make a fun house-warming gift.

The Goods

  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish or hand soap
  • 5 drops lemongrass essential oil (optional)


The Deal

1. Place all the ingredients in a bottle.

2. Attach a spray nozzle to the bottle. Shake vigorously to fully combine.

3. Spray onto glass surfaces.

4. Wipe clean using a cloth or a coffee filter.

Wondrous Wood Floor Polish

With a bit of olive oil and vinegar, your floors can be rendered shiny and new! I like to add a little lemon or orange essential oil to the mix so that the whole ordeal smells as wonderful as it looks, but that step is entirely at your discretion.

The Goods

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 10 drops lemon or orange essential oil (optional)
  • hot water


The Deal

1. Place olive oil and vinegar in a sink or bucket.

2. Add hot water to fill. Sprinkle essential oils over the surface of the water.

3. Use your mop to stir the mixture.

4. Mop as usual.

5. If your floor is slicker than you’d prefer after cleaning, use a cloth to wipe up any remaining oil.

Sublime Silver Polish

This solution will convert even those who are most skeptical about the deep-cleaning properties of natural remedies. In just seconds, the baking soda removes tarnish on your precious silver pieces. The photo below shows two pair of earrings I purchased five years ago on my honeymoon in Paris, along with a ring of Jen’s (from Afghanistan, scored at the Field Museum in Chicago). Neither of us had seen our jewelry that clean in years. It sizzled into shiny perfection right before our eyes!

The Goods

  • a medium–large ceramic or glass baking pan
  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • aluminum foil


The Deal

1. Fill a kettle or pot with enough water to fill your baking dish. Bring to a boil.

2. While you wait for the water to boil, line the bottom of the baking dish with a piece of aluminum foil.

3. Place whatever pieces of silver you’d like to clean on top of the foil, making sure they are in direct contact with it.

4. Sprinkle the baking soda evenly across those pieces.

5. When the water comes to a boil, pour it over the baking dish. The baking soda will immediately begin to sizzle. (Watch to see just how quickly your pieces get clean!) Soak for at least five minutes.

6. Carefully remove the items from the baking dish (the water will still be hot).

7. Rinse each piece in cool water. Dry completely with a cloth before storing.

What about you? Have any go-to DIY cleaning solutions? I’d love to hear about them. For more of my easy-peasy homemade cleaning products, check out these two previous Small Measures posts. Otherwise, I’ve got company coming to visit this weekend, and in a house tucked a mile down a dusty dirt road with an active 1.5-year-old, two large dogs and a spouse that’s no stranger to mess-making, there’s always something to clean!

Photography and styling by Jen Altman

Suggested For You


  • I love the idea of homemade silver polish – but I have a HUGE silver tray to polish, and I don’t have a container big enough to let it sit in (as the recipe above requires). Does anyone have any other good silver polish recipes that are more of a cleaner, or a paste?

  • another eco-friendly tip for cleaning glass is to use old newpaper instead of paper towels. It actually works better on the glass and doesn’t leave behind little dust particles like rags or paper towels do :)

  • Toothpaste!!

    I recently had to polish candlestick holders that had velvet bottoms so could not get wet. The flannel polish cloth was not working (they were really tarnished) so I smeared them with a liberal amount of toothpaste, left it to dry for about 30 mins and then rubbed it off with a dry cloth- it was magic– Shiny and minty fresh!

  • i have been making homemade laundry detergent for over a year now and have turned friends onto it as well. it is so simple to make, works great and is cheap!! 1 cup borax + 1 cup washing soda (not baking soda) + 1 finely shaved bar of ivory soap. store in an airtight container and use two heaping tablespoons per wash.

  • I’m bookmarking this one! Thanks for sharing! I’ve been trying to little by little use a more natural approach to cleaning. I know it’s better for us, but the cost factor doesn’t hurt, either! :)

  • I absolutely love your idea of making these for someone as a homewarming gift. Thank you for sharing!

  • These look lovely! People with housecats should know that essential oils can be toxic to cats (who will lick their paws after walking over freshly cleaned surfaces).

  • Emily- Maybe you could make a container out of the foil itself? You could use a sheet big enough for your tray and just fold up the edges to hold in the liquid. If one sheet isn’t wide enough, you could fold multiple pieces together.

  • I use baking soda, vinegar and dr. Bronner’s on pretty much everything. However, I have been warned not to use vinegar on my wood floors.

  • Ashley, I grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina! I remember the pollen being especially heavy one year when I was about 17; you could hardly tell what color your car was because the pollen was so thick. For some reason I never had allergies there, but once I moved to Colorado, I’ve had seasonal allergies ever since. Weird. Thanks for the glass cleaner recipe, I’ve been wanting to do something different from the ubiquitous blue stuff. And give all your glorious mountain trees a hug from me; I miss their greenness, their variety, their everything.

  • My mom uses her largest pot on a low boil with washing soda and tinfoil for silver. It takes seconds and for really big pieces you just rotate it, whatever is in contact with the foil and in the water gets clean.

  • Never heard of using olive oil on floors – sounds interesting!

    Lately I’ve been using Orange Peel vinegar for my vinyl floors. It’s very easy to make, and smells absolutely lovely when you are swabbing with it:

    Just stuff a large jar with the peels of oranges, minus the pith and flesh. Then pour plain white vinegar to the top, and let steep as long as you wish (but at least a week) on the window sill. Strain, and use a 1/2 cup with a gallon of hot water in a bucket to wash your floors. Enjoy! It’s a fun way to use up something that would otherwise end up in the compost. :o)


  • Equal parts water/vinegar in a spray bottle is in general a great surface cleaner. Kills as much as bleach does, actually, w/out all the toxic afters. I wipe down my counters, then spray one more time and let it air dry to really kill everything.

  • What Ashley calls Glass Cleaner is what I use as an all-purpose cleaner — great for counters, tile, messes on the floor, smudges on walls or cupboards. I have cats, so don’t use the essential oils, but I find that the dish soap usually has enough scent to cover the vinegar smell (I use Method pink grapefruit).
    Thanks for the post, Ashley!

  • Another great, natural alternative is to use equal parts water and vodka to freshen fabrics or upholstered items. Just mix in a spray bottle, spray onto fabric and let dry. It really gets any mustiness or unpleasant odor out of fabrics.
    Alos, I love the idea of putting the cleaner in a glass bottle. It makes it so much nicer to look at.

  • This is all so incredibly neat! I love the idea of making your cleaning products beautiful to look at, I’m going to be on the lookout for some beautiful bottles now so that I can proudly show off my cleaning supplies, thank you so much for this insightful post :)

  • For those that asked, my top was made by Astronette: http://www.etsy.com/people/astronette?ref=owner_profile_leftnav#. She’s not currently selling online, but has a brick & mortar shop in Chattanooga, TN, Leo Gallery: http://leogallery.blogspot.com/ Astronette is a sustainable clothing company, upcycling new creations out of old garments. They sell in several boutiques outside of their own, including one here in Asheville, Honeypot. You can find Astronette on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/#!/LeoHandmade. The top I’m wearing in the photos was a Valentine’s Day gift from my husband; he purchased it for me about 5 years ago. I love it!

  • Love these posts.

    I make a liquid dishwashing soap that can sit by the sink for dishes and hands but use it more for sparkling countertops.

    2/3 c liquid castile soap
    1 T vegetable glycerin
    5 drops tea tree essential oil
    20 drops lemon essential oil
    1 1/3 c water

    Put in 24 oz squirt bottle and shake. Smells wonderful!

  • If you need to clean a piece of silver jewelry just use plain, white toothpaste, with no fancy additives or whitener. Rinse well and it will look great. To keep if from tarnishing just keep a piece of plain white chalk in your jewelry box or silver drawer.

  • My friend said to use baking soda & vinegar to unclog clogged sink. Worked wonderfully.

  • Do NOT use toothpaste to clean jewelry of any kind! It is far too abrasive and will damage silver. The enamel on your teeth is much tougher than silver and can handle toothpaste.

  • As far as the silver cleaning method goes, I would only use it for less expensive pieces rather than family heirlooms or other old silver. The chemical reaction between the baking soda and foil will clean the silver while taking away any patina which may have accumulated….as well as giving the silver a grey tinge which can’t be removed. Ditto Tarnex.

  • I use straight peroxide as a glass cleaner. You’ll be amazed at how well it works!!

  • FYI with Sterling Silver I get a ghostly white finish on the cutlery once I rinse and dry it with a soft cloth. I think there must be a better way to clean it that is easy and green.

  • All recipes are great but my favourite one is the wood floor polish one. Another natural wood polishing method which I use for the furniture is using the white side of an orange peel. It makes the dull looking wood shiny again and it can even make water marks less visible.

  • Really good recipes! Thanks for sharing! I am a big fan of green recipes for cleaning and I’m really happy when I find a good natural alternative to chemical products. By the way I use limegrass for repelling insects. All the recipes you have shown seem really good. I will try out them soon! Best wishes!