10 Second How-To

10 Second How-To: Making Your Own (Green) Cleaning Spray

by Maxwell Tielman

I know that January, what with its obligatory resolutions and self-improvement, is supposed to be a time of balance. But whenever this time of year rolls around, I find myself conflicted between two decidedly unbalanced impulses. On one hand, I want to practice mindfulness—eradicating waste, excess consumption, and unnecessary chemicals from my life. On the other hand, I also want to abolish dirt and unsightly dust from my life, oftentimes resorting to what is considered the apex of non-mindful, hazardous living by twenty-first century health standards: spraying a thick mist of chemical-laden anti-bacterial disinfectant spray onto every surface imaginable, followed by a swift wipe with a generous pile of paper towels. Never mind the fact that my paper towel usage is probably contributing to the deforestation of an entire rain forest—my reliance upon mass-market household cleaners with ingredient lists longer than Tolstoy’s collected works is no good for my health, the environment, or the continued proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

So. It’s quite clear that, every January, I find myself in a little bit of a predicament. How do I balance my desire to live healthfully and mindfully with my obsessive desire for wildly premature spring cleaning? Well— using a handmade all-natural household cleaner is a good start. Over the past several months, I’ve largely tossed aside my chemical and fragrance-riddled cleaning sprays in exchange for a homemade concoction that is just as effective as what’s available on store shelves. The real kicker? It’s über cheap and beyond easy to make.

We recently teamed up with Common Good to share the simple steps that will have you on your way to creating a healthier, greener household cleaner. Simply fill a spray bottle 1/3 to 1/2 with white vinegar (available at pretty much every grocery store) and fill the rest with water. If you want to add a little bit of fragrance, add a few tiny drops of your favorite essential oil to the mix. Spray away! The scent of vinegar might take some getting used to, but rest assured—the smell goes away as soon as your surface is dry! Presto—the perfect way to practice mindfulness and cleanliness in the New Year! —Max

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  • i always use vinegar and water…im not super big on being completely green, so i will ddrop some laundry detergent powder into the bottle to kill a bit of the vinegar smell…the vinegar smell does fade away fairly quickly so thats not an issue, but the laundry detergent lingers behind and makes my home smell like clean laundry, which i have no problem with at all.

  • It’s so funny you mention this solution, because that’s exactly what we use to clean the yoga studio I teach at! Adding a few drops of tea tree oil and lavender make the scent much more refreshing and cut the sting of the vinegar.

  • I steep orange peels and whole cloves in white (or apple cider) vinegar for about 2 weeks (in a jar under the kitchen sink). Then strain, pour into a spray bottle until half-way filled, and fill the rest of the way with water. Adds a great smell, and it easy enough!

  • I second adding lavender and tea tree oil. I also add hydrogen peroxide for extra bacteria-cleaning power (though don’t get it on your clothes!). BTW, vinegar is a good all-purpose cleaner, but do NOT use it on granite countertops, as it will eat away at the sealant.

  • We are actually required to use only nontoxic cleaning agents in our apartment building, which is a fancy LEED-certified retrofit of an old brick hotel from the Klondike gold rush, with a gray water system, low-flow shower heads, heating system that uses entirely residual warmth from the hot water tanks, the works. I can attest to both the cleaning magic and the off-putting smell of white vinegar, and we save money in the process. This same diluted solution is as good for mopping our engineered hardwood floors as it is for stainless steel and countertops as well as our butcher block island, stinky washing machine, and and so on. The one thing it can’t quite door is streak-free glass and mirrors. I find an essential oil that helps mask but doesn’t fight with the vinegar is good for scent–try rosewood, or tea tree as Jessica suggested. Baking powder and vinegar are truly the eco-cleaning dream team!

  • Yes, ditto on all the comments above. I’ve been using vinegar and water mix as an all-purpose cleaning solution for a few years now as well. Pair it with baking soda and a microfiber cloth (reduce paper towel waste!) and you get sparkling sinks, shining stovetops, and gunk-free grout on bathroom tiles. It’s really incredible – I hope more people will be vinegar converts because of this post! Not only is it cheap and easy, its so much better for your health and the earth’s health.

    The smell issue is not an issue for me, I find it dissipates very quickly and actually acts as an odor eater – it eliminates other smells. But I will try to add essential oils or perhaps use the trick of infusing with orange peel and cloves – love those scents together!

  • I add a teaspoon of castile soap and clean everything except glass with it (for glass I mix vinegar, water and alcohol).

  • For windows and mirrors we used the vinegar solution with a crumpled piece of newspaper (black ink only). I learned this from the old time country folk in Maine

  • I used to use the vinegar spray until I discovered these neat little microfibers that allow you to clean using just water (windows included!). And for the deep cleaning (that vinegar isn’t really great at), I’ve also found some amazing all natural, eco-friendly cleaners. I loved the company and products so much I actually became a sales rep for them!

  • I recently started work in a local cleaning company in South Yarra. There we have a policy for eco cleaning which made me think more about the way I clean my home. I tried this method with vinegar and water it did a great job but it smelled bad. Yes, the smell disappeared fast but I don’t feel it clean if it doesn’t smell nice. That’s why the second time I made it in a big jar and added a few orange peels. This made the smell of my home fantastic.

  • I had an odor problem with my HE front load washing machine. Bleach, and those commercial chemical treatments made to clean washing machines were temporary fixes and terrible for the environment. Looking to eliminate the toxins in dryer sheets, I read about vinegar in the rinse cycle of the washing machine as a softener. Not only did it work, it cured my machine. NO MORE ICKY SMELL! Can’t wait to try the orange peel infusion. My clothes never smelled like vinegar, but I love the smell of orange peels.

  • Lovely post! This spray is so easy to make and it’s quite efficient indeed. I’m definitely recommending it to my clients. Most of them prefer to use natural cleaners in their cleaning routine. Thank you for sharing! Pippa

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