28 September 2011

Green cleaning recipes - version 2

I did a post on green cleaning recipes in 2007 and over the years since then I've changed some of the things I do with my cleaning and altered some of the recipes. I give out those recipe in several of my workshops and every time I cut and paste them I tell myself to do a new post. It's time to review, edit and add a new green cleaning post.

You should be able to buy the ingredients for all these cleaners at your local supermarket. Please note that washing soda is different to baking soda. Sometimes there are two types of washing soda on sale - washing soda crystals and washing soda powder, buy the powder, it's easier to dissolve.

When you add your cleaner to a bottle, make sure you mark all the bottle with the name of the cleaner. If you reuse a bottle that previously contained other cleansers, make sure the bottle is completely clean and marked before you fill it with your homemade cleanser.

It’s a great organisational tool and safety measure to keep a record of all the cleaners you use. If you ever have an accident with the cleaners, or one of the kids swallows some, you’ll need to tell the doctor what the ingredients are so I recommend you keep these cleaning recipes together in a Homemaker’s Journal. You can also keep food recipes in it as well seed catalogues, garden plans, patterns and other bits and pieces that are helpful in your home. I have made a Homemaker's Journal using an old a three-ringed binder. That way I can add and remove pages when necessary. There is a  post here about making a journal.


Makes 10 litres
You may add any essential oil of your choice to these homemade cleaners. Oils like tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender or rose are ideal but are not an essential ingredient. They are not necessary to the recipe but do not detract from the effectiveness by adding them.

  • 1½ litres water
  • 1 bar Sunlight or generic laundry soap or any similar pure laundry soap, grated on a cheese grater OR 1 cup of Lux flakes
  • ½ cup washing soda – NOT baking or bicarb soda
  • ½ cup borax
  • Saucepan
  • 10 litre bucket
  • Slotted spoon or wooden spoon for mixing

Above you can see the process. The ingredients are measured into a saucepan containing one litre/quart of water. Add one cup of soap flakes, half a cup of borax and half a cup of washing soda. Turn on the heat and stir. Bring the mix to the boil, stirring as it heats, and by the time the mixture is boiling, ALL the ingredients should be dissolved.

So, you've nearly finished and it's only taken less than ten minutes so far. When you're sure the ingredients are completely dissolved, pour the mixture into your bucket then fill to the top with water from the hot tap and stir it together thoroughly. You've made laundry liquid. And it's cost you about $2 Australian. Ten litres of laundry liquid at an Australian supermarket costs about $80! When you take into account the making, pouring and storing, it's taken you about 30 minutes. I make this about once every four months. If you have a large family, you might make it every two months. And it will save you about $80 every time you make it. How long would you have to work to make $80? Saving it is much easier.

Once you have the laundry liquid in your bucket, stir it around again, then start filling your containers. It's important to leave enough room in the containers to shake the liquid before you use it because it will separate. As you can see, I store my laundry liquid in a five litre blue container, a three litre glass jar, a one litre glass jar and a 750 ml bottle. I use the bottled laundry liquid for cleaning. It's great as a stain remover, for cleaning up spills, for cleaning around light switches, door handles, walls and floors. I use that little blue scoop to put the liquid into my front loader washing machine and I always use the one litre jar as my working jar. When it's empty, I refill it from the larger containers.

Above is the laundry liquid after it's been sitting for 24 hours. It's clearly separated into layers - the top layer is gel-like, the bottom layer is watery. You need that space in your container to shake and mix before you use it.

And here is my cleaning liquid that I shook just to show you what it looks like. So don't think you've done anything wrong if your mixture separates, it's fine, it just needs a good shake. This is safe in septic tanks but not for grey water. The borax in the mix builds up as boron in the garden and that is harmful to plants. If you want to use your grey water, don't add the borax.

Sometimes you don't have time to make up the liquid, so here is the powder version:
  • 4 cups grated laundry or homemade soap or soap flakes (Lux)
  • 2 cups borax
  • 2 cups washing soda
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and store in a plastic container with a lid. Use 2 tablespoons per wash. Again, this powder will not make suds and again, it's perfectly okay.

For use on worker’s greasy or dirty overalls, football and sports uniforms or fabric that has food spills.
  • 2 cups grated Napisan or Sard soap or 2 cups of oxybleach powder (Napisan or the generic equivilent)
  • 2 cups grated laundry or homemade soap
  • 2 cups borax
  • 2 cups washing soda
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and store in a plastic container with a lid. Use two tablespoons per wash. The powder will not make suds. For a very heavily stained load of washing or tradesperson’s clothes, if you have a top loader let it fill with water and start working, then turn the machine off when the powder is dissolved. In a front loader, operate the machine to dissolve the powder and then stop the machine for an hour to soak the clothes. Leave to soak for an hour, or overnight, and then turn the machine on and continue washing as normal.

½ cup laundry liquid, rubbed into the stain, will remove many stains. Rub the liquid in with your finger tips, let it sit for 30 minutes, then wash as normal.

½ cup white vinegar in final rinse

Bicarb soda (baking soda) is a good for soiled nappies. Dissolve ¼ cup of bicarb soda in a bucket of warm water, soak for at least an hour or overnight, then wash the nappies in hot water with homemade laundry liquid. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the final rinse and let them dry in the sun.

Nellymary has a post on making citrus vinegar which is a good old fashioned general cleaner. Her post is here. You can make a similar cleaner using lavender leaves and flowers or, for the Australians, lemon myrtle leaves.

½ cup washing soda
2 litres warm water
Mix together and store in a sealed container that is marked with the name. Can be used as a floor cleaner – tiles, laminate or vinyl or for general cleaning of walls, counter tops or sinks.

This method works by a chemical reaction between aluminium, salt and bicarb soda. Put the plug in the kitchen sink. Lay a piece of aluminium foil on the base of the sink and add your silverware. Pour in enough boiling water to cover the silver.
Add one teaspoon of bicarb soda and one teaspoon of salt to the water. Let it sit for about ten minutes. The tarnish will disappear without you touching it. Rinse and dry.

CREAMY SOFT SCRUBBER - a good bath cleaner
Simply pour about ½ cup of bicarb into a bowl, and add enough laundry liquid to make a texture like thick custard. Scoop the mixture onto a sponge, and start scrubbing. This is the perfect recipe for cleaning the bath and shower because it rinses easily and doesn’t leave grit.
Note: Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin to the mixture and store in a sealed glass jar, to keep the product moist. Otherwise just make as much as you need at a time.

¼ - ½ teaspoon liquid or grated soap
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups water
spray bottle
Put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, and use as you would a commercial brand. The soap in this recipe is important. It cuts the wax residue from the commercial brands you might have used in the past.

Vinegar and newspapers
Pour a little vinegar onto a sheet of newspaper and wipe windows. Remove all the grime and polish the window with a clean sheet of newspaper.

½ teaspoon olive oil
¼ cup vinegar or fresh lemon juice
Mix the ingredients in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wooden surfaces. Seal in the glass jar and store indefinitely.

FLOOR CLEANER – tiles, vinyl or laminate
½ cup white vinegar plus 2 litres hot water in a bucket and a clean mop will clean up all but the worst floor. If you have a really dirty floor to deal with, add a squirt of homemade laundry liquid to this mix.

WOODEN FLOOR CLEANER - Ammonia will strip floor wax (one cup to a bucket of hot water)
2 tablespoons homemade vegetable soap - grated
½ cup vinegar
500 mls strong black tea
bucket warm water
Combine all the ingredients in the bucket and wash with a mop.

A clean mop is a necessity when cleaning floors. If you start with a dirty mop you’ll just loosen the dirt on the mop by making it wet again and then spread that on the floor. When you finished your cleaning jobs, rinse the mop out to get rid of the loose dirt, rinse the squeeze as much water out as you can, then dry the mop in the sun.

Instead of buying cleaning rags or Chux, recycle your old towels and flannelette sheets. If you've kept your towels going for as long as you can, or you find a rip in a sheet that's already been mended a few times, cut them up and use them as cleaning rags. After all that wear, they'll be soft and absorbent, and just the thing to help you clean your home. If you're cutting up a fitted sheet, use the old elastic in the garden to tie up your tomatoes.

Add a few drops of water to some bicarb and make a thick paste. Wipe over the crayon marks and scrub off with a terry cloth.

¼ cup cooking salt or any natural salt.
¼ cup bicarb soda
Make up ½ cup at a time and store it in a sealed jar. Just sprinkle some of the powder onto your toothbrush and clean your teeth in the normal way. This powder is bitter and takes a little while to get used to but it works well. You could add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to mask the taste.

This works very well. Say goodbye to all those expense hairdresser shampoos. 
Dissolve a tablespoon of bicarb soda in a cup of water. If you’ve got children, it might be better doing this in a squirt bottle.
Wet hair thoroughly and apply the mixture to the hair, massaging it in well.
To rinse, just run water through your hair, or you could use a splash of vinegar. The vinegar smell will go when your hair is dry.
You’ll be amazed at how good your hair feels. It will be clean and healthy.
This is an excellent shampoo for long and frizzy hair or short hair.

Add some bicarb to a shaker and use that. Dabbing a bit of bicarb under your arms is very effective as long as you wash every day.

Please add your favourite homemade cleaner in your comment. I'm always happy to try new cleaners and ways of cleaning.



  1. I am taking lots of notes on this one! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Oh! I cannot wait to read through this updated version more throughly! I printed off the first one, and it's been my cleaning bible lately. Thanks for making it easy for everyone by taking the time to put it all in one place Rhonda. :)

  3. Hi Rhonda, How very funny! I wrote a post on dishwasher powder last night but didn't check and post it until this morning. Then I popped over here to see what you were up to. Icouldn't believe it when I saw you were doing green cleaning recipes! We find we are too busy and cook too often to keep up with dishes by hand but I much prefer to use homemade powder than a commercial one. Less poisonous and less packaging!

  4. Rhonda Jean I printed out your cleaning recipes some years ago and mostly use them.
    They are great and over the years I have copied them for various friends - some wanting to be greener in their cleaning and some because they were in financial difficulties and neede to stretch their money.

    A couple of weeks ago I was at a morning tea and mentioned that a usually expensive laundry detergent was on a good special . Three of the ladies turned to me and assured me they only ever use the "gloop". Our name for the liquid laundry detergent on your list.

    It bought a smile to my face .

  5. Goodmorning Rhonda!
    I look forward to reading your posts whenever I can.
    A great post today as usual, I was wondering though about the borax you use. I carn't get borax here at all. I'm in Gippsland Victoria, not on another planet. Might it be sold under a different name? Thankyou. Mandi

  6. SUCH a useful post Rhonda! Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge and experience.
    How much of the laundry liquid do you use per wash?
    Do you have a front loader or top loader washing machine?
    Also, what is the role of the borax - and what effect does omitting it have.

    Thanks again!

  7. What a lovely informative post Rhonda....I like that you have updated the list for all your new to be readers.....I waited half an hour this morning after dropping son off at train station for the newsagents to open....I have the October Woman's Weekly...your article is fantastic....I love the photo of you with your chicken best.....Thanks again for your recommendation to WW.....I appreciate it so much. lots of love and cooking from scratch...

  8. Thanks again for these recipes. I will bookmark them until I get a chance to copy them into my journal. I don't have any other recipes, all mine I got from you. Thanks again. xxx Kate

  9. I forgot to mention....Congratulations on your new column for Women's Weekly....looking forward to it, but I'll have to find someone who already buys it, as I usually don't buy magazines....but this one was extra special. Many thanks...and hugs to you.

  10. Hi, Rhonda. I've used lots of these recipes for years and they always work great for me. I did have a problem with bicarb as a deodorant. For some reason, it gave me a rash. Not sure why, though I have very sensitive skin. I switched to a natural crystal deodorant it works great. It's just a mineral salt that you wet slightly then rub on your skin.

    My last one cost $6US and it's lasted over 6 months and has got over half left. I picked mine up in a health food store in Texas. I'm certain they have them in Australia as well.

  11. Very useful!! I'll be bookmarking this one. Thanks!

  12. Hi again, Nellymary commented recently that her citrus cleaner could be used for fabric softener. I wonder if she could let us know how to use it? How much to use and should it be diluted? I think it would be lovely to have the clothes smelling of citrus!

  13. Thanks so much for this post Rhonda its very timely! I work as a cleaner for an eco friendly business and we dont use chemicals. we use microfibre cloths and dry everything after its cleaned. At home I use vinegar a lot, and for soap scum or harder dirt I use a no scratch scourer which is great for tiles and getting soap scum off glass and tiles in the bathroom. Then I just dry with a soft rag and it comes up like new!
    cheers for now!

  14. Thank you so much for these recipes, my baby is allergic to all types of detergent and commercial cleaners and shampoos, so i'm on a crash green cleaning course. I will especially try the shampoo recipe, as bar soap leaves a horrible residue and my hair is suffering!

  15. Been using some of these already! But it's so nice to have these ideas all in one place! Thanks for doing this.

  16. Such a wealth of information! Thank you Rhonda, I have printed this to read over lunch.

    Where do you get your very large jars please? I don't buy anything in large jars so I'm thinking of looking online.

    DTE Forum members can get home journal pages at:

  17. Thank you Rhonda. I have taken a note of them. :-)

  18. Oh wow I must have missed the news aw AWW! Congrats!!!

    If you are after borax for the washing powder I can recommend substituting it for bicarb. It works just as well. I 2 messy boy toddlers who love to get into the mud and get spaghetti sauce all over them and the heavy duty washing powder (using bicarb instead of borax) works a treat!
    Apparently it's not good to use the greywater containing borax on your garden either so bicarb is a good substitue for that reason also. Still use the same quantities.

  19. Thank you so much for sharing these recipes Rhonda. I'm in full cleaning mode at the moment too as I prepare to move house, so this is great timing.

    Also, I am printing out your previous post on saving money. Think I'll have to set myself up with a journal as you've suggested...

  20. If you're just starting at being more self sufficient and dont have anything that will be becoming a rag any time soon, the thrift stores ( op shop, goodwill) sometimes sell clean rags which are cut from just the same materials that Rhonda recommends.

  21. Rhonda - For cleaning brass / copper I use wood ash. Simply dip a damp cloth into the cold ash and gently rub the item - it comes clean as a whistle :) No more necessity of buying expensive Brasso!

    Also, all those single socks which don't have a mate, can be used as cleaning / polishing rags - simply slip one over your hand and away you go. It is much easier to get into the cracks of furniture as well.

    You can also fill a sock with a bar of soap and leave it by an outside tap to use as a hand cleaner after working in the garden.

  22. Great recipes, thank you very much. I really want to try the liquid soap and the window cleaner.
    Cleaning by using a spray bottle is something I already do. It is a great way to have a quick cleaning of the bathroom and toilet each day !! I have one bottle standing near the toilet and one in the bathroom. They're always at hand !!
    Have a great day.
    Greetings from The Netherlands

  23. Great post, thank you so much. I am going to start my own almanac!

    Also, thank you to Dani for the great ideas for unmatched socks...I have a *few* of them :)

  24. Thanks Rhonda! This is a very timely post as I was just hunting about for natural recipes for cleaning the kitchen bench ... and the chicken coop! :)

  25. Rhonda, thank you so much for these recipes. I already use some of them, e.g. I use vinegar and baking soda a lot.
    Is the laundry liquid safe to use in a HE machine? I'd love to try it, but don't know if it will work with my machine.

  26. Wowzer Rhonda! This is like the cleaners bible - packed full of information, keeping this bookmarked for future use as I'm forever wondering what ingredients I need to mix together to remove various stains and dirt from various surfaces.

    Wonderful, fabulous post, thank you :)

  27. I've seen many similar recipes before and use some of them already, but am excited to finally see a recipe for the creamy scrubbing cleaner...genius idea, can't wait to try it. Thank you!

    We make toothpaste a bit differently, with coconut oil, baking soda, peppermint oil, and a bit of glyerin and vitamin e (as preservative).

  28. I didn't read all the comments so this might have been mentioned already....

    We make the tooth powder the same as you do with one addition; we add about 3 tablespoons of cinnamon to our mix. It improves the taste and cinnamon is supposed to have many healthful properties (antiseptic, stimulates circulation, etc.) It is much more palatable than without!

  29. I have been washing our hair with bicarb and vinegar for about six months now and love it, nothings cared for my hair better! We do most of the above but thanks for the tooth powder.

  30. Bicarb of Soda as shampoo? I'm going to have to try that. I would have never even imagined that would work. Thanks for sharing your recipes!

  31. How much liquid laundry detergent do you use per load? I just made the liquid for the first time - I usually do the powdered stuff and it seems cheaper for the liquid since it's mostly water, but that depends on how much to use per load. 1/4 cup?

  32. Thanks so much for all these awesome recipes! Some of them I am already using. Some I've considered, but haven't yet tried and some I'd never even thought of. Thanks as always for sharing what you've found works for you.

  33. Just made a batch of laundry detergent. It turned into a solid gel. I reheated and added more water. Hopefully that will do the trick. Can't wait to wash my first load of laundry with it.

  34. I also just made my first batch of laundry detergent yesterday (I halved the recipe so I could store 5 litres more easily) and it turned out really well! Today's wash was great and I used 1/4 cup in my top loader but might use 1/3 cup tomorrow just as an experiment. Thank you so much, I feel like I have saved so much money already!!

  35. Hi Rhonda,

    I thought I've already commented, but my comment somehow doesn't appear.

    I don't want to be bothersome, but here in Europe, borax isn't considered safe for your skin.
    I know you it's better not to use it in homemade cosmetics.
    there are probably some problem concerning its impact on environment and its toxicity.
    But I will keep yourr green recipes close and use bicarbonate soda instead !

    Thanks for sharing those simple means to clean,


  36. Drain cleaner: 1/2 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of baking soda. Combine and our down drain. I have very old pipes, so I need a knife to help work it in. Once powder is pushed into drain (It is also scrubbing as it goes down) Pour 1 cup vinegar down the drain. This will cause the common school days volcanic foaming. Then using your tea kettle that is full of boiling water, pour this down the drain. It works every time. Sometimes I need to refill the kettle of boiling water. It takes about 30 minutes for the whole process, but it keeps the old pipes clear for months and months. Drano is very expensive and less effective. The other tip is to wipe away long hair from the trap and keep soap scum out of it by moving the soap tray away from the shower head. Thank you for your many, many great ideas! ~ Kari

  37. Thank you for sharing your tips, Rhonda. I'm enjoying browsing your posts and I look forward to reading your book, when it comes out.

  38. Hi Rhonda,

    I love your page and am taking a lot of things on board. I have always wanted to know how to make soap & laundry liquid, and will be giving this a try over the weekend. When my weekly shop requires me to buy cleaning products, it really is a big chunk of the overall bill, so i'm hoping these work well to save some costs here. I have just mopped my wood floors with your recipe, and it's already looking better.
    My question goes out to anyone with wood floors. Does anyone know the best cleaning utensils to use ie; what is the best mop to clean them?

  39. Mts T, the best utensils to use are what you already have. Make sure your mop is clean, clean it again when you've finished cleaning and dry it in the sun. None of these things need anything special. They need clean utensils and elbow grease. Good luck love.

  40. Mandi from Gippsland, Woolies in Warragul sell Borax in the laundry isle. The brand is Bare Essentials. Woolies also have the washing soda powder too. Hope this helps

  41. took me a while to find Borax at my local Safeway (Woolies) despite 2 staff unable to locate it. Found it with the disinfectants.

  42. Thanks for the recipe for laundry powder. We had run out of bought liquid and had no money - at all - but I had bought the ingredients a while back and had never gotten around to doing anything with them. I was very happy to be able to finish all my washing for the grand price of - NOTHING ;)

  43. Great Recipes.!

    I just used the wood floor cleaner recipe and unfortunately I have streaks everywhere:(

    I used Sunlight soap, could it be this or may it be that I used too much?

    Your help would be greatly appreciated

    Thanks Again!

  44. Thank you so much Rhonda - it's the summer holidays in England and I'm going to have a go at making the laundry powder. I'll share these recipes with my friends and family. I hope all is well in your world x

  45. Hi! I've just tried the washing powder recipe and have a heap of lux flakes left on my washing? Should I make the liquid version instead? Thank you!


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