Natural Cleaning

September 6, 2011

I haven’t done much sewing in the last few days, instead I’ve been cleaning. I’m not really nesting, per se, more like getting the last things done I HAVE to do before bringing home a new baby and having lots of people in my house. I’m due in less than 3 weeks and I’m starting to feel really exhausted every day! But alas, things need to be cleaned, organized, and put away, so I’ve been hard at work.

While I was cleaning up the kitchen yesterday, it dawned on me that I should share some of my cleaning secrets with you guys. Since I’ve spent the past 4 years either pregnant or breastfeeding, I’ve been really aware of what chemicals I bring into our house. I’ve never been a fan of cleaning, but I realized I hated it even more because of the strong smell of cleaners. I started searching for an alternate option about 8 months ago and I’m a convert!

This is my cast of cleaning characters:

That’s right, I clean my entire house with Borax, vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide! And water, of course.

I was surprised by the cleaning and disinfecting properties of distilled white vinegar. My new all-purpose cleaner is nothing more than equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. It’s not overpowering, but it certainly does the job! I made pasta for dinner last night and it splattered all over the stovetop. This is actually a frequent occurrence in our kitchen! So to demonstrate how easy and amazing it works here’s the before:


And after!

I also use it to clean the counters, walls, bathrooms and everywhere else that needs some cleaning. It does a surprisingly good job on mirrors, too!

I also use vinegar in my dishwasher as a rinse agent and in my washer as a fabric softener.

The Borax, baking soda, and peroxide I use mostly in the bathrooms. The Borax cleans my toilet bowl and soap scum in the tub. It’s great at getting rid of the ring around the tub, too! Peroxide gets rid of mold and mildew that appears in the grout, and baking soda is a back-up scrubbing agent. I do all the cleaning with old ratty washcloths I toss in the washer with my load of towels.

I LOVE using these natural cleaners now! They do just as good of a job as any chemical you’d buy in the store, but they don’t stink and they’re safe for my girls to be around. How many times do you feel like you have to wash your hands while you’re cleaning to get all the nasty smell off them? And I never wanted to touch my kids while cleaning with those, either. But not any more! Now they can be in the bathroom with me while I scrub away and I don’t have to freak out if they touch something while I’m cleaning it. There’s also no overwhelming powerful smell of chemical clean, either! It’s just sparkling and shiny and smells slightly like vinegar.

So looking for other natural household alternatives, I discovered making my own laundry detergent. It takes just a few minutes and costs me pennies per load!

It’s just 3 simple ingredients: Borax, washing soda, and a bar of Fels Naptha soap. All these items can be found in the laundry aisle of any grocery store. I get mine at Walmart!

I start by grating my bar of Fels Naptha. I use a small cheese grater and let it sit out overnight to harden up a little. Just make sure you keep it out of the reach of tiny hands–it looks like cheese!

The next morning I stick it in my food processor and grind it up nice and fine. You don’t have to do it this way, just grated is fine, but I like to get it as close to powder as possible.

Then I just get a 22oz tupperware container and I mix 1 cup of Borax,

1 cup of washing soda,

and my Fels Naptha.

Stir well to incorporate, and stick the lid on it!

I use 1 TBSP per load and this much lasts me around 25-30 loads. I figured it costs me about $1.50 per batch of soap I made, which averages out to $.06 per load. It’s not only extremely cost effective, but it’s a great detergent and gets our clothes clean! We’ve got little kids with big stains and I rarely have to use a pre-treater on anything. It also gets The Hubs’s gym clothes nice and fresh.

So go on, break with conformity and try some natural cleaners in your house! You just might be pleasantly, and monetarily, surprised!

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54 Responses to “Natural Cleaning”

  1. Christina said:

    I have been making homemade laundry detergent for about the last year and half. It works great for our family. I still live at home and there are five people all together, so we go through TONS of laundry detergent. I used fels naphtha the first time, but found out that using a regular bar of soap works just as well. So now I buy whatever is on sale, like Dial or Zest (which gives the cleanest scent) an it is significantly less expensive! We also make a liquid version rather than powder by adding it to 4 gallons of water in a bucket. It lasts about two months ( and that’s a lot of laundry)! 😉 love your blog!!

  2. April said:

    Thanks for posting this! I’m also due in under 3 weeks with our 3rd child (we have 2 year old boy/girl twins), and can completely relate to your post. I honestly haven’t thought about alternative cleaning options as much as I should, but it would definitely be much cheaper to switch Lysol wipes for vinegar, borax, and peroxide. Thanks again, good luck with the last bit of your pregnancy, and I’m so glad I found your blog! :)

  3. Sarah Beth said:

    I am so going to try this! By the way I won your makeup bag a few weeks ago and haven’t received it yet.. I would hate if it got lost in the mail! I was just wondering..i was so excited to win!

  4. Krista said:

    Got any suggestions for dog urine on carpet?

  5. Katherine said:

    Thanks for the laundry soap recipe. I have MCS so I have been using more natural cleaners for many years now.
    Have you tried Soapnuts? That is what I use for the laundry, especially the baby’s clothing and bedding. They are the husks from the fruit of the Sapindus tree and contain natural saponins.
    If you make a shampoo from the nuts it acts as a mild lice repellent too… great now that school has started again.

  6. Susie said:

    I have a somewhat new washing machine that is energy efficient. So, I think I am suppost to buy a specific energy efficient laundry soap. Will this homemade detergent work in these newer machines? By the way, I found your blog a few weeks ago and I absolutely LOVE all of your projects. :-)

  7. Courtney said:

    Have you noticed any difference between regular laundry detergent (ex. Tide) and this homemade version in regards to shrinking, discoloration/fading, or softness? Would love to try this, but don’t want to risk ruining any of my favorites!

  8. Shawna G said:

    I too, would like to know if you can use this in high efficiency front loaders? I have made the liquid before but am much more interested in the powder!

  9. Melinda said:

    Congratulations to you on green cleaning and making your own laundry detergent! To Krista: white vinegar works great on pet accidents. I use a mixture of water and white vinegar in my carpet cleaner. Shawna: I think since the detergent is low/non sudsing you could use it in your HE washer.
    I found you through. Pinterest

  10. Wendy said:

    Okay, love the pink teapot!! Adorable!!
    I use the same stuff as well. And I use the homemade laundry detergent in my HE washer. No problems.
    I made the swimsuit coverup- super cute and I plan to make the shirt skirt next!

  11. Lori said:

    For the laundry soap…does it work in cold water? I usually only wash in cold water but wasn’t sure if it would all dissolve very well.

    On a side note I searched Fels Naptha on Amazon and it told me that people who bought this also bought the Super Wash Soda and the Borax! Funny.

  12. Sarah Beth said:

    Just wanted to let you know I got my cute makeup bag and I love it!!! This one is going in my purse!! Thank you so much!

  13. Melissa said:

    Thanks for all the questions, and for everyone who was able to answer them for others!

    I’m not sure about front loading machines. I have an old top loader and have never used anything else!

    I do wash on cold only. I’m way too cheap to spend the money to wash clothes on warm or hot! I’ve never had a problem with it clumping or not dissolving. I usually start filling the machine, toss it in, then put the clothes on top.

  14. Lisa said:

    I used to make my own laundry detergent – until I got my HE front loader. I have done a fair bit of research and read some forums and have cme to the conclusion that it is not a good idea to use the homemade soap in the front loader. The biggest concern is with the door seal. Too bad. Had I realized before I ordered my new set I would have stuck with a top loading machine as I really liked the homemade detergent. Less chemicals, ecnomoical and safer for our environment.

  15. Melissa Alexandar said:

    Wow i love this idea. i think i’ll save this post to my favorites! And whoa you get all this stuff from Wally world! SWEET. I have been cleaning our house Naturally for 2 years and will never go back. I used to clean the bathrooms with that clorox stuff afterwards i couldn’t smell anything but clorox and always felt dizzy afterwards. BOO so this is an amazing alternative. i add a few drops of my favorite essential oil like grapefruit or lemon to cut some vinegar aroma. and it leaves a beautiful uplifting smell! thanks for this money saving post!! Happy safe Cleaning Ladies and Gents!

  16. esther said:

    Just put this mixture or to some other detergent?

  17. Damaris said:

    Ok, so figured out that using vinager as a great cleaner, but you have opened a new world for me with the addition of the baking soda and the peroxide. Oh and the laundry mix, yes I made that too. My husbands shirt came out so fresh he loves it. So, of course I love you. Tee Hee. Your posts are the Ace up my sleeve. From icecream, to skirts, to cleaning, you rock on !!!

  18. Marguerite said:

    Borax is my favorite. We use it at the archives (where I work) in book restoration, as well as as an insect repellent. I toss a handful in with my husband’s undershirts, and with most laundry, actually. I used it quite successfully to get rid of an ant infestation in my kitchen (pregnant, so didn’t want to use regular insecticides). Sprinkled under bookshelves (we have many, largely with very old books… see where I work!), it keeps silverfish away. I hear it keeps roaches away too. It does everything!

  19. Micaela said:

    This sounds great! My daughter has sensitive skin so I’m looking for something that’ll work for her and be more cost effective than the store kind. How much vinegar do you use per load for fabric softener and do you put it in at the beginning or during the rinse cycle? Thanks!

  20. dk sturdivant said:

    I have used white vinegar as a softener for clothes for a long while, since a plumber showed me how clogged the pipes become if you use commerical softeners!! I also add borax or baking soda to my He detergent…makes it go twice as far and is safe for front load washers!! Great blog!!!

  21. Angie Howard said:

    I use to mix up the liquid laundry detergent with the Borax, Washing Soda, and Fels Naptha until it was too hard to find the latter. Saw my friend the other day who turned me onto it, and she said now she just mixes it up and uses it as a powder. I loved it when I used it, and with the liquid you can pretreat spots. I am very sensitive to odors, and my youngest daughter was sensitive to most store bought detergents. So this worked great for us, and helped save money as well! I am going to start making it again.
    Also, windex gives me a migraine, but the vinegar mix doesn’t. I have used the vinegar mix for more than 12 yrs to clean mirrors and windows. Works great!

  22. April said:

    I tried the peroxide for mildew in grout removal and it failed miserably! Any other ideas? I’ve tried everything, straight bleach, “mildew root killer”, nothing seems to get rid of these gray stains in the grout. HELP!

  23. Donna said:

    A friend shared your blog with me. I decided to try the homemade laundry detergent because of the cost savings. I was shocked at how well it cleaned. I love it. I will NEVER buy detergent from the store again. Getting ready to try cleaning with the above products also. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Lynn said:

    I came across this blog through a cleaning tips link on Pinterest. I really want to start cleaning with average household products versus bleach and detergents. I’m currently using All free and clear as our detergent, but my daughters eczema has never cleared up all the way and my husband recently complained on how much he misses the smell and feel of clean clothes AKA detergents, fabric softeners. We also noticed how miserable this detergent was on removing stains or even cleaning the clothes, period. Do you know if this recipe will affect my daughters skin?

  25. Melissa said:

    Hi Lynn! My oldest has really bad eczema and it’s not making her skin worse. It does great with stains, but I always use a pre-treater. I also use vinegar for a fabric softener, but if you want to make regular fabric softener go further, cut up old towels into rags and soak them fabric softener. Then use them like dryer sheets!

  26. Lynn said:

    Do I need to use the Fels Naptha? I read it can be a skin irritant. Can it be omitted or substituted for something more mild?

  27. Lindsey Grace said:

    I have been using peroxide to help get rid of some mold in our shower! So gladto see others concerned about what kinds of chemicals our kids are exposed to, as well!! We I’ve been using Melaleuca products in our home fr almost two years- no toxic or harsh chemicals and green!! Love love love them and feel safe using them around my young kids (4, 2, and 3 months). I’d love introducing their line of products to my friends!!! Most have wondered where they’ve been all of their life!! Ha!! =)

  28. KelR said:

    Absolutely adore the pink tea pot, the pink spoon rest and whatever that pink canister type container on the counter is. Too cute.

    I definitely will give some of these hints a try. Thanks

  29. Ronda Roxbury said:

    If you have boys…..or girls that love to get dirty. Add some Oxy clean in your mixture as well. I have made this similar recipe but I Dump the whole box of Borax, Washing Soda, a jar of Oxy clean and a 4 pound box of Baking soda and 3 or 4 bars of grated Fels Naptha. I mix it up in a large 5 lbs bucket that I have on hand…and store it in a large “Tupperware” container. It will last me (family of 6) going on 3 months…haven’t ran out yet…not quite half way though. I love the idea of the vinegar…I will use that the next time I make pasta.

  30. Lauren said:

    I’ve read other reviews regarding homemade laundry detergent and how the Borax can make holes in clothing. Did you have problems with the washing soda or Borax?

  31. Diane said:

    Just finding your natural cleaning info (Dated: June 2011) and delighted to find a little more likable way to work on mold/mildew in the bath/shower!
    Also congratulations on the “new” little one and pray all is going well.
    Defintely will be back to see more of your blog!

  32. Momma Nutt said:

    Marguerite noted that she uses Borax against ants, silverfish, etc. I have always heard to put a line of Borax in the walls when building a house, right before putting up the interior walls. Keeps all manner of bugs out.

    I am getting ready to make a batch of the dry laundry soap. I have noticed as I get older my allergies are getting much worse, and OTC cleaners really irritate my throat and causes laryngitis symptoms. I am interested to see if going a more “natural” route with cleaners helps.

  33. Christina T. said:

    Hey so I am assuming, since you said you are bringing a baby home that it is safe to use on babies clothes? I am due in April and was looking at some of the odds and ends that I need to buy and saw how expensive baby laundry detergent is. Is this detergent safe to also wash all of my babies items with? I am super excited to try it out on our clothes and see how it works.

  34. Melissa said:

    Yes! There are no perfumes or dyes or harmful anything in it, and I used it perfectly on all my baby clothes!

  35. Christina T. said:

    Wonderful! I am so excited not to spend $15 on a little bottle of baby detergent. Thanks so much, I can’t wait to go and make some.

  36. CLARA MASSEY said:


  37. Tricia said:

    Can you use this with bleach?

  38. Cindy said:

    I saw somewhere to use vinegar & baking soda to unclog a drain. I tried it tonight on my clogged drain & it worked. I used about a cup of each, mixed it together poured it in & let it set about 20-30 mins whoa-law!

  39. Renee said:

    Hi I was wondering what the measurements were for the vinegar, peroxide, borax and baking soda??

  40. Susan said:

    I have no luck getting rid of the mold in the shower!!! Is there a special solution ? I have tried everything, Clorox, peroxide, didn’t do a thing !! Please help! Thanh you

  41. Kristina said:

    I recently have started using homemade cleaning products. I use lemon juice, baking soda, peroxide, vinegar, castile soap, and borax to clean my entire house. I also make my own laundry soap but on top of what u use i also use baking soda, lemon essential oil, and oxy clean. I love the way it cleans and the recipe i use makes enough for about a yr. with my small two person family. I even cut the recipe in half. lol! I have a almost 3yr old who loves to help clean. I found a recipe for furniture polish and dishwashing soap, on When it comes down to it, it has become alot cheaper to do things this way. I believe the biggest expense is the essential oils i like to use in the recipes.

  42. Dale said:

    What is the recipe for your Vinegar, Peroxide cleaner? How much Borax and Baking Soda do you use? You state equal parts of water and vinegar, but you didn’t state anything about the other products.

    Also, my oldest daughter uses the powder laundry detergent; and I use the liquid recipe (and we both have front-load washers). Love, love, love this stuff! I will never buy laundry detergent from the store again!!

    I have tried the vinegar for fabric softner and was not happy with it. I am pretty spoiled to the yellow top Downy softner. It leaves my clothes silky soft and smells great! Any suggestions for making the vinegar softner more fragrance appealing?

  43. natural mom said:

    FYI, a dear plumber friend of mine informed me when I was using this recipe that using powdered detergent clogs the lines in your dishwasher & washer faster than using a gel or liquid & your detergent recipe can easily be converted to a liquid. I make my own downy, dishwasher soap, all purpose cleaner, antibacterial cleaner, antibacterial hand soap, dish soap, shampoo, bodywash, and insect repellant, and am constantly lookinf for new ideas……all of these recipes are so very easy & super cost effective!!! I have loved becoming a “homemade cleaner” as my kiddos call me!

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  45. Victoria said:

    I’ve been really considering going natural for all my cleaning needs, since it’s safer and cheaper. I just have one concern, regarding the laundry detergent. Anyone used it that has eczema? My boyfriend has pretty finicky skin because of his eczema, anything can irritate it.

  46. Melissa said:

    My oldest has eczema all over her legs, bottom and back, but it’s really just a problem in the winter for her. It’s never bothered any of us, but the Fels Naptha soap does have a tiny bit of scent to it, though it doesn’t give the clothes a real perfumey smell. If you’re afraid it’ll irritate him, you could make it with a bar of plain ol’ white Ivory soap instead.

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  48. janie castlec said:

    I need to know how to remove mildew from fabric

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  50. Andrea said:

    Just used the laundry detergent for the first time, and I’m a convert! So much easier and cheaper than wrestling with the giant jugs of detergent from Costco. Also, I didn’t pre-plan and grate ahead, and so I threw the grated soap into my food processor with the borax and soda, let ‘er rip, and it turned out nice and uniform.

  51. roberta oswalt said:

    i have been using the homemade laundry detergent for months now and never had a problem with it. no holes in the clothes. i have no idea where that came from. i also add purex crystals in with it or yoy can use downy to give it a good smell. well worth the money. i too wash in cold water and never have lumpy detergent. it always melts with no problem. roberta

  52. Deb said:

    was wondering what to use on a washing machine that smells like mold? can you think of anything? If so could you please email me with the amounts of which product? thank you

  53. Melissa said:

    I’ll email you, too, but for anyone else, I would say bleach. Run a cycle (without clothes) on hot with bleach, then run one more with just water to make sure all the bleach residue is gone from inside the washer.

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