Homemade Cleaning Supplies, etc.

Homemade Laundry Soap Ingredients

Homemade Laundry Soap Ingredients

By Cat, May 2008 (Photo, right, by S. Tomkins at her presentation for Essential Stuff Project)

NOTE: The section on Household Pest Control has been moved to Household Cleaning and Pest Control Menu.

In the not too distant past, homemakers routinely made their own cleaning supplies from ingredients in their own kitchens. As fuel costs rise and petroleum-based products become more scarce and expensive, we may once again return to the much more healthful practice of making our own, and it’s better for the environment too.

When I was growing up in my rural Montana town in the 1950s, many of the town families saved used lard and bacon fat in our kitchens for use by the local farm housewives for making kitchen and laundry soap.

Hand Wash

Disinfectant hand wash (2)

  • Combine in a small bottle or hand pump container:
  • 4 oz (½ cup) liquid Castile soap*
  • 10 drops tea tree oil

* NOTE: all true soap such as Castile (made from fats/oils and alkali) are naturally antibiotic; tea tree oil is antimicrobial, protecting against bacteria, viruses, molds and yeasts. Most commercial soaps including antibacterial hand soaps are not true soap but rather detergents and have no antibacterial activity (without an antibacterial additive).

Heavy duty hand wash (2)

Option 1, for oil or grease-based gunk:

  • Butter (or margarine), or lard (or vegetable shortening)
  • To use: Simply rub onto hands to dissolve oil or grease-based gunk.

Option 2:

  • Mix the following in a mason jar with lid:
  • 4 oz beach sand
  • 1 oz pumice powder
  • enough glycerin to moisten
  • Use about 1 Tbsp at a time, rubbing into hands thoroughly.

Laundry Helpers

See also “Linens,” below.

Remove body oil and/or sweat stains, especially from whites

When I was living in Portland, a friend gave me a tip on how to remove body stains from white garments; I tried it on a precious antique white blouse and it worked. Unfortunately, I can’t find the tip info and I don’t recall what I used. So, I’m researching the internet for ideas to try.


From Molly Maid (12): “All that’s needed to remove body oil stains is a paintbrush and shampoo. Use the brush to spread the shampoo over the area that’s stained with body oil, and then clean the same way the garment is normally washed. This can make unsightly stains disappear in the same time it takes to do a regular load of laundry. This tip is great for last-second cleaning of dress shirts before a big event.

Old-fashioned soak with Biz and bleach

From Grandmother’s Cedar Chest, Chapter III: “Wash and Wear if you Don’t Care” (2008) [NOTE: I  can no longer find the source article.]

For Fine Linens: Whether the fibre content of your goods is linen, cotton or silk, we recommend a soaking in Biz to remove soil and stains, followed by a Snowy Bleach* bath for final whitening. Use slightly more Snowy Bleach than manufacturer suggests for best results.

Chlorine bleach** may be used as a last resort on cottons, although a very diluted solution, left overnight is all we recommend.

  • Biz: use 1 cup for a wash load, or ¼ cup for a sink-full
  • Snowy bleach*: use 1 cup for a wash load, or ¼ cup for a sink-full
  • Clorox bleach**: ¼ cup for a wash load, or 1 Tbsp for a sinful

Re-dampen linens before ironing for a smooth, fast press. It helps to place  item in a plastic bag overnight or for an hour or so to have uniform dampness.

*Cat’s notes: Showy Bleach (brand) is hard to find. **These instructions are for the old Clorox bleach. Since then, the new Clorox bleach is even more concentrated; I do not recommend using it.

8/29/19: I have a two blouses (one is cotton, the other linen) that have not been worn for about 15 years, that are horribly stained primarily with oily sweat around the neckline and under the arms; both also have a yellow food stain on the front. I decided to try soaking then in Biz, then washing in soapy water. Most of the oily sweat is gone – a miracle! – but the food stains are still there. The only Snowy Bleach I can find is from Singapore and available on Alibaba (16), but I’m not sure it’s the same thing. I will try OxiClean.


From The Spruce: (15), “The 9 Best Laundry Stain Removers of 2019:” He recommends OxiClean, which comes in various versions.

  • His #1 pick is OxiClean Max Force Laundry Stain Remover.
  • Another is OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover, or
  • For white shirts, OxiClean White Revive Stain Remover (chlorine-free).

Stain remover followed by baking soda soak for yellow sweat stains

Adapted from Hunker (13):

  1. Pretreat: Apply some laundry detergent or a stain remover to the stained area; especially good for nasty yellow stains from sweat, such as in the armpit area.
  2. Wash water: Add ¼ cup baking soda to the wash water. Or can use diluted bleach but this is not recommended if stain is from perspiration. because bleach tends to darken such stains.

Three individual soaks: Citrus, Baking soda or White aspirin

From Housekeeping (14):

  1. Citrus soak: “boiling your whites with lemons or lemon juice (14a), turning up the heat until the water bubbles and then letting them soak for about an hour.” OR add lemon juice to your regular wash cycle (14b). Then let them dry outside, in sunshine (14c).
  2. Baking soda soak: use ¼ cup soda per quart of water; add whites and let soak. (14d)
  3. White aspirin soak: Dissolve five white aspirin pills in water, add your whites and let them soak a while, before tossing into your washer. Do not use colors aspirin tablets. Be sure to stay away from the colored varieties of aspirin, though, or your whites could come out with a colorful tinge. (14d)

Miscellaneous Household Cleaners, etc.

NOTE: Be sure to label spray bottles with name of cleaner.

Scented Vinegar

You may already be using vinegar for lots of cleaning chores, but it can leave a sharp acidic odor. One solution to that is to add essential oils for fragrance. The following is from a Wellness Mamma Newsletter. I cannot find this on her blog, but I did find a great posting by her, about using vinegar in general (10)

  • Scented vinegar: Almost every natural cleaning recipe calls for vinegar — but it can be stinky! I like to add a few drops of orange essential oil to 1 cup of vinegar. Citrus oils are especially good at neutralizing the vinegar smell. You can use the scented vinegar in any recipe that calls for regular vinegar.

Fruit & Veggie Wash

General instructions: Spray wash on produce item, let rest for up to 5 minutes, then rinse off with running water.

Sample wash recipes:

Vinegar Wash

This is a common wash for fruits and veggies.

  • Dilute 1 part vinegar with 2 or more parts filtered water in a glass spray bottle
  • Optional: add 1 – 2 drops Lemon essential oil.
  • For fresh greens, add a bit of sea salt.

Citrus wash

Combine the following in a glass spray bottle:*

  • 4 parts filtered water (Make note of cups of water used, for determining amount of salt)
  • ½ – 1 part citrus juice (lemon or orange orange),
  • 1 Tbsp unrefined sea salt per cup of water,
  • food grade vegetable glycerine can be added to help dissolve waxy substances (see iHerb code NOW-07700 for example).
  • Calcium ascorbate (or other mineral ascorbates) can be added for antioxidant ability (see iHerb code NOW-00752 for example)

‘*Recipe inspired by Mercola’s Fruit & Veggie Wash product (11); and Wellness Mamma recipe (10).  See also Amazon ASIN B004WKGRME for Mercola’s product.[Cat’s note:  I’m still testing different concentrations of the citrus wash ingredients, compared with amount of filtered water.]

Air Freshener Ideas

The following recipe is from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

  • Set out a dish of vinegar
  • Simmer stick cinnamon and whole cloves in a saucepan
  • Pour vanilla extract, or essential oil on a cotton ball and place on a bowl or saucer

All Purpose Cleaner

This recipe is from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2) . Combine the following in a spray bottle (or bucket for larger jobs, amounts in parenthesis), then shake (stir) to combine. Don’t forget to label the spray bottle.

  • white vinegar, ½ cup (½ cup)
  • liquid Castile soap, ½ tsp  (¼ cup)
  • warm water, ¾ cup (2 gallons)

The following All Purpose Cleaner recipe is from a Wellness Mamma newsletter; see also her blog (10):

  • This cleaner works wonders for cleaning a grimy stovetop or sticky fridge fingerprints.
  • Combine 2 cups of water, 2 Tbsp of liquid castile soap (such as Dr. Bronners’), 1 tsp borax, 1/2 tsp washing soda, and 10-20 drops of essential oil to a spray bottle and shake well.
  • For tough messes, I spray it on, wait 5 minutes, and scrub with the Grove walnut scrubber sponge.

Furniture Polish (Two versions)

The following recipes are from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

Furniture Polish I

  • Combine the following in a spray bottle:
  • 1 part linseed oil (flax oil)
  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 1 part turpentine (CAUTION: Do not use paint thinner)
  • To use: Spray on furniture, then wipe off.

Furniture Polish II

  • Combine the following in a spray bottle:
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • a few drops food-grade linseed oil (flax oil), jojoba or olive oil
  • To use: Spray on furniture, then wipe off.

Countertop Cleaners

Marble (1)

Cut a lemon in half; sprinkle it with salt and rub it all over the surface.

Granite (6)

  • Combine the following in a clean spray bottle; label as Granite Cleaner (makes about 1 ¼ cup cleaner):
  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol (Cat’s note: I’d try vodka because I don’t use rubbing alcohol)
  • 3 drops dishwashing detergent, such as Dawn
  • 1 cup tap water
  • 5 to 10 drops essential oil, such as lavender
  • To use: Lightly spray directly onto granite and wipe off in a circular motion with a lint-free cotton cloth, such as an old diaper;

Windows & Glass

NOTE:  Commercial window cleaners deposit waxes on your windows, so the first time you clean your windows with homemade cleaner, you need to add Castile soap to the cleaner to remove the wax.  Subsequent cleanings will not require the soap addition, unless, of course, your kids have used crayons on your windows.

The following recipe is from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

  • Combine the following in a clean spray bottle; label as window cleaner
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups warm water
  • For wax buildup, add: ½ tsp liquid Castile soap
  • To use: Shake to combine, then spray on window and wipe off with a lint-free cotton cloth, such as an old diaper.

The following Glass Cleaner recipe is from a Wellness Mamma newsletter; see also her blog (10):

  • Combine 2 cups of water, 1 Tbsp vinegar, 1 Tbsp rubbing alcohol, and 1 drop of dish soap [Cat’s note: such as Dr Bronner’s] in a Grove glass spray bottle.
  • Spray this directly on your mirror/window or onto a microfiber cloth to use on the glass (a little goes a long way!).

Wood Surfaces

The following recipe is from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

  • Combine the following in a bowl:
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ tsp liquid Castile soap
  • few drops jojoba or olive oil
  • 3 – 5 drops essential oil (optional fragrance)
  • To Use: Saturate sponge; squeeze out excess, and test wood surface to be cleaned.
  • If tested area looks good, wash entire surface, rinsing sponge in clear warm water between washes.


The following Linen Spray recipe to freshen your linens is from a Wellness Mamma newsletter; I cannot find it onhttps://wellnessmama.com/2042/apple-cider-vinegar-uses/ her blog (10)

  • Linen sprays always feel so luxurious, but scented products can be full of irritating chemicals. I make my own with essential oils.
  • Combine 1 ½ cups of water, ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol or vodka, and 30 drops of essential oil in the Grove glass spray bottle. Orange oil is a great uplifting scent for the new year!

Kitchen & Bath

Chlorine-free Scrubbers for Bathtubs and Sinks

If you don’t want to make your own, Bar-Keepers Friend, and Bon-Ami are chlorine and bleach-free commercial cleaning powders brands The following recipes are from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).


  • Place ½ c baking soda in small bowl or mason jar with lid:
  • Add enough liquid Castile soap to make a frosting-like mixture
  • Scoop onto surface and scrub with scrubbing-sponge.

Soap-scum cleaner for bath/shower

Combine the following, then sprinkle on moist sponge or rag, to use (14):

  • 2 parts baking soda
  • 1 part borax
  • 1 part salt.

To remove grit, use vinegar rinse (see below)

Mild Cleanser (Heavy Duty Cleanser in parenthesis)

[NOTES: Heavy-duty cleanser is not for fiberglass, such as shower bases. Washing soda is caustic, so use gloves]

  • Place Baking soda (for heavy-duty: half baking soda, half washing soda) in small bowl;
  • Moisten scrubbing sponge with water, then apply soda (soda mixture) and let rest 15 minutes.
  • Scrub, then rinse off with warm water.
  • To remove grit, use vinegar rinse (see below)

Vinegar Rinse (removes grit after using cleanser)

  • Combine ¼ cup white vinegar in 2 quarts warm water in a bottle or bucket.

Removing Rust Stains from Porcelain

  • Scour stains with cream of tartar (find this in the spice section of your grocer)


General cleaning of drains

The following recipe is from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

  • Pour down drain: 1 cup baking soda (or ½ cup washing soda)
  • Follow with 3 cups boiling water

Foul-Smelling Drains

The following recipe is from On The House (1).

  1. Dump 1 box baking soda (such as an old one from the fridge) down drain.
  2. Follow that with 1 cup table salt and then 1 cup white vinegar.
  3. Let fizz up to 30 seconds.
  4. Chase with 3 – 4 cups boiling water and let mixture work overnight.  Drain won’t smell in the morning.


The following recipes are from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

Regular cleaning

  1. Combine ¼ cup vinegar in 2 cups water in labeled spray bottle.
  2. Spray along inside rim of toilet; leave on for 15 minutes before scrubbing.

Stubborn iron rings

  1. Put ½ cup borax into toilet, swirl, scrub and let sit overnight.
  2. Swirl with brush in morning.


  • Combine in labeled spray bottle: 2 tsp tea-tree oil
  • 2 cups water
  • Shake and spray along inside rim of toilet.
  • Let stand 30 minutes before scrubbing with brush or sponge

Oven Cleaner

The following recipe is from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

  1. Sprinkle baking soda to cover bottom of oven. NOTE:  For really bad ovens, use half baking, half washing soda.  Use gloves because washing soda is caustic).
  2. Spray with water until very damp.  Keep moist by spraying every few hours.
  3. Leave overnight
  4. Remove soda & grime with spatula.  Rinse well.

Shower Heads

The following recipe is from On The House (1).

  1. Fill small plastic bag with vinegar; hang on the arm of the shower head with the head submerged.
  2. Hold bag in place with a rubber band wrapped around the shower arm.
  3. Wait 2 hours.
  4. Wipe away the softened mineral crust with sponge.

See also Mercola on removing biofilms from shower heads (11c).

Ceramic or Glass Tile 

Cleanser for ceramic/glass tiles

The following recipe is from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

  1. Add enough liquid Castile soap to ½ cup baking soda, to make a frosting-like paste in a bowl.
  2. Stir in 15 drops tea-tree oil (to kill mold and mildew).
  3. Scoop mixture onto sponge, wash surface & rinse well. Use vinegar rinse (below) to remove grit.

Vinegar Rinse (removes grit after using cleanser)

The following recipe is from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

  • Combine ¼ cup white vinegar in 2 quarts warm water in a bottle or bucket.



The following recipes are from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

General carpet cleaning

Apply soap-based, non-aerosol rug shampoo.  Vacuum Dry

Neutralize carpet odors

  1. Sprinkle baking soda over area.
  2. Leave overnight.
  3. Sweep off what you can, and vacuum the rest.

Spills on carpets

  • Blot spill quickly with cotton towels dampened with clear water
  • If alcoholic beverages, coffee or tomato-based food, dampen cloth with club soda.
  • Use pulverized chalk to absorb grease

Urine on carpets

  • Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in bowl or spray bottle;
  • Spray or sponge onto stain;
  • Let stand 10 minutes before blotting with sponge or paper towel.

Linoleum (Marmoleum and other Real Linoleum)

The following recipe is from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

  • Mix ¼ cup liquid Castile soap in 2 gallons warm water in bucket.
  • Damp mop the floor.
  • Rinse well with water or water and vinegar.

Vinyl Flooring

The following recipe is from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

  • Mix 1 cup white vinegar in 2 gallons warm water.
  • Damp mop the floor.
  • No need to rinse, or rinse with fresh batch of vinegar water.

Wood Floors (real wood, not laminate)

The following recipes are from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).


  • Mix in bucket:
  • ¼ cup liquid Castile soap,
  • ½ tsp glycerine and
  • 2 gallons water in bucket;
  • Damp mop the floor;
  • Rinse well with water or water and ¼ cup white vinegar.

Varnished (True varnish, or Varathane)

  • Mix in bucket:
  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 10 parts water;
  • Damp mop the floor.
  • Rinse well with water or water and vinegar.

Removing Black Heel Marks

The following recipes are from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

  • Combine:
  • ½ cup baking soda,
  • enough Castile soap to make a paste;
  • Test: Using a cotton cloth, first test the paste on a small portion of the scuff mark, then rinse well.
  • Finish: If it works, use the cotton cloth on the entire scuff mark.
  • If it removes the floor finish, see below.

Restore Finish

If floor finish is removed , you may be able to restore it using ½ cup cornstarch and enough water to make a paste.  Rub into the spot, let dry, then buff to a polish.

Metal Polish

Brass Cleaner (1)

  • From On the House (1): Cut a lemon in half; sprinkle it with salt and rub it all over the surface.

Aluminum, Bronze, Brass, Copper

The following recipes are from an old issue of the Oregonian newspaper (2).

  • Apply vinegar, lemon juice or other natural acids to soft cloth;
  • Rub onto surface and allow to rest a few minutes, then wipe off.

Bronze, Brass, Copper

  • Combine in a bowl:
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • Add enough water (or white vinegar?) to make a paste
  • Scoop paste onto a clean sponge and polish.
  • Rinse with hot water; buff dry with soft cloth.


  • Apply apple cider vinegar or club soda to soft cloth;
  • Wipe surface.


  • Rub in white toothpaste;
  • Then polish with soft cloth.


  1. www.OnTheHouse.com , Phil Holm, AP
  2. The Oregonian (appx 2008; my clipping has been lost)
  3. cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/609/Fels_Naphtha_Laundry_Soap61143.shtml
  4. frugal.families.com/blog/the-frugal-washing-machine
  5. The Oregonian on pest solutions: oregonlive.com/foodday/index.ssf/2013/09/working_the_bugs_out.html
  6. The Oregonian on homemade granite counter and stainless steel cleaners: oregonlive.com/cooking/2014/03/try_wiping_down_kitchen_counte.html (yes, the ‘r’ is missing from counter)
  7. 20 Mule Team Borax: 20muleteamlaundry.com
  8. Soaps Gone By: soapsgonebuy.com/Arm_and_Hammer_Washing_Soda_p/ah1001.htm and Specialty Uses and Recipes for Fels Naphthasoapsgonebuy.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=D1001&Show=ExtInfo
  9. Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap: drbronner.com
  10. Wellness Mamma:
    1. Household Cleaners: wellnessmama.com/2042/apple-cider-vinegar-uses (using vinegar);
    2. Fruit & Veggie wash:  wellnessmama.com/28/diy-fruit-and-vegetable-wash;
    3. All-purpose cleaner: wellnessmama.com/756/homemade-all-purpose-cleaner
    4. Glass:  wellnessmama.com/763/homemade-glass-cleaner (for glass); see grove.co/s/toxinfreejanclosed regarding her references to Grove products’
  11. Mercola:
    1. Veggie wash: products.mercola.com/fruit-and-vegetable-wash:
    2. Cleaning products: articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/09/27/cleaning-products-lung-disease.aspx;
    3. Shower heads: Showerhead Cleaner to Combat Biofilms (Mercola)
  12. Molly Maid: mollymaid.com/cleaning-tips/laundry-rooms/body-oil-stains/
  13. Hunker: hunker.com/13422615/how-to-remove-stains-from-a-white-shirt
  14. Housekeeping: Wonder How To: housekeeping.wonderhowto.com/how-to/10-ways-whiten-clothes-without-using-any-bleach-0162473/. References from this article:
    1. Martha Stewart: marthastewart.com/275491/how-to-wash-and-remove-stains/@center/277000/homekeeping-solutions#224532
    2. Real Simple: realsimple.com/new-uses-for-old-things/new-uses-cleaning/lemon-as-laundry-brightener
    3. Keeper of the Home: keeperofthehome.org/2013/06/forget-the-bleach-how-to-use-the-sun-to-whiten-your-whites.html
    4. thesecretyumiverse.wonderhowto.com/how-to/12-laundry-hacks-for-washing-drying-your-dirty-clothes-0148022/
  15. The Spruce: thespruce.com/top-stain-removers-for-laundry-1900909
  16. Snowy Bleach from Alibaba: alibaba.com/product-detail/Snowy-Bleach-Liquid-Bleach-in-Bulk_62008027743.html

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