Homemade Cleaning Supplies and Natural Remedies: Notes on Ingredients

Homemade Laundry Soap Ingredients

Homemade Laundry Soap Ingredients

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

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.

Notes on Ingredients

You can do just about any cleaning chore with any of these common kitchen ingredients; for example (See Mercola’s article (10) for more detail):

  • baking soda (see section on baking soda, below)
  • hydrogen peroxide (NOTE: this loses its cleaning power if not kept in a dark colored bottle with a tight lid, in a cool, dark place)
  • lemon juice (see section on lemon juice, below)
  • white vinegar (NOTE: apple cider vinegar and other vinegars are not as effective as white vinegar for cleaning)

For lemon juice, Mercola lists the following uses:

Lemon Juice:

I’ve reorganized the order of this list from Mercola’s article (10):

  • All-purpose cleaner: Combine with water, baking soda, vinegar and lemon essential oil for a kitchen or bathroom cleaner.
  • Coffee maker: runs cycle with plain water, then add a mixture of lemon juice and water, letting it set before running another cycle through. Then wash to remove lemon scent.
  • Dishwashing soap booster: “1 teaspoon of lemon juice added to dish soap helps cut through grease and increases effectiveness.”
  • Furniture polish, when combined with “lemon oil and olive or jojoba oil. Simply buff with a cloth.”
  • Hardwood floors: Combining lemon juice and vinegar makes “a grime-fighting nontoxic floor cleaner.” Cat’s note: do not add any other ingredients if your floor is finished with polyurethane.
  • Widows and mirrors (and other glass), when combined with “cornstarch, vinegar and water.”
  • Silverware polish: “Combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1½ cups water and ½ cup instant dry milk. Soak silverware overnight, then rinse and dry.”
  • Shower doors: Cut lemon in half, then “dip one half in baking soda and rub onto glass to remove water stains.”
  • Toilet stains: Add ½ cup lemon juice to toilet, then let it set prior to scrubbing.

Baking soda:

I’ve reorganized the order of this list from Mercola’s article (10):

  • BBQ: “Use baking soda to scrub your barbecue grill.” (Cat’s note: do NOT use a wire brush, as tiny bits of the metal can be picked up by food, the next time you use the grill; Those tiny bits can do a lot of damage in your gut).
  • Carpets: “Baking soda is a natural carpet cleaner. Sprinkle it onto carpets, let it set for 15 minutes, then vacuum it up. Your carpet will be clean and fresh smelling.” (Cat’s note: I use this on areas where my cats has puked, after wiping up the puke.)
  • Clogged drains: “Sprinkle baking soda down a clogged or slow drain; add apple cider vinegar and let it bubble for 15 minutes. Then rinse with hot water. This is a safer alternative to dangerous drain cleaners” like lye.
  • Fruit & Veggie cleaners: “Remove dirt and residue from fruits and veggies by sprinkling them with baking soda and rubbing with a vegetable brush.”
  • Grease fires: “Helps smother out the flames in the event of a minor grease fire in your kitchen.”
  • Kitchen and bath: Put baking soda “in a glass, grated-cheese container with a stainless steel top that has holes in it, and sprinkle the baking soda on the surfaces and scrub. You may add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to this. Lavender and tea tree oil have potent antibacterial qualities.” (Cat’s notes: #1: Tea tree oil also has anti-fungal properties, especially anti-candida. #2: I have no idea what that grated-cheese container is, nor why he suggests that; If you know, let me know!)
  • Laundry: “Baking soda can also be used as a fabric softener in your laundry, or to get your clothes whither and brighter (add 1 cup to your laundry load).
  • Pots and pans: Soak “in hot water and baking soda for 15 minutes to easily wipe away baked-on food.”
  • Shoe deodorizer: “Sprinkle .. in your shoes for a natural deodorizer.)
  • Toys: “Clean baby toys in a mixture of 4 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 quart of water.”

Less common ingredients

However, there are a few ingredients that, while readily available, are not so common in our modern kitchens:

  • Real turpentine (for furniture polish). Turpentine is made by distilling the oleoresin, s sap-like substance, from pine trees in Florida (although other pines might work too). Do not substitute paint thinner – it is not the same and will not work.
  • Essential oils can be used as: “antibacterial cleanser, aroma therapy, air freshener, and to freshen your laundry.” (10)
  • Special oils such as jojoba and tea-tree oil
  • Glycerin

All in the above list excepting the turpentine, can be found at Swan Valley Herbs in Bigfork MT. Or try your local natural food store. Turpentine can usually be found at hardware or paint stores.

Some ingredients can be hard to find, but are still available:

  • Castile Soap (see section, below)
  • Borax20 Mule Team (7) is the most well-known brand;
  • Fels Naphtha soap (see Soaps Gone By (7)). It has many household and yard uses.  Check out Soaps Gone By: Specialty Uses and Recipes for Fels Naphtha (7).
  • Washing soda (sodium carbonate, Na2CO3); Arm & Hammer is the most common brand (see Soaps Gone By (8));

You might not be familiar with liquid Castile Soap. The most popular brand is Dr. Bronner’s (9a), available as a liquid or solid bar, or Kirk’s Castile (9b).  Select an unscented one; you can always add your own essential oils.  Some people find his labels irritating, but the soap is a good product.  You can purchase it at your local natural foods store.  Or you can make your own Castile Soap.

Castile soap

You many to be familiar with this product, but it is a most basic cleaner used in many recipes in this article. Castile comes in two versions:

  • Liquid soap (e.g., Dr. Bronner’s (9a)) and bar soap (e.g., Kirk’s Castile(9b)); select an unscented one – you can always add your own essential oils. You can also make your own, or someone in your community might make it. True Castile is made from olive oil and alkali (sodium or potassium hydroxide); essential oils may also be added for fragrance. However, you can use a mix of vegetable-source oils including coconut oil and olive oil.

The easiest way to make liquid soap at home is from a bar of soap.  Look for one made from vegetable fats for a Castile-like soap (Kirk’s Castile is a good brand).

See Soap Basics for more information about ingredients, plus printable files of instructions for Bar soap and Liquid soap.


  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. Castile soaps:
    1. Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap: drbronner.com
    2. Kirk’s Castile soap: https://kirkssoap.com
  10. 5 Natural and Easy Cleaners You can Make at Home (Mercola)

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