african american woman cleaning house

Who says your home needs to smell like lemon-scented chemicals in order for it to be clean?

Chemical-laden cleaners create toxic fumes and may promote growth of bacteria resistant to antibacterial drugs as well as aggravate and promote bronchial distress. Ew!

Thankfully, you can make your own environmentally-friendly cleaning products using items in your kitchen cabinet, like white vinegar, baking powder and sweet smelling essential oils--products that are cheap and safe!

Mildly acidic white vinegar dissolves dirt, soap scum, and hard water deposits from smooth surfaces, yet is gentle enough to use in solution to clean hardwood flooring. It's also a natural deodorizer, absorbing odors instead of covering them up.  White vinegar won't stain grout on tiled surfaces. Because it cuts detergent residue, white vinegar makes a perfect fabric softener substitute for families with sensitive skin. Just add one cup of undiluted white vinegar to the laundry rinse cycle instead of commercial fabric softener. Fortunately, the vinegar aroma disappears when dry, so no, your bathroom or clothes won’t smell like salad dressing!

Baking soda is another great ingredient for home-cleaning. Its mild abrasive action and natural deodorizing properties make it a powerful replacement for harsh commercial scouring powders. Sprinkle baking soda onto a damp sponge to tackle bathtub rings, scour vanities, or remove food deposits from the kitchen sink. 


Try these recipes to harness the cleaning power of white vinegar and baking soda:

1) Homemade Spray Cleaner Recipe

•     1 cup white vinegar

•     1 cup water 


•      Mix in a spray bottle:

In the kitchen, use vinegar-and-water spray to clean countertops, lightly soiled range surfaces and backsplash areas. 
In the bathroom, use vinegar spray cleaner to clean countertops, floors, and exterior surfaces of the toilet.

2) Disinfectant

•     White vinegar

•     3 tablespoons Castile soap

•     20-30 drops of tea tree extract 


Mix in a 16-ounce spray bottle and top with water 


3) Furniture polish

•     3/4 cup olive oil

•     1/4 lemon juice

•     1 tablespoon vinegar

•     3-4 drops lemon essential oil (optional) 


Mix and polish furniture with a soft cloth 


4) Dishwasher liquid

•     1/4 cup white vinegar

•     1/2 cup liquid Castile soap

•     1/2 cup water

•     1 teaspoon lemon juice

•     3 drops tea tree extract 


Stir water and soap together. Add rest of ingredients and stir until blended. Put in a squeeze bottle. Use 2 tablespoons per load. 


5) All-purpose floor cleaner

•     1/2 cup vinegar

•     1 gallon water


Mix and mop (Note: Vinegar should not be used on grout or marble)


Baking Soda 


6) Toilet bowl cleaner

•     Sprinkle of baking soda

•     A few sprays of white vinegar


Flush the toilet, sprinkle in the baking soda, spray with vinegar and scrub

7) Carpet cleaner/deodorizer

Shake baking soda on surface or damp sponge and scrub

Sprinkle carpet with baking soda. Let it sit for a half-hour and vacuum.

8) Non-abrasive cleaner

•     1 part baking soda

•     1 part lemon juice 


Make a paste and use a sponge to clean . 

9)Slow-running (not blocked) drain solution


Pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup baking soda into the drain, and dribble just enough hot water to wash the solution down. Let it stand for a minimum of 2 hours up to overnight, then flush with hot water. Bonus is having a deodorized drain. Clear, fresh-smelling pipes are all yours. 


Air freshener

•     2 cups hot water

•     2 tablespoons baking soda (add an essential oil optional) Mix in spray bottle

Remember: when you've run out of your favorite cleaning solution, don't run to the store — make your own. It’s safer for you and the environment.

Crystal Whaley is a multiple Emmy award winning & Peabody nominated film and tv producer and activist. Follow her on Twitter @CrystalAWhaley​.