Natural Cleaning Products That Actually Work (and Don’t Stink!)

Happy Earth Day tomorrow! I’m packing my bags for a quick New York trip this week. On Thursday I’ll be hosting a fundraiser event that I’m really excited about. I have partnered up with the eco and budget-friendly appliance company, Amana, this year to share home ideas and tips that are also green and not expensive. Amana works a lot with a great organization called Trees for the Future. I hope you can join us for the fundraiser if you’re in the NYC area. You can learn more about the organization and can RSVP for the event by visiting If you use the discount code AmanaFan, you’ll get $25 off. :) 

Several months ago my wonderful friend Mara held a really cool natural beauty night, where we learned all about the best natural, non-toxic products to use on our skin and hair. It was totally eye-opening for me. Since then I’ve been putting in an effort to use less toxic cleaners in our house too.

For a while, it felt like every recipe for a homemade cleaner was pretty much just white vinegar, which… gag. Not my favorite smell for a bathroom. So I’ve been testing the waters of homemade natural cleaning products and I’ve found a few that 1) work really well, 2) don’t require crazy amounts of time or weird ingredients, and 3) don’t stink like vinegar.

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First up is the most simple. I love the clean scent of tea tree (I don’t ever like cleaners to smell too floral or sweet). I bought a starter set of essential oils on Amazon for about $20 and I’ve been happy with the quality. The set comes with eucalyptus, lavender, orange, lemon, tea tree and peppermint essential oils. Not a bad deal!

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To mix the cleaner spray, reuse an old spray bottle (what I did) or pick up a new one at the dollar store and add one cup of water to every two tablespoons of Castile soap (I used the Tea Tree scent again). You can buy Castile soaps at Whole Foods and Sprouts and even at CVS and Walgreens sometimes. The Lavender scent is perfect for washing bedding! Some of my friends use Castile soap as shampoo and body wash – it’s very gentle, but also cleans fantastically.
Then you add a few drops of the tea tree oil to the spray bottle and shake it up well. You’ll have an amazing cleaner on your hands that works as well as the other store-bought stuff but has none of the scary ingredients or horrible vinegar smell.
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This next one might feel a little more intense, but it’s actually really easy and kind of fun to make. I heard about the idea here first and it’s a great one. A single batch will last forever too, so your efforts go far.
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To make your own scrub that will clean all your sinks and tubs like they’ve never been cleaned before, just start setting aside your eggshells. I put them in a gallon size ziploc, tucked away. Over the course of a couple weeks I’ll have three or four dozen eggshells to rinse out, boil for about 10 minutes, and then spread out on cookie sheets. A day or two later, the shells will be completely dried out and very brittle.
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The shells will break down very easily in a food processor (I’ve heard a coffee grinder works very well). They’re so brittle at this point, there’s no way any damage would be done to your machine.
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The only “weird” ingredient you’ll have to go out of your way to pick up is calcium powder, but it’s easy to find at health food stores or online. It’s cheap too, just a couple dollars.
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In a bowl, combine 1/2 cup of baking soda, 3/4 cup of calcium powder and about 20 drops of essential oils. I did half a batch of lemon and half of orange.
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This makes enough scrub to fill two pint-size mason jars, which should last you at least a couple months. I saw online that people were reusing parmesan cheese or economy sized spice jars that have that sprinkle spout top, but the mason jars work great too.
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The powder fizzes when it touches water and it really brightens up that porcelain! And the eggshells really scrub well, but it doesn’t feel like you’re scratching your tub up or anything.
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I use it on my bathtubs and showers, our sinks and even our toilets get a good scrub down once a month (I turn off the water valve at the base of the toilet first, flush the toilet so it’s dry and that makes it easy to really clean things well).
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I think next time I might try one of the peppermint oils to mix things up a little.
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My third tip is so, so simple, it’s kind of a ‘duh’ thing, but I feel like not a lot of people do it. We all spend a ton of money on expensive candles and sprays to make our homes smell nice, but homemade potpourri is SO cheap and the scent lingers way longer!
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I love the clean scent combination of lavender and vanilla. You can buy a bag of lavender flowers at a health food store and vanilla beans can be found in the spice aisle at most grocery stores.
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To make the potpourri, bring a big pot of water to a gentle simmer and then add a 1/2 cup or so of lavender flowers, two vanilla beans and several drops of lavender oil (and maybe a drop of vanilla extract if you want it to be extra vanilla-y, or in lieu of the beans if you don’t have any). After about 30 minutes, your whole house will smell amazing. I let the potpourri simmer for at least a couple hours on low heat and the scent will last for two or three days. I wish I could say my $30 candle’s scent lingered that long!
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The last tried-and-true natural cleaning recipe actually uses vinegar! There is a way to harness the wonderful cleaning power of vinegar while masking most of the intense scent. (I almost wrote pungent there, but eww, no. Not an okay word to use.)
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We’re lucky to have an over-abundance of citrus here in sunny Arizona, and lots of friends and neighbors with wonderful trees and more than enough fruit to eat/use for making counter spray. But next time you have a craving for fresh-squeezed orange juice or lemonade, save all the peels in a big mason jar that’s filled to the very tip-top with white distilled vinegar. You can add more peels over time, but it’s important that all the peels be submersed in vinegar, or you might get mold.

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I like to add some essential oils too, for good measure. After at least two full weeks, the vinegar scent will start to go away, but the cleaning power will remain! Your counter tops will smell citrusy and look brand new! I use a gravy sieve to strain out the cleaner into a spray bottle. 
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Aren’t those chalkboard labels cute? I picked them up at Staples I think and I love that I can use my Chalkboard pen on them (which only wipes off with a wet rag), so I don’t have to replace the label each time I make a new batch of cleaners.
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So those are my best recipes for natural cleaning products! Not too crazy, but guilt-free, effective and nice-smelling. I also added some other tricks here in this chart below. I was surprised at how well the lemon-juice-instead-of-bleach tip works! I feel like between switching to a front-loading washing machine (Amana really has a great/affordable/eco-friendly one, btw) and taking bleach out of my cleaning routine, I’m really cleaning up my laundry room act! 

Also, if my iron on a damp cloth trick doesn’t work for you when trying to remove heat marks on furniture, try the mayonnaise idea here below. I must have a sensitive nose or something because this is another one I don’t love the smell of, but it doesn’t really linger. And it really does get those heat marks out!

So what works for you? I’d love to hear what your favorite eco-friendly tips are!

This post was brought to you in collaboration with Amana Appliances, an earth-friendly and environmentally conscious company. Learn more here.
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