These ingredients can be safely mixed—so go ahead and take the DIY route.
woman in yellow gloves cleaning bathroom tile
Credit: Getty / djedzura

If you're a fan of natural cleaning products, you've likely contemplated making your own solutions at home. This is absolutely possible, says Brian Cheng, the product development manager at Public Goods; all you need are a few good recipes and clear expectations. First and foremost, Cheng says it's important that you don't mistake these homemade, natural solutions for germ-killing tour de forces. "Effective disinfectants sprays and wipes require the right chemistry and contact time to kill germs," he explains. "These claims are vetted from the EPA and are not taken lightly.  The usual suspects in DIY cleaning products, like borax, vinegar, baking soda, and Castile soap, do not meet EPA requirements for disinfecting."

Since safe DIY recipes don't contain alcohol concentrations of 70 percent or more and because concocting your own formulas with bleach is dangerous, it's important to note that the cleaning products you make at home won't combat bacteria and viruses that live on surfaces. They will, however, help you eliminate streaks, spills, stains, and dust. In other words, they're great options for daily maintenance, but not for deep cleaning. "Generally, most light to moderate surface cleaning in the household can be done with DIY recipes," confirms Cheng. "A DIY all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, and floor cleaner are quite simple to make—and can help reduce trips to the store and excess plastic bottle waste."

All-Purpose Cleaner

Looking for an easy all-purpose cleaner that can be used on a myriad of surfaces? Cheng says to mix two parts cleaning vinegar with one part water—then add a few of your favorite essential oils and decant everything into a spray bottle; shake to mix thoroughly. Bear in mind that cleaning vinegar (which is one of the most versatile cleaning products) is different from the white vinegar you might have in your pantry. "There is a one percent difference in acidity which makes a significant difference in cleaning ability," explains Cheng. "Note that vinegar should not be used on any natural stone, granite, solid wood, and metals like knives, as they can ruin the finishes of these surfaces."

Floor Cleaner

Concocting a floor cleanser is just as simple: Combine two teaspoons of baking soda, one teaspoon of liquid Castile soap, and roughly one-and-a-half cups of water and you're just a few spritzes away from shiny floors.

Streak-Free Glass Cleaner

A glass cleanser rounds out the DIY trifecta, notes Cheng: Mix together one quarter cup of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar, and add a tablespoon of cornstarch and two cups of water. Shake your spray bottle well before you start cleaning, since the cornstarch can settle at the bottom, he explains.

Ingredients to Avoid

While the above formulas are absolutely safe for use, certain ingredients can't be combined, cautions Cheng. "These combinations create gases or vapors that can be harmful and should not be inhaled," he explains. As a general rule, never mix bleach with other cleaning agents—which means that bleach should never (repeat never!) be combined with vinegar, ammonia, or rubbing alcohol. Another unsafe pair? Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, says Cheng.

Products to Always Buy—Never DIY

In addition to bacteria- and virus-killing products, which should always be purchased from trusted manufacturers, laundry detergent is another must-buy, notes Cheng. "Store-bought liquid laundry detergent differs from most DIY laundry cleaners in that they are detergents not soaps," he says. "Detergents are more effective at cleaning than soaps and are designed to work with electric washing machines. Soaps used in this manner can lead to buildup on your clothes and in your machine, especially if you have hard water."


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