Skip to main content

Safe Alternatives for Cleaning supplies


All-purpose cleaners:

Vinegar and Salt. Mix together to make a good surface cleaner.

Baking Soda. Dissolve 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1-quart warm water as a general cleaner. Or use baking soda and a damp sponge. Baking soda cleans and deodorizes kitchen and bathroom surfaces.

Air-fresheners/Deodorizers: Most commercial air fresheners do not freshen the air, but mask one odor with another, coat your nasal passages with an oil film, or diminish your sense of smell using nerve-deadening agents. Try some of the following alternatives instead:

General Odors:

Prevention. Open windows and doors to allow for adequate ventilation. Empty garbage cans frequently and wash as needed.

Cinnamon and Cloves. Wrap cinnamon and cloves in cheesecloth and boil in water or leave standing in open dishes.

Vinegar. Place partially filled saucers of vinegar around the room, or boil 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in 1 cup of water to eliminate cooking odors.

Citrus and cloves, orris root powder, and ground cinnamon. Make a citrus pomander by inserting cloves into an orange, lemon, or lime. When the fruit is covered with cloves, roll in a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon orris root powder and 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Wrap in a tissue and place in a drawer, cabinet, or closet.

Potpourri. Buy or make your own using your favorite herbs and spices. Place in small jars, baskets, or sachet bags.

Scented Candles. Burn to help eliminate odors. (May be a problem for some hyper-sensitive persons.)

Kitchen and Food Odors:

Vanilla*. Place pure vanilla on a cotton ball in a small saucer to remove odors. Keep vanilla out of reach of children since it has a high alcohol content.

Baking Soda. Leave an open box or a small saucer of baking soda in your refrigerator. Replace every two months. Pour the old baking soda down the drain to remove odors and keep the drain clean.

Borax*. Sprinkle 1/2 cup Borax* in the bottom of your garbage can to inhibit the growth of odor-producing molds and bacteria.

Vinegar or Celery Stalk. Add a few drops of vinegar to soapy water to remove onion odors from utensils, chopping blocks, or hands. Rubbing your hands with the freshly cut end of a celery stalk will also remove onion odors.

Salt. Rub salt into wooden cutting boards to eliminate odors and lift stains.

Lemon. Grind lemons in your garbage disposal to eliminate odors.

Litter-box Odor:

Baking Soda. Cover the bottom of the litter box with baking soda before adding litter to eliminate odor for days.

Decal Remover:

Vinegar. Vinegar can be used to remove decals, stickers, no-slip decals in bath-tubs, stick-on hooks, etc. Saturate a sponge or cloth with vinegar and apply liberally. For particularly strong adhesives, squeeze the vinegar over the decal. Give the vinegar several minutes to soak in, and remove the decal.


Prevention. Keeping things dry prevents the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria, which need moisture to grow.

Soap. Regular cleaning with plain soap and hot water will kill some bacteria.

Borax*. Use a solution of 1/2 cup Borax* mixed with 1 gallon of hot water to clean and disinfect.

Isopropyl Alcohol*. This product makes an excellent disinfectant. Sponge on and allow to dry. The alcohol* must dry to do its job. Wear gloves and use in a well-ventilated area.

Thyme. Pour 2 cups boiling water over 2 cups thyme leaves. Cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain and let cool. Store this solution in bottles and use to wipe down bathroom and kitchen surfaces.

Glass Cleaner:

Vinegar. Mix 1/4 to 1/2 cup white vinegar with an equal amount of warm water. Apply to glass and wipe dry.

Lemon Juice. Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice with 1 quart water. Apply to surface and wipe dry.

Baking Soda. Dip a wet sponge in baking soda and use to clean glass oven doors. Rinse with clean water and polish with a soft cloth. Also works for cut glass.

Borax* or Washing Soda*. Mix 2 tablespoons Borax* or washing soda* with 3 cups water. Apply to glass surface and wipe dry.

Cornstarch and Vinegar. Mix 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 gallon warm water. Apply to surface and wipe dry.

For Scratched, Stained, or Discolored Glass:

Toothpaste. Rub toothpaste into scratch and polish with a soft cloth.

Dry Mustard* and Vinegar. Mix 1 part dry mustard* and 1 part white vinegar into a paste. Apply to scratch and polish with a soft cloth. To clean stains from glass or mirrors, make a paste of 3 parts dry mustard* and 1 part white vinegar. Apply to stained area and rub until stain is removed. Rinse with clean water. AVOID CONTACT WITH EYES, DRY MUSTARD CAN DAMAGE THE CORNEA.

Porcelain Cleaner:

Cream of Tartar. Rub porcelain surfaces with cream of tartar sprinkled on a damp cloth.

Rust Remover:

Peeled Potatoes and Baking Soda or Salt. To remove rust from tin, rub with a peeled potato dipped in a mild abrasive such as salt or baking soda.

Aluminum Foil. Scrub rust spots on car bumpers or the chrome shafts of golf clubs with the shiny side of aluminum foil.

Scouring Powder: The amount of chlorine in scouring powder is not enough to cause harm. However, if you are sensitive to chlorine or wish to avoid it entirely, try these alternatives.

Non-Chlorine Scouring Powder. There are many non-chlorine scouring powders available commercially.

Baking Soda or Salt. Both substances are mild abrasives, and can be used as an alternative to commercial scouring powders. Place baking soda or salt on your sponge or wash rag, or sprinkle on the surface you are cleaning. Scour and rinse.

Shoe and Leather Polish:

Cold Pressed Nut Oil, Olive Oil, Walnut Oil or Beeswax. Apply to leather shoes and buff with a chamois cloth to shine.

Lemon Juice. Lemon juice is a good polish for black or tan leather shoes. Follow by buffing with a soft cloth.

Vinegar. Remove water stains from leather by rubbing with a cloth dipped in a solution of vinegar and water. To shine patent leather, moisten a soft cloth with white vinegar and wipe patent leather surfaces. NOTE: Vinegar may slightly change the color of the leather.

Petroleum Jelly. Rub into patent leather to shine and prevent cracking.

Coffee. Gently rub black suede with a sponge dipped in cool, black coffee.

Art-Gum Eraser and Sandpaper or Emery Board. Dirt marks on suede can be rubbed out using an art-gum eraser. Buff suede lightly using fine sandpaper or an emery board.

Vinegar and Linseed Oil*. Mix equal parts vinegar and linseed oil*. Rub the mixture into leather and polish with a soft cloth.



Dish Stains:

Salt. To remove coffee or tea stains from dishes, rub with moist salt.

Drain Cleaner:

Prevention. Use a strainer to prevent clogs. Avoid pouring grease down drains. Pour boiling water down the drain once a week to keep grease from building up in the drain.

Baking Soda and Vinegar. To unclog the drain, pour 1/4 cup baking soda down the drain followed by 1/2 cup white vinegar. Let stand for a few minutes, then flush with a kettle of boiling water. DO NOT USE THIS METHOD AFTER ANY COMMERCIAL DRAIN OPENER HAS BEEN USED! (NOTE: some authorities are concerned that this method may damage pipes.)

Salt. To prevent clogging, pour 1/4 cup salt down the drain followed by boiling water.

Plunger. This inexpensive tool will usually break a clog and allow it to float away. It may take several plunges to unclog a drain. DO NOT USE THIS METHOD AFTER ANY COMMERCIAL DRAIN OPENER HAS BEEN USED!

Mechanical Snake. A flexible metal snake can be threaded down the clogged drain to manually push the clog away.

Grease Fires:

Baking soda. Baking soda can be used to extinguish flames started when grease spatters onto stove burners.

Oven Cleaner:

Prevention: Use aluminum foil or trays to line the bottom of the oven. Do not allow foil to touch the heating element. (NOTE: this may affect the browning of some foods.)

Baking Soda and Steel Wool. Sprinkle water followed by baking soda. Rub gently with very fine steel wool. Rinse well and wipe dry.

Salt. Sprinkle salt on spills while they are still warm. If the spill is completely dry, wet the spill before sprinkling the salt. After the oven cools, scrape away the spill and wash clean.

Washing Soda*. Mix 3 tablespoons washing soda with 1 quart warm water. Use this mixture to clean oven.

Vinegar. Retard grease build-up by wiping your oven with a rag dipped in white vinegar and water.



Lime and Mineral Deposit Remover :

Vinegar and Paper Towels. Hard lime deposits around faucets can be softened for easy removal by covering with vinegar-soaked paper towels. Leave the paper towels in place for about 1 hour before cleaning.

For Plastic or Metal Showerheads: Vinegar. To remove deposits clogging a metal showerhead, remove the showerhead and completely submerge it in a mixture of 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1 quart water. Boil for 15 minutes. To remove deposits from a plastic showerhead, remove and soak the showerhead in a mixture of 1 pint white vinegar and 1 pint hot water. Soak for about one hour.

Mildew Remover:

Prevention. Keep bathroom surfaces dry to prevent mildew.

Baking Soda or Vinegar. Scrub mildew spots with baking soda or sponge with white vinegar.

Plain Soap. Rub mildew spots vigorously with a cloth soaked in warm soapy water. Rinse with a clean wet cloth and cold water.

Baking Soda, Soap, and White Vinegar. Remove mildew from shower curtains by washing in 1/2 cup soap and 1/2 cup baking soda. Add 1 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: IF YOU USE BLEACH TO CLEAN YOUR TOILET BOWL, NEVER MIX BLEACH WITH VINEGAR, TOILET BOWL CLEANER, OR AMMONIA. The combination of chlorine bleach with any of these substances can produce a toxic gas that can be dangerous.

Baking Soda. Mix a solution of baking soda and water or sprinkle baking soda around the toilet rim. Scrub with a toilet brush as needed.

Baking Soda and Vinegar. Sprinkle baking soda into the bowl, then drizzle with vinegar and scour with a toilet brush. This combination cleans and deodorizes.

Borax* and Lemon Juice. Make a paste of Borax* and lemon juice. Let stand for 2 hours, then scrub. Or mix 1/2 cup Borax* with 1 gallon of hot water for cleaning and disinfecting.

Tub and Tile Cleaner:

Baking Soda. Sprinkle on stained areas like you would scouring powder. Rub with a damp sponge and rinse thoroughly. To clean grout, mix 3 cups baking soda with 1 cup warm water. Mix into a smooth paste and scrub into grout with a sponge or toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly.

Vinegar and Baking Soda. To remove soap-film from bathtubs, apply undiluted vinegar to a sponge and wipe bathtub. Next, use baking soda as you would scouring powder. Rub with a damp sponge and rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Vinegar. Wipe surfaces with a solution of1/4 cup (or more) vinegar to 1 gallon water. Vinegar removes most dirt without scrubbing and doesn't leave a film.



If you plan to shampoo your carpet, try a pre-cleaning treatment. First sweep the carpet with a broom or brush to make the carpet stand up and loosen imbedded dirt, then vacuum.


Dishwashing Detergent. Mix 1/2 cup mild liquid dishwashing detergent with 1 pint of boiling water. Let cool until it forms a jelly. Whip into a stiff foam with a beater. Apply foam with a damp cloth or sponge to a small section of carpet and rub gently. Wipe with a clean cloth and allow to dry.

Borax* and Cornmeal. To neutralize carpet odors, sprinkle the carpet with a mixture of 1 cup Borax* and 2 cups cornmeal. Let the mixture stand for at least one hour, then vacuum.

Baking Soda. Baking soda is another alternative for neutralizing carpet odor. Making sure the carpet is completely dry, sprinkle baking soda over the entire carpet. Wait at least 15 minutes before vacuuming. Leave baking soda overnight if the odor is particularly bad.

Borax*. Dissolve 1/4 cup borax* in 2 cups cold water. Sponge on and let sit until it dries, then vacuum. This works well for blood, chocolate, coffee, mildew, mud, and urine.


Cold Water or Club Soda. Sponge stain immediately with cold water or club soda. Dry with a towel and repeat as necessary.

Chewing Gum:

Ice. Rub chewing gum with ice. Gum will flake off.


Cream of Tartar and Lemon Juice. Sprinkle cream of tartar on the ink stain and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on top. Rub into the stain and brush off the powder with a clean brush. Sponge immediately with warm water. Repeat as necessary.

Isopropyl Alcohol*. Blot rubbing alcohol into the stain. Use only in a well ventilated area, and wear gloves when handling rubbing alcohol.

Non-oily Stains:

Vinegar and Liquid Detergent. Mix together 1 teaspoon white vinegar, 1 teaspoon liquid detergent, and 1 pint lukewarm water. Apply to stain using a soft brush or towel and rub gently. Rinse with a towel dampened with clean water and blot dry. Repeat as necessary until the stain is removed. Dry carpet as quickly as possible with a fan or blow dryer. NOTE: Vinegar may bleach some dark or sensitive colors, so try it on an inconspicuous area first.


Salt. Generously sprinkle salt over soot-stained area. Allow to settle for at least 15 minutes and vacuum.

Pet Stains and Odors:

Vinegar and Liquid Soap. Vinegar will remove the odor of urine and prevent staining if you can clean the affected area right away. First, absorb as much moisture as you can using dry paper towels. Next, rinse the area with warm water and apply a solution of vinegar and soap with a clean cloth or paper towel. Leave the mixture in place for about 15 minutes. Rinse with a towel dampened in clean water and blot dry. NOTE: Vinegar may bleach some dark or sensitive colors, so try it on an inconspicuous area first.

Red Wine :

Club Soda. Sponge stain immediately with club soda. Dry with a towel and repeat as necessary.

Salt. Remove excess moisture with paper towel or absorbent cloth. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the stain and let sit for several hours. When dry, vacuum.




Club Soda. Polish your floor with club soda to make it sparkle.

Brick or Stone Floors:

Vinegar. Scrub floor with a solution of 1 cup vinegar and 1 gallon water. Rinse with clean water.

Ceramic Tiles:

Vinegar. Mix 1/4 cup white vinegar (more if very dirty) with 1 gallon water. This solution removes dirt without scrubbing and doesn't leave a film. Soap doesn't work well on ceramic tile floors as it leaves an insoluble film.


Grease: Dry Concrete. Sprinkle dry concrete over grease. Allow it to absorb the grease, then sweep it up.


Vinegar. Add a few drops to cleaning water to remove grease particles. Mix 1/2 cup white vinegar with 1/2 gallon water to remove dull, greasy film on no-wax linoleum.

Mild Detergent. Damp mop using a mild detergent and water for day to day cleaning.

Baby Oil. Add a capful of baby oil to mop water to preserve linoleum floor.

Painted Wood Floors :

Washing Soda*. Mix 1 tablespoon of washing soda with 1 gallon of hot water. Rinse with clear water.

Rubber Tiles:

Mild Detergent. Wash rubber tiles with a mild detergent, clear water, and a clean mop. Avoid using oils, solvents, or strong alkalis, which will harm rubber tile surfaces.

Wax Removers:

Club Soda. Remove wax build-up on vinyl or asbestos tiles by pouring a small amount of club soda on a section of floor. Scrub well, allow to soak in a few minutes, and wipe clean.

Isopropyl Alcohol. To remove old wax from linoleum floors, mix a solution of 3 parts water to 1 part isopropyl alcohol. Scrub well and rinse thoroughly. Use rubber gloves and make sure the area is well ventilated.

Wood Floors:

Vegetable Oil and Vinegar. Mix a 1 to 1 ration and apply a thin coat to clean & polish wood floors. Rub in well.

Special Problems :

Black Heel Marks: Baking Soda. Rub black heel marks with a paste of baking soda and water.

Tar: Butter or Margarine. Scrape up excess tar with a dull knife, then rub vigorously with butter or margarine. Rub again with fingernail, popsicle stick or anything else that won't scratch the floor. Wipe with a dry cloth.

Crayon Marks: Toothpaste. Apply toothpaste to a damp cloth and rub crayon marks. Note: this method does not work well on wallpaper or porous surfaces.