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7 Safer All-Natural Homemade Cleaners

Homemade Cleaners

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You know all about the health benefits of organic food—like More Antioxidants and Fewer Pesticides. So you’d expect organic or non-toxic soaps, laundry detergents, and household cleaners to be similarly awesome… or at least be safe enough for you to use without needing a face mask. But now Australian researchers say that even some cleaning products marked “green,” “organic,” “non-toxic,” and “fragrance-free” release gases known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—including 42 that are classified as hazardous by the U.S. government.

So in the spirit of “if you want something done right,” we asked cleaning expert Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean, for the DIY formulas that she relies on to keep her house sparkling.

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All-Purpose Cleaner

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In a spray bottle, mix: 2 cups water, 1 teaspoon borax (in the laundry aisle), ½ teaspoon washing soda (also in the laundry aisle), 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and ½ teaspoon castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s). Give it a shake before using on any hard surface.

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Window Cleaner

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In a bucket or spray bottle, combine 2 cups water, ½ teaspoon castile soap, and 3 tablespoons white vinegar. Shake before spraying onto windows and glass, then wipe down with a soft cloth. If you don’t have castile soap on hand, try mixing equal parts water and white vinegar instead. (Bonus: You'll burn about 167 cals in 30 minutes.)

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Disinfectant Spray

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For germ-y messes, try mixing 2 cups water, ¼ cup white vinegar, ¼ teaspoon tea tree oil, and (if desired) ¼ teaspoon eucalyptus oil in a spray bottle. The combo of white vinegar and tea tree oil will nix bacteria and other microbes. But this one needs time to work: Shake the bottle, spray the disinfectant onto the dirty surface, and let the solution sit for five to 10 minutes before wiping away. (6 Ways to Clean Your Place Like a Germ Expert.) 

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Mildew and Mold Spray

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Tea tree oil is the secret ingredient in Cobb’s mold and mildew treatment, as well: Combine 2 cups water and 2 teaspoons tea tree oil. Spray it on your shower tile, curtains, or door and let it sit for 30 minutes before scrubbing away and rinsing. (You may want to bring this one along on your next vaca. Read about bathroom mold and four other Hotel Health Traps.) 

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Toilet Bowl Cleaner

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Combine 4 tablespoons baking soda, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Pour around the inside of your toilet and scrub with your regular toilet brush. The abrasive baking soda will scour away stains and buildup while the lemon juice adds bleaching power. Then flush to rinse. (5 Bathroom Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making.) 

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Air Freshener

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In a jar or bottle, mix 1 cup witch hazel liquid with 4 tablespoons dried herbs. Cobb recommends sage or bay leaves (use eight or nine leaves). Let it sit, with the cap on, for about three days, and once it’s ready, spray into the air—not directly onto fabrics.

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Wood Polish

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Mix ½ cup warm water with ¼ teaspoon lemon oil. Spray on a soft cloth and use to wipe down wooden furniture. The lemon oil will pick up dust and prevent future buildup.

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