DIY: Household Cleaners That Really Work Without the Toxic Chemicals

I Hate Using Harsh Chemical Commercial Cleaning Products.

Vinegar and Baking SodaThe fumes make me ill and I don’t like the idea of dumping all those toxins into our water supply. So I started doing research on how to clean with more natural ingredients, such as vinegar and baking soda. Although you can say these are still chemicals (sodium bicarbonate and acetic acid), they are relatively harmless, non-toxic and environmentally friendly. That’s something you can’t say about most of the commercial cleaners out there!

And they sure are a lot cheaper than those store-bought cleaners! The two gallon-size jugs of Distilled White Vinegar and 13.5 lbs. of Baking Soda in this photo were purchased at Costco for a total of $13. I purchased the extra heavy-duty plastic spray bottle at the hardware store for around $5.

And I have to tell you, so far I haven’t found that the commercial cleaners have any advantage over these non-toxic ones. So why we spending more money on them – and polluting our environment?

The list of how to use these two common household items is a long one, since they’ll clean almost anything. So today we’ll look at the most popular uses.

Cleaning Windows and Mirrors

This one has been around forever – but even I succumbed to the notion that the window cleaners in the store had to be better than plain ole vinegar and water. Nope. Commercial products always make me struggle with streaks. That doesn’t happen with vinegar. Simply mix equal parts water and distilled vinegar. Spray and wipe clean. Newspapers work well in place of cloth, if you have access to them.

Shinier Toilet Bowl

Try spraying vinegar into the toilet bowl and then clean with a brush, instead of harsh chemicals. Works just a well. For me, it worked better at removing those hard water build-ups!

Bathtub/ Shower Cleaner

Yeah, it may require a little more elbow grease, but this totally works, without those awful fumes you have to inhale while cleaning the tub or shower with commercial cleaners. My experience has been that it hasn’t been any more work, and I get better results. But I’m sure it depends on how much soap and hard water residue you are trying to remove. Here’s my process:

Dirty Tub WallClean Tub WallSpray the tub/shower with straight distilled white vinegar and let set for a while to start dissolving soap scum ( I work with small sections at a time). I then use a scrubber sponge (You could use a sturdy brush) to wipe away the soap scum. Rinse down. Now using the scrubber sponge, I pour some baking soda onto it and scrub off the remaining grime and scum. The best part is the baking soda cleans the soap residue from the sponge, as well as the tub.

Once it’s shiny clean, simply do this process more often, to avoid the heavy-duty soap scum accumulation. You’ll find you won’t dread it near as much since the smell isn’t so bad!

Stainless Steel Kitchen Sinks that Sparkle

I love my stainless steel sinks, but keeping them clean and shiny was always a challenge, until I tried this process:

Dirty SinkClean SinkI rinse out the sinks with water, then sprinkle in baking soda. Using a scrubber sponge I wipe down the sinks and faucets with the baking soda. I then rinse with water.

Next I spray straight distilled white vinegar onto the metal and let sit a moment. Using my scrubber sponge I can remove all remaining stains. Rinse and dry.

This process gave me much better results than using BarKeepers Friend, as I had in the past. The first time I did this, there was an added bonus I hadn’t expected. The action of using baking soda and then vinegar allowed me to remove some rust stains on the sink top that I hadn’t been able to get rid of, even after using SOS steel pads or a variety of cleansers. This time the rust spots wiped right off!

Important Note about Using Vinegar and Baking Soda Together

Vinegar and Baking Soda work great as cleaning agents all on their own, but for some reason I see tons of posts saying to put them together for a better cleaning action. Yes, lots of foaming bubbles are the result of the harmless reaction of these two ingredients being combined (remember the volcanoes we made in grade school?). Unfortunately, from what I’ve read, the properties of each are neutralized by combining them together. You are better off using them separately. The only time it does seem to be beneficial, is for cleaning clogged or smelly drains. The foaming action does tend to dislodge some of the buildup and I have noticed it gets rid of any odor.

That said, you can use them during the same cleaning process, just at separate times to get their full potential. Here’s an example…

How to Make Your Towels Fresh and Fluffy Like New

For your next load of towels, try replacing your detergent with a generous amount of baking soda (approx. 1 cup) in your washer. Use hot water for the wash. You can rinse in cold.

When it comes time for the rinse cycle, use distilled vinegar instead of fabric softener. This combo removes old build-up of detergent, etc. in the fabric. When they finish in the dryer (no need for a dryer fabric softener sheet), there won’t be any hint of the vinegar smell. Just fresh and fluffy towels—like new!

Bonus: Remove stickers and Decals

Spray with vinegar and let stand a few minutes before peeling them off. Use vinegar again for stubborn stickers that won’t peel off after first application.

These are just few of the many uses you can find for these common household items.

Do you Have a Favorite Use?


  1. Leslie Johansen Nack

    Indy, you know how to bring back my childhood! I remember as a kid my grandmother using the vinegar and water solution sprayed on the windows and cleaned with old newspaper. Her hands would be black from the print when she was done, but the windows sparkled. A little hand soap got rid of the ink. Thanks for these great reminders. I also worry about harsh chemicals in our house and in the waste water.

    • indy

      I’m so glad I could bring back some happy memories! :0) It’s amazing how many of these things I knew when I was younger, and lost sight of as I bought into the notion that ‘store-bought’ products must be better. I’m discovering that these simple products work easier and better than their expensive counter-parts!



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