Nutrition Corner: Save money, be ‘green’ by making your own kitchen cleaners

Nutrition Corner - Mary R. Ehret | March 10th, 2016 2:08 pm

This weekend’s additional hour of daylight might just be the thing to get us started on spring cleaning our kitchens. I find cleaners to be a bit pricey these days and I feel better using cleaners that have ingredients which I can recognize.

Common and safe household ingredients such as plain soap, baking soda, and white vinegar, salt or lemon juice can be low-cost ingredients for a number of household-friendly recipes. Make your own cleaning solutions to “be green” and save money, too.

Baking soda can be used to cut grease, clean oven spills, absorb odors and clean tile, glass and enamels. Sodium borate or borax makes a good all-purpose cleaner. Washing soda or sodium carbonate mixed with white vinegar, vegetable oil based liquid soap and hot water make a great all-purpose cleaner (see recipe below). White vinegar and lemon juice are good at removing hard-water deposits, discoloration on metal surfaces or rust stains. But don’t use lemon juice on silver. Try toothpaste on a soft damp cloth, but only a small amount. Buff the surface lightly until it’s clean, then polish with a soft dry cloth.

Some ingredients might seem unfamiliar to you. For instance, vegetable oil-based liquid soap. The common name is castille soap. Essential oils are also available in health food stores and add a natural fragrance to your cleaner.

When making your own cleaning solutions, Penn State recommends following these steps: Read and follow all safety labels on the ingredients before mixing together. Some products, like chlorine bleach and ammonia, produce a toxic gas when mixed. Here are some reminders before you begin. First, mix only what you need or no more than a month’s supply. Some products may lose their effectiveness over time. Mix solutions in a well-ventilated area. Place mixed products in new containers and label with the date made. It is important to store cleaners out of the reach of children.

Other cost saving ideas which will cut down on cleaning time, improve the indoor environment and reduce the need for cleaning products include using a damp mop on floors instead of sweeping, or using a squeegee to clean shower doors after each use. To reduce the amount of dirt tracked indoors, place a doormat at each entryway or, ask family members to remove their shoes when indoors. Want to make your house smell nice? Try boiling cinnamon, cloves or other herbs on the stove instead of spraying store-bought air fresheners.

Here are three low-cost and “green” recipes.

All-purpose cleaner

3 Tablespoon white vinegar

½ teaspoon washing soda

½ teaspoon vegetable oil-based liquid soap

2 cups hot water

Mix ingredients in spray bottle or bucket. Apply and wipe clean.

Non-abrasive soft scrubber

¼ cup borax

Vegetable oil-based liquid soap

½ teaspoon lemon essential oil

In a bowl, mix the borax with enough soap to form a creamy paste. Add lemon oil and blend well. Scoop a small amount of the mixture onto a sponge, wash the surface, and then rinse well.

Toilet bowl cleaner

1 cup borax

½ cup white vinegar

Flush to wet the sides of the bowl. Sprinkle the borax around the toilet bowl, and then spray with vinegar. Leave for several hours or overnight before scrubbing with a toilet brush.

Nutrition Corner

Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at