I’m an avid spring cleaner. I just really like starting out the spring season with a fresh, clean home! But I’m very careful about the cleaning products I use—many commercial products are both toxic AND pricey. Instead, I clean for pennies using safe eco-friendly ingredients I already have in my pantry!

How to find safe cleaning products

Once you know what to look for and what to avoid, identifying safe cleaning products is easy!

  • What to avoid: Any cleaning product labeled irritant, corrosive, combustible, flammable, toxic, or keep away from pets and kids.
  • What to look for: Any cleaning product labeled safe, bio-degradable, green-friendly, non-toxic, eco-friendly, or safe for pets and kids.

"Safe list” of cleaning ingredients

These ingredients are all considered safe for eco-friendly house cleaning.

  • Vinegar (white or apple cider)
  • Baking soda
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon
  • Castille soap
  • Essential oils
  • Borax (see note below)
  • Hot water

4 Ways to cut down on contaminants

The more you know about where most of the common household contaminants come from, the less cleaning you’ll have to do each spring and all year long!

  • BEFORE you begin, sanitize your cleaning sponges, old toothbrushes, squeegees, and rags: You can put them in the dishwasher or clothes washer on a hot cycle or soak them for 60 minutes in salt water (go heavy on the salt).
  • Recycle to save funds: If you need new cleaning supplies, cut up old towels, socks, and newspaper (a great substitute for paper towels) to save funds.
  • Leave shoes at the door: Did you know shoes can be one of the biggest carriers of harmful bacteria and toxins? Leave them outside and cut your cleaning chores in half!
  • Freshen air the old fashioned way: Nearly all commercial "air fresheners" are just chemicals in a can. Instead, boil citrus peel in water on the stove for instant naturally fresh air…or just open the windows and turn on the fans.

6 Cheap and safe cleaning recipes

Each of these great recipes uses safe ingredients you probably already have in your stockpile.

1. Glass cleaner

Use this in place of harsh spray cleaners—it’s safe and works great!

  • What you need: Vinegar (white or apple cider), rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol, water, cornstarch, squirt bottle.
  • What to do: Mix ¼ cup vinegar, ¼ cup alcohol, 1 TBSP cornstarch, 2 cups water, then pour into the squirt bottle. Use newspaper in place of paper towels for streak-free surfaces.

2. All-purpose cleaner

For countertops and surfaces, this all-natural cleaner gets the job done.

  • What you need: ½ cup baking soda, 1 cup white vinegar, 2 cups water, spray bottle.
  • What to do: Mix together, then spritz onto surfaces, and wipe away with a sponge or rag.

3. Disinfectant cleaner

No need for harsh chemicals to disinfect surfaces—these natural ingredients work just as well!

  • What you need: Tea tree oil, 20 Mule Team Borax, eco-friendly soap (Dr. Bronner's, Method, or Seventh Generation are all good), spray bottle.
  • What to do: ½ tsp tea tree oil, ½ tsp dish soap, 2 TBSP borax, 2 cups hot water. Shake, then pour into spray bottle.

Note: While Borax is a naturally occurring mineral, and as such is generally considered acceptable in eco-friendly cleaning, it is not completely without risks. Borax makes an ideal natural disinfectant because it emits no fumes and typically it’s used only in very small doses. But it should ONLY be used as a disinfectant for areas like the toilet that really need the extra power—or as a laundry booster on hot wash cycles—and be sure to wear gloves to avoid absorption through the skin. Also, it’s best for adults only to handle the Borax cleaning tasks. For regular toilet cleaning, you can substitute 2 TBSP baking soda for the Borax.

4. Wood cleaner and polish

Olive oil and lemon juice work their magic here for pennies!

  • What you need: 1 tsp olive oil, ¼ cup lemon juice.
  • What to do: Mix together to bring out the natural shine in dusty, dull wood.

5. Drain de-clogger

Forget everything you knew about harsh drain de-clogger chemicals (the kind that scare even mask-wearing, glove-wearing you!). Baking soda to the rescue!

  • What you need: ¾ cup baking soda, ½ cup white vinegar, 1 gallon near-boiling hot water.
  • What to do: Dump in the baking soda, then the white vinegar. Let it sit for 30 minutes. Then pour in the boiling water. Repeat if needed until the clog clears.

6. Floor and tile cleaner

This beautiful natural floor and tile cleaner disinfects as it cleans. Don't worry about the vinegar smell—it lasts only seconds anyway, and adding essential oil can be a nice fragrant touch!

  • What you need: 4 cups white vinegar, 1 gallon hot water, scented essential oil as desired.
  • What to do: Mix the white vinegar and hot water together, add a few drops of your favorite scented oil (tea tree, lavender, and peppermint are all great), then damp-mop, and air dry.

Related article: 10 All-Natural Ways to Fight Pests that are Safe, Free & Effective