Two simple cleaning products to make at home

They’re cheaper, kinder to the environment, and they leave your home sparkling.

Words: Jean Mansfield

For past few months I have been experimenting with homemade soap, skincare, haircare and other beauty products. I have very carefully made baby soap and baby laundry powder for my great nieces and nephews. My husband Dave loves the shampoo bars, even though he doesn’t have much hair. He says it makes his scalp feel great. He did have a false start by using the body butter that was in the bathroom, resulting in the top of his head looking very shiny.

Our dog Tessa suffers from dry, itchy skin but is now enjoying a lovely dog shampoo that really helps. I’ve made kitchen and laundry cleaners, clothes washing powder and dishwashing tablets., and am extremely happy with the results. They perform well when cleaning and sanitising, are considerably cheaper, and I believe kinder to the environment than their purchased equivalents too.

I’d eventually like to replace all the cleaning items in my home with homemade ones, and this meant finding a kitchen cleaning spray and a toilet cleaner.
When you replace a commercially-produced product for a homemade concoction it is important that you are actually making something that is superior in some way, preferably cheaper, better at its job or environmentally kinder. It may benefit members of your family who have skin conditions or allergies.

It may simply be that you have the items available and prefer making your own so you are in control of the ingredients and procedure. Some research is required into the chemical substances you are using and where to source them cheaply. Some experimentation may also be required with the recipes. Ultimately I have found all my home-made products suit my lifestyle and family admirably.

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Best of all, they make great gifts. I personalise them in some way on the packaging or even on the item itself. If you look online, you’ll find fabulous, free-to-use websites that will customise labels for you with very little effort.

Kitchen sanitising spray

We have all heard of the wonders of white vinegar and baking soda for baking, but these are indispensable in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry for your cleaning too. Washing soda, borax, beeswax, salt and sugar can be added to that list. These form the basis of my homemade cleaners.


2 tsp baking soda
4 tbsp white vinegar
400ml water


Mix together, pour into a spray bottle and use immediately on any surface – the fizzing action helps to lift dirt. You can also use vinegar on its own as a disinfectant*.

Toilet bombs

The first time I made these, I realised I had forgotten my moulds. A bit of rummaging around and I found Dave’s Harley Davidson ice cube moulds (which he treasures). The indignity of using them to make toilet fizzies required him to have a restorative whisky. The ‘bombs’ actually look good too.


1⅓ cups baking soda
⅓ cup citric acid
20-30 drops of essential oil/s (I use lemon, bergamot and lavender)


Place dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the essential oils with a little water, then pour into a spray bottle that produces a fine mist. Spray a little at a time onto the dry ingredients without making it too wet or it will fizz in the mixing bowl and lose its effectiveness in the toilet. When it clumps together, place the mixture in moulds (anything about ice cube size) and press down hard. Leave overnight to harden. Don’t take out of the moulds until they are completely hard and dry or they will crumble. Press the bombs out of the mould and store in an airtight container. Use one cube in the toilet as required. They fizz up and clean the bowl, and smell beautiful.

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Research has shown vinegar is effective in reducing microbial contamination thanks to its low pH when used undiluted (around pH 2.0). That’s why it has been so successfully used for preserving for hundreds of years, keeping food free from bacterial and fungal contamination.

Its acidity also helps to loosen lime and rust, and dissolve soap scum. It can also cut through grease, although it would seem more scrubbing effort is required than for commercial products. It is also a useful deodoriser, but that may depend on whether you like the smell of vinegar in your home.

However, your everyday cooking vinegar has its limitations. Its 5% level of acetic acid (the ingredient that does the dirty work) can kill bacteria and viruses if used undiluted and left to sit on a surface for 15 minutes.

It’s far better to get ‘cleaning grade’ vinegar which has an acetic acid level of around 10%. Tests have shown this is just as effective as bleach in killing E coli. Cleaning grade (or ‘double strength’) vinegar is available in NZ online, and in stock feed or specialist food stores.

Note: a 10% or ‘double strength’ vinegar can be safely watered down by 50% to use in cooking and preserving if required.

NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.
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