Store-Bought vs Natural Cleaning Products [+make your own]

cleaning supplies
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You need to disinfect your home and you want the best product for the job.  That’s understandable.  However, that doesn’t mean you must use a chemical-based disinfectant. There are alternatives that are natural and safe for your home and family.

When most people think of a common disinfectant, they probably think of Clorox® or Lysol®.  But are those really the best cleaners to use? Using natural cleaning products, like vinegar and essential oils, can be just as effective and much safer.

While Clorox® and Lysol® are available at almost any retailer that sells cleaning products; there are natural products that you can also find in the store or purchase online.  You can also make your own disinfectant spray.

Clorox® Bleach has been available commercially since 1913.  They have created numerous cleaning products in the ensuing years.  Their products range from plain Clorox® Bleach to aid in whitening clothes, to cloths that help clean and disinfect hard surfaces around your home, to disinfecting floor and surface cleaners.

While Clorox® is well known for disinfecting, the products are not entirely safe if not used exactly as indicated.  Two hazardous ingredients in many of the Clorox® are didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride and n-alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride.  The packaging says to avoid skin contact and that you should use protective eye wear and gloves while using it.

Lysol® also lists dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride 0.08% and dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride 0.02% in their ingredients.

Naturally-Occurring Cleaners

There are many natural products that can clean your house just as well, even better, than chemicals and store-bought cleaners.

>> Read Also: 25 simple green cleaning hacks

naturally-occurring disinfectants

Vinegar & Baking Soda

Vinegar and baking soda, when used separately or together, can clean many of the items in your home just as well, if not better, than the cleaning products on the shelves of your local store.

Vinegar is acidic, while baking soda is the opposite. Individually, they work in different ways as a cleaning agent. The acidic vinegar helps cut through greasy and grimy surfaces, while the basic baking soda absorbs odors and helps scrub surfaces with its abrasiveness.

Together they become a potent cleaning tool because of their chemical reaction. These two together can unclog a sink or dissolve the baked on grime in your oven.

Acidity is the reason other natural items in your kitchen, like lemons and limes, are also great cleaning tools.

Pine Oil

If you want to disinfect your home, but don’t want to subject your family to the chemicals in these well-known products, what options do you have?  Watkins, a familiar name since 1868, found that pine oil is a natural disinfectant.  This naturally-occurring disinfectant may just be what you’re looking for. 

pine oil

Pine oil (a phenolic disinfectant) is an essential oil used in cleaning products such as Pine Sol and similar products.  You can use Pine Sol (which is a Clorox® product), but you can also purchase pine oil from various sources online as well as many local health food stores.  By doing this, you are able to control the ingredients in your cleaner and disinfectant.

Today, most commercial “pine” products contain about 3% pine oil or have no pine oil in them at all – only pine scented perfumes. Very few products on the market today include pine oil as an active ingredient, although they advertise “pine” in their logos.

Other eco-friendly essential oils you can use to disinfect are tea tree oil and thyme.  These essential oils are interchangeable when used in homemade all-purpose cleaners or disinfectants.


Borax, also called sodium tetraborate, is a powdery mineral that has been used as a cleaning product for several decades.

Borax has many uses:

  • It can clean stains, mold, and mildew around the house.
  • It can kill insects, such as ants.
  • It can whiten and clean laundry.
  • It can neutralize odors and soften hard water.

Borax is safe as a cleaning product, but can cause irritation if not used properly. It can also be toxic if consumed, so you need to be very careful to keep it away from children.

Homemade Disinfectant Recipes

homemade cleaners

While it may be easier to find commercially made cleaners and disinfectants, homemade cleaners and disinfectants can be made for pennies on the dollar. You can pronounce all of the ingredients that you add to them, and you can rest assured that what you use won’t be hazardous to your family.

To make a homemade disinfectant with the natural-incurring ingredients above, follow these recipes.

White Vinegar Solution

  • 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 1/2 gallon warm water

Borax Solution

  • 2 tablespoons of borax (easily found in the laundry aisle of any grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 2 cups of hot water

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle. Cover the bottle and shake until the borax is dissolved.

Pine Oil (or other essential oils)

  • Add castile soap or other vegetable based natural soup to a 16 oz spray bottle.
  • Add 15-20 drops of essential oils.
  • Fill with water. Shake well.
  • Use as you would any commercial product.

* When making homemade cleaning products, please make sure to label the bottles.

Are Store Bought Products Really Eco-Friendly Products Or Not?

Eco-friendly products are great and we stand behind most of them, but there’s always room for deception in a profitable market. Some manufacturers promote their products as being good for the environment without them truly being eco-friendly. 

How can you tell if the products in the store are good for the environment, or if they’re just using the phraseology to make you think they are?

There are no standards to verify a product as “green” or earth-friendly.  Some products on the market are listed as eco-safe, environmentally friendly, environmentally safe, green, or non-toxic.  Any manufacturer can choose to use those labels.  But do these “labels” really mean that the products are safe for the environment? 

If you can’t tell if a product is environmentally safe just by reading the labels, how do you know if it is safe to use or not?  Until there is some type of certification to verify that a product is “green,” the consumer is responsible for evaluating the products they use to know whether the products’ claims are true.

In my opinion, it’s always best to make your own environmentally friendly eco products at home, instead. You can use household products like white vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils to make home recipes that would be very effective in cleaning your home.

Be sure to label the homemade cleaners clearly and store them where children cannot reach them.  Also, NEVER mix ammonia and chlorine bleach; the results are extremely toxic.

How to Choose Eco-Friendly Products

eco friendly cleaners

What if you need another cleaner?  Throw your support behind companies that list each and every ingredient in their product.  Two such companies are Ecover and Seventh Generation.  Although they are not required by law to list all of their ingredients, they are proving that the product is safe by doing so.

Choose a product that specifies how long it takes for them to decompose in nature. Being labeled “biodegradable” doesn’t necessarily mean that you should choose this product.

Use a product that specifies that it will biodegrade completely in XX number of days. You will know that after that time, the product will no longer affect the environment.

Here are some labels that you should avoid: orrosive, chlorine bleach, ammonia, phosphates, and petroleum products. You will also want to avoid products that have artificial fragrances and those made with animal by-products.

All of these labels indicate that the product is harmful, not only to the environment but also to your family.

Finally, if you’re not 100% sure about a product, you can always call the toll-free telephone number on the product. Ask them questions about the ingredients. Request as much specific information about it as you can.  And, if the manufacturer refuses to answer your questions, you might consider finding another product.

Final Thoughts

Even though there are many natural cleaners you can use at home that are not store-bought, not all store products are bad.

Finding truly economic-friendly products that are safe and effective for cleaning your home is not impossible.  It takes a little time reading labels but the time is worth it.  The only other option would be to make your own.

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Ditch the homemade cleaning products and make your own at home

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