Homemade cleaning agents

by April Fortner

Have you ever wondered just what was in a cleaning agent? Have you ever run out of cleaning supplies and longed for a quick replacement so that you wouldn’t have to make another trip to the store?

In the past, I’ve had a good deal of skepticism concerning homemade cleaning agents. However, after having gone on my own cleaning adventure, I am happy to say that a quick, more natural solution is effective, non-odoriferous and easier on the checkbook.

Cleaning solutions

My grandmother always scrunched up old, damp newspapers and washed the windows with them. It was fairly effective, as long as the print wasn’t shiny. It was a little messy, though, because my hands would be covered with newsprint, and it would take some time to work. 

So until recently, I used commercial window cleaning solution. One day, I ran out of it and decided to try the recommendation on the side of a bottle of ammonia. It only cost about $1 for a half gallon. Imagine my surprise when a quarter cup mixed with half a gallon of water yielded a solution that smelled and worked exactly as well as the commercial stuff! 

Not only that, but it seemed to work well cleaning just about anything in my kitchen, including the walls and floor. I was very surprised to see how it cut through grease without soap.

Ammonia only smells noxious in its undiluted form and does kill bacteria. 

It should also be noted that cleaning rags that are used for windows shouldn’t be washed with commercial fabric softener. This discovery naturally led to my interest in directions found on all manner of bottles and boxes around the house. Feel free to lead your own search.  


I have been impressed with the effectiveness of vinegar and lemon juice in reducing smoke and other odors. If you ever have to reclaim a house from a smoke disaster, here is what you can do: carpet clean the rugs, wash the drapes and wipe down the walls and ceiling with vinegar or lemon juice. Mop with vinegar and water (half and half) and replace the air filters. Air out the house and re-clean walls and ceiling for a couple of days, depending on the severity of the odors. Set out some potpourri and bowls of vinegar – persistence is key!


You have probably heard about making your own laundry detergent. I recently experimented with making it faster, and here is what worked. 

Get a five gallon bucket, pour in one cup borax, one cup washing soda, shred two bars of soap into it and pour four gallons of boiling water over it. Mix well and use half a cup in your washer (thickens overnight). 

It can be made dry, with a small-holed shredder, but will take more time to mix evenly. When used dry, only use one tablespoon per load.

I also experimented with homemade laundry softener. There are many ideas on the Internet about what is best, but I found that vinegar works pretty well as a substitute and didn’t make my clothes smell once they were dry. Theoretically, vinegar mixed with hair conditioner and water ought to be better, but my clothes seemed stiffer this way. 

There are also recipes containing vinegar, baking soda and essential oils that appeared try worthy, particularly one at Food.com that had a five star rating.  Some bloggers also suggest dipping a sponge in your favorite fabric softener, squeezing it out and adding that to the dryer. Sounds like a good idea to me!