Safer Alternatives To Common Household Products


Air freshener Simmer cinnamon and cloves. Or put pure vanilla on a cotton ball. Or use herbal bouquets.
All-purpose cleaner Mix together 1 quart warm water, 1 tsp each liquid soap, borax, and lemon juice or vinegar.
Aluminum spot removal Clean with a solution of 2 Tbsp cream of tartar and 1 quart hot water.
Ant repellant Sprinkle red chile peppers, black walnuts, cream of tartar, dried mint or cinnamon at entry points.
Bleach, chlorine Substitute borax, lemon juice or oxygen bleach (hydrogen peroxide).
Brass polish Use worcestershire sauce or ketchup or equal parts of vinegar, salt and flour.  IMPORTANT: Rinse well to prevent corrosion.
Car battery corrosion remover Scrub with baking soda and water solution.  IMPORTANT: Wear gloves and eye protection.
Chrome polish Use apple cider vinegar.
Coffee cup stain remover Rub with a paste of moist salt.
Coffee pot stain remover Soak in vinegar.
Copper cleaner Rub with ketchup or a paste of lemon juice or vinegar and salt, then rinse thoroughly and dry.


Decal remover Soak in white vinegar.
Dish washing Use liquid soap and vinegar for grease cutting.
Disinfectant Use rubbing alcohol or 1/2 cup borax in 1 gallon hot water.
Drain cleaner Plunge the drain, pour in 1/2 cup baking soda followed by 1/2 cup vinegar, wait 15 minutes, then pour in 2 quarts boiling water. Use a plumber's snake if clog persists.
Fertilizer Use compost and organic fertilizers -- peat moss and fish meal for nitrogen and bone meal for phosphorus.
Flea spray or powder Put brewer's yeast and garlic on pet's food (Consult your veterinarian first). Use a flea comb. Vacuum twice a week and dispose of vacuum bags in outside trash. Wash pet bedding. Treat pet and bedding with flea soap or citrus oil product.
Fly paper Boil together sugar, corn syrup, and water. Spread on brown paper and hang.
Furniture polish Wipe pure linseed, almond oil or olive oil. Or use a mixture of 1 tsp lemon or almond oil and 1 pint mineral or olive oil. Or wipe a thin coat of 3 parts vegetable oil and 1 part vinegar over unwaxed wood surface and rub in well with a clean cloth.


Garbage disposal deodorizers Put used lemons or baking soda in the disposal.
Grease remover Use borax on a damp cloth.
Hand cleaner: Paint/grease Rub with baby oil or margarine, then wash with soap and water.
Ink spot remover Soak in cold water plus 1 Tbsp cream of tartar and 1 Tbsp lemon juice.


Laundry detergent Use basic soap or natural soap flakes.
Linoleum floor cleaner Mop with 1 cup white vinegar plus 2 gallons water. Or squeeze a drop of liquid castile soap on a wet cloth and rub briskly.
Linoleum floor polish Rub with skim milk.


Marble cleaner Rub with an orange or a grapefruit, sliced in half and dipped in salt. IMPORTANT: Rinse throughly with water to prevent corrosion. Pat dry with a soft towel.
Mildew remover Scrub hard with equal parts of vinegar and salt. Or soak area with a mix of 1/3 cup powdered laundry detergent dissolved in 1 quart chlorine bleach and 3 quarts warm water. Then rinse with water and pat dry.
Mosquito repellent Burn citronella candles or citronella oil. Or plant sweet basil around patio and house.
Mothballs Wash woolens before storing in airtight containers. Or place cedar chips, lavender flowers, mint or white peppercorns enclosed in cotton sachets among clothing. Moth eggs can be killed by running them through the dryer.
Oil stain remover Rub white chalk into stain before laundering.
Oven cleaner Scrub with steel wool and 2 Tbsp liquid soap plus 2 tsp borax mixed with warm water or a paste of salt and baking soda.


Paint: Oil based/stain/spray Use water-based, non-aerosol paints instead.
Paint: Water based/latex Use white wash or Casein-based paint.
Paint brush softener Soak in hot vinegar.
Paint remover Blister paint with heat gun, then scrape and sand.
Perspiration spot remover Rub in white vinegar plus water.
Pesticide: Ants in the house Locate entry point and seal with caulk. Kill visible ants with soapy water. Remove all food sources.
Pesticide: Bugs on the plants Wipe leaves with soapy water, then rinse.
Pesticide: Roaches Remove all sources of food and water. Caulk or plug cracks and crevices. Make traps of baking soda and powdered sugar. As a last resort, sprinkle boric acid in cabinet edges, around baseboards, and in cracks.  IMPORTANT: Boric acid is a POISON. Keep it away from children and pets.
Pet odor removal Use cider vinegar.
Porcelain stain removal Scrub with baking soda.
Refrigerator deodorizer Use an open box of baking soda.
Roach repellant Sprinkle chopped bay leaves and cucumber skins around cracks and crevices.
Rug deodorizer Sprinkle with baking soda or cornstarch; vacuum after 30 minutes.
Rug/carpet cleaner Clean spots with club soda or baking soda.
Rust stain remover: On clothing Rub gently with lemon juice plus salt, then place in the sunlight.
Rust stain remover: On porcelain Scrub with a pumice stone. Do not use the stone on scratchable surfaces.
Rusty bolt/nut removal Pour a carbonated beverage on the rusty nut.


Scorch mark removal Rub with grated onion.
Scouring powder Use baking soda on a wet surface. Add some liquid castile soap for more cleaning power.
Shaving cream Use a brush and shaving soap.
Shoe polish Use polishes that do not contain trichloroethylene, methylene chloride or nitrobenze.
Silver polish Soak 10-15 minutes in 1 quart warm water, 1 Tbsp baking soda, 1 Tbsp salt and a piece of aluminum foil, then wipe off tarnish. Or polish with nonabrasive toothpaste.
Slug and snail repellant Remove tall grass and debris from vicinity of garden. Plant marigold and onion plants around garden. Or place copper-sheeting barriers around plants. Or use beer traps. Or perform late evening search and destroy.
Spot remover Rub with club soda, lemon juice or salt.
Stainless steel polish Use mineral oil or baking soda.
Tile cleaner: Ceramic, Porcelain Scrub with a nylon scrubbing pad soaked in lemon oil.
Toilet bowl cleaner Scrub with borax and lemon juice or baking soda or vinegar or baking soda and castile soap.
Tub and tile cleaner Scrub with 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup white vinegar mixed with warm water.
Upholstery spot removal Rub with club soda.


Water mark removal Scrub with toothpaste.
Water softener Add 1/4 cup vinegar.
Wine stain removal Rub gently with salt.
Window/mirror cleaner Spray with 1 Tbsp lemon juice or 1/4 cup vinegar or 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol and 1/8 cup ammonia in 1 quart warm water; wipe with newspaper.
Woodwork Cleaner Squeeze a drop of liquid castile soap on a wet cloth and rub briskly.

Other Resources

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Page author: Dawn Rorvik (rorvikd@evergreen.edu)
Last modified: 06/15/2003