Our favourite DIY cleaning products

Making your own cleaning products has so many advantages that you will never go back to conventional store-bought cleaning products once you get the hang of it! DIY cleaning products are made of simple natural ingredients and are not only cheaper, but also safer than traditional cleaning products that often contain harmful chemicals. Ingredients are also easy to find in bulk or with minimum packaging, and as you know, reducing packaging waste is our thing ;). Finally, they are simple to make and yet highly effective - from our experience even more effective than the majority of conventional cleaners. So here are a few of our all-time favourites!

Suzanne’s magic scrubbing paste

We are very thankful for Suzanne Laverdière (the soapmaker and owner of Faveur Montréal) who introduced us to homemade cleaning products in NU’s early days. Her “magic paste” is one of our favourite DIY products and we use it constantly. We use it to clean our white countertops at NU, and scrub grout and surfaces in our homes. The paste is made with only 2 ingredients in addition to water, but works amazingly as a household scrub for tough stains. It truly is magic!

Ingredients:

Direction:

  • Put soap and water in a medium pot and heat slowly, stirring until the soap is dissolved. This process takes a good 20 minutes and you will end up with a texture that is more gooey than liquid. That's normal!
  • Remove from heat and leave to cool until just warm.
  • Add the baking soda gradually, stirring constantly until the paste is smooth and thick like firm pudding.
  • Transfer in a container and let cool completely.

Usage: Use everywhere! Simply put as much as you need on any surface, using a dry cloth or your fingertip, then wipe away with a wet cloth. Scrub sinks and bathtubs, grouts, pots and pans!

Pro tip: Add a splash of white vinegar to rinse off soap residue.

Toilet bombs

Most of you have heard of bath bombs before – these great balls of bicarbonate and citric acid fizz in water, leaving our skin soft and our bathtub smelling fresh. A similar recipe, using just 3 ingredients, can be used to clean, disinfect and deodorize your toilet bowl.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Add 1 cup of baking soda to a mixing bowl. 
  • Add ¼ cup of citric acid and ¼ cup of cornstarch. 
  • Press the mixture into the silicone ice cube tray. They will slightly expand while drying, and the flexible silicone will allow for that. Store at room temperature for at least 4 hours or overnight to dry.

Usage: Simply pop one toilet bomb into the toilet. It will start fizzing, which means it’s doing its job! Let sit for 5-10 minutes, feel free to scrub the toilet afterwards, then flush! Store the remaining toilet bombs in a container for future use.

All-purpose cleaner

Many commercial household cleaners contain synthetic chemicals and strong artificial fragrances, and are sometimes not even multi-purpose, so we end up purchasing a bathroom cleaner, a countertop cleaner, a floor cleaner, etc.

The rise of the zero waste lifestyle brings multi-use items to the forefront as a means to reduce waste, simplify our life and save money. Many people use household soap or castile soap, among other simple cleaners, for tasks such as washing dishes and cleaning laundry.

We love to use the most simple cleaner of all – white vinegar – which contains 5-12% acetic acid, making it very effective at breaking down grease, dirt, bacteria, and even mold. The acidity of vinegar also serves as a mild antiseptic. If you dislike the smell of vinegar, you can always mask it by adding flower petals, aromatic essential oils, or even simple orange peels.

Pro tip: the vinegar from NU Grocery is 12% acetic acid, meaning you must dilute it by half to match the conventional vinegar at 6% acetic acid before using it for cleaning.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Mix the white vinegar with water in a spray bottle at a 1:1 ratio. 
  • Chop the orange peels and put them in the spray bottle. Let the mixture sit for 1-2 weeks before use. The longer it sits, the more the vinegar will absorb the citrus scent.

Usage: Simply spray the cleaner where you see fit! Feel free to add any essential oils you have on hand, as some are even antibacterial and disinfecting, but it is not necessary. Let the spray sit for tougher jobs, then wipe the vinegar cleaner with an absorbent cloth.

Cautions: NEVER mix vinegar with bleach as it can create a toxic chlorine gas. Undiluted vinegar can cause skin and eye irritation if contact occurs. Flush liberally for 5-10 minutes if contact with eyes, and seek professional medical help. Do not use vinegar cleaners on marble, granite, and other natural stones, such as those used in countertops and floors. The acids in vinegar can dull stone surfaces. Be careful when using vinegar cleaner on hardwood floors. Test it first in an inconspicuous area. Some finishes may be damaged by vinegar.

Air freshener

There are easy and healthy tricks to brighten up a room without the use of conventional air fresheners that are filled with strong, artificial fragrances and chemicals. Diffusers and essential oils are a great natural way to freshen up any room with a lovely, aromatic scent. That being said, they can be quite costly. So here’s an easy recipe that you can use to substitute!

Ingredients:

  • Any amount of bulk tea and/or dried flowers – I personally enjoy 10 grams of Lavender, 10 grams of Rose Petals and 10 grams of chamomile
  • Spray Bottle (for air freshener spray)
  • Water
  • Reeds (optional, for the DIY diffuser)

Directions:

  • Mix the bulk tea ingredients.
  • Add water and fill in a spray bottle. Let sit for 2 hours to overnight; the longer it sits the more the water will absorb the scents.

Usage: Once you like the scent in the bottle, simply spray into any room! Alternatively, you can use reeds in the bottle (without the spray cap), as the scents will get picked up by the reeds and deposited in the air. This will create a more subtle scent in comparison to the spray or a regular diffuser. I enjoy using lavender, rose petal and chamomile in my air freshener as they are all relaxing scents. This being said, there are many different teas and bulk ingredients to use. Peppermint is invigorating, eucalyptus is de-stressing, etc.

Caution: Take caution if you have pets at home. If you are using essential oils, they are very potent for animals who have a higher sense of smell than we do. Essential oils may confuse and disorient animals, and even make them sick. While bulk teas are definitely not as potent and will not have the same effect as essential oils, it’s recommended to keep your pet in a different room than the one you are using the spray in!

Suzanne’s Laundry Powder

Conventional laundry detergents are made up mostly of water (roughly 90%) and few active ingredients. On top of that, there are many chemicals and irritants that certain people aim to avoid, especially those with allergies and sensitive skin. So why not make your own? Making your own cleaning products means that you know exactly what is going in it and touches your skin.

This simple and effective recipe was perfected by Suzanne Laverdière, the soapmaker and owner of Faveur Montréal, the supplier of many cleaning and hygiene products found at NU. 

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Put grated soap and sodium carbonate in a food processor and reduce to powder.
  • Wait 5 minutes until powder has settled and remove cover.
  • Transfer in a container and add borax.

Usage: Add 1-2 tablespoons in a high efficiency washing machine OR 2-3 tablespoons in a vertical load washing machine directly on clothes. Wash as usual. For best results, use warm water as borax does not dissolve in cold water.

Pro tip: add ¼ cup of Sodium Percarbonate, also known as Safe Bleach, to your load! It’s a natural oxidizing agent.

Fabric Softener

For many, the zero waste lifestyle is synonymous with a minimalist lifestyle. Fabric softeners seems a bit unnecessary if you are trying to reduce your waste and overall consumption. This being said, it is nice to have some soft sheets or a soft t-shirt every-so-often. It’s even nicer when you can do so using common household ingredients!

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Mix the conditioner and vinegar in a jar or container. 
  • Add hot water. 
  • Stir to combine, but don’t shake as it will cause foaming.

Usage: Store the fabric softener mixture in a jar or a container and simply add 1-2 tablespoons for a smaller load, or up to 30 mL for a full load to a high efficiency or vertical load washing machine.

Pro tip: Add 3-4 Wool Dryer Balls to your dryer for even softer laundry! Wool dryer balls reduce static electricity and help keep laundry soft and fluffy, naturally.

I hope this was helpful and you are now convinced that making your own cleaning products is easy, cheap and healthy, in addition to being good for the planet. For more DIY recipes and regular zero waste lifestyle tips, follow our Instagram or Facebook @nugrocery!

Rebecca Joachim

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published

Back to school products