The Everyday Home: Using homemade cleaners can improve indoor air quality at home

Sonya McDaniel, extension educator, FCS/CED
Pottawatomie County OSU Extension Center
Vinegar and baking soda can be used for cleaning your home.

What do vinegar, cornstarch and baking soda have in common? Besides sharing space in the kitchen pantry, these and other household items can be used as the basis for do-it-yourself cleaning supplies.

“Homemade cleaners are often made from ingredients you may already have on hand or found at your local store,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. “They may be just as effective as any product you can purchase and often are more environmentally friendly.”

Recipes for homemade cleaners, cleansers and sanitizers are frequently simple and include only a few ingredients.

For instance, an easy recipe for an all-purpose cleanser calls for mixing 2 tablespoons of borax, ¼ cup of vinegar and 2 cups of hot water in a spray bottle to create an agent that can be applied like any other commercial all-purpose cleaner.

Or, combine cornstarch and water to make an effective mirror and window cleaner. Just mix them together to make a paste, use a soft cloth to apply the paste to the mirror or window, rub gently then wipe clean.

Also, combining 1 cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil creates a garbage can deodorizer. Work out all the lumps with a fork before sprinkling the mixture in the bottom of the container after the liner is removed. Periodically rinse the garbage can with vinegar and allow it to dry in the sun.

Only use tested green cleaning recipes. For example, some universities’ Cooperative Extension Services have produced fact sheets that provide tested recipes.

“Mixing your own cleaning supplies will more than likely require some prep time on your part,” Peek said. “On the flip side, homemade cleansers usually cost less to make compared to commercial or over-the-counter cleaners and they can help improve the indoor air quality.”

Routine safety measures should always be followed while making and using any type of cleaning product, homemade or otherwise.

“Read the labels of products to see if protective or respiratory gear is recommended and carefully mix all ingredients, especially chemicals,” Peek said. “Some chemicals such as chlorine bleach and ammonia generate a toxic gas when they are combined.”

Only make enough cleaner for what is needed at the time or no more than a month’s supply. Homeowners should be in a well-ventilated area when combining ingredients.

“Cleaning mixtures should be placed in unused new containers and labeled with the name of the product, the ingredients and the date it was created,” Peek said. “All cleaners, including green cleaners, should be securely stored out of the reach of children.”

Oklahoma State University, as an equal opportunity employer, complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding non-discrimination and affirmative action. Oklahoma State University is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all individuals and does not discriminate based on race, religion, age, sex, color, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, or veteran status with regard to employment, educational programs and activities, and/or admissions. For more information, visit https:///