Natural DIY alternatives for 7 common cleaning tasks

DIY natural cleaning is a way to clean your home effectively (and cheaply) using safer, homemade alternatives. Many cleaning products you find in the supermarket are extra-strength cleaners which can contain harmful solvents, acids and corrosive chemicals. Not only can they be toxic to you and your family, they are devastating to the environment, expensive and create packaging waste.

A common misconception about cleaning is that we need a different cleaning product for each part of the house. Think for a moment about the cleaning product aisle at the supermarket – shelves and shelves of shiny packaging full of undisclosed ingredients that all claim to solve our cleaning woes. Millions of dollars in marketing and packaging tell us we need a different spray, cream, powder or wipe for every little job in the house.

But do we really need so many products? No! What we really need, is a solution to address each of our cleaning needs. Irrespective of which part of the house you are in, try thinking about your cleaning job in terms of a need instead of a product. Are you trying to lift a stain? Disinfect? Fix a smell? Remove grease?

Once you know the problem you’re trying to solve, you can use this handy list to work out which natural ingredients in your arsenal to use to tackle the problem.


1. Scouring

Cleaning showers, sinks and toilets needs a gentle scrubbing agent. Borax, salt, or bicarbonate soda with some water can create an abrasive paste to get the job done. For scouring pots and pans in the kitchen, a bit of bicarb soda, vinegar (and some elbow grease) will break through baked-on grime. Keep some coconut scourers or coconut scrubbing pads and bamboo cloths on hand too to help with the application.

2. Degreasing

To cut through grease on range hoods, pots, showers or tiles, look to natural degreasers like lemon essential oil, white vinegar, pure castile soap, or washing soda. Bicarb soda and lemon essential oil can be used to make your own DIY oven and hob degreaser and cleaner (learn how here).

3. Pest deterrent

Look no further than good ‘ol Aussie eucalyptus oil to help deter moths, silverfish, rats, ants, cockroaches and many other household pests. Using a cloth, wipe a small amount of eucalyptus oil inside cupboards, drawers or wherever the bugs hang out and watch them move on.

4. Disinfecting

It’s important to feel confident that we can remove germs when needed, especially when illness or infection seem to cycle through our home. Natural ingredients such as Borax, white vinegar, salt, and essential oils like eucalyptus or tea tree oil, can be used as effective disinfectants.

5. Stain removal

To lift stains from fabric, carpet, or clothing use active natural ingredients like bicarb soda, lemon juice, Borax, washing soda or soda water. Remember to always test a small amount of your cleaner in a discreet part of the fabric first to make sure it won’t damage the material before applying the full amount.

6. Polishing

If you want to give an added shine to wooden furniture, timber flooring or decking, opt for a little white vinegar with beeswax, olive oil or other nut oils like almond or walnut, or lemon essential oil.

7. Deodorising

There are a range of natural ingredients that all have deodorising qualities – bicarb soda, Borax, essential oils (e.g. lavender, tea tree), lemon juice, salt and white vinegar will all help lift odours and freshen up fabrics, carpet and linen. One of the best options though, is to hang fabrics in direct sunlight for a few hours.

As you can see, many of the above ingredients pop up more than once and perform a range of functions. You really only need a small kit of common, natural ingredients on hand to keep your home spick and span and eliminate shelves of cleaning products. It’s just a matter of knowing which ingredient to reach for, and when!

There are hundreds of recipes for DIY natural cleaning remedies, and in most cases, there will be a number of methods you could use to achieve a similar outcome. So, don’t be dismayed if it seems that everywhere you look the recipe is slightly different. The main things to remember are to use what works for you and to grow your knowledge of the purpose of each ingredient so you can build your confidence using them.

To get started on your natural cleaning journey, check out these 16 must-know recipes and stock up on some DIY materials. Happy cleaning!

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Melissa Sellen

Mel holds a Master of Environmental Education and has worked as an educator for Planet Ark and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, as well as State and Local Government. She has sat on the Executive of the Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) NSW Chapter for the past 7 years and helped write the latest NSW Framework for Environmental Education. Mel is a mum to two lovely world-changers under 5 who help her put all her ideas into practice!

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