25 Safe, Non-toxic, Homemade Cleaning Supplies

This week our green audit is cleaning supplies. We’ve already discussed the dangers of traditional, commercial cleaning supplies, so now we’re moving on to solutions. I will be going over some options available for purchase this week, but first we’re going to look at homemade cleaners.
Benefits of homemade cleaners:

  • Less packaging waste. You’re not buying new bottles over and over.
  • Less expensive. I actually started making homemade products before I was really all the way green – why? To save money.
  • Less harmful (often not harmful at all) to humans, animals, and the earth.
  • Less noxious home smell. Homemade natural cleaners always smell better than store bought. Well, except vinegar – but I have major vinegar issues. There are ways to mask the smell of vinegar though – not completely, but somewhat. Lavender essential oil and lemon juice both work some to hide the icky vinegar smell.

Here we go. Homemade cleaners, from basic recipes to a few that are more advanced…

1. Clogged sink and bathtub drains: prevent clogs altogether with the amazing drain trap. I’m shocked at how many people don’t use a drain trap. I got one at Home Depot for under two dollars – five years ago. If you have a sluggish drain, pour a cup of white vinegar plus one cup baking soda into the drain. Let that sit for a few minutes (it will bubble). Flush with a teapot full of boiling water. If you really have issues, use a snake or plunger. Drain cleaner is honestly something you should never have in your home – it’s hands down one of the more dangerous cleaning items.

natural candle2. Air freshening options: Light a natural candle, burn organic incense, boil orange peels and spices on your stove top, diffuse essential oils, open your windows, buy some air cleaning plants, use cedar blocks sprinkled with lavender in your closets, or make potpourri. Learn more:

3. Soap scum removal: Apply baking soda (it is non abrasive). Scrub with a damp cloth or sponge. I have an older bristle brush I use for icky scum – like when I go to long without cleaning (bad me). You can use Borax or vinegar too; but Borax can scratch. Vinegar can be applied directly, left to sit, and scrubbed down.

4. Small carpet stain: Two words – club soda!

5. Bigger tougher carpet stains: Sprinkle Fuller’s earth or cornstarch onto the spot. Allow it to sit for about 20-30 minutes. Scrub with one cup vinegar mixed with three cups water. If it really won’t come out try a natural soap based carpet cleaner.

6. Carpet deodorizer: Sprinkle baking soda around the room – my son thinks this is the most fun ever. Add some dried crushed lavender or basil. Wait about 1/2 hour. Vacuum.

7. Oven cleaning prevention: Don’t let spills sit. That’s the best cleaning procedure hand’s down. Clean the oven sooner rather than later. Line your oven bottom with foil to catch spills.

8. “Oh no, I didn’t follow the oven cleaning prevention tip above!”: Ok, if you have a hot spill, sprinkle it with salt. Mix some baking soda – I just toss maybe two tablespoons with into a cup, with some water to make a thin paste. Use an old toothbrush or bristle brush to scrub it down.

9. Everyday toilet cleaning: Sprinkle some baking soda and lemon juice into your toilet and walk away. Eventually you’ll want to return and scrub it with a toilet brush.

10. Bachelor pad toilet cleaning: No offense guys – I’ve seen my fair share of bachelor pads though. Spray vinegar around the bowl, sprinkle with baking soda, scrub.

11. Metal rust: Mix 2 tablespoons salt with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Apply and rub well.

lemons for cleaning

12. Musty stuff: Say you have an old suitcase or truck that’s all musty, but you’d like to use it. Fill it with recycled crumpled newspaper let it sit for a week. The paper will absorb the smell (mostly) then, fill a mister bottle with water, add a few drops of tea tree oil, lightly spray the case and leave it open to dry.

13. Burnt food or fishy kitchen smells: Set aside a thrift store pie plate for times like these. Sprinkle the pan with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of orange essential oil – place in the warm oven, and let it sit as the oven cools.

14. Disinfectant all purpose cleaner: Mix a few drops of natural soap, 2 cups water, and 15 drops each of tea tree and lavender essential oil (you can use just the one oil- but 30 drops, I just like the mix). You can spray this on all surfaces, like cutting boards, counters, toilets, walls, (except it will streak glass). This stuff disinfects but is so safe you can actually spray it on your baby – you can’t say that about most commercial household cleaners.

15. Mold removal: Try not to let mold invade your home. You can prevent it – believe me I lived on the cold, foggy, always wet beach in Humboldt, you CAN prevent mold. Clean often with the disinfectant above and scrub down places that might develop mold with Borax once in a while. Borax will prevent mold and disinfect.

16. Basic furniture polish: Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with 3/4 cup olive oil OR mix 1/4 cup lemon juice with 1/2 cup olive oil. Wipe down furniture with a soft cloth and the solution.

17. Herbal disinfectant: Choose one fresh herb – lavender, eucalyptus, juniper, sage, thyme, or rosemary. Simmer the leaves and stems for 30 minutes. You can use any amount of water, but the less you use the stronger the solution and disinfectant properties. Strain, pour liquid into bottle, and use on any surface but glass. If you add a dash of natural soap or biodegradable dish detergent it will cut grease.

lavender for cleaning

18. Homemade herbal scouring pad: Horsetail stems are just like a scouring pad for pots and pans and won’t scratch. Simply rub a handful of dried (leafless) stems on the pots and pans. It will leave a bit of a green color – but that washes right off in water. Since you’re washing dishes anyhow it won’t be an issue.

19. Wood floor wax: Mix equal parts olive oil and vinegar. Apply a very thin coat and rub -you can simply stand on an old towel and sort of surf around the floor.

20. Window / glass cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar with one gallon water – spray and wipe.

21. Glass cleaner that does not smell like gross old vinegar: Use straight up lemon juice or club soda. If you use club soda than newspaper is the best scrubber to use. If you use lemon juice than use an old less linty cloth.

22. Sink cleaner: Scrub with baking soda and water.

23: Microwave cleaning: Place a bowl of straight vinegar or a bowl of water with 15 drops tea tree oil in the microwave. heat for about 2 minutes. Microwave will steam itself and be easy to wipe out with a wet cloth. I don’t have a microwave, but I did this at my friend’s house and it worked.

natural toothpaste24. Silver polish: Rub silver with plain old toothpaste and rinse with water.

25. All over home cleaning: Never underestimate good old hot water and some scrubbing. If you really want to get fancy add a few drops of natural soap, but honestly hot water will clean just about anything. Alone it won’t completely disinfect, but it does kill many germs and removes dust. Hot water is especially useful for basic floor mopping.

Whew, that should at least get you going.

What natural cleaning products do you make at home?

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    • http://bakingdelights.com marye

      I make all of ours…For cleanser I use a baking soda borax combo and add 5 drops of rose otto and 5 drops of tangerine essential oils..by the time this sits for a day it smells heavenly..and it is good to help maintain cheerfulness..and I could use that now.
      I am using those soap nuts for laundry at this point..I want to see how well I like them…Normally I make a laundry soap with pure soap, and other ingredients…or use 7th generation. I like their products because I like the company..I think it is the most ethical company out there and I am in agreement with the CEO on most issues. :)

    • http://www.treehuggingfamily.com Jennifer

      I agree about 7th gen – I’ll have to look into the soap nuts, I know less about them. I don’t like rose oils but I love tangerine. The rose oils, even all natural smell too rosy to me.

    • http://www.treehuggingfamily.com Peggy

      Wow, great list.

      I’ve found that for by bathroom mirror, which is large, hot water alone cleans it. Ammonia is very unnecessary and it stinks. For outside windows and doors though, I need to try what you mentioned.

    • http://www.juliefletcher.blogspot.com Julie

      Hot pepper sauce really cleans copper. I’ve gotten 100 years of tarnish/dirt off of old door hardware.

    • http://www.treehuggingfamily.com Peggy

      Julie, great tip I’ll use if I’m ever brave enough to buy another old house. I don’t have it anymore. Bad experience, but learned a lot!

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    • http://non-toxic-cleaning.com/blog Lori

      I think your post is excellent and will be including a link to it from my own non-toxic-cleaning blog.

      I do want to share that your tip #14 about using tea trea oil, even diluted, on a baby should be revised.

      Lavendar is safe for infants but tea tree oil should not be used on (or near) a baby, at all. It is safe for children over 2 and under 5 in diluted form though.

      I have also found tons of ways to use soapnuts “tea” in homemade non-toxic cleaning products, they aren’t just for laundry.

    • Ann

      Thank you so much everyone, for all the good tips.
      I became ill about 6 months ago and had to leave my job. Because I have no children/husband etc. I dont qualify for any financial help in my state. So as you can imagine, it has been a struggle.
      That was the main reason I turned to making my own cleaning products, because when I finally recieved help from the state they provided me with a small amount of $ for FOOD ONLY. Well, my house still needs to be cleaned.
      So through this experience, I have learned many lessons and when I can get back to work and am making money everyweek, I will NOT be spending it on all the cleaning products. I will however, be buying all my basics for my new eco-friendly way of cleaning.
      So thanks to all who contributed to this post. I am very grateful.

    • nookins

      I have tried making my own… maybe I am too lazy. I have found a product line that works great for me. http://www.cleanroot.com I dont buy GREEN I go buy environmentally safe and NON TOXIC so I dont have to worry about whats in my home and work and what goes down the drain into my world

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    • http://www.gringuitica.com/ Erin

      Do you know if any other oil can be substituted for olive oil in these cleaners? Olive oil is very expensive in my country, so if I could use soy or sunflower or vegetable oil, that would be fantastic. If not, I’d just like to know. Thank you so much!

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    • http://poeticallychallanged.wordpress.com Gina Marie

      Can you please add Facebook to your “Share” tab? I would love to post this on my Facebook page.

    • http://www.treehuggingfamily.com Jennifer

      Hey Gina, I don’t own this blog, so I don’t control the social links, but I’ll talk to my boss :)

    • http://www.treehuggingfamily.com Jennifer

      PS @Gina, I just checked and getting facebook added is in the works, so hang tight :)

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    • Jim Merrell

      1. Clogged sink and bathtub drains: prevent clogs altogether with the amazing drain trap. I’m shocked at how many people don’t use a drain trap. I got one at Home Depot for under two dollars – five years ago.

      – What are you referring to as a drain trap? I tried to look one up at Home depot and only found regular drain traps the s shaped ones.

    • http://www.treehuggingfamily.com Jennifer

      @Jim I’m talking about plain old screened drain traps: http://www.plumbingsupply.com/stainlessscreenstrainers.html

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    • Liza Pogrebnyak

      This message is for Jennifer, recommending newspaper as a smell absorbent for musty stuff.

      I really appreciate your advice, and find that it works very well. Haven’t thought of that! We have a drawer in my house where we keep old newspapers for recycling (they tend to stay there for months on end). That cabinet always smells nice: of books and reading. It’s a great idea!

      Another fantastic element for getting smells out is… pineapple. It is very good at absorbing smells, and smells nice in and of itself. It is particularly good at absorbing chemical smells: I’m thinking here new paint job. I usually leave an open piece of pineapple lying around overnight (not longer, as then fruit flies get to it, and it becomes a different problem). Depending on the severity of mustiness, I alter the number of pieces.

      That’s all!

      Thank you for offering such a useful site.


    • http://www.greencupboards.com Courtney

      The notes above are right–these are very sustainable, green ways to clean. However, if you’re not into concocting your own cleaning products there are a few companies out there that research and test green cleaning products for consumers and then sell them in bundles for convenience.

      GreenCupboards.com is a great example of a company that really takes this to heart. They gather, test, and certify the best of the products on the market for bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room cleaning. They don’t make their own products, and they are independently owned and operated–so you know their testing is legit.

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    • Marion

      I am thinking of making my own cleaning products for my upcoming cleaning company, but I wonder if making these recipes ahead will lose their effectiveness. eg. baking soda and water.
      I guess the question is whether they would have to be made everyday, and would it be worth it using them on a large scale?

    • http://scrimpboston.blogspot.com Taylor

      GREAT article! These are great recipes for keeping your home environment clean and healthy. I’m including a link on my blog, thank you!

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    • lori

      most ovens warn that you should NOT cover the entire bottom with foil! it can damage your oven. just place a piece bigger than your pan but SMALLER than the oven rack on the rack below whatever you’re baking to catch the drips.

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    • Kristen Oliviera

      I have some old floor cleaners, wax, ect.. what’s the best way to get rid of it with out hurting the environment?

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    • Jammie

      I make almost all the same ones you do but I also make my own laundry detergent and fabric softner.

    • http://www.treehuggingfamily.com Jennifer

      @Jammie – what do you put in your laundry soap & fabric soft? I sometimes make homemade laundry soap. Many people have been asking how to make it, and since I’ve heard so many various recipes I’m not sure which to post. Do you like yours?

    • dee

      Stuff an old stocking full of porridge oats.knot the top and tie it from your bath tap so the water runs through giving you the milkiest softest water and leaves your skin soft as silk ..Light a candle and soak Bliss !!

    • Jammie

      Did you get my response with the laundry detergent and fabric softner?

    • http://www.treehuggingfamily.com Jennifer

      @Jammie – nope did you leave it as a comment or email it to jennifer.chait (at) b5media.com?

      But thanks for trying to send, however you did. If you commented it may have gone to spam (that happens once in a while) if you emailed, I’m not sure what happened, because I check my spam and reg email….

    • Jammie

      I emailed now. I have several recipes on homemade items i will have to take the time and put them on my blog one of these days.

    • Paige

      I have a question about the disinfectant, can I use Dr. Bronners castile soap? I have some but it is peppermint, so if I can use that should I omit the lavender? I am assuming the lavender is just for the scent, right? Thanks so much for all these great tips!

    • Paige

      A great tip I learned years ago at an office I worked at was that the best way to neutralize odors in the bathroom is to light a match. Let it burn for a few seconds and then blow it out and toss it in the bowl. I don’t know what it is about it, but it works! Try it.

    • http://www.treehuggingfamily.com Jennifer

      @Paige – you need to keep either the tea tree or lavender essential oil in the mix to make it a disinfectant. Bronners is great for general cleaning, but real essential oils of tea tree or lavender have antiseptic / antibacterial aspects. I like to mix them, because too much tea tree scent alone makes me loopy. If you want to clean with just soap and hot water without essential oils (it’ll work) read the following: http://www.bestgreenhometips.com/2009/04/how-to-clean-properly-with-cloth-vs-paper-towels/

    • Tosha

      Does anyone know how long you can keep these products once you mix them?

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    • Lorena

      Hi great tips! I haven’t manage to test some of them though, because of lack of time, but i’m working on it. yet i’m sceptic about #25: if i use hot water, I will produce more co2 to warm it up… how do I coordinate these two needs, namely non-use of soup and Co2 emissions?? thanks (apologise for my english, i’m not native speaker)

    • Mrs Tablett

      I have been making homade soap and household cleaners that have been passed down. I frequently hand them out to family and friends. Recently a friend showed a friend and asked about buying product. Any ideas on how to get started making a buissiness out of it?
      I use dried herbs and flowers from my own garden for scents and somtimes as an abrasive agent to help scrub hard areas.

    • Daniela

      what exactly is borax and what exactly can it be used for? is it environmentally friendly?

    • Terri

      I found a great non-toxic cleaning book on Cafe Press – it is called Cleaning Wisdom and the author is Micah Daily. I would highly recommend it!

    • http://treehuggingfamily.com Jennifer

      @Daniela – there’s a whole conversation about borax in the comments of the following post http://www.treehuggingfamily.com/homemade-organic-facial-body-cream/

      Some people think it’s safe, some don’t, some think it’s safe enough for mild use (me). There are many sides to this debate. But those comments should help you out.

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    • Kelly

      Can u please save trees and add a print option for the solutions recipes? Thank you! :P

    • Caroline

      I to am interested in knowing if you can mix a batch up and save it? Or do you have to mix and use immediately? No one has answered Tosha on this…and I would like to know too! Thanks for awesome-ness :) Caroline *mom of 2, one toothless turkey and one stinker healing from eczema thanks to God and Vidazorb! WOO HOO *This is good enough reason for me to switch to all green! We are living proof of the benefit of a natural way of life!

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    • http://www.johnshegerian.com/ Green Entrepreneur

      I’ve been using Melaleuca but these solutions are even better (and cheaper!). I’ll print this out and keep it.
      Awesome article!

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    • http://camsshel.blogspot.com CamsShel

      great list–here are three more tips :o)

      A) When your coffee maker starts to steam, fill your water reservoir with 2 cups of vinegar and run like you are making coffee…

      B) for hard water stains around your faucets, soak a washcloth in that hot vinegar and wrap around the faucets. Leave for 20 minutes, then wipe away the yuckies…

      c) for the bachelor pad toilet that is 6 months past needing to be cleaned–get a glove and a pumice stone. Scrub until the bowl is white again…if you run out of pumice, start over.


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    • ErinFiat

      Baking soda is an excellent degreaser. To prevent body oils adding up in the bottom of the tub/shower, sprinkle baking soda each time you get out. If you buy it in bulk, it is exceptionally cheap.

    • ErinFiat

      Homemade Dishwasher “detergent”
      1 c Borax
      1 c Baking Soda
      5 packets Lemon Koolaid (unsweetened- you want it for the citric acid)

      Use 2-3 TBSP per load. If dishes are extra greasy, I also sprinkle with a little extra baking soda.

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    • http://www.healthycleaningtips.com Stephanie

      Great post! So many helpful tips. Just to add to the tip about fishy odor in the kitchen. When cooking fish, I find it helpful to boil a pot of water with vinegar in it. This helps to prevent the fishy odor that normally occurs in the kitchen while cooking fish.

    • Jodi

      I have been looking everywhere for an article like this. I am phobic about most cleaners, especially drain cleaners and toilet bowl cleaners (got burned by one once). All the non-toxic stuff I buy has wintergreen in it. I’m allergic to that. I can’t stand the smell of bleach or pine sol, and my husband is impatient with the “filth”. I clean, dust, vacuum, and do dishes, but he’s never satisfied. I found 2 great toilet bowl cleaners, efferdent or laundry detergent. Just pour it in and let it sit for the day, then scrub the rim (doesn’t do too much). Anyway, bless you for you effort and for the help I will cherish for a long long time. You may have saved my marriage.

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    • http://www.watlinghopedirect.co.uk/ Kate

      You can try http://www.watlinghopedirect.co.uk/
      if you want to improve you live.

    • Dyan Nash

      I’ve been a conservation nut for seeming forever, but just was lazy and picked up products that said they were “green”. Now I know better and have started to use homemade solutions. Always looking for another idea.

    • sandy

      Thank you so much for this article. Because of it I now have switched to using more effective, natural, cleaners, for my windows, mirrors, floors, dishes, and washing machines. They smell fresher, and the money I save is unbelievable. I think everyone could do a service by cutting down some of the harsh chemicals in thier lives. Thank you.

    • Brighid Rose

      I ran my own all-natural cleaning business for 4 years. I had been cleaning with regular products for a while, but when I could still taste the bleach AFTER taking a shower, I knew I needed to do something different. I did all types of cleaning from residential to commercial, new construction and rental turnovers (which are pretty ick from the tenants..lol). The cleaners always worked great and all my customers were really happy with my work. I got several residential jobs just because of the all-natural cleaners. Sadly…all that work slowed down, first construction and then people had to tighten their budgets. Ah well. It was a GREAT experience and I still make all my cleaners for our home. :)

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    • melissa

      hey there, great receipe for laundry detergent i find it works a treat 1cup baking soda/bi-carb soda, 1/3 cup salt dissolve in hot water. add mix to a gallon bottle of water and then add a splash of castile soap concentrate i like the rose fragranced one it smells great. i make a gallon for 67cents which lasts my family a week of washing(2adults 2 children)cheap.

      Shampoo – simple bi carb/baking soda approx 2 tablesppons dissolved in 400ml hot water pop it in an old shampoo bottle and your ready to wash away the grime.

      oily hair- dry bicarb/baking soda in the hair leave for about 5-10 minuutes then wash away.

    • http://www.advancingwithus.com/Mi281385 Micah Kissling

      For those of you who are like me and don’t have time to make your own non toxic cleaning products. Here is a website you might be interested in:
      Their products are just as cheap and sometimes up to 30% cheaper than Walmart. If you like it let me know and I’ll help you get a membership so you can buy what you like! My wife and I love this stuff!
      A friend of ours has a 2 yr old that drank the bathroom cleaner from Melaleuca and poison control told her not to worry about it. Her child never had any ill effects.
      Micah Kissling

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    • April

      Is there something in my kitchen I can burn in the woodstove to clean my chimney?

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    • http://www.veggiemama.ca Veggie Mama

      I have linked to this on my website. These are some great recipes. Thanks for posting them.

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    • cve4me

      Enjoyed researching what you have written. Theres a lot here. Thankyou for sharing

    • Kasey Chandler

      For really low shower maintenance, I use a non-toxic method to prevent mold in the first place, no scrubbing or chemicals required!!!! A friend told me about the air-it-out shower hook. It’s basically a suction cup with a hooked tube on it to pull the middle of the shower curtain away from the tub siding after you’re done showering. This lets air underneath it to help dry out the area and voila!! It destroys molds breeding ground and stops it before it starts. I found it at http://www.air-it-out.weebly.com

    • Jacqueline

      Thanks so much! The clogged drain and carpet stain tips are definitely on my list to try!

    • commercial cleaning services melbourne

      Thanks for giving wonderful information. Non-toxic cleaning can give you a deep feeling of gratification in knowing that your family’s health is protected. Making your own nontoxic cleaning kit will take you no time at all with these simple, straightforward directions.
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    • Wood flooring NYC

      We are wood flooring company in New York. Thanks for the article for non toxic cleaning tips. Lots of customers asking for this. Wood flooring NYC

    • Juandissimo Magnifico

      This article is beautiful, like me, and the rest of my internal organs!

    • Darrell

      Yes, we use *many* of these methods and they really work! We even make our own laundry soap using borax, a simple soap (Ivory), and baking soda. Saves money and works really well. – Emu Art Tile

    • Rick

      Absolutely agree with your perception because natural and home made is the most safe to use so we don’t need to afraid for our kids.

      How to Clean Hardwood Floors

    • cleaning services melbourne

      Thanks for giving wonderful information. Non-toxic cleaning can give you a deep feeling of gratification in knowing that your family’s health is protected. I appreciate your suggestion. You have provided nice information.
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    • Dr.Ambreen Aslam Child Specialist


    • adamrokies

      Great article share. Thank you and in my opinion lemons are perfect for neutralizing bad odor in your home.

      Domestic Cleaning London

      • Laura

        I agree im 25 with three kids and the house is always smelly and stinky and lemon masks the gross smell right up!Oh and call me for more tips at 1800-354-4352!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Cleaning Services Johannesburg

      My point in this is if a cleaning product is not toxic then it is not going to kill the bacteria and all those unwanted gems. unless otherwise i am living in my own world. nice post though. Cleaning Services Johannesburg

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    • pakladies

      Best Homemade Wax To Get Rid Of Unwanted Facial Hair

    • Online Kitchen Cabinets

      Cleaning up the kitchen is part of cooking.Kitchen is now very important part of every home. In my view, kitchen should be clean and there should be useful things in the kitchen for the work.Excellent tips!

      Online Kitchen Cabinets

    • Jack

      These house cleaning tips are quicker and time saving. But at the same time I feel that one should not feel retarded when it comes to clean their homes, it’s a job which is purely for yourself, so there should be no hesitance while cleaning your own home.

      portable countertop dishwashers

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    • Kamile Ko

      I always encourage people to make their own cleaners, because it is
      cheaper and healthier. But I always regret about floor cleaning, just
      because homemade cleaners aren’t so strong that it can destroy
      bacteria. I use this cleaner- profesionalios
      stipraus poveikio valymo priemones
      just because of the high
      quality and low price. Try :)))

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    • http://www.blisstree.com/topic/pets/ Peggy Rowland

      You need a chimney brush or a professional. Since it’s a safety issue, I’d go with the professional who cleans without chemicals.