Four years ago, Chantel Mila Ibbotson started making her own cleaning products. “The driving force was my kids,” the styling and organisation content creator says.
She made the switch shortly after her daughter was diagnosed with asthma.
According to Better Health, chemicals and strong smells from things like household cleaning products are a common asthma trigger.
“At the time, I was on maternity leave too so the cost benefit was great for our household budget,” Ms Mila-Ibbotson adds.
But how effective (and safe) are home-made concoctions when it comes to cleaning your home?
I spoke with a molecular pharmacologist to find out.
Are DIY products really cleaning my house?
DIY solutions can work, says Ian Musgrave, a senior lecturer in pharmacology at the University of Adelaide — but you might need to apply a little more elbow grease.
“We have an expectation that they’re cleaning because that’s what our parents and grandparents used, but it can take a lot of scrubbing to get the same results as commercial products,” Dr Musgrave says.
“It depends on the surface you’re cleaning and how dirty it is. For light cleaning, vinegar [and bi-carb soda] work quite nicely.”
White vinegar and baking soda are the most common pantry items used in homemade cleaning products because they’re cheap and can be used in many ways — from cleaning shower doors to a fabric softener.
“Vinegar is an acid; it cleans organic matter off surfaces by attacking the material, but it’s a weak acid — after all we put it in our salads,” Dr Musgrave says.
“It can also bind minerals and attack scale on glass [like on shower doors or windows].”
Vinegar can be toxic to plants and can’t be used on surfaces like granite, so do some research and patch test before you spray it on any surfaces.
Mixing some ingredients with vinegar can reduce its ability to clean.
“Recipes that contain vinegar and detergent negates the effect of having vinegar in the first place,” he says.
Chantel combines vinegar, water and an essential oil like tea tree, which Dr Musgrave says can be a good way to disinfect your home.
What about baking soda?
Baking soda is another ingredient that is great for removing stains or grease and grime — and acts as a great deodoriser too.
“Baking soda is a base which will also break down organic matter [like unblocking drains]. But it’s a much weaker base compared to commercial products, so for mild blockages it’ll work but serious blockages it won’t,” Dr Musgrave explains.
Some other popular items you can use to clean your home are tea tree oil, which works as a disinfectant, as well as citrus fruits like lemons or oranges which are acids and work in a similar way to vinegar.
Overall, Dr Musgrave says, if you’re looking to scrub less or get quicker results, commercial products are the way to go.
“In terms of cleaning power, the commercial ones generally work better,” he says
“It also depends on the portions you mix together [in DIY products] and how long you leave it.”
But if you have allergies, are looking to save money or in search for a natural alternative, making your own cleaning products could be a good option for you.
“Vinegar or baking soda does work, but you’ll need to put more effort in to get the same effect of a commercial product,” Dr Musgrave says.
“If you have adverse reactions, or don’t like the smell of commercial products, [home-made products] can be your go to.”
ABC Everyday in your inbox
Get our newsletter for the best of ABC Everyday each week