Green wash: 3 easy homemade herbal cleaning products for your home

A simple cleaning spray can be made by steeping herbs in vinegar.
Meredith Dyer

A simple cleaning spray can be made by steeping herbs in vinegar.

Many herbs and essential oils are highly effective household cleaners, and many of them have antibacterial properties.

Lemongrass, lemon myrtle, sage, tea tree, eucalyptus, oregano and lavender, as well as many others, contain powerful antimicrobial properties that rival many of the commercial cleaners you can buy at the supermarket. And with their natural fragrance, they'll keep your home smelling sweet and fresh.


With just a few basic ingredients you can easily make your own effective, non-toxic home cleaners. 

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1. Look at your base ingredients. Typical pantry staples that can be used to make homemade cleaners include baking soda (it deodorises and dissolves grease and dirt), cider or white vinegar (a weak form of acetic acid, which is antibacterial), castile soap (a surfactant made from olive oil that loosens and washes away dirt) and lemon juice (which has antibacterial properties).

2. Choose your herbs, either fresh or dried, or in the form of essential oils. Pure essential oils are the strongest and most active form of a herb, and are highly effective at removing germs. A 2013 study at the Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki in Greece showed that soap with oregano essential oil (at 0·5 per cent strength) was as effective as commercial antimicrobial soap and more effective than plain soap with no additives.

Many common garden herbs can be used for house cleaning if you know how.

Many common garden herbs can be used for house cleaning if you know how.

Using fresh or dried herbs is effective too, and simple cleaning solutions can be made, with powerful results. To fight germs, a simple spray can be made by steeping herbs in vinegar. Leftover citrus peels can be added too, as these contain a large amount of bioflavonoids and limonene, which are strongly antibacterial. 

Happily, your home's cleanliness need not be compromised by abandoning the harsh chemicals in commercial cleaners in favour of homemade herbal ones.


The beauty of a homemade vinegar spray is that it contains just two ingredients: the cleaning agent – in this case vinegar – and fresh or dried herbs. White vinegar not only has antimicrobial properties, it can eliminate mineral deposits from sinks and bathroom fixtures. 

Dried herbs can also be used to clean and refresh a home.
Robert Charles/FAIRFAX NZ

Dried herbs can also be used to clean and refresh a home.

To make a herb vinegar:
* Fill a jar with fresh or dried herbs, then fill to the top with white vinegar.
* Secure the lid tightly (make sure it's a non-metal lid) and label the jar.
* Put in a warm room out of direct sunlight for at least six weeks. Turn and gently shake the jar once a day.
* After six weeks, strain, then store in a cool, dark place.

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This mixture can be used straight on grubby surfaces such as glass, showers and toilets, but for any woodwork, paint finishes and the like, be sure to dilute with water up to 50 per cent.

You can use any herb or herbs you like. If you like the smell of lavender, use that; if you like citrus scents, try lemongrass, lemon thyme or lemon myrtle. Or use a mix of say thyme leaves and lavender flowers, and a few drops of rose geranium essential oil for a powerful, nicely scented solution.

You can add essential oils to any of your herb vinegars.


Lemon peels contain antibacterial properties, so use them to make a household cleaner, using the herb vinegar method.

* Steep lemon peels in vinegar for 3-4 weeks.
* Strain and use straight on glass surfaces, such as shower doors and toilets.
* For more delicate surfaces, such as wood benchtops, dilute with water. This mix also makes an excellent fly repellent on kitchen benchtops and window and door frames.

Lemon peel can be used as a cleaner.

Lemon peel can be used as a cleaner.


If you don't want to use vinegar in your cleaning products (vinegar should not be used on marble surfaces, for instance, as the acid in vinegar can damage marble), try borax instead. 

Borax is an all-purpose cleaner that can be used for stain, rust and mildew removal, as well as for deodorising. 

To make a spray:
* Put 1 cup of dried herbs in a glass jar.
* Fill with hot water, replace the lid and allow to steep for a few days.
* Strain, then add 2 tablespoons borax and a few drops of essential oil (optional), such as lemongrass, lavender or oregano.
* Shake to mix, then pour into a spray bottle for use.

 - NZ Gardener


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