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The City of Portland, Oregon

Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037


Handmade Cleaners

Handmade cleaners are an inexpensive, non-toxic and effective alternative to commercial cleaning products.

Oregon Environmental Council's cost_comparisonAdvantages of making your own cleaners

  • You know exactly what's in them; no complex ingredient lists.
  • Inexpensive to make.
  • Better for the environment.
  • Better for indoor air quality and safer for janitorial staff. 

How to make your own cleaning products

Making your own cleaning products for the workplace is easier than it sounds. Effective cleaners that are safe for people and the environment can be made from everyday items such as vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, salt, soap and water. 


  • Baking Soda: abrasive enough to scrub while deodorizing and brightening.
  • Borax: proven over the years to be a great, non-toxic disinfectant.
  • Essential oils: simple, all-natural additions to keep things smelling fresh and clean.
  • Glycerin: vegetable based antiseptic that moisturizes skin.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: bubbles cut right through the dirt.
  • Lemons/Lemon Juice: smells great and cuts through grime while killing mold.
  • Olive Oil: moisturizing and gentle on furniture.
  • Salt: adds more punch to your scrubbing power.
  • Vinegar: acidic enough to cut through grease, gentle enough to use anywhere (including hardwood floors).
  • Water: helps dilute formulas to desired strength.
  • Vegetable oil based liquid soap: sometimes called castile soap, this versatile non-toxic soap comes in organic, non-GMO and concentrated versions. It can be used on its own for many cleaning purposes, or as an ingredient to make other types of cleaning solutions.


Kitchen cleaner

Sienna SkinnerSienna Skinner from Lensbaby, one of our gold certified businesses, shared with us her recipe for a counter and window cleaner.

  • ½-cup vinegar
  • 3½ cups water
  • 1 tsp liquid soap

"Put in a spray bottle and you're set! One of the things I love about this stuff is that you can use it with your regular kitchen sponge (e.g. to wipe down the counters) and not wonder what you're putting in the sponge you wash your dishes with.” – Sienna Skinner

Windows & Mirrors

  • ¼ cup white vinegar (or 2 tablespoons lemon juice).
    Ingredients for cleaners
  • 1 quart of warm water.
  • Mix together in a spray bottle and use as you would with any window or mirror cleaner.

Alternatively, a washable microfiber cloth, dampened with just water, works wonders on glass and mirrors.


  1. Spray the area with a white distilled vinegar spray.
  2. Spray the area with a 3 percent peroxide spray.
  3. Wipe clean.

Bathroom deodorizer

  • Mix 10 to 20 drops of essential oil into a 1-pound box of baking soda.
  • Place the open box under a sink or near a toilet.
  • Add more essential oil as needed.
  • Replace the baking soda every three months. 


Quick links

Follow these links for more recipes. 

  1. Green Cleaning - Oregon Metro
  2. Resources: Non-toxic cleaning for your home – good for the office too!
  3. The Hazardless Home Handbook – good for the office too!