10 Easy Natural Household Switches (That Anyone Can Make)

10 Easy Natural Household Switches (That Anyone Can Make)

cleaning products

This month we’ve been talking all about ridding your home of toxins. That can get overwhelming, fast, as you look at all the things in your home that contain toxins. Where do you start?!

Today I have 10 very easy switches for you. These are common and frequently-used household items that you can simply switch for a purchased or homemade alternative, depending on where you are in your journey or how brave you’re feeling. 🙂

Personal Care

Facial cleanser

Rather than using a standard product that’s filled some pretty serious stuff, choose a natural alternative. Plain castille soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) is a good, reasonably-priced purchased option. Or, you can try out oil cleansing and even make your own blend (I love mine!). Making your own sugar scrub for occasional exfoliation is also easy!


Ick, have you read the ingredients on most of these? Luckily, coconut oil or any other natural oil is a good solution (olive, avocado, jojoba, etc.). If you want to get fancy, try making your own lotion.


Nothing good here either, with the sodium lauryl sulfate and other petroleum-derived products. Burt’s Bees is a good purchased substitute. Or, you could try going no ‘poo and washing your hair with baking soda and water. I find it works best for me if I have a high percentage of baking soda (at least 1 part to 2 parts water) and I add some rosemary or grapefruit essential oil to blend.

Without the EO, it doesn’t work for me at all — something to keep in mind if you’ve tried it before and didn’t like it. Play with the exact percentages of baking soda to water and which EO you add and how much, and try apple cider vinegar rinses if you like, too (I don’t).


This is one area you’ll have to step out and try to make your own. I don’t know any commercial brands that don’t have some form of aluminum. And we do not want to use that! Luckily it’s pretty easy to make and use, so I’m told…I haven’t tried it yet.

Hand Soap/Body Wash

I usually use Dr. Bronner’s as soap. Erin (from The Humbled Homemaker and also a contributor here) has a recipe for a foaming hand soap that she uses in her home, which features castile soap but makes it easier and more fun for the little ones. Plus it’s more frugal because it stretches the soap further. I also like Burt’s Bees baby wash for the kids, because it is fairly natural and tear-free.


The most important thing here is to get a fluoride-free version. Brands without SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) or glycerin are better too.

We have a decent brand at Trader Joe’s, and some people enjoy “tooth soap” brand (although I have never tried it). Another writer, Courtney, recently posted a recipe to make your own.

10 Easy Natural Household Switches (That Anyone Can Make)

Image by stevendepolo

Cleaning Products

Basic Cleaning

I like to use some of the Seventh Generation products when I feel like I really need something “clean.”  They have an antibacterial line that relies on essential oils rather than chemicals, which I use on occasion. (That stuff also gets anything out of the carpet if you catch it immediately — strawberries, blueberries, red juice, etc.)

For most daily uses, though, 1/2 and 1/2 white vinegar and water works well.  I like to add lemongrass essential oil to mine (I love that stuff). Vinegar is also a great addition to your dishwasher as a rinse agent, and your washing machine as a fabric softener. I’ve been known to use it as drain cleaner (with baking soda), to clean mirrors and windows, or pretty much for any cleaning job I have.

Laundry Detergent

I can’t actually give you a homemade option here because I haven’t seen any point in trying one. I got hooked on soap nuts about four years ago and haven’t looked back.  I’ve heard they don’t work in all water types, but I have hard water and they have worked well for me.

I chose them initially for cloth diapers and I never need to strip my diapers unless someone’s sick or I’ve temporarily “lost” one of them (i.e. they went way too long between washes). There are also commercial “natural” laundry brands, as well as homemade recipes for those who are inclined to try.

Paper Towels

While not a “cleaning product,” per se, it’s still a disposable product and a source of bleached cottons. Not very environmentally friendly! Instead, try microfiber cloths, or organic cotton cloths for cleaning. They work really well, and microfiber is cheap and lasts awhile (yes, it’s really a form of plastic…so there’s that to consider).

In fact, it’s good to replace as much disposable stuff as you can with cloth or other reusable things. And I promise this doesn’t make (much) more laundry for you. I do maybe once extra load every week or 10 days with all my kitchen wash cloths and towels.

Shower/Tub Cleaner

A few years ago, my shower was filthy (who am I kidding…it currently is again!). I was so frustrated with the mildew that I tried everything to clean it — CLR, bleach, any caustic chemical I could find. And…nothing. It just would not go away. I was also pregnant with my second so this was not good for me. Finally, I flooded the shower with warm water and sprinkled baking soda everywhere. 20 minutes later I simply wiped away the mess with no effort. I was amazed!

Baking soda proved to be a very safe way to remove mildew in the shower with minimal effort (at least for someone who is not allergic to mold; if you are especially sensitive you may need something else, or have to have someone else do the job). It also worked great to scrub the counters (mixed with a little water or castile soap), and made my metal fixtures very shiny again.

I clean most things with baking soda and vinegar and don’t even bother to mix up special “cleaners.”  I have several boxes of baking soda around, a big jug of white vinegar, and a spray bottle of diluted vinegar. That’s pretty much it — nothing fancy!

Making the Switch

10 Easy Natural Household Switches (That Anyone Can Make)Making the switch to natural products doesn’t have to be hard. These are all little easy switches above, with both purchased and homemade options, depending on your comfort level and budget.

I recommend replacing each product as you run out.  When you run out of toothpaste, don’t buy more of the “usual,” buy a new less-toxic option. When you run out of laundry detergent, buy a safer brand next time.

It’s a good idea to stock up on baking soda and vinegar immediately, whether you’ve run out of other things or not. They’re so cheap — baking soda is around $0.50 for a small box, and that will last awhile — that spending the $3 – $5 to have it on hand is no big deal.

If you start with these little switches, I bet you’ll look around a year from now and have a totally different home. How wonderful will that be?

What are your favorite natural options for cleaning and personal care?

Top image by Keith Williamson

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  1. I started making these changes because of money…..cleaning products are expensive. I am retired and on a fixed income so no $$$

    I have changed almost all of my cleaning products now. I do feel better. I am proud of me!!! and I think most of the healthier ones work better than the commercial ones. With the exception of a dishwasher soap. I still havent found a substitute for that one.
    My favorite cleaning product is 1/2 Dawn dish soap 1/2 vinegar for the hard and ugly stuff. Like my old stainless steel sink. Maybe Dawn isnt so good I should try Bonners next time. I love that stuff. My shower soap is 1 oz oil any oil 3 oz Bonners mixed in 8 oz water. My old skin is soft. I use coconut oil and soda for deodorant and toothpaste but lately just soda for toothpaste and a splash of scented vinegar for deodorant. Way easy!!!! Fabric softner is easy just spray vinegar on your clothes when you throw them in the dryer. I also add a cloth with about 6 or 8 safety pins in it.
    I found most of these ideas on pinterest.com I love that.

    1. Margaret, thanks sharing what you use! My husband is not on board and we don’t have the money with a growing family to have two shampoos, two soaps, etc so I just live with what he’s comfortable using. However, we already have in the house oil and castille soap, so I will be trying that out right away for a body wash! Hopefully it work well for me and my sons very dry skin.

  2. Does anyone have advise for getting husbands on board? He will now use handwash, and homemade cleaners, and we’ve come a long way with eliminating disposable items from our house. I feel like skin care and laundry are next on the list, but our budget cannot afford toxin free skin care and household items, plus all the regular items. I’ve tried to replace toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, and laundry detergent as we ran out with safer alternates and he goes to the store and buys what he thinks is the better stuff, believing that you’re not really clean unless you use the products that have all the toxins. I would appreciate any advise!

    1. My husband is the same way. I just do what I can for myself, and what he’ll let me do with the kids, and don’t push it. I have learned from experiance that my husband is much more receptive if I don’t try to convince him of something, but rather just be satisfied with what he’s comfortable with. It also makes for less arguements, which makes living together oh so much easier. 😉

    2. I advise using a his/her approach if he’s not fully on-board. There are so many things to fight about that it isn’t worth adding one more, particularly for things like personal care products where you normally use a his/her approach. If you continue to look, smell, and feel good there is a possibility of winning him over in the long term. That chance diminishes, however, if it’s been a battleground–particularly if he hasn’t been treated with respect.

    3. Thanks for the tips. Just to clarify, we don’t fight over this kind of stuff, I’ve tried to make the switch in the past and it didn’t work so I dropped it. I do not feel like this is something worth creating tension in the home. The only his/hers products we use are deodorant, which I’ve already switched. We share toothpaste, shampoo, body soap, laundry detergent, so I don’t think that would work with the other areas. I have stopped washing my hair as often, now only once a week to cut back on the chemicals being absorbed through my scalp. We have a very tight budget, and to switch one of those things would be to switch it for both of us. I just feel so gross using the chemical laden products, and he feels the same way with natural cleaners. I’ll just keep on praying about it!

    4. Maybe I’m just lucky, but my husband pretty much leaves the purchasing of all cleaning and personal care items to me. I don’t think he could care less or even notices that I’ve slowly been switching over. Now if I could just get him to start eating better, we’d be all set! 🙂

  3. I clean almost everything with white vinegar and baking soda. I use the vinegar on my wood floor and my laminate floor. You can add Essential Oil or some Lemon Oil to this to condition and add shine to wood floors. Also I use baking soda sprinkled with lemon juice on my ceramic top stove if it has a stubborn cooked on spot that refuses to come out. It make a light abrasive that does not scratch the surface, but the chemical reaction between lemon and baking soda will clean almost any stain. Try it on your whites as a pre-treater for laundry. You do not need furniture polish either, the microfiber cloth will trap most dust, however if you want to polish or add condition, try lemon oil.

  4. I made a few of these changes – especially with the cleaners – upon getting pregnant with #3. I just found that using regular cleaners left me with a huge head ache that lasted the day, and so it just made sense to switch. Personal items are something I still need to work on, but am excited to try out. 🙂

    1. Fluoride kills bacteria to prevent tooth decay, but it’s also present in any standard city water supply, as well as any treated bottled water such as aquafina or dasani, so the concern is that people are overdosing on it, and it’s actually killing so much bacteria in our digestive systems that it’s weakening immune systems and possibly causing other problems. I’ve also heard recently that some standard toothpaste companies are even putting Triclosan in toothpaste, a relatively new and untested synthetic antibacterial chemical.
      A paediatric dentist actually told me that a natural enzyme in (old) cheddar cheese kills the offending bacteria (for which the fluoride would be intended), so it’s a good thing to snack on, especially after eating something with a high sugar content, which is what the bacteria feed on.

  5. I have been doing several of these too. Another idea for shampoo Sort’a No Poo. (Here is the link to the article on Crunchy Betty: http://bit.ly/ILaVX7)

    Also, I use lime or lemon juice as a deodorant. I don’t remember where I got this idea, but it works really great most days! You don’t need a lot, just apply and let dry.

  6. Great post! I started making my own hair and skin care products (although I’m a bit intimidated by DIY deodorant–will have to try your recipe :)) My next step is to make my own cleaning products–you’ve provided me with a good starting point–thx!

  7. Hi Katie, Could you tell me how you use your soap nuts? Amount and load size and such… I used soap nuts with great success UNTIL I moved and I haven’t been able to make them work well enough with our hard water. I switched to Charlie’s Soap, but I still have some soap nuts. Thanks

    1. Hi Andrea, I use usually 3 – 4 per bag, or throw in 2 – 3 by themselves if I can’t find my bags (which sadly happens often). Most often the washer is mostly full, but I adjust the water level accordingly, erring on the side of more water. I usually use cool/warm for most washes and hot for diapers. Vinegar in the rinse may help if you need something extra. Oh, and I buy RLR, a non-toxic laundry aid, which I toss in with very dirty clothes and with diapers every few weeks. I’m not sure if that has something to do with it or not. As long as I address any major stains immediately (which I do by rinsing in cool water and washing with Dawn dishwashing liquid to pre-wash by hand), the laundry comes out fine.

  8. I would also add that making this Soft Scrub like cleaner has been a really easy switch and a great, healthy money saving project.

    My husband is fine with things as long as they work. I did my homework and showed tthe chart on this post to him http://simplymadehome.blogspot.com/2012/04/winning-over-my-husband.html
    He was amazed. (We are Dutch so money speaks to him!) It is so nice when the cheaper way is the healthier way!

  9. I have actually found lots of brands to choose from for natural deodorant!! Check out at natures fare or a choices/while foods downtown!! There is also an addidas one for women that has no aluminum that I have foud at Save On 🙂

  10. I have actually found lots of brands to choose from for natural deodorant!! Check out toms, natures gate, jason, etc at natures fare or a choices/while foods downtown!! There is also an addidas one for women that has no aluminum that I have found at Save On 🙂

    1. Agreed. I was surprised by the comment regarding not being able to find commercial brands without aluminum. There are lots of options available; admittedly pricey! My husband prefers Toms of Maine, while I’m currently using Passionate Homemaking’s recipe.

  11. I have been attempting many of these things over the years and have found some things that work and others that don’t. Even with much experimantation/trial and error I have never found a deoderant, shampoo, or dishwasher soap recipe that even come close to conventional, manufactured products, but I keep searching. We do make our own natural toothpaste, lotion, bodywash, surface cleaners, furniture polish, cologne/perfume, hair styling products, medicines and most of our meals are made from scratch with home grown or organic/ local farm raised items. We have baby stepped our way to where we are and continue to make progress as we are discerned and able.

  12. Sara–it doesn’t cost any more to have two shampoos, etc. The rate of use is the same as sharing one bottle. Do the math: both of you can use one shampoo (1 shampoo x 2 users = two portions of shampoo per day) or you can each use your own shampoo (2 shampoos x 1 user each = two portions of shampoo per day.) Yes, you will have the initial purchase of 2 bottles of shampoo, but then you’ll use them at half the speed, so you’ll only have to replace each bottle half as often. I often hear this “costs too much” argument, so I just had to say something. 🙂

  13. While going through radiation for breast cancer I couldn’t use any thing with certain chemicals in it(sorry I can’t remember which ones except for aluminum, chemo brain) so I started using a mineral stick and I absolutely love it, it’s mostly made from salt. It lasts for about a year too so I don’t mind paying $6 for it, you can find them at WholeFoods(that’s the only organic store we have here)

  14. I loved this post. I use vinegar and baking soda for everything these days! I use the oul Cleansing method and love it! I’ve also switched to making my own baking soda toothpaste… It has brightened my teeth but fear it may be too abrasive? I haven’t had any sensitivity but do you know anymore about using baking soda (homemade) toothpaste and what any concerns may be?

  15. Does anyone else have a problem with their natural deodorant making their armpits dark? I’ve been using the recipe from passionatehomemaking.com (coconut oil, baking soda, arrowroot powder, essential oils). After several days my armpits look considerably darker. Not sure if it is just build up. Maybe I should try exfoliating them. Hmmmm??

    1. I also had this problem, so I used that crystal rock deodorant for a few weeks and focused on dry brushing my armpits daily. Once it went away, I switched back and it hasn’t returned so far. Been a few months…Good luck! It would probably help to always exfoliate while using this.

  16. I use Soapwalla deodorant and love it! It’s a bit pricey, but it is something I really enjoy as I haven’t found another natural brand that worked for me. It lasts a long time and with saving on other homemade cleaners it works for our budget.

    1. Kara, yes, they do. 🙂 They don’t need to create suds to clean, and they can work in cold water. I have not tried it but I have heard it works fine.

  17. Great post, Kate! Thanks for linking to my handsoap…Now THAT explains my extra traffic today! Haha!

    We love our homemade hand soap. It’s all we use for hand soap now, and it’s SO easy (and a great Christmas gift!). I use either Lexie: Naturals or MadeOn lotion bars for lotion, homemade deodorant (love it!! Using Mandi from Green…Your Way’s recipe now), and bar soap from the Farmer’s Market. We also use the hand soap recipe as baby body wash/shampoo once they hit about 6 months. (I use Burt’s Bees or just plain water before that.) I once found a Canadian natural brand (can’t remember the name) of paraben-phosphate-all the yucky stuff-free shampoo and body wash at Big Lots and bought like a year’s supply, so I’m still using that. We use Tom’s for toothpaste, but I’m not completely satisfied and want to try making my own. I still use Burt’s Bees or Yes to Carrots brand for facewash.

  18. Like Satori said in her comment, there are a lot of natural deodorants available — it’s the antiperspirants that I haven’t found. Do homemade deodorants keep you from sweating or do they just deodorize?

    1. They mostly deodorize, although many offer a small amount of antiperspirant-type effect. But, it’s actually not a good idea to try to truly prevent perspiration, as it is one of the ways that the body regulates itself and clears out toxins as well.

  19. When I first got married, I cleaned almost everything with baking soda and vinegar – mostly because it was cheap. Now, I’m learning so much about how easy and affordable these environmentally friendly options are. I’ve blogged about no ‘poo, homemade tooth soap and homemade deodorant. I hope to do a month long focus on environmentally friendly/frugal cleaners.

    I think I was most surprised at how much better these products work! I just make my first homemade dish soap. It was so easy and my dishes are sparkling!

    1c washing soda
    1c borax
    1/4 c citric acid (or 2 packs lemon drink mix)

    good stuff! Thanks for this post!

  20. My perception on the effectiveness of the products is affected by the price and promotions. I forget to look into the contents and don’t bother to see if they’re using natural ingredients. I never tried creating my own. While it sounds fun, it is great to know that I can save more by doing so.

  21. I got hooked on soap nuts, too! especially with wool dryer balls. If I touch laundry washed with soap and dried with dryer sheets it feels sticky to me. It’s like a residue is left on my hands. I would never go back to laundry soap.

  22. Great suggestions. My favorite product by far is Ivory soap. I use it for everything from brushing teeth, to laundry and lots in between.

  23. I have been using soap nuts for the last couple of months. Some days I am thrilled other days disappointed. We have a well vs. city water. So, I am not sure if that makes a difference. In any case, it seems my whites (even with peroxide or vinegar) get duller and the stains in clothes are not cleaned as easily. What are you help tips for washing with soap nuts. A particular brand? Anything you add to the soap nuts in the wash? Oh, and even when I add essential oil/homemade dryer sheets some clothes (I have all boys and the biggest one/hubby is in construction) just do not get the sweaty smell out. I use 5 -6 nuts in a bag and use for 4-5 loads. Any recommendations will be appreciated. I am considering trying other alternatives and don’t want to.

  24. Oh my word. When I saw this title in my inbox I thought “switches” meant things to hit a child with and was so afraid of what I was about to see lol

  25. I have tried a good number of natural deodorants and some homemade. None of them work. I smell worse than I would if I used nothing. I really would like to find one that works, but so far I haven’t.

  26. The most effective deodorant I’ve very found is just rubbing some baking soda on damp underarms. Takes me from stinky to fresh in no time!! Actually works better than my husbands “clinical strength” stuff. Love it!!

  27. A few years back, my naturopath had me do a serious cleanse and also suggested switching to organic deodorant, or no deo at all. I went without, and in no time, didn’t even need to use anything! It’s like something needed OUT and once it was out, it stayed out. Antiperspirant is concerning….plugging sweat ducts essentially. We shave our armpits in the shower, and minutes later, slather on Secret or whatever… the skin in your armpits is always somewhat raw after shaving and who knows what gets into your skin when antiperspirant is applied?? Try squirting a shot of hairspry there after shaving… it’s definitely raw to some extent!!

  28. re: deodorant – although I make a lot of my own household cleaning products, I usually buy body care products, and after trying six or seven brands of deodorant (which all fail sooner or later in the Texas summer heat) I came across Miessence and after doing some testing to compare, it is my favorite.

    by the way, many of the natural ones available, don’t remember the brands now, also have things like propylene glycol, even if they don’t have aluminum.

  29. re: deodorant – although I make a lot of my own household cleaning products, I usually buy body care products, and after trying six or seven brands of deodorant (which all fail sooner or later in the Texas summer heat) I came across Miessence and after doing some testing to compare, it is my favorite.

    (disclaimer, I now sell Miessence products, but the deodorant and some of the other things really sold ME on them. some of the most natural stuff I have found that also actually works.)

    by the way, many of the natural ones available, don’t remember the brands now, also have things like propylene glycol, even if they don’t have aluminum.

    I hope this didn’t submit twice, hit the wrong button…anyway, thanks for the ideas.

  30. I also switched to soap nuts a few months ago and now use it for pretty much everything. I make a solution to clean the house, put them in the washing machine etc. I am starting to de-chemical the rest of the house and have bought ingredients to make bubble bath (for the husband), deodorant, toothpaste and makeup. I hate using any chemicals.

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