Make Your Own: Non-Toxic Surface Cleaner

Diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA) and alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) are just a few of the ingredients found in household cleaners, but how much do we really know about these hard to pronounce substances? Studies have pointed to the potential risks these cleaning ingredients pose to our long-term health, some effects being respiratory irritation, allergies and headaches and others as serious as cancer and hormone disruption. As a health conscious person, I aim to make sure I know what I am consuming, usually in the form of food, however, their are many other ways we ingest substances, through our skin for instance. How many ubiquitous chemicals are hanging around my shower, laundry machine and sink that could be causing me harm? And more importantly, how can I make my home a healthier place to live?

Not only can these ingredients pose a threat to human health, they also affect wildlife. A study conducted on water contaminates discharged in municipal waste water found that alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) are harming the reproduction and survival of salmon and other fish. Another detriment to ecosystems is the use of phosphates which are found in laundry detergents and other cleaning products. When phosphates find their way into our waterways, they act as a fertilizer, creating an imbalance and overgrowth of algae. With more algae, the ecosystem has less oxygen supply for fish, in the worst cases of oxygen depletion, many fish and other living organisms cannot survive.

I was happy to find out that making your own surface cleaner is actually more affordable, eco-friendly and healthier compared to traditional store bought! As scary as it was to think how many random spray bottles were sitting underneath my sink and how many chemicals I have let into the environment, I feel empowered now that I have a choice in what substances I come in contact with and substances I let out into our waterways. I can consciously choose to avoid toxic substances for the sake of my health and the planet.

The Environmental Working Group has a guide to get to know the unlisted ingredients on your cleaning products to help you make more informed decisions about the chemicals in your home.

The 3 Ingredient Non-Toxic Surface Cleaner

Distilled White Vinegar

Scrap Citrus Peels


  1. Step one in making your non-toxic cleaner is collecting scrap citrus peels. If you had a grapefruit for breakfast, save the peel in a glass jar. You want to keep filling the jar with scrap citrus until your jar is 3/4 of the way filled. You can use tangerines, oranges, limes, lemons. Any scrap citrus works! I like to use a blend of lemon and orange.
  2. Once you have your citrus peels in your jar, you want to pour the distilled white vinegar into your jar until all of your peels are submerged. Seal the jar and place it in a cool area to let the citrus and vinegar mix. This process takes 2 – 3 weeks to complete.
  3. Once the 2 – 3 weeks are done your cleaner is ready to get the job done!
  4. Taking a spray bottle, fill it half way with water. Fill the rest of your spray bottle with the citrus infused vinegar and shake it up a little.
  5. You now have your non-toxic surface cleaner to use in the bath, sink, counter tops, etc.
  6. Feel free to add some essential oils for scent preference. (Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary)

If you tried this out for yourself and think someone you know would love it, share this easy cleaner recipe with them!


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