A Homemade Degreaser Recipe + 3 Ways To Tailor It To Any Mess
A degreaser is a powerful cleaning ingredient to use in any room but particularly the kitchen, as its sole purpose is to remove grease, oils, and other grime.
Unlike an all-purpose cleaner (whose job is to clean surfaces that are dusty or lightly soiled), degreasers can cut through more caked-on messes. To do so, they're usually formulated with harsher chemicals—which makes creating your own a good idea.
Reasons to make your own degreaser.
Degreasing formulas typically contain ingredients such as:
- Ethanolamines: These surfactants are linked to occupational asthma1, can be irritating and/or corrosive to skin, and can cause respiratory issues such as coughing and wheezing.
- Alkyl C12-16 dimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride: This compound has been shown to trigger symptoms in those with asthma and cause asthma-like symptoms in those with no prior diagnosis. It can also be irritating to skin and eyes2.
- Propylene glycol butyl ether: Another skin and eye irritant, these solvents can also cause shortness of breath and coughing.
- Fragrance: When you see "fragrance" listed on a label, it means that product is scented using a proprietary blend that doesn't need to be disclosed for that reason. It doesn't always mean that a product is dangerous, but it does mean that you don't know all the chemicals that went into it. Some of the chemicals that can hide under the term fragrance include allergens, respiratory irritants, hormone disrupters, and chemicals that are harmful to the nervous system.
Not only can making your own degreasers at home reduce your overall exposure to harmful chemicals, but it's also more wallet-friendly. It requires only two simple ingredients you probably already have in your pantry: white vinegar and baking soda.
If you don't have these on hand, go out and grab some! They can be used for so many cleaning and degreasing purposes around the house.
What you'll need:
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- Orange or lemon essential oil (optional)
- Castile soap (for kitchen utensils and aluminum surfaces)
For stubborn areas:
- Combine 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of water in a small bowl. Stir together to make a paste.
- For extra degreasing power, add a few drops of orange or lemon essential oil. (If you've ever used lemon essential oil to remove a sticky label, it works the same way here.)
- Spread the paste over the dirty surface. Let it sit a few minutes, until dry.
- Lightly spray vinegar over the paste to make it fizz, making it even easier to clean. Scrub using a soft sponge (scrub gently so you don't scratch the surface).
For easier areas:
- For lighter cleaning, simply spray white vinegar on the dirty area and let it sit for several minutes. The acetic acid in vinegar will cut through grease and grime easily.
- Wipe away with a microfiber cloth or soft sponge.
- Don't worry: The vinegar scent fades quickly! But if you want to lessen the scent, you can dilute the vinegar with a 50/50 combination of white vinegar and distilled water in a spray bottle. You can also add 8 to 10 drops of orange, lemon, or your favorite citrus essential oil to help cover the scent (and a little extra degreasing boost!).
For kitchen utensils and aluminum surfaces:
- Cover the dirty area in liquid Castile soap. Let sit for a minute, then wipe away using a warm cloth.
- For more difficult grime, combine Castile soap and baking soda in a bowl until it reaches a paste-like consistency. Apply it to the area, and then gently scrub with a soft sponge or washcloth.
What to use your degreaser on.
Only use white vinegar as a degreaser on sealed countertops and nonporous surfaces, such as metal or glass. Do not use vinegar on granite countertops, as it can etch.
You should also avoid aluminum surfaces, as vinegar can cause staining, and it may have the same effect on certain stainless-steel utensils, such as kitchen knives. For these areas, use the liquid Castile soap recipe above.
Be sure to store your white vinegar and baking soda separately and only combine as needed. Don't try to mix them together and store them for future use. Remember that eighth-grade volcano science experiment? It will foam and fizz like that! Store them in their original containers.
The bottom line.
Regardless of whether you made a feast or a quick meal, cleaning with a degreaser will ensure that all the grease, grit, and oil has been removed from your surfaces. And making your own degreaser will keep any unwanted chemicals from lingering around your newly cleaned surfaces!
Tonya Harris is an award-winning environmental toxin expert, the founder of Slightly Greener, and the creator of the Slightly Greener Method™.
She is Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition, has a Master's degree in holistic nutrition from Hawthorn University, and holds multiple certificates in the environmental health field. She is the author of the forthcoming book: The Slightly Greener Method: Detoxifying Your Home Is Easier, Faster, and Less Expensive than You Think, which will release summer 2021.
As a childhood leukemia survivor and mother of three (including one with multiple learning disabilities), Tonya helps parents learn how toxins in the home can affect their family’s health.