If you could see the ring left on my tub after a bath in the spring/summer after my kids play outside, you’d know that I can’t settle for so-so when it comes to surface cleaners. Although I love my homemade soft scrub recipe and use it often, this easy scouring powder is perfect for a quick cleaning session on busy days. It works incredibly well, takes just a minute or so to make, and can be adapted to use ingredients you probably already have on hand.
Why make your own scouring powder?
Because when the Environmental Working Group analyzed one of the most popular scouring powders on the market, they found that it “emitted 146 different chemicals, including some that have been linked to cancer, asthma and reproductive disorders. The most toxic chemicals detected – formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform and toluene – are not listed on the label.” (source)
Overall, they gave it a safety rating of “F” and noted that it may be harmful to the environment. Yep, seriously. (source) Fortunately, it’s super easy to make an effective scouring powder with non-toxic ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. (And if you’re not into making your own, I know of one pre-made non-toxic option.)
The scouring powder recipes below are perfect for:
- porcelain, stainless steel, or composite sinks
- pots and pans
About the ingredients
In the two recipes below I’ve included ingredients that are inexpensive, easy to find, and versatile in how they can be used in the home. Here’s a breakdown of why they’re helpful in a scouring powder.
Baking Soda – I’ve written before about the many uses of baking soda for cleaning, personal care, and natural remedies. It works beautifully as a gentle abrasive, especially when paired with the ingredients below.
Washing Soda – Although it’s very similar to baking soda – in fact, you can actually convert baking soda to washing soda in your oven – washing soda is more coarse in texture. The two work well together because washing soda tends to clump on it’s own, but it adds extra cleaning oomph when added to baking soda.
Diatomaceous Earth – Like baking soda, there are a lot of uses for diatomaceous earth (DE). One of the oldest is as a polish for silverware, serving pieces and jewelry before buffing – it’s used in this way because it’s superfine powder works as a gentle abrasive that doesn’t leave surfaces looking scratched. (source 1, source 2) One thing to be aware of when cleaning with DE is that it turns brown when wet, so it will kind of feel like you’re cleaning with dirt. However, the upside is that it does polish beautifully and it’s easy to see where to rinse when you’re done.
Lemon Essential Oil (optional) – Works as a degreaser.
Cream of Tartar (optional) – Used as a natural beaching agent.
Salt (optional) – Adds extra scrubbing power. However, can scratch some surfaces so do a patch test before using.
Want to make an extra-special batch?
If you’re putting together a housewarming gift of natural cleaners – maybe this Lemon & Lavender All-Purpose Cleaner, Natural Laundry Detergent or my homemade “Fresh Laundry” Air Freshener & Linen Spray, the scouring powder recipes below make a delightful addition.
I like to put everything in one of these metal buckets along with some of the items above and bottle of wine from Dry Farm Wines – the healthiest option I’ve ever found. Because wine. 🙂
To make these scouring powders extra special, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of ground lavender buds, rose petals, lemon/lime peel or rosemary to the mixture. I grind the lavender, rose petals and rosemary in my coffee grinder before adding them in.
Homemade Scouring Powder Recipe
The recipe below will fill two of these spice jars.
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1/2 cup washing soda
- 1-2 tablespoons diatomaceous earth (optional, helpful for polishing)
- 1.5 teaspoons cream of tartar (optional natural bleaching agent)
- 10-15 drops lemon essential oil (optional degreaser)
- 2-4 tablespoons ground lavender buds, rose petals, lemon/lime peel or rosemary (optional)
1. Mix ingredients until well combined, then pour into a clean container. If using herbs in your mixture, I recommend grinding them in a coffee grinder before mixing them in – this is the one I use.
2. Store in a clean jar or a spice shaker like this one.
Sprinkle on surface and scour with a moist sponge. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
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Wow! Shocking about how many common products are on that list. How dare they not disclose the real ingredients! I love your version and am looking forward to mixing up some for my house and the two other houses I clean. I try not to use any toxic cleaners but I do admit to still have one scouring powder that was on that list so I thank you very much for a healthy alternative! By the way, did you mean to include a link to what metal bucket you use when you make up a housewarming gift because I didn’t see how I could find it and I love that idea too. Thanks for all that you continue to do to help the rest of us!
Could you use bentonite clay instead of diatomaceous earth?
I like the idea of adding in the ground herbs. Smart! Pretty!
I was wondering the same thing! Also, on the homemade dish soap page many suggested using just washing soda in a sink full of dishes to be scrubbed (whereas the dish soap is more for spot cleaning)….but when i tried this, the washing soda of course dissolved in the water….doesn’t this kind of ‘dissolve’ the scrubbing effect? i’d love to know how other people are using washing soda in a sink full of dishes effectively
also, i forgot to ask about the obvious — when people are using washing soda to scrub a sink full of dishes, are they then washing each item again with the homemade dish soap put directly on the dishcloth? or are they just skipping the soap step completely? i understand that scrubbing a sink full of dishes with washing soda makes sense if you’re then loading them into a dishwasher, but if one doesn’t have a dishwasher, what is the method used? people have said that the homemade dish soap recipe isn’t appropriate in consistency to put in a sink full of dishes/water. thanks!
I’m just adding this here because I’d like the email notification when this gets answered. I use bentonite clay for a lot of things but I don’t have diatomaceous earth. Good question!
First, I only see one recipe, you mention two recipes.
Second, THESE metal buckets…no link??
Thank you for the recipe
Bentonite clay will clump and not mix in well. it also does not work with metals…the metals make it benign. DE mixes well, and has its own built in scrubbers (so be careful, it MAY scratch delicate surfaces).
Thanks for sharing! The links to lavender buds and rose petals doesn’t work….can you please update them? Thanks
I am in the process of converting my household into a “less chemical” household. I would say “no chemical” but they are hiding everywhere! This recipe will help, thank you! Plus, I already have the main ingredients! Yay!
Can you use this on acrylic bathtubs? I’m afraid to try anything even mildly abrasive for fear of creating tiny invisible scratches that will dull the surface and allow dirt to accumulate faster.
Omg, you are my new favorite website!! <3
I’m surprised you don’t list an inhalation warning for diatomaceous earth! Fine to use but definitely be careful not to inhale it. Even all containers of DE list this warning.
This excellent website definitely has all of the information and facts I wanted
about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.
Hello. I live in the UK, I would love to make your scouring powder. It’s hasrd to find good quantities of baking soda and cream of tartar and as for washing soda??!! I do have bicarbonate of soda and soda crystals can I use either of these? If so, in what quantities? I have DE. Hope you can help as I’m trying to make a simple cream cleaner or scrub without buying tons of extra ingredients.
Christine – bicarbonate of soda and baking soda are the same thing. You bake baking soda to create washing soda and you can leave the cream of tartar out of the recipe. Seriously, all you really need to scrub is baking soda, if you don’t want to get “fancy” 🙂
You can get a big bag of baking soda from Amazon.
FOR SOME UNKNOWN REASON LINK FOR YOUR E BOOK OF CLEANING RECIPES IS NOT SHOWING UP ON MY COMPUTER????
IS IS NOT AVAILABLE?
THANK YOU AND I LOVE YOUR RECIPES HAVE SWITCHED OUT MY TOXIC PRODUCTS AND REPLACED MOST OF THEM WITH YOURS!
Heather, I love your recipes and your focus on toxin free products. I just made your hyaluronic acid gel and love it. On this scouring powder, can you use orange essential oil instead of lemon? I just happen to have a lot of it.
melba j weekley
Hi Heather, I love your letter’s. I thought I knew it all but you’ve proved me wrong, thank goodness. Keep up the good job. Janet W.
Love this recipe! I rarely use scouring powder these days, opting for other things instead, but once in a while my stainless steel kitchen sink needs something extra and this is perfect! I made a point of adding all the optional ingredients. I keep it in a 1-cup canning jar with a lid that has 3 different size pouring holes.