DIY Disinfectant Cloth Wipes

All of the convenience of the disposable store-bought chemical-laden version, only without the price tag, the negative environmental impact, and the nasty toxic chemicals to wipe all around your home.

A Brief History of Disinfectant Cloths in Our Household: The Early Years

(Gosh, that title just has timeless classic written all over it, doesn’t it?)

When I was a newlywed (long before I started my natural living journey), I refused to buy Clorox disinfectant wipes. How very trendy and non-mainstream of her, you might be thinking. Saving the earth since 2003. Go team!

Actually, the plain old unromantic truth is that I was just too cheap to pay that much money for something you use once and throw out, especially when it’s something that I could so easily make myself!

If I’m going to splurge on something it will probably involve fancy fair-trade coffee or organic, grass-fed steak. You know – the important things in life. A throw-away paper cloth to wipe the yuck of life is just not high on my wish list. 

It wasn’t until a few years later that I also became passionate about treating the earth with kindness and becoming mindful and conscious of the types of products I consume and support with my buying habits.

My mom always stored a bag of rags in the bathroom cupboards and used them for cleaning. They were literal rags – cloths and dishcloths that had gotten too worn and holey to be in regular use, and thus cut up for dirty cleaning jobs. (She was doing the eco-friendly and reusable thing long before it was hip and trendy.)

At first I just used them with some water or cleaner for random cleaning jobs, but now I use them for pretty well anything (Although I fully admit to using toilet paper for cleaning up cat barf. Ewww.)

In the past when I’ve needed to disinfect something I’ve reached for my big honkin’ jug of vinegar that lives under the sink. White vinegar is amazing and I use it all the time to wipe down countertops after handling stuff like raw meat. That was a bit of a clunky system, and most of the time way more than enough would pour out which gave me a frugal-heart-attack.

Then I moved on to some vinegar and H20 in a spray bottle. That works nicely, and is pretty simple to spray and wipe with a clean cloth. But what about when you want just a little extra oomph in your cloth – some cleaning power in addition to the disinfecting properties?

The vinegar disinfects, but it’s not the best at removing grime on the bathroom sink.

I was still committed to never buying Clorox wipes for a variety of reasons (Mainly: wasteful one-use products full of toxic chemicals that harm me and the earth. Compelling, right?)

Enter: DIY disinfectant cloth wipes (angelic chorus). All of the convenience of the disposable store-bought chemical-laden version, only without the price tag, the negative environmental impact, and the nasty toxic chemicals to wipe all around your home. Hello common sense, nice to see you again! 


DIY Disinfectant Cloth Wipes

Emily says: “The vinegar and lemon have disinfecting properties and the lemon also gives it a pleasant scent. The dish soap is for extra cleaning power. The combined scent of the dish soap and lemon essential oil smells really fresh and clean, and covers up any smell of the vinegar in this recipe.”

Step 1

You can use any sort of washable cloth or rag for this job. I like true rags – clothes that were demoted due to holes and stains and such. Using old clothes as rags makes me feel all Ma Ingalls and stuff (only with hot showers and a heated home and also: chocolate, because: duh), which is always fun.

Any sort of bar mop towels or cheap washcloths would work. Even old receiving blankets cut up would be great. Be sure to choose an absorbent material, like cotton or microfiber.

Step 2

Once you have small squares (or squarish shapes) of cloth, decide how neat and tidy you want your system. You have two options: lay them out carefully with slightly overlapping corners on an angle so that when rolled up you can grab a corner from the inner one and pull it out continuously, like with the store-bought version… or (my personal fave) stuff ’em all into your container willy-nilly.

Then douse ’em with the vinegar solution you’ve mixed up, and use as needed! Any sealed container would work, even a mason jar, which would be very hipster-trendy of you, of course.

Step 3

Revel in the magic – cleaning is crazy fun again!*

(You can see more instructions and details over at Em’s blog, Live Renewed, along with an alternate recipe in case you don’t have the ingredients for this one.)

*This has not been verified by any sane person ever. Be highly suspicious of false advertising claims. Ie. this one. Cleaning is not fun. Tolerable, yes. Rewarding, maybe. But fun? You need to get out more, my darling.

If you think these wipes sound awesome, you would be correct. They are brilliant. You can’t beat the convenience, the price tag, and the safe and natural aspect.

Now, I mentioned that this was Emily’s recipe. She graciously gave permission for me to publish it here for you lovely peeps so that I could show you just a teeny taste of how totally-freaking-awesome her new ebook is: Green Your Life: A Guide to Natural, Eco-Friendly Living.

Green Your Life: Get Started Today!

I happen to have edited this book for Emily, which means that I have read every single word from start to finish, and I can confidently say that it is an absolutely stellar resource.

It is 268 pages packed full of information – there are a ton of DIY recipes just like the wipes recipe I posted here, tips for green living (I bet you’ll find several you’ve never heard of even if you’re a more seasoned eco-friendly enthusiast).

I want to emphasize just how packed with helpful information is in this book… and how finding all of that information would take forever on your own. The internet is an amazing thing but it is vast and never-ending. You could spend literally weeks culling information from various websites to find this stuff, but even then it would not be shared from the expert perspective of someone who has been there, done that.

Emily has gleaned the best information and compiled it together into one jam-packed resource that you can trust without reservation.

This book is pretty well the best go-to guide for green and natural living that I could possibly recommend. It also struck me how accessibly the information is presented for newbies, but how more experienced folks in this lifestyle, like me, also can find it super useful.

You can get your digital copy here, along with more details on exactly what it contains. Right now the book is just $5.00!

Head over to download your copy today – you won’t regret it!

“Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by your children.” – Kenyan Proverb

Affiliate links included in this post.

I'm Beth. I created Red & Honey because I'm obsessed with the wild art of wellness.

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  1. Nicole says

    I’ve made something similar to this before. I keep the rags/solution in an old baby wipe container. Then I can just pull them out one at a time like with baby wipes :) Thanks for sharing this idea!

  2. Lori says

    I’m not a paper towel user, or wipe user, either. I have a cute set of Birdseye cloth squares, hemmed in bright colors that I use instead. My oldest daughter, who married and moved away from home about 7 years ago, never uses paper towels or wipes, either. Always old washcloths and shirts, etc. I do keep a roll of paper towels on hand in case of cat accidents, too! One roll lasts for months! Can’t wait to try your wipes solution recipe! thank you for sharing!

    • Lori says

      P.s. I keep a small waste basket under the sink for my kitchen cloths. I hang the wet ones on the sides of the waste basket until they dry, then just push them into the waste basket, making room for the next wet ones until they go into the wash.

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  4. nicole says

    Does anyone have trouble with them molding? If so, what can you do about it, other than use them quicker?

    • says

      I’ve never had any mold issues. The vinegar really helps prevent that… and you could even add a drop or two of tea tree oil if you want (which is anti-bacterial).

  5. Corynn says

    Would this work with tea tree oil instead of lemon? I’m not opposed to lemon, I just don’t have any on hand, but I do have tea tree oil.

  6. Monica says

    Been doing this for years–the same as my mom, and her mom, and her mom… The only ‘new’ part is ‘dousing’ them and putting them in a mason jar (that a truly frugal homesteader has lined up for the next batch of canned goods…) and using a new clean one every time you need a rag (WT…?!) What crazy-busy working mom has time for that?!

    Just keep a little bottle of your favorite homemade cleaning concentrate near the basket/bucket of clean rags under the sink, or if you want to be fancy, put the cleanser in a pretty glass salad-oil dispenser bottle on the counter (clearly marked so the kiddies don’t mistake it for the homemade hand soap–which is more attractively fun in a foaming dispenser anyway). You are going to wash your hands when you’re done anyway, right? Add a bit of hot water to the nearest sink with a little splash of your cleanser, wipe up the mess, wipe the sink (people crack me up–like the sinks have to be so clean you can lick chocolate off them or something…), then swish and rinse the rag and your hands, wring the rag well and hang it up to, oh no, what’s that?–use it again in five minutes. I’m washing dishes, cleaning up messes, or doing laundry every day all day long anyway, so one sink or another always has hot soapy water in it already. They are dry in a couple hours (morning!) Wash with socks, undershirts and towels (only works if you use white socks, undershirts and towels–which I do, so you just cut up the worn out ones and keep on repurposing) adding vinegar to the load.

    • says

      Hi Sharon, I do believe that’s possible, but I’m not exactly sure how – sorry! You could google “how to get a PDF on to my kindle cloud” and probably find the answer easily. :)

  7. Peggy says

    People who use those wipes generally don’t read the fine print. To achieve the level of disinfection claimed in bold print on the front, the cloth must remain damp and in contact with the surface for 5 minutes. Now how many people do you suppose use them that way?

    My mom always had a rag bag too. So do I! And if they are real cotton cloths, when they are totally threadbare, they compost!

  8. Tanja says

    I can do all that and it’s a good reminder for a Sunday morning but what to do with with a wet dirty rag? Rinse and hang to dry? I’d have a kitchen and bath full of new decor: rags! If it’s too dirty just chuck it? Pile wet rags until you have enough for a load? They will get very stinky. I hope someone has a great solution! I have spilly family members!

    • mpbusyb says

      I have the same thoughts, Tanja. My family loves the pop, wipe and toss cloths and would not easily convert to something like this that takes a little more . . . um . . . work. I use rags to clean and love this idea, Beth, but hesitate to make them for the sake of my family. They’d look at me, look at the box of disinfectant rags and grab the paper towels (if I haven’t bought any disinfecting wipes to replenish our supply). How does this work in your house for your family?


      BTW – I saved my lime peels and soaked them in vinegar to make a citrus vinegar cleaner. It’s what I would use to soak the cloths if I ever made this idea.

      • suzy says

        I toss mine straight in the washing machine – wash with the next load of laundry, at our house that’s 2-3 loads a day 😉

      • Amanda says

        We have a ‘rag bag’ full of rags that we use to clean house and wipe up messes of all types. It’s in the laundry room on the floor. Each time we use a rag, and it’s dirty, I toss it in the washer. I don’t do laundry every day, but it’ll be there when I do. When I go to do laundry, if there’s a lot of rags in it, I’ll wash that load first with either bleach or vinegar (depends on what’s on the majority of the rags). I do not have them hanging around. They are immediately tossed into the washer after they are used…whether it’s to wipe up a pet mess or clean the bathtub. I do not buy paper towels at all. I have a couple spray bottles, one with vinegar and water in it and the other with a cleaning solution. The vinegar/water mix goes on any mess that ended up on the carpet, the other is used everywhere else. It’s really not hard at all. I strive to not have to take out the trash but once a week (unless there’s something stinky in it). This is a game to me. The fewer times I have to take it out, means the less waste I have created. Paper towels are a waste. They’re expensive and full of chemicals, and yet I was raised using them. I do not keep them in the house. Oh, and I do not fold the rags…they just get tossed into their bag. ;0)


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