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Five Low-Scent, DIY Replacement Recipes for Household Cleaning Products

Many migraineurs are triggered by strong scents like perfumes, gasoline fumes, tobacco smoke, oil-based paints, nail polish, and paint remover. Exposure for even just a few seconds can mean we’re reaching for our meds and/or rushing to get in bed. Finding low-scent or no-scent alternatives to regular items, then, often becomes a priority. These five make-at-home recipes for cleaning products are a good place to start. I’ve personally made and used every one of them, and I’m a big fan. Bonus: They’re inexpensive and super easy to make! No DIY experience necessary.

Note: If you’re sensitive to the smell of white vinegar – or you just don’t like it – you can always add some peppermint or lavender essential oil to the recipes below (if the oil isn’t already listed as an ingredient). Most migraineurs find these two scents soothing. If you aren’t one of them, find an essential oil you can tolerate and use that instead.

Garbage disposal cleaner/refresher

There are few household smells as tough on a migraine-sensitive nose as the awful stench that regularly wafts from the garbage disposal – except maybe the harsh drain cleaner generally used to clean it. This cleaner is easy, cheap, and it works – no nasty chemical smell required.


(makes approx. 36 balls)

2 cups baking soda

1 cup salt

cup water

cup Dr. Bronner’s unscented liquid castile soap

30 drops essential oil (recommended: lemon)*


  1. Combine baking soda and salt in a bowl.
  2. Add soap and oil.
  3. Add water slowly, 1 Tbsp at a time, while stirring, until mixture stays together when pressed by hand.
  4. Scoop packed, rounded spoonfuls with Tbsp measuring spoon and place on parchment paper to harden. (Hardening takes about 24 hours.)
  5. Place hardened balls into glass jar for storage.

To Use: Drop 1-3 balls in disposal, run water, and turn it on.

*Can substitute juice from 1-2 lemons for essential oil, if preferred. If mixture is too wet, add additional baking soda and salt until consistency is correct and mixture holds together.

Glass and mirror cleaner


1 tsp Dr. Bronner’s unscented liquid castile soap

½ cup white vinegar

3 cups distilled water


  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Store in a spray bottle.

Wood polish


1 part olive oil

1 part water

Juice of 1 lemon


  1. Combine ingredients in closed container.
  2. Shake.

To Use: Shake again, then pour a few drops onto cloth. Wipe across wood.

All purpose cleaner


2 Tbsp Dr. Bronner’s unscented liquid castile soap

10-20 drops tea tree oil



  1. Fill spray bottle with water, leaving approx. 2 in. of room at top
  2. Add soap.
  3. Add oil.
  4. Shake gently to combine.

Bathroom soft scrub cleaner


¾ cup baking soda

¼ cup Dr. Bronner’s unscented or peppermint liquid castile soap

1 Tbsp water


  1. Combine baking soda and soap in a bowl.
  2. Add water, stirring gently to make a soft paste.

To Use: Scoop out with sponge. Start scrubbing.

That’s it! Easy to make, easy to use. Want more? Check the Internet. If you have a specific cleaner-type in mind, Pinterest is a great place to start. An experienced DIY-er already? Please share your favorite low-scent cleaning recipes below.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • jrhodes
    3 years ago

    I appreciate these recipes. And have a question about the garbage disposal cleaner. Is it a cup of water and a cup of soap? My screen just says “cup water” and cup castile soap” without a number in front of “cup”, so I felt a little confused.
    Thank you again for the recipes.
    Oh…some people may want to check out the essential oils before making up a large batch as I know that I and others find that some essential oils are triggers (sigh, I so wish they weren’t as I like the fragrance, just not the after-effect of the migraine). For example, lavender and tea tree oil are triggers for me. I will just make some substitutions of oils that I like.


  • Sarah Hackley moderator author
    3 years ago

    It’s 1/2 cup each of soap and water. Thanks for pointing out that deletion! Also, finding an essential oil that doesn’t trigger you is important. That’s why I made sure to mention that any oil could be substituted for any other. As with all things migraine, do what works best for you. 🙂

  • maxgordon
    3 years ago

    We make our own laundry detergent, too. Just as clean, cheaper, and scent free!

  • Sarah Hackley moderator author
    3 years ago

    Homemade laundry detergent is great! I’ve made my own, too. Feel free to share a recipe, if you’d like.

  • Rann1950
    3 years ago

    These are great ideas for trigger friendly scented cleaners! I thought I would share one I use as an all purpose: adding orange or tangerine peels each time you eat one to a container of vinegar. Cover and store in the refrigerator. When vinegar has an orange tint, within a week, pour in to a spray bottle and use for wiping up counters, stove tops etc. The orange gives a very subtle clean scent to the vinegar. This has worked well for me. However I love lavendar and lemon scents as well.

    Another point I wanted to make after reading your article is how people in the workplace can be insensitive or do not understand the harsh affects of scents they wear. Before I retired I worked as an Administrative Assistant for a VP of a physician owned medical facility. My desk was directly off to the side from the elevator and a cubicle area was to the left of my desk. Most people adhered to the company policy of no perfume in the workplace. However one woman who’s cubicle was in close proximity to my desk, wore very strong perfume every day! Needless to say I suffered instant migraines as soon as she came to work. I spoke with her supervisor and she brought her in to her office for a visit. In actuality, she was testing to see if she thought the perfume was too strong. Afterward she called me in and explained the she experienced no strong perfume scent. The woman continued to douse herself before coming to work and my migraines became a daily problem. Finally, I spoke with my boss about the problem. He came out of his office, stood by her desk, took a large inhale and said, “What cologne are you wearing, I really like it!” Then turned to me and said, “Roberta, I don’t see a problem here. Next time you have a problem, you can talk directly to her.” Imagine my surprise and embarrassment! I was the bad guy in all of this even though I followed what I thought was the appropriate action. I hope that others who read this and have this experience will not hold back in a similar situation.

  • jrhodes
    3 years ago

    I’m sorry that you had this experience. Your supervisor sure missed the point! I have had similar experiences and have found talking with someone directly does usually work. If it doesn’t in a workplace, it is possible to go to Employee Services (if the workplace is large enough) and ask about American with Disabilities accommodation. There are several agencies in my area where floors or areas of buildings have been declared fragrance-free to assist someone(s) who has migraines with fragrance as triggers. I have gotten pretty bold and in classes or even my T’ai chi class, I ask the teacher if I can make an announcement, and I tell the group about perfumes being a migraine trigger and ask if they could please avoid using fragrances on themselves or their clothing. It helps.
    Thank you for speaking up.

  • Sarah Hackley moderator author
    3 years ago

    I am so sorry that was your experience at work! That’s terrible, but I know many of us with migraine have experienced similar. I’m lucky enough to work from home, so I have more control over the scents in my work space than some. Thank you for sharing your story and your recipe. I’ll have to try that.

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