Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

I guess there are a few instances in life where it doesn't make sense to take thirty seconds to make another batch of homemade cleaner. A zombie apocalypse, for example. (You have bigger things to worry about.) Or while birthing a baby (you have enough on your agenda for today.) Or maybe... uhh... okay, nope - that's all I've got.  If those two things aren't happening, then I totally think it's worth your time.

Today is the first day of absolutely gorgeous spring weather. It’s going to be a high of 9 C/48 F, and the sun is just beaming through every window proudly. I also spotted the first tulips and daffodils breaking through the dirt in the front flower bed, and so of course, we did The Tulip Dance (an original choreographed routine involving copious amounts of bum wiggling and cheering).

Weather like this gives me the itch to do some serious Spring Cleaning – to throw open the windows after a loooooong winter (seriously, Winter – that was Ridonculous) let in the fresh air, and scrub everything in sight (in order to give the kids a fresh canvas on which to wreak havoc again, duh.)

I’m planning to use this Free Printable Spring Cleaning List this year, and (nerd alert) I’m super-duper excited about it. The main weapon in my dirt-fighting arsenal is my homemade all-purpose cleaner recipe, and I wanted to share it with you!

—> This is one of those things that’s so incredibly easy to do that I often take it for granted.

If you’re going to have a chance of converting your non-crunchy peeps to a crunchy habit… this is The One.

I guess there are a few instances in life where it doesn’t make sense to take thirty seconds to make another batch of homemade cleaner. A zombie apocalypse, for example. (You have bigger things to worry about.) Or while birthing a baby (you have enough on your agenda for today.) Or maybe… uhh… okay, nope – that’s all I’ve got.

If those two things aren’t happening, then I totally think it’s worth your time. The time that it takes to make up a new batch, assuming you’ve already gotten your ingredients to keep on hand, is approximately 98% less than the time it takes to drive to the store to pick up a bottle of neon chemical cleaning soup. (That’s a scientific calculation based on irrefutable concrete facts, obviously.)

In case you’re not yet convinced (or want to present your case to your non-hippie friends), here are three excellent reasons!

Case for the Homemade Cleaner

1. Ridiculously frugal

Let’s say you use up one spray bottle of store-bought all-purpose cleaner every three months that cost you around 5 bucks. That’s $20/year for that one cleaner alone… although most people buy like a dozen different bottles for different purposes. This recipe costs you maybe $25 for all of the ingredients up front, which will then last you for probably 5-10 years if you used them for just this purpose (which, of course, you won’t – because they are so stinkin’ versatile and amazing. I mean, I’m not a math genius (HA!), but I know a good deal when I see one.

2. Super easy and quick

You literally dump the ingredients in a spray bottle and then fill it with water. Give it a little swirly jiggle action to combine. Done. I mean – it’s almost a let-down because the fun ends before it even starts.

3. Effective & non-toxic

I would argue that this homemade cleaner is actually more effective because it cleans dirt and grime as much as the store-bought stuff, but minus the negative aspects of smearing questionable chemicals all over my house (which, personally, I’d then feel the need to remove with some vinegar spray, because: yuck.)


Image by Don O’Brien via Flickr CC

Now, I always used to use plain ol’ vinegar and baking soda to clean pretty well everything from top to bottom in my house. I have come to discover, however, that these two ingredients – while awesome on their own – are not actually all that effective when used together. In my favourite green living ebook, Green Your Life, Emily explains why:

One way baking soda is often suggested to be used is in combination with vinegar. When you combine vinegar and baking soda you know it creates a nice fizzing reaction. It may seem like this is an effective way to clean surfaces, but actually, this fizzing reaction is only breaking down the properties of the vinegar and baking soda into little more than lightly salted water. So use baking soda as an abrasive cleaner on it’s own, or combined with a soap like castile soap or dish soap, but not in combination with vinegar for cleaning (unless you are trying to unclog a drain, where the reaction does help to remove deposits in the drain).

Another note: it’s also important to not mix castile soap and vinegar, according to this article by the makers of Dr. Bronner’s.

Here’s what I do use: pure castile soap (I always use this brand, and I love it. It looks pricey, but it’s actually highly concentrated), borax, and 5-6 drops of essential oil (excellent choices include sweet orange, lemon, tea tree/melaleuca, or lavender).

By the way, in case you’ve heard other rumblings of controversy over the safety of borax, you can read this excellent article to learn more. Personally, I conclude the same thing as the author of that article: I’m perfectly comfortable with using borax for cleaning and laundry, but I might avoid it in a dishwasher detergent recipe).

(If you’re interested in a recipe for all-purpose cleaner that doesn’t use borax… you’re in luck – I’m sharing a non-borax variation on this recipe over at Keeper of the Home next week!)

I use a plain spray bottle that I bought at the dollar store, although you could reuse an old spray bottle from a store-bought cleaner, if you want to be super frugal.

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner
  • 1 teaspoon castile soap (plain)
  • 1 teaspoon borax
  • 5-6 drops sweet orange or lemon essential oil (Alternatives: I also love using lavender or tea tree oil.)
  • water to fill the rest of the bottle
  1. Combine all ingredients together in a spray bottle, and use as needed.

More awesome links for natural DIY cleaners…

Natural Homemade Carpet Freshener

Cleaning Mini Blinds

Hydrogen Peroxide Magic

Streak-Free Homemade Glass Cleaner

How to Wash Your Pillows (and Get All the Nasties Out!)

DIY Disinfectant Cloth Wipes

Daily Shower Cleaner Spray

How to Clean Cooked-On Gunk From a Stove-Top

Homemade No-Grate Laundry Soap

How to Do Laundry From Start to Finish Without Nasty Chemicals

The Best Stain Remover Ever

How to Clean a Microfiber Sofa

Homemade Drano

Simple DIY Leather and Wood Conditioning Balm

Bathtub Soft Scrub

Are you still clinging to your store-bought cleaner for any area of your house? Perhaps it’s finally time to let it go, let it gooooo…

(gosh, that song really applies to a lot of things, doesn’t it? ha!)

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

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  1. Valeria says

    This recipe looks great and all but… You never mentioned what size of bottle you’re using… Is it the size of the pictured one?

  2. says

    I use Genesis 950 for all my cleaning. It’s not homemade, but when I buy the bigger size, the breakdown of cost per gallon completely outweighs the cost of buying a whole bunch of things. It cleans EVERYTHING. Stoves, sinks, toilets, carpet, pet stains, kid stains and so on. I use it for everything. Plus, as an added bonus, it’s green. I don’t have to worry about any issues with chemicals or things that might affect the household. Love it!

  3. Stephanie says

    Sometimes I think it would be nice to move to Canada. Until I read that a high temp of 48F equates to “beautiful spring weather.” I would die in that climate. :)


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