Natural Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

DIY Natural All Purpose Cleaner Recipe

Once upon a time I was a single college student in a one-room dorm and it didn’t take much to keep it clean. Fast forward a few years and I was married to an amazing (but super neat and orderly) guy (random story-we met walking across the country) and had a couple of kids.

I soon learned that child is a synonym for maker-of-dirt-and-messes-while-being-absolutely-adorable and was amazed at the messes my two little kids could make.

Boy noise with dirt on it

After I learned about all the chemicals that are contained in household cleaning products and that I could make healthier ones at home, I started making my own. One of the hardest ones to create was a homemade all-purpose cleaner, but I finally found one that works well (and my kids have tested it hard!).

There is some debate about borax and if it safe to use in homemade cleaners or not. I personally feel it is safe to use and much safer than most cleaning products, but this article has a good breakdown of the information.

All Purpose Cleaner Ingredients

  • 1 tsp borax
  • 1/2 tsp washing soda
  • 1 tsp liquid castille soap
  • Essential oils as preferred- I use 4 drops lemon, 4 drops lavender and 10 drops orange

All Purpose Cleaner Instructions

  1. Place borax, washing soda and soap in a spray bottle (preferably glass).
  2. Add 2 cups of warm water. Distilled is best, but any water that has been boiled will work. Cover bottle and shake well. Use as needed. I use as bathroom cleaner, floor pre-treater, kitchen cleaner and on toys to disinfect.

New to natural living? You can find many other natural cleaning recipes on my Start Here page. This post includes my 19 favorite natural cleaning tips for keeping your home clean naturally.

Do you make any DIY cleaners? Share your favorite below!

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Reader Interactions

Reader Comments

    • For the DIY laundry detergent, what essential oils would you reccomend to use with your recipe and how many drops?

      • For me it depends on what i’m washing, some I use a germ killing blend, others a more refreshing blends, sheets lavender, just my preferences.

  1. Does this work with semi-hard water? (I mean, I hope it does not leave a deposit… and I hope I used the right word, as English is not my first language 🙂 )

    • It is sodium carbonate and you can find it in most laundry aisles in
      grocery stores. Arm and Hammer makes the most popular one and it is
      just called “washing soda”

        • Yes, it’s baking soda that has been baked. If you can’t find it in the laundry section, you can make it yourself. I found the instructions by googling but it isn’t expensive, so I wound up buying it.

        • There are two things:

          Sodium bicarbonate and baking powder.

          Sodium bicarbonate is also known as “baking soda” or “washing soda” or whatever. The bottomline is that it is pure.

          Baking powder on the other hand contains aluminium and is not safe to ingest.


          • Baking Soda = sodium bicarbonate and is different from Washing Soda
            Washing Soda = sodium carbonate

  2. Hi! Wonderful blog with great tips.

    One thing I worry about is the disinfectant capacity of this mixture. Is this really effective in killing germs in kitchen/bathroom areas? Thanks!

    • The essential oils are effective in killing germs, though you could always up the amount if you were especially worried about the germs. In my own opinion, we focus to much on killing germs rather than just having a strong immune system to be able to resist them. At least for kids, it seems that a lot of the recent research is showing that exposure to some germs can actually help prevent allergies and such.

  3. Is there a reason your recipe does not use white vinegar? I noticed that most other recipe’s call for it. I still have not made my own cleaner and am looking for input from several sources before I do.  Thanks! Amanda

    • You don’t use vinegar with this recipe because you are using castile soap. if you use the vinegar it will cancel out the effects of the castile soap because one is a base and one is an acid. The vinegar “unsaponifies” the soap, by which I mean that the vinegar takes the soap and reduces it back out to its original oils. So you end up with an oily, curdled, whitish mess. And this would be all over whatever it was you were trying to clean – your laundry or counters or dishes or whatever. Also what is great about this recipe is that you have the same strong cleaning power as vinegar without the smell. 🙂

  4. I have heard recently about how borax isn’t good to use. Is this true? I love this all purpose cleaner but wanted to ask you. I will try to find the article someone sent me.

    • A lof of the research on this looks at boric acix and in a different concentration than what is used in borax. Borax is sodium tetraborate, which is a different chemical structure. In general, i don’t use borax on areas where food will be directly prepared and consider it safe everywhere else…

    • You could always try witch hazel instead of borax… I use the one with Alcohol in my cleaner and it seems to work a treat? Just add a few teaspoons. Beats the vinegar smell. And we still seem to be living well after using it on all counters 🙂

  5. Doesn’t vinegar natural antibacterial properties? Can you use delisted vinegar as a cleaning agent?

    • You can and it works great. I’ve just gotten out of the habit since we have granite countertops and you aren’t supposed to use vinegar on them. A 50/50 vinegar and water mix will clean most hard surfaces though.

      • What do you use on your granite? We have granite and I had no idea that I should not be using vinegar. Thanks!

        • For my natural cleaner, I shred my own Castile soap (liquid form is expensive) and dissolve that and then put some of that in a spray bottle with water and some drops of tea tree oil. That is safe on granite.

      • My vinegar has a 10% concentration of acetic acid. Can I use it in the 50/50 cleaning recipe?

        Thank you.


  6. I take my lemon peels and soak them in vinegar for a few weeks and use this liquid to clean with. It really extracts the oils from the lemon peels. You can also use orange and grapefruit peels. I also add a couple of drops of tea tree oil to disinfect. 


  7. Ok, I’m a little slow, just found this.  Good news – the gunk on the bathroom floor that no other cleaner in the world could get rid of (I have tried at least a dozen over the years) is now gone.  I sprayed this, let it soak about 5 minutes and wiped it up with a microfiber cloth.  I am astounded!!! Thanks so much for this!!

  8. Alright, I have all the ingredients on my shopping list for this week!  I’ve checked our local store and I can for sure get the Borax  & Washing Soda.  Just wanted to know about the Liquid Castille Soap…when I search for it on google, I get lots of hits on dishwashing soaps and hand soap.  Are those what you mean by liquid castille soap?  Or is there a more natural form I should be looking for that doesn’t have scents/extra chemicals added?

  9. Good morning. I have a question. Yesterday I put some water, rosemary, and orange peels in a little crock pot to simmer all day (plan to do the same today). I was thinking that somewhere I read that the rosemary would be good at disinfecting the air, anyhow, I was wondering if the strained out liquid at the end of the day would make a good kitchen counter cleaner? Maybe just in small batches that get used up before it would spoil? Do you think it would clean? Be safe? Just seems like a waste to pour out the liquid. Thank you!

  10. Hi I can’t find Dr bronners Castille soap(liquid or bar for your detergent)…just wondering could I use seventh generation dish soap?

  11. Hi. I have citronella, lemon, lemongrass, peppermint, tea tree, clove, and pine needle essential oils on hand. Can you recommend a good mixture of those for the cleaner?

  12. I’m wondering if this is the best option to clean my granite countertops. I’ve been looking for a natural granite cleaner. What do you use?

  13. Hi! I love this cleaner! I use it for everything and it works great! I’m expecting my first child in May and am looking for a natural toy cleaner/disinfectant? Would this recipe work if I added some Tea Tree oil?


  14. whats the shelf life on this cleaner?
    Also we dont have a dishwasher…what is the best thing to use to disinfect our dishes other than bleach?

    Thanks so much I love this blog and have created my House Playbook today!

  15. I am extremely sensitive to scents. Can I leave the essential oils out or will it compromise with it’s effectiveness?

  16. You mentioned you dont use borax where you prepare food. So is this not safe to use on my granite in my kitchen?

  17. Hi Katie,
    I was wondering how long the shelf life is for the All purpose cleaner once it has been mixed? I have a home daycare and am looking for more natural ways to disinfect/clean toys and surfaces. Thanks

  18. Hi Wellness Mama,
    I LOVE the powdered laundry detergent, and find that it cleans as well as Rock in Green, my formerly favorite detergent. I realize I’d love to have a natural stain pre-treatment too, when I saw your cute little bottle up in the photo. I thought I saw the recipe earlier, but I can’t find it now. Do you mind directing me to the recipe? THANKS!

  19. A friend of mine directed me to your site because of the homemade baby wipes and I was looking for a natural cleaner as well. I just made this one today and loved it on my counters but when I used it on my wood table it left a slight haze. Any thoughts on how I should modify it? I would love your feedback because I am really trying to go natural with all my cleaners and things but I want to make sure I am still getting things clean! Thanks!

  20. Hi, I have old formica countertops that are off white. House was built in the 80’s. Today, I cleaned them with hot water and baking soda. Had to wipe them down 3-4 Times then dry and they really look good. Getting tired of so many products that really don’t do a good job. Am going to try this and will this bring any shine to them. If not can u give me any suggestions if there is something that can bring the shine back. Thank you.

  21. I’ve used this cleaner before and love it but we recently moved and found out we have mice. My husbands first reaction was bleach spray. Will this cleaner be enough to disinfect the counters or what do you recommend to clean my countertops?

  22. Lavender oil is a natural disinfectant–you could leave out the castille soap in this recipe if you wanted to.

  23. Hi, love your site! Just wondering why distiller water is important? I could only find demineralised water in our supermarket. Will that do?

  24. I take lot of receipes from your site. I want to know whether this multipurpose cleaner can be used for toilets, showers and tubs also?

  25. I’m looking for something that I can use on wood furniture in place of Pledge. Does this damage wood surfaces?

  26. I’m super excited to make this. The hubby and I are Paleo and try to buy natural products as much as we can. I try my best to buy “natural” cleaners but after much research was disappointed to find things that are still toxic in the products I was buying. Slowly but surely I will be making all of our products, including beauty/personal products. Thank you for making this journey so much easier! We do not have children but do have a dog, and I worry about exposure to chemicals when it comes to her health as well as ours. You are awesome!

  27. Hi Just curious with the washing soda and borax is it necessary to wear gloves for everyday cleaning? Do you need to rinse countertops after use? If I wanted to use only a single essential oil( lavender) how many drops would you recommend to increase disinfecting capabilities. Thanks so much- I love this site!

  28. A friend of mine told me about your blog and I’ve been hooked for about a week straight now. Thanks for everything!

    I have one question about storing this multipurpose cleaner. Should this be stored in a glass container because of the citrus oils?


  30. I have made many of my own cleaning products for awhile now, but just ran out of my all-purpose and looking to try another one. I’ll be whipping up a batch of this tonight and testing it in the bathroom. I always use a mixture of lavender, lemon & orange as my signature scent, just vary the ratio depending on the product. it’s my favorite & other people rave about it! good taste, or should I say smell! 😉

  31. I too make an all purpose spray with white vinegar and citrus peel. I use very tall mason jars and fill them with citrus peel and vinegar. I allow it to steep for a few weeks until the oils permeate through. Sometimes I add lavender or rosemary sprigs to the jar or simply add tea tree oil to my spray bottle before use. I add a teaspoon of dish liquid to the mix and it works beautifully on everything. It cleans grout like nobody’s business and the vinegar aroma dissipates soon enough. I’ve also done this using cheap vodka and it also worked really well. The beauty of homemade is not only the affordability but you can individualise the fragrance according the Season or the room.

  32. Just made this. Absolutely love it and the scent is great! I was using vinegar and water before but love something that smells refreshing! Thanks! 😀

  33. you said not to used it on countertops where foods are prepere what can i used insted? thanks! can i used it on my wood table?

  34. Hey, QUESTION! I don’t have washing soda right now. I have made this cleaner before and I loved the original recipe. Will it work the same is I omit the washing soda? Or use baking soda in its place? Thank you. You are such a beacon for me!

  35. Sorry to bang on about Borax, but given the fact it has been

    “added to the Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) candidate list on 16 December 2010. Substances and mixtures imported into the EU which contain Borax are now required to be labelled with the warnings “May damage fertility” and “May damage the unborn child””

    would you not recommend using a borax substitute instead? they are widely available. Or would this not work?

  36. My all natural cleaner, which I have used for years, is white vinegar and water in a bucket. I use straight vinegar for sanitizing. I learned many years ago that white vinegar in water makes everything you use it on smell fresh and clean.

  37. Popped over from your Lemon, Basil, natural cleaner, besides the ingredients, what are the big differences, also aside you don’t want to use borax on cleaning surfaces. Thinking this might be good for floors or maybe stoves and such, but the other seems like it would be better for glass and things like that, wondering if just the vinegar one could be used on everything or better to make both, just wondering what the different uses for each would be used for.

  38. What are your thoughts on making disinfecting wipes with this solution, as you would baby wipes? Could I fill a container with paper towels and pour this solution over it?

  39. What do you use on stainless steel? Also,what do you use for granite? I’m reading a few of your blog posts and am getting confused which to use.
    love your stuff!

  40. I use peroxide & water mostly. I also use dawn water… I know dawn isn’t natural per say but the original blue dawn is great for cleaning the stove & works great on mirrors & glass…

  41. Also for the best stain remover ever…. peroxide & dawn equal parts in a spray bottle will get any stain out of clothes, furniture, carpet, car upholstery etc… amazing stuff!!!

  42. Don’t judge me but the first thing when came to my mind when I read this article, and that was a week ago, was that this cleaner is impossible to clean my windows. Well, I was so wrong! I bought all of the ingredients and just mix them and now my windows are so clean! Thank you so much for your incredible idea and for that you shared it here!

  43. I half fill a mason jar with citrus peel. Then fill with white vinegar and leav for two weeks. Then after two weeks discard peel and put liquid into a spray bottle. It cuts through grease and grime effortlessly and smells divine! Cost so little to make and a small amount goes a long way. In asda the vinegar is 40 pence and the citrus fruits are £1.00. With the juice from the lemons and limes I just pour into ice cube trays for when I need them in cooking etc….

  44. I recently received my first order of Branch Basics. Yay!!! Do you use this as a disinfectant?(Let’s say….for things like potty chairs and changing tables.)

  45. Does this mixture leave a residue at all with using the washing soda and borax? Do you use this on windows too like a saw one of the posts mention?
    I am really enjoying all your posts. You are changing the way I do things.

  46. Hi Katie,

    Now that they discontinued Branch Basics Soap (at least for the moment).. I would like to ask you what is that you use to clean your granite kitchen counters? You mentioned you don’t use this All purpose cleaner where food is around.

    Thank you for EVERYTHING you do to all of us to make us healthier! 🙂

      • Thank you so much for your reply!

        Do you use 1 tablespoon in a quart of water?

        Thank you again..

        Congratulations on your new baby!! :):)

          • Thank you very much for your reply!! I appreciate them-all of them- very much!

            I’ll do that. I’ll let you know how it works. 🙂

            At the moment, I am using a cleaner I made from water, vodka, essential oil (lavender) and a little bit of dishwashing liquid. I honestly don’t like it. I really liked how Branch Basics works.

            Thank you again,
            Angelica 🙂

  47. Do you use a regular plastic spray bottle for the cleaning solution? I’ve experienced with oils that they tend to eat through some materials.

  48. I’ve been looking for a glass spray bottle for a while now and cant find anywhere. Anyone know where to buy one or even how to make one at home? I live in Canada so I don’t generally buy on because some things do not ship to Canada. I use but I didn’t find glass spray bottles there.

  49. You’re welcome. I have two .one in my kitchen and the other in my bathroom. They work well and look really cute.x

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