Lemon Basil Natural Cleaning Spray (Borax Free)

Lemon Basil Natural All-Purpose Cleaning Spray Recipe

Last week, within a 24-hour period, we had 5 separate spills that caused big messes at our house. One was the shattering of a quart size jar of homemade elderberry syrup, another involved tomato sauce on a wall, and yet another involved mashed sweet potatoes painted on the side of our Berkey filter.

Needless to say, our home is very rarely clean for more than a few minutes at a time and this week was no exception. Thank goodness for natural cleaning products that actually work or I very well may have been drinking wine by early afternoon on those days.

Natural Cleaning Spray

I’ve completely transitioned to making all of my own cleaning products and I love how much cheaper it is and how we are avoiding hundreds of chemicals.

I love this homemade all-purpose cleaning spray, but there is some controversy over the use of Borax, especially around eating surfaces. Personally, I think Borax is still a really safe option, especially compared to the ingredients in most conventional cleaning products, but I wanted to make another natural cleaner that truly was safe enough to drink.

My 18-month old is at the age of wanting to “help” and this is a cleaning spray I feel completely comfortable with her using. I usually spritz this on a microfiber or a huck towel and let her “clean” the cabinets.

All of the ingredients are completely safe and even ingestible (depending on who you ask). I just used filtered water, non-GMO white vinegar and food grade lemon and basil essential oils (both generally considered safe for ingesting when diluted).

One word of caution: when using essential oils, it is important to use a glass bottle whenever possible since some oils will break down the plastic and cause it to leach chemicals into the cleaning spray. I used this glass bottle in the picture above, but I’ve also made my own out of an old vinegar bottle and a spray top.

Where to Get Natural Cleaning Supplies

Here are links to the exact ingredients I used:

Lemon Basil Natural Cleaning Spray Recipe

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in glass spray bottle and use as needed for household cleaning. Works well on windows and stainless steel as well as flat surfaces like tile and counters.

Notes

Customize essential oils to your preference by adding more, less or even omitting completely. The vinegar smell will disappear once the spray dries and only a faint scent of lemon and basil will remain.

What do you use to clean? Do you let your children help?

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Reader Comments

  1. Is this an effective degreaser? For instance, for cleaning the stovetop after bacon grease has splattered everywhere 🙂 Right now I clean my stove with a water/vinegar/tea tree oil mix….

  2. I’d like to comment on Borax. Borax is extremely safe and it is mind naturally and has good levels of boron. On a toxicity chart borax is LESS toxic than table salt. Yes, you can consume borax. I’ve done so for quite some time. It helps de-flouridate the body and helps with arthritis. There’s actually a conspiracy behind it(surprise surprise, right). Here’s the link:
    http://educate-yourself.org/cn/boraxconspiracy03jul12.shtml

  3. Why is it yellow? Does lemon essential oil turn it this color or is that just altered for your photo?

  4. Thank you Katie! I love your page. I was just wondering if we could use different essential oils instead of lemon and basil. I have lavender and tea tree oil at hand and wanted to know if the cleaner would be still effective if I used those. Thanks much!

  5. Hi Katie,

    I’m wondering if this is gets its yellow color from the essential oils? I’m assuming it is healthy & natural 🙂 Looks great!

    Thanks,
    Rachel

  6. I really love using vinegar solutions for cleaning, especially when you marinate a jar full of used citrus peels in vinegar for a couple of weeks, to give that vinegar a bit of a lemony scent. My husband absolutely hates the scent of vinegar. It’s such a great way to clean the floor, though.

    However, I found out that you shouldn’t use vinegar (or citrus juices) on marble or stone, because it will pit it after a while.

    • I have been using the citrus peel infused vinegar solution for my cleaning. I mix with equal parts water and add a few drops of basil, clary sage and rosemary essential oils to it. I use it on my granite countertops. I have heard about it causing pitting and was not safe for natural stone and marble but I also heard it was safe. How are we to know whether it does or not cause problems since there are mixed reviews about that ? I hope not….cause I love it and it smells wonderful !

      • Hi, Becky,

        I found this one for cleaning granite, so I have a separate spray bottle for this one. 1/4 c rubbing alcohol or vodka, 3 drops dishwashing liquid, 2 cups water, 5-6 drops essential oils. I started using this one for my granite, and it works great. You could add some good scents into this mixture, too. You could even add the lemon eo for the lemon smell. Apparently, the eo doesn’t have the citric acid that supposedly causes the etching in that real lemons do.

        • Lynda, thank you for this recipe. If you don’t add citrus peel does the vinegar itself also cause pitting ?

          • From everything I’ve read, they say never to use vinegar or citrus on marble or granite, because they both cause etching/pitting. Too acidic I guess. I never knew this, myself, until I started reading what others had to say everywhere I looked.
            Hope that helps.

  7. We use a similar solution. While I love Essential Oils, we live in Florida and have citrus trees. We dehydrate the peels after we use the fruit/juice, and after dehydrating put the peels in a gigantic glass jar of vinegar to soak for a week. Then, we can dip in and mix with water for cleaning – practically free!

    • Thank you Mary! I live in Florida too. What citrus do you use, or do you find one works better than others? I’m looking forward to trying this.

  8. Another natural cleaner that I recently found and love uses warm water, baking soda, white vinegar and lemon juice/oil. Smells fantastic and cleans well!

  9. Is the spritzer made of plastic? Aren’t they all? I’m wondering if the glass bottle is worth the trouble if the product will be contaminated anyways?
    Thanks!

  10. I also have been wondering about the plastic insert attached to the sprayers in glass bottles. If essential oils leech plastic, how is that safe? Or is it just safER? I’m replacing all my household and personal products with safe organics and am wondering if I might just eliminate spray bottles altogether. Thanks!

    • It is the safest option I’ve found. I don’t think there is a metal or glass option

      • Okay, thanks. I just made some this evening for the first time. It works great!

  11. What’s the shelf life? How is it best stored? Thanks!

  12. I love making my own cleaning products. I just started using Norwex. All you need is their cloths and water! They are woven with silver and trap bacteria in the cloth. I don’t know how I ever lived without them!

  13. My entire bathroom is covered in natural stone And my kitchen has natural stone on the wall and granite counter tops, So would this solution be ok to use on it? I’ve used natural homemade products and natural store bought but it leaves a white film on natural stone and dulls my granite. I noticed in pic you have natural stone & granite in your house so does this work for natural stone and granite? Thanks..Love this site its become my daily goto for everything. Please consider doing more books on beauty, home remedies, health, etc.. It helps having all context in book form. I spend $135 on sale for ink then end up misplacing what i printed. Love your cookbook it was done beautifully…

    • I’ve used it on mine without any issues. Glad you’re enjoying the cookbook. We’ll see about future additions 😉

  14. I used to get all my essential oils from mountainrose.com and was very happy with them but now they have a rule against shipping them (at least to CA). I’m terribly disappointed as you can imagine. Because I trust them – even their packing materials are all made from recycled material. They do all organic – mostly and when they don’t they tell you!! But almost everything (all the EOs are) – like way over 90%- is organic or wildcrafted far away from GMO farms.

    I found another pretty reliable source: bulkapethocary.com. But they don’t say very much about whether their oils are organic or not. They ARE therapeutic grade oils though so I’m assuming (I know that’s a bit dangerous) they are. How can they not be if they are therapeutic grade? IDK

    A word of CAUTION: their bottles don’t come with reducers (like built-in droppers). So you must use droppers or pipettes. KEY – DO NOT put the dropper or pipette in the bottle all the way or even half or even a quarter – it displaces the oil and then the oil overflows and comes out the top!! Dangerous – especially with something like cinnamon!! You need to learn how to use a pipette/dropper first – so practice on a full bottle of something harmless like lavender that’s just been opened (don’t use the same dropper in a different oil without first cleaning it in alcohol). You dip the pipette just enough to pull out some oil – just barely under the line where the oil stops – almost just touching it. I learned the hard way with cedar (I think), a pretty harmless oil (as in it won’t sting you if you get any on you like peppermint or cinnamon will) thankfully. (If you get an oil on you that stings use milk of any kind that has some fat in it to wash it off as water won’t wash off EOs, although soap helps a bit. Just douse it first with the milk, then soap up and finish with water.)

    bulkapothecary.com also carries some goodies that are comparable to mountainrose.com. So I compare prices now and shop at both for herbs, bottles… (Amazon has beeswax that’s pure and pretty cheap). If you are new to using waxes, oils, soaps then I highly suggest getting the kit at Amazon that comes with I think it’s 20 lbs of pure bees was (that IS shaved) and a metal pitcher you can put in a pan of boiling water and a few other things you need for an excellent price – about the same as buying the wax alone. And you will eventually use the wax – for candles, salves, roll-ons, creams… Burning the honey smells strongly of – you guessed it – honey!! I love the stuff!!

    Ok I’m done with my little lecture lol. I’m so sad though, really, really disappointed! (oh and bulkapothecary.com doesn’t have tooo bad shipping fees.)

    Oh Well – stuff happens!

    Love your articles Katie!! And you did a fabulous job with the summit – just really, really impressive!!

    ciao

    Cynthia

  15. I’m not a fan of the scent of lemon, can I use lime instead? Or does the lemon have special cleaning properties? Also can I use a fresh lime instead of essential oil?

  16. i’m afraid I haven’t yet read the comments so I’m sorry if someone else already brought this up but I had to keep the math straight in my head while I had still had it (I didn’t write it down, silly me, and then read the comments! – DUH!)

    Anyway I looked at the prices for the non gmo white vinegar and the branch basics and they are off-the-charts high. Much higher, when you make it your way, than any commercial cleaning spray – even when you are only using 1/3 of the ingredient in your cleanser – that still equals let’s see 576 oz cleaning spray for the branch basics – boil that down to 24 oz you actually get 24 bottles for $82
    Now compare that to 128 x3 = 384 for $12

    So broken down it looks like this:

    192oz for $82. Branch basics makes 576 oz of your cleanser. 24 oz bottles x 24 =$3.41/bottle – I can get the same bottle of the commercial stuff at the dollar store for $1
    128 oz for $72 non gmo vinegar. 384 your stuff 24 oz x 5.3 = $13.58/bottle!!!!!
    128 oz for $12 white vinegar 384 regular stuff – still homemade = $2.26/bottle (this is if you use Katie’s recipe using regular white vinegar when buying it at $12/128 oz at Amazon – I’m psure a generic bottle can be found somewhere cheaper but not many places sell 128 oz bottles generic white vinegar, which is why you’d get the lower cost – idk cuz i haven’t found this, hmm well actually 24 oz white vinegar at the dollar store would equal $5 for 128 oz so I guess I should stop buying the Amazon Heinz bottle!! Let’s see that would bring it down to $1.60 per bottle so almost as cheap as commercial brand if you use dollar store white vinegar which really shouldn’t vary much from Heinz! Hmmmm now rethinking buying from Amazon!!)

    Funny all this time I HAD thought I was making cleanser that was less pricy than commercial but in fact it’s twice as much – well actually I started to only use about 1/3 cup of vinegar in a 24 oz bottle not 1 cup cuz I make my own kind of concentrate by taking the vinegar and adding a BUNCH of citrus rinds and cloves and cinnamon to it and putting it in the window sill for 6 weeks or so – makes a rather thick mix of REALLY strong stuff, all natural of course, so mine actually goes 3 times further equaling $0.96/bottle so actually slightly cheaper than commercial which makes me happy!! Now that I got it all worked out. Whew!! (Course that’s not including the cost of the cloves and cinnamon – not not gmo cuz I get at the dollar store – actually it would be cheaper to buy the organic stuff – which may or may not be gmo – probably not- from mountainroseherbs.com – but I don’t purchase everything from them cuz I can’t afford to constantly be making large purchases from them – in order to justify the shipping costs – but I do plan on finally making the switch when I get down to where I can actually do it and actually store soooooo many 4oz bags of like omg sooo many of the herbs and spices I use!!! These bags are huge! And so storage, living in a mobile home, without an attic or basement, is a real issue!! Plus buying the tins or bottles to store the spices in my cabinet of the stuff I take out of the bags!!! It will eventually work out to cheaper but we’re talking a couple years from now to where I can pull this all off!!)

    Ok so bottom line – unless you follow my recipe instead of Katie’s (not recommending you do cuz for all I know hers is better!!) – OH AND that’s not including the costs of the EOs!! – which if you buy them, you know are NOT cheap!! – OH and the glass bottles, again not cheap, but reuse-able, still first-time cost of making this us going to set you back!! – anyway it is NOT cheaper than buying commercially from the dollar store!! BUT you ARE making SAFE for your family, much better smelling, environmentally responsible stuff which if you buy that from someplace else will be more expensive than what you make – well the $13 one is arguably more expensive, which is what Katie is using here in this recipe.

    Ok so while I’m STILL all for making homemade all natural, safe to drink, cleansers!!!, I am not going to switch to non gmo white vinegar – there’s no way I could afford to do so!! I’d LOVE, be thrilled!, to be able to and I think it’s extremely unfair and basically cruel to humans that we should have to shell out $72 for the stuff!! What a world we live in!!

    And so my point here is that while you ARE doing the right thing, it is NOT cheaper! (unless you do it my way, 🙂 ).

    Don’t get me wrong here. I am most grateful to Katie as she got me started down this road and I am soooo much happier now that I’m using the natural stuff. Now when I smell the commercial stuff it almost makes me ill. I feel safer in my own home and using my counters to put food on. And just even cleaning the bathroom just feel more idk mmmm more responsible doing this!! And I am sooo grateful for all her recipes AND OMG allll her research!!!! And love the cookbook (although haven’t made the switch to the “real food” diet). I love my kombucha!! I’m just so pleased I ran across Katie’s site – it has made a HUGE impact in my life!! So please don’t think that I’m being at all flip or disrespectful, just pointing out the facts as I see them. And since I DO make these products (have almost completely switched over, make my own dish soap, dish-washer soap, laundry soap, cold process soap – thenerdyfarmwife.com, counter/window/all-purpose cleansers, facial cleansers, lotion, lip balm, ……) it is important to me and of real concern!! I was excited to look up the non gmo vinegar and just so disappointed when I saw the price!!

    Your neighborly devil’s advocate,

    Cynthia

  17. Hey Katie!

    I just started following your blog and I love it! I have a few friends that have started selling the Ava Anderson line of non-toxic products. Have you heard of them and are they on your approved list? I’m just curious before I take the easy route toward non-toxic living! Thanks for your help!

    • From what I’ve seen, they aren’t the best, but aren’t the worst either (by far). I think they are more expensive than some comparable options that are also natural, but not a bad option if you want to try them

  18. Hello, what is the difference between this and the other all purpose cleaner with the borax? Would I use them for cleaning different things or can I just use this for everything? Can I use this on my wood table? Would it work to clean up after raw chicken?
    Thanks!

  19. Oh and by the by, you do need to shake the bottle before you spray!! The oils rest at the top. They are not soluble in either vinegar nor water (only alcohol and then not that well and of course oils, so for like perfume better to go with oils than alcohol. And also by the by, if you haven’t tried Katie’s oil cleanser for your face- you ABSOLUTELY MUST – I’ve switched over completely, aside from a mask now and then – fuller’s earth plus rose hydrosol).

    Cynthia 🙂

  20. Is the Branch Basics something you would consider using on your own hair?

    Thanks

    Cynthia

  21. I’m gonna make this up, but I won’t be using organic ingredients. I don’t have any nor do I buy them. I’ll be making this recipe with regular oils and vinegar and see how it works. Wish me luck. Oh btw, thanx for the recipe.

    • Ginny,

      Just a curiosity, if you happened to check the box to look at responses.

      The way you worded that made me think you are perhaps against buying organic – you neither have any nor do you buy any. It’s just an impression. Am I wrong? Does someone else do the shopping or is it a money issue or anything else – you needn’t specify what of course. Just curious because if you are purposefully not buying organic I would like to know what the reason is?

      This is a subject that fascinates me very much. The whole what food is good for you and what isn’t debate? It’s a SUPER complicated issue!!! I agreed with Katie but then I saw Forks Over Knives and now I’m totally confused and really up in the air about what is the right thing to do. On both sides of the argument the science is VERY convincing!!! Makes for a situation I guess where you have to decide if you agree with one over the other – it needn’t really matter why as the science is sooo good on both sides. Choose one or keep studying until you can satisfy yourself – I’m in that camp – the still studying one. I read and read and read up on it and I just really do not know – is it better to go grain-free and eat more meat or is it better to go with healthy grains (no matter what tho, 6-11 servings is just plain wrong!) and eat less meat? Everybody does agree that vegetables are the way to go – so that’s not at issue, and that processed sugar is bad. But those are basically the only things people agree about.

      I guess the easy answer would be to go no grain, no meat – all vegis and fruit, oil (and here you run into the anti-meat problem but you MUST get enough of all kinds, but there are both vegi and meat sources of all of them), things based on vegis like vinegar, alcohol (I’m satisfied this is good in moderation) and coffee/tea (good in moderation) and of course salt (I’m as certain about this as I am about vegis despite the disagreement out there about too much salt, if you are eating healthy you need to make sure you get enough, not that you are overdoing) – and all seem to agree no processed foods.

      But that’s just too tough a regimen for me!! And then you have the whole GMO question. But until I read what you wrote here I thought everyone was in agreement that organic is definitely the way to go! So if you have a position that differs and a reason why – I’d like to hear it!!!

      Thank You

      Cynthia

      • oh and in case you were in doubt, just because something is organic DOES NOT mean it is NON-GMO! They are two separate issues – you can get non-gmo that is organic and you can get gmo that is organic and you can get non-gmo that is not organic (although this is probably the most rare) and of course not non-gmo and not organic (and unfortunately this is probably the kind most sold). And hardly anybody labels the GMO/NON-GMO stuff anyway!!! I think the stores probably think that if they put labels on everything that in non-gmo then people would realize how much gmo stuff they are actually buying and this would be a huge turn-off as opposed to getting people to buy more of the non-gmo stuff – there’s simply not enough of it to make up the difference. People might actually start doing the worst thing and that is avoid vegetables!! lol – soooo not funny!!!

  22. Like others, I steep leftover citrus peels( and herbs) in vinegar for a couple of weeks, strain and use alike your recipe. I also like to add a couple of drops of dish liquid to mine. It cleans everything beautifully!

  23. I love using lemon & lavendar for all my cleaning & mopping. Sometimes a drop or two of lavendar in my laundry as well.
    Thanks for all the info Katie, LOVE your page.

  24. Is regular White Vinegar really bad? $20 per bottle of organic is out of my price range 🙁

    • Organic is ideal but with vinegar, regular isn’t terrible and this would still be a great alternative to cleaners with harmful chemicals.

  25. Hi, i am wondering how long does this solution last