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 and had a couple of kids who weren’t so neat and orderly! I needed an all-purpose cleaner that worked, STAT!
A Natural Way to Clean
As a mom, 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 toddlers could make.
I also realized that kids put everything in their mouths, so I started looking for natural cleaning options that could stand up to toddler messes but without accidentally poisoning them if (when) they licked the floor or counter.
I learned about all the chemicals that are contained in most commercial household cleaning products and found that I could make healthier ones at home. 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!). In fact, I’ve calculated that over the years, I’ve saved over $200 making this myself!
Why Make Your Own Natural Cleaner?
It takes literally 30 seconds, saves money, and works better!
This all-purpose cleaner is so simple to make that those first couple of toddlers are now older kids who can make and use this cleaner on their own! And their younger siblings have happily filled the toddler mess-making shoes for them. Also, it is free from the more toxic chemicals found in many cleaners and completely customizable to your taste.
Important note: There is some debate about borax and if it is 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 and my thoughts on it. Don’t agree? Just leave it out or use a natural concentrated cleaner like Branch Basics in place of this recipe.
All Purpose Cleaner Ingredients
- 1 tsp borax
- 1/2 tsp washing soda
- 1 tsp liquid castile soap
- Essential oils of choice – I use 4 drops lemon, 4 drops lavender, and 10 drops orange
- Glass spray bottle for storage
All-Purpose Cleaner Instructions
- Place borax, washing soda, and soap in a spray bottle (preferably glass).
- Add 2 cups of warm water. Distilled is best, but any water that has been boiled will work.
- Add essential oils of choice.
- Cover bottle and shake well. Use as needed. I use as bathroom cleaner, floor pre-treater, kitchen cleaner and on toys.
All-Purpose Cleaner FAQs:
Worried about the chemistry of making your own cleaners? Want to make a substitution? These are the most commonly asked questions about my homemade all-purpose cleaner:
Is Washing Soda the Same as Baking Soda?
No, they are similar but with some important differences. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate and washing soda is just sodium carbonate. Washing soda is stronger and more effective in this recipe (but still non-toxic). Don’t have it? Make your own with washing soda using this tutorial.
Is This a Disinfectant?
Technically no, but most home messes don’t need a disinfectant and using too many disinfectants can cause problems as well. I wouldn’t use this on food related messes, especially raw meat, but it works really well for other hard household surfaces like counters, floors, and cabinets. The essential oils do have mild disinfectant properties in some studies, but I personally would stick to hydrogen peroxide or food grade alcohol and soap/water to disinfect raw meat messes.
Why Isn’t There Vinegar in this Recipe?
Vinegar actually isn’t the cleaning powerhouse it is made out to be. It does have its uses and shining moments, like cleaning windows, but isn’t an effective degreaser or disinfectant. Also, vinegar and washing soda (acid and base) will cancel each other out and this whole recipe would be less effective if vinegar was added. Want to use vinegar in natural cleaning? Save your fresh lemon and orange peels, pour white vinegar over them and leave for a few weeks. This makes a great citrus-infused vinegar that cleans windows and most smooth surfaces.
Vinegar also un-saponifies the soap in this recipe, leaving a nasty stringy mess. Use vinegar if you want to, just don’t use it in this recipe!
Is Borax Dangerous?
There is a lot of debate about this. I talked about my opinion here, but I generally feel safe using it on non food surfaces. If you aren’t comfortable using it, just omit or use witch hazel or food grade alcohol in its place.
If you still aren’t a fan of borax and want a completely natural alternative that works at least as well as this recipe, I recommend Branch Basics concentrate.
Does This Actually Work?
Yep. It works really well. But don’t take my word for it… a reader Anne, commented:
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!
I Don’t Like Lemon/Lavender/Orange Oil. Can I Use a Different One?
No way. Just kidding!
Use whatever scent you like in this recipe. Mint is lovely too and geranium has a mild bug-repelling property if you have flies in the kitchen. You can even omit the oils entirely for an unscented version.
How Long Does This Last?
I haven’t personally had this last longer than 3 months because I use it up in less time than that. I can personally vouch for its shelf life for at least three months though.
Does This Need to Be Stored in Glass?
I’m not a fan of plastic and don’t feel it’s good for the environment (or the body), so I try to not to buy it even for cleaning. Plus, if you use the citrus essential oils, it is important to store in glass as they can break down a plastic bottle over time, but glass is always a good idea!
Do you make any DIY cleaners? Share your favorite below!