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 had a few 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 messes while being absolutely adorable.” It’s amazing how fast toddlers can make messes.
I also realized kids put everything in their mouths. So I looked for natural cleaning options that could stand up to toddler messes but wouldn’t accidentally poison them if (when) they licked the floor.
I learned about all the harsh chemicals in most commercial household cleaning products and found I could make healthier ones at home. One of the hardest ones to create was a natural all-purpose cleaner. I finally found one that works well (and my kids have tested it hard!). I’ve calculated that over the years I’ve saved over $200 making this myself!
It has the cleaning power of plant-based essential oils to help with grime, soap scum, and everyday dirt. It also helps to deodorize surfaces without bleach or other harsh cleaners.
Why Make Your Own Natural Cleaner?
Short answer: It takes less than a minute, saves money, and works better!
This all-purpose cleaner is so simple to make that my kids are now old enough to make it on their own! It’s eco-friendly and free of the toxins found in many conventional household cleaners. Plus you can customize this surface cleaner to your taste by adding your favorite essential oils.
Important note: There is some debate about borax and if it is safe in homemade cleaners. I personally feel it’s safe to use and much safer than most cleaning products. 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.
Natural All-Purpose Cleaner (That Works!)
- Place borax, washing soda, essential oils, and soap in a spray bottle (preferably glass).
- Add distilled water until the bottle is almost full. Be sure to leave room for the sprayer. Distilled water is best, but any water that has been boiled will work.
- Screw on the lid and shake well. Use as needed. I use it as a 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’re 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 cleaning agent on food-related messes, especially raw meat. However, it’s a great multi-surface cleaner for hard household surfaces like countertops, floors, and cabinets. The essential oils do have mild disinfectant properties in some studies. I’d stick to hydrogen peroxide or food-grade or rubbing alcohol and soap/water to disinfect raw meat messes.
Why Isn’t There Vinegar in this Recipe?
Vinegar isn’t the cleaning powerhouse it’s made out to be. It does have its uses, like for streak-free windows, but isn’t an effective degreaser or disinfectant. Also, vinegar and washing soda (acid and base) will cancel each other out. 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’s a lot of debate about this. I talk about my opinion here, but I generally feel safe using it on nonfood 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. Peppermint is lovely too and geranium has a mild bug-repelling property if you have flies in the kitchen. Tea tree is another green cleaning favorite for cleaning solutions. You can even omit the oils entirely for an unscented version.
How Long Does This Last?
I haven’t had this last longer than 3 months because I use it up in less time than that. I can 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). I try not to buy it even for cleaning. Plus, if you use essential oils, it’s important to store them in glass as they can break down certain plastics over time. Glass is always a good idea!
More DIY Natural Cleaning Products
Here are more healthy cleaning recipes with simple ingredients.
- Dish Soap
- Glass Cleaner
- Stain Remover Guide
- Tile and Grout Cleaner
- Fizzing Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- Floor Cleaner for Hardwood Floors and More
- HE Laundry Detergent
Do you make any DIY cleaners? Share your favorite below!