Natural All-Purpose Cleaner (That Works!)

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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.

all purpose cleaner
4.72 from 7 votes

Natural All-Purpose Cleaner (That Works!)

This natural cleaner is easy to put together and great for hard surfaces around the house.
Prep Time4 minutes
Total Time4 minutes
Yield: 16 ounces
Author: Katie Wells



  • 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.


Store your cleaner away from direct light and heat. It should last for about 3 months when stored properly. 

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.

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

This homemade all-purpose cleaner is natural and much less expensive than conventional cleaners. All natural and it works!
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


283 responses to “Natural All-Purpose Cleaner (That Works!)”

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Do you mean the powders didn’t dissolve? If you start with some hot water and dissolve the washing soda and borax first in the bottle then you can add the rest of the ingredients.

  1. Debra Schroeder Avatar
    Debra Schroeder

    5 stars
    I made your recipe with some small tweaks due to what I had on hand at the moment. I am a single retired woman who makes her own mess. I researched several online recipes for all purpose cleaners and choose this one based upon the article’s title and Holy Toledo this works on everything!! Better than any store bought product. I just tried it on my range vent light cover (removed of course) that had a light grease film on it and this recipe took the grease off immediately!!! I love it! Thank you for sharing! My only tweaks were no borax added and instead of Castile soap, I used Meyers Clean Day hand soap because it was the only soap I thought was the closest thing to “natural”. Next shopping trip I’ll have the proper ingredients to continue to make this cleaner, it’s unbelievably great!!

  2. Elizabeth Avatar

    5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe. How is it with getting rid of mold. In this super hot and high humid weather I can’t keep up with cleaning the mold off the woodwork especially. Thank you.

  3. Corina Avatar

    Do you think this would be okay to use as the liquid solution in homemade cloth cleaning wipes?

  4. Jeff Wieringa Avatar
    Jeff Wieringa

    Tried making this for wood surfaces and it streaks after drying even after applying thin and microfibre drying. Thought it might have been the water hardness but tested that and it’s TDS is 60. Any other options you recommend for wood surfaces?

  5. Ian Avatar

    I use rags and bandanas to wipe oil on cast iron can this all purpose cleaner get the oil out the rags and bandanas.

  6. Elena Simpson Avatar
    Elena Simpson

    I think your quantities might be off, but I could be wrong?! I’m new to DIY cleaning products and wanted to try them out as my daughter is suffering from eczema that I suspect modern detergents are causing. Dr Bronner’s suggests 2 tablespoons to 500 mls water for a spray bottle cleaning solution and Dripak soda crystals (washing soda in the UK) says a mild solution is 1 tablespoon to 500 mls water. Are your measurements in tablespoons or teaspoons? Either way, both seem a bit dilute?

  7. Aryn Avatar

    So should one RINSE the table/counter/whatever after using this? It contains Castile soap, so it seems likely that after a while there would be a build up of soap residue.

  8. Susan Avatar

    If i’m using the Branch Basics instead of Borax, do I use 1 tsp of the Branch Basics concentrate? or dilute it first using 1 tsp of the concentrate plus the appropriate amount of water?

  9. Andre Avatar

    I run a math tutoring center and use white Ikea tables. I’m looking for an alternative to bleach specifically for ink stains. I tried the above recipe, but it didn’t work, even after adding more washing soda and borax (many times what the recipe called for). Any ideas or recommendations?

  10. Ellie Austin Avatar
    Ellie Austin

    Hello ? I’m a mom who’s looking to get rid of as many toxins in my home as possible, so cleaning supplies is my next target. What do you use to clean those kitchen messes involving raw meat etc., that the all-purpose cleaner doesn’t handle?

  11. Marisa Avatar

    Hi there! Made this today with lavender essential oil and love it. I understand that it’s kid-safe – but is it so safe that you’d use it on surfaces like highchairs and tables that kids eat off of? I’m new to all-natural cleaners and wanted to double check. Thanks for this and all your other fantastic DIY suggestions.

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