How To Make Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

by Ann Marie Michaels on November 21, 2009

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I started making my own homemade all-purpose cleaner a while back and I love it. Why make your own household cleaner? It’s super cheap, really easy to make, there are also no toxic chemicals, and you don’t have to buy more plastic to add to the landfills since you can reuse plastic spray bottles.

Best of all is the smell. I use essential oils — and it’s nice because I can try different kinds. I’ve used orange, lavender, vetiver, lime, lemon, ylang ylang, and peppermint. Peppermint is my absolute favorite.

I used to use regular store bought cleaners like 409 — but I after I got pregnant, I couldn’t stand the harsh and nasty smell. And I didn’t like the idea of all those chemicals with a baby in the house. I also used to use Trader Joe’s environmentally friendly cleaners, which are a lot cheaper, but I don’t find that they work as well and I’m not very fond of the aroma.

This homemade cleaner achieves the same result as a store bought all-purpose cleaner at a fraction of the cost. Plus it smells a lot better. Now cleaning has become a sensual experience.

How much cheaper is it to make your own? Store bought all-purpose cleaners can cost anywhere from 20-30 cents per ounce. This homemade cleaner will run you anywhere from 1-3 cents per ounce (depending on what you pay for the vinegar).

You can use this cleaner on most surfaces. It even works well on glass. It also does a great job of cleaning wood floors. In fact, this is the very best solution for wood floors, according to Martha Stewart. And there is nothing like a freshly mopped hardwood floor that smells like peppermint. It makes your whole house feel like springtime.

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

Equipment

Spray bottle – either rinse out an old one or buy a new one from a hardware store or restaurant supply store

Ingredients

Plain white vinegar (I buy mine in bulk at Costco)
Water
Essential oil — where to buy essential oil

Directions

1. Fill a spray bottle halfway with vinegar and halfway with water.
2. Add drops of essential oil, cap, and shake the bottle. Keep adding drops until the aroma is strong enough. You can tell by spraying the bottle and smelling the air.

To use for wood floors, mix vinegar and hot water in a bucket and add essential oil.

For stainless steel, just use straight vinegar — no water or essential oil.

Photo credit: scmtngirl on Flickr
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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Imerman November 22, 2009 at 3:23 AM

I have been making this for a few years now. Sometimes without any essential oil. Another bonus for me is my kids enjoy helping make it and then it makes it fun for them to help clean. Even my little one can spray this and I give him a microfiber clothe and he loves to wash the door,tv, etc. Since it is only vinegar and water, it is safe for the kids too.

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Michelle November 22, 2009 at 3:32 AM

I love lemon on my wood floors! Lavendar on windows, lol.

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Elizabeth November 22, 2009 at 6:36 AM

I have been making this for some years as well. I love lemon & clove – just a bit of clove, for my favorite scent.

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Cathy Payne November 22, 2009 at 6:42 AM

Wow! That’s too simple, Ann Marie! Thanks for posting!
.-= Cathy Payne´s last blog ..ONL055 The Liberation Diet =-.

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Peggy November 22, 2009 at 6:47 AM

When I make this, I change the fragrance with the season. I love citrus in spring, mint in summer, clove in autumn and rosemary in winter.
.-= Peggy´s last blog ..What if Teflon is just the whipping boy? =-.

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Shannon November 22, 2009 at 8:08 AM

I have been using this mixture for years, too. I love it! I just tried orange and cinnamon oils recently and it is an awesome fall scent!

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Anna November 22, 2009 at 9:10 AM

I like the spray bottles that Costco carries, 3 in a pack. They last a long time and work very well at any spray level, stream to mist. I tried some slightly cheaper generic spray bottles from Home Depot, but they aren’t as comfortable or efficient with repeated pumping action, and the pump device often breaks down prematurely leading to dribbles, lack of spray range, and other problems. The slight savings wasn’t worth the aggravation and shortened spray life.

I used to use a sharpie permanent pen to mark the contents of generic spray bottles, but the ink fades over time and is difficult to edit if the contents are changed. Now I use a label maker with self-adhesive laminated label strips (Brother brand, which I also buy at Costco). If I need to make changes to the labeling, the strips just peel off without leaving an adhesive residue. The printing never fades.

I love using distilled vinegar to clean. I also like to have bulk containers of baking soda on hand for times when I need a mild scrubbing powder.

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Mindy November 22, 2009 at 10:40 AM

This sounds interesting. I just started making my own laundry soap. I can add this natural cleaner also. Thanks!
.-= Mindy´s last blog ..Coconut Fudge =-.

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Chiot's Run November 22, 2009 at 11:16 AM

I’ve been making cleaner for quite a while, I generally use Dr Bronners and water.

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RJ November 22, 2009 at 11:52 AM

I’ve been using vinegar, water and EOs for cleaning since my first was born as well. I really like peppermint for the toilet, guess it’s a carry over from the 7th Generation toilet bowl cleaner, which has a screw top so I just reuse the old container and make my own now.

I’ve also started making my own stain spray using 1/4 c. glycerin, 1/4 c. dish soap, 2 cups water. It works about as well as the Oxyclean spray that I was addicted to (with 2 little boys and a daddy in the house) but kept leaving nasty buildup on my washing machine and clothes. For fresh blood and berry stains I use hydrogen peroxide and make sure to rinse it clean after the stain fades. Works wonderfully with my Charlie’s.

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Tamara November 22, 2009 at 2:07 PM

I really need to do this…so far, ive been buying the “green” cleaners that i find in the store, but i like the idea of making my own and controlling the scent (i have a really sensitive sense of smell). Do you also buy your essential oils in bulk? I also like the cleaning with baking soda idea….does anyone here also use Borax?

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Gayle November 22, 2009 at 3:50 PM

I make my own the same way, except I add a tiny bit of castile soap. I like to use thieves oil. It smells great and kills germs.

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tina November 22, 2009 at 4:14 PM

Tamara – I use Borax and baking soda to wash my clothes. I’ve done this for a couple years with only minor complaints from my husband (ie my clothes don’t smell good.) I’m thinking about adding an essential oil to make the clothes smell better. I don’t use Borax for anything else.

I use baking soda and vinegar to clean all my toilets, sinks and tubs. I also use baking soda on my counters when needed. I use vinegar on the counters sometimes but I mostly use good ol’ soap and water to clean the the kitchen counters. I use plain vinegar on mirrors.

Once every three months, I use some chemical crap to clean my shower tile. I spray it and leave it there for a while and then wipe off and rinse really well.

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kc November 22, 2009 at 6:39 PM

Hi, I have been struggling to find acceptable alternatives since we found out we are corn allergic. Do you have any suggestions for someone that can’t tolerate vinegar (made from corn)?

Kristy
.-= kc´s last blog ..Fermented Vegetables are easy and fun =-.

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jessie November 22, 2009 at 8:26 PM

I just mixed this up for my cleaning day tomorrow. Thankfully had all ingredients on hand – including peppermint oil

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Bee November 22, 2009 at 8:55 PM

Since chemical smells really bother me, I’ve avoided a lot of cleaning products over the years – and it is amazing what hot water and elbow grease will do. (There’s a reason water is called “the universal solvent”…) But Method Eucalyptus Mint is a fresh-smelling nontoxic product that works for floors, shower, etc. (and the way I weaned my housemate off of Pine-Sol.) Maybe I could follow your example and make my own with eucalyptus oil?

Baking soda is the most incredible mild abrasive – it’s taken cooked-on grease off pans, scuffs off the old porcelain sink, and when somebody turned on the toaster oven with a plastic bag of bread on top and never noticed (!!) it scrubbed that melted-plastic residue away, too.

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Jen November 23, 2009 at 1:30 AM

I recently purchased hand soap, dishwashing liquid and all purpose cleaner from Sun and Earth and have been very happy with everything. They sent me some samples with my order, and I LOVE the unscented, biodegradable dryer sheets too! I haven’t used dryer sheets in ages, but these are awesome! There is no chemical coating, and they really do soften the clothes, even though the sheets feel like a piece of paper. I ordered gallon sizes, and didn’t think the prices were too bad. I’ve tried homemade cleaners, and just haven’t been totally happy with them. However, this recipe is easy enough and I have the ingredients on hand, so I will definitely give it a try. Thanks!

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Briana November 23, 2009 at 2:12 AM

A great alternative to shower and bath cleaners are dryer sheets. They are typically some form of cations which are not dangerous. We get the dye free, scent free kind. You get it wet and use it in the shower and bath to remove mold, mildew, and soap scum. It takes some scrubbing but it works beautifully. I like to do it after I have showered because everything is already wet and soft.

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Elizabeth from The Nourished Life November 23, 2009 at 10:02 AM

I love cleaning with vinegar. It’s so simple and easy, and you can really stretch a gallon of vinegar to last for months and months. I just need to stock up on essential oils so I can enjoy some different scents!

Another natural cleaning alternative is soap nuts. It’s not quite as 1-2-3 as vinegar, but it could help those who need to avoid vinegar, like Kristy mentioned above. If you use soap nuts for laundry, then you can gently simmer a dozen of them in a few cups of water for several hours. Strain the liquid and store it in the fridge. You can use it straight, but I’ve found it to be effective even when well-diluted. It’s a really great cleaner with no chemicals at all (no vinegar smell either, if you don’t like that).
.-= Elizabeth from The Nourished Life´s last blog ..Book of the Month: Eat Fat, Lose Fat Book Review =-.

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Beth/DIY Mom November 29, 2009 at 11:13 AM

I just discovered this cleaner from other source on-line a few weeks ago and LOVE it! I use the essential oils lemon and tea tree–tea tree has wonderful antiseptic properties if you’re wanting to kill germs. I use my spray on my kitchen countertops, sink, tub, toilet, shower, stainless steel appliances, mirrors… I still can’t believe I can clean my bathroom, kitchen and glass/mirrors all with the same spray.

I recently made another type of cleaning spray–alkaline (using washing soda and borax) vs. this spray (which is acidic due to the vinegar). It’s supposed to work well on floors, walls, baseboards and to cut grease. I’m anxious to see how it works vs. this spray. I’ll be testing it and posting updates to my blog.
.-= Beth/DIY Mom´s last blog ..DIY Mom Makes Homemade Turkey Stock =-.

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my year without November 30, 2009 at 1:53 PM

This all-purpose recipe is fantastic! I’ve been cleaning with undiluted vinegar for months, but my husband HATES the smell…..so I’m going to dilute half with water and sample different essential oils. One of my favorite ways to clear a minor clog in a drain is to pour baking soda, then vinegar, then a teapot full of hot water and it usually does the trick. I’ve heard that doing this once a month is a good habit to get into anyway.

I have this great book called “Vinegar” by Vicki Lansky with over 400 uses described! I no longer buy cleaners and I love sharing this information with people! She also has a similar book about baking soda, which I need to get my hands on!

Anyway, great idea to share this money-saving, safe way to clean!!
.-= my year without´s last blog ..Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes =-.

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riceinmay July 4, 2011 at 11:06 PM

Love it! I’ve been buying “green” cleaners. Problem is, I’m teaching my 6 year old how to clean- and I’m about to go BROKE because he tries to use so much cleaner! :-D
Thanks!

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Karen A. July 17, 2011 at 2:59 PM

Vinegar is an awesome cleaner. It is great full strength on mold and mildew.

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riceinmay July 17, 2011 at 6:27 PM

I have some killer – I’m guessing it’s mildew- in my middle bathroom. I can’t seem to get rid of it! I’ve even splashed it with bleach a few times- but it seems to always come back. Any suggestions?

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Karen A. July 20, 2011 at 4:43 PM

Hmmm…if it is in the caulk, sometimes you just have to replace it. Vinegar and elbow grease usually work, on soap scum too. It seems like there is always some stubborn strain that nothing works on!

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Pea Green March 12, 2014 at 12:53 AM

Clove leaf oil. it just about kills any nasty thing and it kills mould spores after you have washed it with vinegar. I have those big thick pieces of kid’s chalk annointed with clove oil in all my cupboards – cheapest way to keep mould at bay ever. Good luck :-)

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coconutfreek July 21, 2011 at 7:23 PM

It might be in the wall. that would make it harder to get rid of…….

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LeahS July 20, 2011 at 10:15 AM

I use this all the time — sans the EO — and I love it!

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coconutfreek July 21, 2011 at 7:22 PM

I like to make my own room sprays from essential oils. I have made laundry soap, but I hav not made a cleaning product. Maybe I should clean more……….. ;-)

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Nelson March 31, 2013 at 7:43 PM

Creating your very own household cleaner is definitely a lot more cheaper as well as there are also no toxic chemicals. And the best about having or making your own household cleaner is the scent that you personally chose.

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Pea Green March 12, 2014 at 12:50 AM

I leave out the water – just good old vinegar and essential oils. I clean toilets, sinks, benchtops, spills, the dogs (light spray, rub with paper towel *sniff* nice) and I also use it as air freshener on the mist setting. It sure beats grabbing the wrong bottle; I just have several scattered around the house and one in each bathroom. Also, I divide my vinegar in half with water, add the date, put it away in a cupboard and three weeks later I have more vinegar. Very economical. A few drops of lemon juice under the arm is a great deodorant and I use bi-carb (baking soda) for shampoo and apple cider vinegar for conditioner. Thank you to the lady who gave the recipe for laundry stain remover . . . . now there will be even fewer nasty chemicals in my house ^_^

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