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Common household cleaners are full of toxins and home-polluting chemicals. Sure, they make domestic, modern-day life easier. But at what cost?
For many people, the cost of chemical-based products can be huge. Store-bought all purpose cleaners can cause long-term health concerns in your family and pollute the environment around you (during their use and after their disposal).
I decided enough is enough. It’s time to take my health (and that of my family) back into my own hands. If you’re like me, you’re probably looking for new and safe ways to move toward a natural, nontoxic lifestyle.
In this post, I’ll show you how to make all purpose cleaner at home using a small handful of natural ingredients that people have trusted for centuries. You can even learn some alternatives for my DIY cleaning spray recipe and see why I chose my favorite tools below.
Why Choose to Use a DIY Cleaning Spray?
Do-it-yourself projects take time. That’s time that many adults simply don’t have to spend on basics, like growing produce and making homemade cleaning products with essential oils. So why should you choose to take the added time to create and use a DIY cleaning spray?
Three main reasons: your home will become cleaner in less time, your family will no longer be subjected to toxic cancer-causing chemicals, and you will save tons of money.
In my experience, using a DIY cleaning spray works better than most store-bought cleaners. Stuck-on situations, where I used to let a chemical spray sit on the surface for a while before scrubbing the spot with a metal brush, come off in a single swipe with this DIY cleaning spray.
My cleaning time is cut in half. AND I no longer spray chemicals anywhere near the area we use to prepare food. If you’re wondering why many over-the-counter cleaning sprays are household chemicals are harmful, the American Lung Association has an interesting article explaining how cleaning supplies affect your health.
I adore knowing exactly what ingredients go into the products I use around my home. When you know exactly what’s in your products, you can ensure safety. Plus, the list of ingredients is much shorter than you tend to see listed on store-bought cleaners. This means that, even with purchasing reusable bottles, you wind up saving money.
My homemade all purpose cleaner cost me pennies to create. Any brand of cleaning spray normally costs at least $5 and up in most U.S. stores. Think about it. On Amazon, you can purchase:
A huge gallon-sized jug of white vinegar for under $5, which at 1-2 cups per cleaning spray, is enough for 8-16 cleaning products
Three empty amber glass spray bottles for around $20, which is less than $7 per bottle
Lemon essential oil for under $12, which has a total of 300 drops in a 15mL bottle or maybe 20 cleaning products in total
If you grow a few herbs at home or grab a single lemon from the market, you may spend another couple of dollars max. You may also find cheaper options available near you. Imagine how much you’ll save long-term.
Where Can You Use a Homemade All Purpose Cleaner?
Photo by Creatv Eight on Unsplash
Uses: remove hard water stains or wall smudges; cleans counters, appliances, trash cans, bath or showers, sinks, windows, glass, mirrors, microwave, fridge, garbage disposal, etc.
You can use a homemade all purpose cleaner for nearly all your cleaning needs. All you do is spray the mixture on the surface you want to clean. Let it sit for at least 60 seconds. Wipe the surface using a damp towel or cloth. Then, rinse or buff dry the area.
Bonus Tip: For the best results with stainless steel, try to wipe the surface in the direction of the metal’s grain. Doing so may help avoid streaks and smears. I use a similar technique when cleaning glass or mirrors as well, only wiping in a downward motion with newspaper rather than a cloth or paper towel.
What Surfaces Are Safe to Clean with the Mixture?
Safe surfaces: All, EXCEPT granite and marble. Especially ideal for stainless steel.
The cleaning mixture I’ll show you how to make is ideal for all surfaces EXCEPT natural stone, such as granite and marble, and some wood finishes.
Vinegar, one of the main ingredients in the cleaner, can etch the stone over time and cause irreversible damage. The vinegar may also cause damage to certain types of finishes on hardwood floors or wood countertops.
Comprised of 5% acetic acid, white vinegar helps fight bacteria and germs.
However, you can leave it out of the recipe if your countertops are made from granite, marble, or wood. Cleaning natural stone is easy with warm water and dishwashing soap, which won’t eat away the surface. Make sure to always buff the surface dry with a soft cloth after cleaning. Marble especially should never air dry.
You can even use the DIY cleaning spray on glass, windows, and mirrors.
Keep in mind, however, that you should avoid cleaning windows with this solution on hot days or it may dry too quickly and leave streaks. Avoid using the mixture to clean a warm oven or cooking area as well. Spray the mixture on a soft cloth or paper towel first, then wipe the surface when it’s room temperature.
Caution: Use caution when applying the natural cleaner on hardwood floors or natural stone. Test a small section before applying the mixture to your entire home.
How to Make All Purpose Cleaner: Easy-to-Follow Directions
Start by collecting a 24-ounce spray bottle. (If your bottle is 16 or 32-ounces, alter the recipe accordingly). You can use any glass or plastic spray bottle. The solution is safe and mild enough to use leftover plastic bottles you may already have around the house as well.
However, I often prefer to use glass spray bottles because plastic contains toxic chemicals.
How to Choose a Spray Bottle: Plastic vs. Glass
If your goal is to create a nontoxic home, go with glass. They’re less likely to leach chemicals into your homemade DIY cleaning spray, your home, and eventually, your body.
A study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found a chemical called BPA leaches from plastic bottles, which can interfere with reproductive development and is linked to both diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
My favorite bottles to use are amber-colored and glass, which you can find via Amazon.
Plus, glass isn’t full of chemical ingredients like plastic. It’s not only less toxic for us, but the essential oils in the cleaning solution also can’t break down a glass container as they could react with cheap plastic. Some homemade cleaning products aren’t even safe to store in plastic altogether.
Glass is more durable and long-lasting as well. You can clean and reuse the bottles for years to come. And with a high-quality glass bottle, you’ll save money over time.
I understand that plastic is much cheaper and often easy to reuse from other products you buy. If you really want to use a plastic bottle, at least make sure it’s BPA free. Amazon offers a few plastic bottle options for under $10.
An easy rule-of-thumb to tell if you’re not sure what plastic bottle is safe is to look at the bottle ingredient list. If the bottle says it’s safe for chemicals, cleaners, or fertilizers, the plastic is chemical-grade.
In my experience, the amber-colored glass bottles are the best to use. They’re ideal for essential oil products and homemade cleaners because the color helps protect the cleaner against UV rays that can degrade certain properties over time.
Look at the Spray Nozzle
What’s really crucial is the spray nozzle on the bottle. For a vinegar solution like this all purpose cleaner recipe or any other homemade cleaner with a thin consistency, use a sturdy spray nozzle. Chemical-grade plastic, which includes nearly all the spray bottles sold for cleaning purposes, is ideal.
Directions & Storage
Collect the following ingredients:
1 cup of warm water
1-2 cup(s) of distilled white vinegar (more for a super tough cleaner)
15-35 drops of lemon essential oil (RMO is my preferred essential oil company)
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 lemons, peels only (optional)
A few springs of thyme (optional)
Directions: Combine all the ingredients directly inside your spray bottle. Add in the peels and springs last. Shake well.
Allow the cleaner to sit in the cool area for at least a week prior to using the spray. For the best results, you’ll want to shake the solution before each use as well.
Storage: If you choose to use fresh lemon, store the cleaner in the fridge. Otherwise, store homemade solutions away from warm areas. Choose a cool, dark location, such as the cabinet below your sink.
How to Modify the Cleaner to Suit Your Preferences
Need a cleaner for stuck-on messes? Hate the smell of vinegar? Have pets or small children in your home? There are tons of ways you can modify a DIY cleaning spray to suit your needs!
Create a Tough Stain and Grease-Fighting Paste
To tackle tough, stuck-on messes, try adding a little baking soda to the solution. Create a paste by combining the ingredients thoroughly.
It’s excellent for removing hard-to-scrub grease from the stove top, taking stains out of your favorite white tees, deep cleaning the inside of an oven, or even discarding soap scum in minutes.
Lather the paste onto the surface you want to clean thoroughly. Allow it to sit for around 10 minutes and wipe away the residue. The result cuts through stains and grease.
It’s also excellent for sticky areas around your home. Because baking soda is a natural deodorizer, you can use it to get rid of harsh kitchen smells while shining stainless steel with ease. I use the paste to clean the inside of the fridge, the sink, trash cans, and more.
Tone Down the Smell for Sensitive Noses
Sensitive sniffers may not enjoy this vinegar cleaner. If you find the lemon and vinegar scent is too strong for you, you can tone down the recipe.
Try one part vinegar, one part water, 15 drops of essential oil, and a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary (optional, for aesthetic purposes). You may find that less is more. Start small, adding 5 drops of essential oil before increasing to ensure the smell isn’t too strong for you.
Some people also find that using fresh lemon juice rather than lemon essential oil helps to counteract the strong vinegar aroma. The more vinegar you use, the more tough cleaning potential your DIY cleaning spray offers. However, vinegar is harsh and not everyone wants the house to smell like the inside of a pickle jar after you clean.
Fresh lemon juice can tone down the strong scent a bit more. Just don’t forget to store a cleaner with fresh lemon in the fridge between uses.
Rocky Mountain Oils is my favorite essential oil company for all your needs! Photo via RMO.
Try a Different Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil (Citrus x limon) is common in natural cleaning products because it acts as a disinfectant. The natural cleaner is antibacterial, well-loved for fighting bacteria and germs.
It also easily removes stickiness from surfaces and smells amazing! The vibrant scent is refreshing and invigorating, allowing thoughts of cleanliness to come to mind.
However, you don’t have to use fresh lemon or the fruit’s essential oil to create an all purpose cleaning spray. You might want to select a different essential oil based on your personal preferences. Keep in mind that not all oils are deemed safe for every age group or type of pet as well.
In fact, you may want to avoid using lemon essential oil if you have cats. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, citrus oils are toxic to cats. Close contact between cats and citrus oil is known to cause poisoning symptoms, such as drooling, vomiting, tremors, respiratory distress, low heart rate, ataxia, low body temperature, and liver failure.
Alternatives (not all safe for pets) for this recipe can include:
Other Fresh Lemon Alternatives
If you don’t have high-quality, therapeutic essential oils on hand, don’t worry. The recipe is available using fresh alternatives.
Substitute the lemon essential oil for fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
Better yet, you can skip the lemon altogether in favor of another option, like:
Pick a few fresh sprigs from your herb garden anytime you need more cleaning spray or save lemon and orange peels throughout the week to use in your recipe.
Boost the Germ-Killing Power
Worried about germs? By adding alcohol to the mix, you can boost the disinfecting power of your cleaner.
Shoot for equal parts water, white vinegar, and alcohol. Then, add the soap and 15 drops of essential oil. Use Everclear, vodka, or any other booze with 60% or more alcohol content.
You can even substitute rubbing alcohol. Keep in mind that rubbing alcohol will provide more of a medicinal scent though.
Have You Tried a Nontoxic DIY Cleaning Spray Before?
Photo by Crema Joe on Unsplash
Now that you know how to make all purpose cleaner at home, you gain so many benefits. My nontoxic DIY cleaning spray saves you time and money. You can rest assured your home is nontoxic and your children are safe from harm.
Have you tried another nontoxic DIY cleaning spray similar to this recipe before? I’d love to hear about your experiences. My hope is that you can use (or slightly modify) the cleaner for all purposes and tough cleaning tasks around your home. Please let me know what you think in the comments below.