Guilt-Free All-Purpose Cleaner

Over the years, I’ve amassed an arsenal of cleaning products, both of the green and not-so-green varieties. The only thing I hate more than cleaning is the plethora of artificial scents and harsh chemicals that come in typical cleaning products. So-called ‘green’ products are slightly better, but damn, those can get expensive. And with both, mountains of waste pile up as you finish one bottle and buy another. I also have a moderate scent sensitivity, fake chemical smells are the worst offenders for me, especially the kinds that make cleaning products smell ‘pretty’. To me, they just smell gross. So, I have decided to cut myself off cleaners. I’ve been using the standard 50/50 vinegar & water mix for a while, and it works great for light cleaning. But lately I’ve found that I need something a little stronger, so I went off in search of other all-purpose cleaner recipes. Twitter did not steer me wrong – when I polled my followers, I got several replies to my query.

This recipe is an adaptation – I changed it a bit after reading others that had different ratios of soap, borax & vinegar. And of course, since I’m a bit of an aromatherapy nut, I added some essential oils – tea tree oil for a little extra cleansing power, and lemon just because. I used Dr. Bronner’s almond castile soap as well since it’s what I had on hand, but you could just as easily use another scent (peppermint would probably be great!), or a liquid dish soap of choice, preferably something ‘green’ like Seventh Generation or Nature Clean. I’ve found this stuff works pretty well, a spray and a light scrub with a rag took off a couple weeks’ worth of filthy fingerprints on my front door, tomato sauce splatter on the stove top, and toothpaste residue in the sink. It picked up the dried-on stuff with less elbow grease than just vinegar & water, and didn’t leave filmy residue behind. And bonus? It smells good! Not chemically and fake, but actually good. And since I keep all the necessary ingredients for this cleaner on hand anyway, my cleaning supply arsenal just got a little bit smaller. Score!

Just a note, good spray bottles can be hard to find. Ā I happened across good ones at Home Depot in the cleaning section, and they’re nice and big with a good spray nozzle. If you can only find smaller (~500mL ones), just cut this recipe in half.

Guilt-Free All-Purpose Cleaner
(Adapted from Different Shades of Green)

– 950mL spray bottle (~ 1 quart)
– 1/4 cup vinegar
– 1 tsp borax
– warm water
– 2 Tbsp castile soap or dish soap
– essential oils, optional (I used tea tree & lemon)

In the spray bottle, mix together vinegar and borax. Swirl until borax is dissolved.

Fill bottle mostly full with warm water, and give it a shake to mix.

Add castile soap, and 10-15 drops of essential oil, if desired. Swirl to mix, and get cleaning!


Do you have a favourite DIY cleaning solution? Share and I’ll test it out!

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7 thoughts on “Guilt-Free All-Purpose Cleaner

  1. Kelly

    I’m trying to eliminate chemicals (and plastics) from my home where possible as well, Samantha. I’ll have to give this a try. I buy my vinegar by the case at Sam’s Club so it’s always on hand.

  2. Jennifer

    Great recipe! I gave up chemical cleaners 6yrs ago when my oldest was born. Before then I was a “Comet-aholic”. But I shuddered at the thought of that blue filmy residue on the tub when bathing my baby, and was tired of the headaches I’d get when scrubbing with it. So my go-to scouring powder is now 50/50 baking soda/salt. I use this in the tub, sink, toilet, anywhere I’d use the ole’ blue stuff (great for walls/baseboards/etc too with a damp cloth) (I used to also add equal parts washing soda, but found it clumped and left a white residue that was hard to rinse off). Otherwise its just 50/50 vinegar/water and good ole dish soap (a sink of warm soapy water does a lot of cleaning!). But I’m going to try this recipe, its always fun to mix things up once in awhile!

  3. Karen

    Thanks for this, Samantha! I’ve been meaning to make my own but have been too lazy to search for a recipe. My search is over! BTW, where do you buy castille soap?

    1. Samantha Post author

      Karen, I found it at Superstore, it’s Dr. Bronner’s brand. You can find it in the organic aisle. But you can just as easily use liquid dish soap if you don’t want to spend the money on another bottle of soap.

  4. Mindy

    I’ve tried a similiar recipe for a cleaner and find that the vinegar and castile do not combine. Did you have this problem with this one?

    1. Samantha Post author

      Not at all! I’ve made it several times since this original post, and it goes together well every time. The only thing I notice is the essential oil doesn’t mix in that well and will separate over time, but a quick shake before you use it will solve that. I think if you mix the ingredients in the order specified, it should work.


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