What’s one thing you used to purchase but now make at home?
DIY All Purpose Cleaner
How many of you have a cabinet FULL of cleaning products?
I’m talking all kinds of products, each with a specific cleaning purpose: Kitchen de-greaser, Stainless steel cleaner, window cleaner, bathroom tile/soap scum remover, floor cleaner… Yep. I see those hands going up.
So, what if I told you that you could clean 98% of your house with ONE cleaner? Bonus: This is one that you can make at home with just a few ingredients, most of which you probably already have on hand AND it’s all natural!
Sounds too good to be true, right? It’s not!
I must admit, a few years ago I was a tad addicted to Windex’s Antibacterial Multi-Surface Cleaner. I’d literally go through a bottle of that stuff in less than 2 weeks. I used it for just about everything. But when I started this whole life transformation into using more green, natural products in my home, I quickly realized that the Windex had to go.
Now, vinegar is an all-natural cleaner that fits the bill of all-purpose, natural cleaner, and it works well, too! I cleaned with straight vinegar for a little while after I ditched commercially-made products, but I soon found out that my husband wasn’t too fond of everything smelling like vinegar.
I needed something that would work as well as vinegar but smelled more like my beloved Windex Multi-Surface.
Pinterest to the rescue! I found a post about citrus infused vinegar. Amazing! The power of vinegar with a more pleasant, citrus scent! I made a couple of batches and then I realized I could make some easy changes that would revolutionize my home cleaning.
Related: How to Make an Antibacterial Sanitizer at Home
Here is the recipe that I now use and love:
What You’ll Need:
- Citrus peels. Lemons, oranges, mandarin oranges, clementines, limes…whatever your preference is. This is where your lovely scent will come from so just make sure you pick something that you (or your spouse) prefers. I regularly use clementines because my son LOVES them. I buy a bag of clementines, peel them all, keep the fruit in the fridge for a quick snack, and voila, now I have plenty of peels for my cleaner! You can also freeze the peels until you’re ready to use them.
- Coarse salt.
- White vinegar.
- Essential oils (optional). I’m really into essential oils, and I use them in just about everything so naturally, they are in my all-purpose cleaner. I use Tea Tree oil (also called Melaleuca) because it has a mild scent, and has wonderful antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. You can also use sweet orange, lime, lemon, even lavender or peppermint oil. Try a few different ones and see what you like! These aren’t 100% necessary though. If you don’t have them, your cleaner with work just as well without them!
- Container for mixing. I use quart-sized mason jars, but you can really use any container, plastic or glass, that you have lying around the house.
- Spray bottles. I recycle my old Windex bottles, which are 32 ounces. Use anything you like or have on hand. You’ll need about 4 spray bottles.
- Labels. Like these super cute ones from Leoter.
Here’s how to mix your cleaner:
Cut or tear your peels into equal (or near-equal) sizes.
Lay your peels out flat on a cookie sheet, or other flat surfaces, peel side down.
Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons coarse salt. They don’t need to be saturated in salt, but you want each peel to have at least a few grains on it. The salt pulls the natural oils out of the peels for a stronger citrus scent.
Let sit for about half an hour.
Shake the salt off and fill your jar(s) with peels. Really pack them in there to get the jar as full as you can. The more peels in the jar, the stronger your citrus scent will be. I can usually get two-quart jars full using a whole bag of cuties orange peels.
Cover the peels with vinegar, leaving only ¼ inch or so of air at the top of the jar. Place lid on and tighten it as tight as you can get it with your hands.
Label your cleaner with the date, and let it sit for at least 10 days. The longer it sits, the better! I let mine sit for about 3 weeks. Some people say the oranges start to turn brown around the 2-month mark, but I haven’t gotten that far so I wouldn’t know. Just put a reminder on your calendar or in your phone a few weeks out so you don’t forget about it!
After you’ve let your cleaner sit for a while, you will have a concentrated all-purpose cleaner. When you’re ready to use it, grab your funnel and strainer to fill your spray bottle half-full of your concentrated cleaner (minus the peels and any leftover pulp) and half water. Add 5-10 drops of essential oil to each bottle at this time, if you would like. Again, I usually have enough concentrate to fill 4 spray bottles.
Shake to mix, label your spray bottles, and start cleaning! Voila!
Related: To Bleach Or Not To Bleach
What can the cleaner be used for?
As I said, I use this cleaner for almost everything. Really, the only thing I don’t use it for is the inside of my toilet bowls.
Here’s a general list:
- Kitchen- degreases stovetop, disinfects counters, getting smudges out of stainless steel appliances; cleans/disinfects inside the fridge, etc. You can pour a little bit down your disposal to clear the line and leave a fresh scent, and it will even work as an oven cleaner with a little bit of elbow grease. (Although you might need the concentrated stuff for a really dirty oven). You can also fill the rinse compartment on your dishwasher if you have really hard water. It will help keep dishes from getting filmy.
- Bathrooms- Counters, sinks, tiles, soap scum remover, outer surfaces of the toilet
- Laundry- Pour ¼ cup to ½ cup in your softener compartment for a cheap laundry softener
- Floors- Great for cleaning and disinfecting hardwoods, tile, or laminate.
- Windows and mirrors
- Disinfect kids’ toys, kitchen gadgets (think: cutting boards after washing with soap and water), doorknobs, phones, the TV remote, or any other hard surface that may be germy.
- Drain cleaner- Pour 1 cup down any clogged or slow draining drain along with about 1 cup baking soda. The reaction will get rid of mild clogs and leave a fresh scent.
Plus here’s a BONUS tip for using this cleaner specifically for glass and windows:
This cleaner works as an OK glass/mirror/window cleaner, but it can leave some streaks. Make sure you use the least amount of cleaner possible. If you saturate the window with cleaner; it just smears around, and doesn’t dry up properly. Wet windows become streaky windows. So just use one or two sprays, and wipe it off with a DRY rag or even better—newspapers.
If you want to use this mixture SOLELY as a glass cleaner, you can add about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to the final mixture. Why cornstarch? Well, contrary to popular belief, glass is not a smooth surface. It actually is very grainy, and dirt (or your cleaner) can get trapped in the grains, leaving streaks. If you put just a tiny bit of cornstarch in your mixture, it makes the solution just a little bit heavier, allowing it to work in and out of the grains easier. I also add a drop or two of blue Dawn dish soap to my glass cleaner, just so I can distinguish it from other bottles easier, but it is only there for color. It doesn’t really do anything else.
One last thing: If you do decide to add the cornstarch, make sure you shake the bottle well before spraying to dissolve any settled cornstarch.
Now, let’s talk cost.
Bear with me, this part is kind of boring
(Please note: these numbers are from my last trip to Wal-Mart and I’m including them to give you a general idea. Prices are subject to change depending on the date and your location.)
Vinegar, 1 gallon= $2.82 —There are 16 cups per gallon, and we used about 4 cups (2 Cups to fill each quart jar), so we used 0.70 cents worth of vinegar.
Cuties oranges, 3lb bag (this was on sale, with a coupon. I’m cheap frugal, so I don’t buy them otherwise)= $3.99
Coarse Kosher salt, 3lb box= $7.28 —There are 26 tablespoons per pound, and we used 2 tablespoons so we used about 0.19 cents worth of salt.
Young Living Melaleuca oil, 15mL= $25.99 —There are approximately 350 drops of oil in a 15mL bottle, and we used 40 drops (10 drops per spray bottle, filling 4 spray bottles) so we used about $3.00 worth of essential oil.
Using the whole bag of cuties, I was able to fill two quart-sized mason jars with the peels and vinegar, which then made four bottles of finalized cleaner. Our total for all four bottles comes out to be just $7.88 or $1.97 per bottle! Without the essential oils, you’re looking at $1.22 per bottle. That’s just crazy talk!
ONE bottle of Windex Multi-Surface (32oz bottle) costs $4.79. You’re now saving over 50% on cleaning products! And that’s not even considering that you can get rid of any other products you may have been buying! Go you!
Now you know how to make an all-natural, all-purpose cleaner that is non-toxic and saves you money.