Easy Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner Without Vinegar

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Woman's hand using a spray bottle filled with homemade all-purpose cleaner

This homemade all-purpose cleaner is non-toxic and inexpensive. Use it to remove grime, grease, and dirt from almost every household surface. It’s safe for use on wood, stone, metal, ceramic, plastic, and washable fabric surfaces.

When using any cleaning product, it’s important to remember that cleaning and disinfecting are not the same thing. So, if you use an all-purpose cleaner on very germy surfaces like kitchen sinks or toilets, you’ll need to follow it with a disinfectant to kill germs.

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner Spray Recipe

Makes 16 oz.

You will need:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid dish soap
  • 3-5 drops of pet-safe essential oils (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a spray bottle and gently swirl together to combine.
  2. Apply directly to household surfaces and wipe with a damp microfiber cloth. For most surfaces, there is no need to rinse.
  3. Store unused cleaner in a cool, dry spot. Discard after 1 week.
Cleaning vs disinfecting illustrated

What the Ingredients Do

Understanding the role of each ingredient helps you decide whether and when to change things to suit your personal preferences.

Soap and water

It’s tempting to reach for potent cleaning products in the belief they’ll do a better job keeping our homes healthy. However, according to the CDC, soap and water are enough to clean most surfaces. Stronger solutions contribute to indoor air pollution that can irritate allergies and asthma.

So, this homemade all-purpose cleaner puts soap and water to work around the home to help you clean without damage. There is no need for a fancy soap with antibacterial properties or oxygenating action. Although Castile soap is great for cleaning many things, I do not recommend substituting it in this recipe since it is oil-based and may leave a film. If you choose to use it anyway, you might need to rinse surfaces to remove any film left behind.

Baking soda

Baking soda (known as bicarbonate to UK readers) is a safe, natural, and inexpensive way to deodorize surfaces. In this homemade cleaner, it also provides mild abrasion to help lift sticky or crusty messes without damaging household surfaces.

Essential oils

Adding essential oils to this all-purpose spray recipe is optional. Some, like tea tree or lemon, can add some disinfecting power but may pose a danger if you have dogs or cats. So, be sure to use essential oils that are safe for pets. And remember, no matter what essential oil you add to your homemade all-purpose cleaner, you still need additional disinfection for bathroom or food preparation surfaces.

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15 Comments

  1. Diane Wallach says:

    Hi! I have a question/comment. I made this in a spray bottle. It was too thick for the sprayer (I followed the recipe exactly), and after shaking a bunch of times to get the baking soda to dissolve, it only sprayed a little. Then, once sitting, all the baking soda went to the bottom of the bottle, so it didn’t actually dissolve. Any suggestions?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Diane,
      It’s very important to use warm water in this recipe. That’s what dissolves the baking soda. If your spray bottle isn’t large enough to shake the mixture vigorously so it dissolves, you may want to make it in a different container then pour it into your spray bottle.

  2. Whatโ€™s the best disinfectant to follow up? Alcohol is bad for wood, vinegar is bad for granite. Bleach is bad for asthma. Lysol is not great for food contact surfaces and kids lick everything. Hydrogen peroxide?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’re right about how all the disinfectants have limitations, and even hydrogen peroxide does. (It can dry out and lighten wood.) So, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to disinfection. My go-to is vinegar or peroxide, but on granite I use alcohol.

  3. Helen Playdon says:

    First of all, Katie, for the continued translations for UK readers. And I wante dto check what feedback you have had about the 5 simple things programme. I have found it much easier to accomplish on a day to day basis. he original programme (say, original to me, c. 2008?) was too much for me to finish each day and I became very discouraged. I also know about myself that I don’t think it is good use of my time to dust BEFORE I can SEE the dust, so doing some every day did not thrill me (although I used to watch my grandmother dust at least twice
    every day in her coal-mining hometown of Scranton, PA). But my mother worked full time and we grew up cleaning the whole house every Saturday, in which activity she had the help of her two daughters, each with our own assigned tasks. We DID do a pretty good job cleaning the kitchen each day as part of the evening’s washing up, after which the kitchen was closed. We may not have washed teh floor every night bu tit ws done three or four times a week. I know, \i was the elder sister, in charge of washing because I had often done the cooking. [My sister thought I used too many pans, and I HATED drying and putting away.] Eventually my mother discovered that it was more hygienic to let the dishes air dry, so that reduced the workload although it extended the time until we were finished, and made it less likely that I would wash the floor duruing the week. So the do everything every day was not woeking fo rme and i fell on the “5 simple things” programme with glee. I have been making it work since the start of the year, but today found the first real glitch – I wonder what others have done. Last week I was away from home almost all day on Wednesday (the peak of the week) and didn’t get ANY of my Wednesday tasks done. That was too much to fit into Saturday, when I also work all morning, on top of my other Saturday tasks [ I keep it fairly free for “catching up”.] and so today I faced a fortnight’s dust in the bedroom. I was aghast! I used four microfibre cloths in the end , compared to my usual one or two, and they required a number of trips outdoors to shake them. I am tempted next time just to move the days along a bit so everything is a day late. As you have suggested, I keep Sundays free because we spend at least four hours at church, and the rest is our day with family, or catching up with letter-writing. I have done this in the past with changing bed linens, when it was not possible to wash on a certain day because of inclement weather and gradually I work my way back to the “right” day. What have other people done? Has anyone else reported back on how they made it work for them?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Helen,
      I think you’re saying that you got busy and didn’t get to Wednesday’s 5 things? That happens and it’s not a big deal. Life is more important than cleaning. When my schedule interrupts my routine, I either take a pass for the week or pick the task to catch up on that’s bothering me the most. As far as dusting, that’s usually the task I pick. I’ve found that damp cloths work much better to get rid of all the dust. Rinse and wring them out every so often and you’ll remove far more dust than you do with dry cloths.

  4. Maureen Plimier says:

    Great cleaner. Why is it good for only one week?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m glad you like it! The reason for the 1-week limit is that there’s nothing in the recipe to prevent microbial growth. Better safe than sorry.

  5. I love your one project a day. It is how I used to get things done when I had 5 children around. I am just hoping I do not get behind.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      There’s nothing wrong with taking a day or even a week off if you want to. Life isn’t about cleaning, after all. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Can you use Dawn soap?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Absolutely. Dawn is a fantastic soap.

  7. Monica Cromartie says:

    This recipe works great. I was using another recipe for all natural cleaner but this one seems to do a better job cleaner stains. I just tried it in my bathroom. Cleaned great and has a nice smell to it as well. No vinegar smell.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Glad to hear it!

  8. Can’t wait to try this minus the oil though.