The Best DIY All-Purpose Cleaner

Am I being too bold by claiming that this is the best DIY cleaner? I really do think that it’s the best! If you were here at my house talking about non toxic cleaners, I’d probably try to give you the recipe to take home. If you have your own recipe that you love, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

This recipe was given to me by a friend (hi, Glenda!), who got it from another friend at Berea College, where it apparently was the cleaner of choice. I can’t vouch for its true history, but I can promise you that it gets my white cabinets and trim whiter than any toxic cleaner ever did.

You barely need anything at all to make it. I haven’t done a cost analysis, but the quantities of each ingredient are so miniscule that you could spill that much and not worry about it.

Here are your ingredients:

  • 2 TBSP white vinegar
  • 2 tsp borax
  • 2 TBSP liquid dish soap
  • 10-15 drops tea tree oil

You’ll also need an empty spray bottle to hold your finished cleaner. I’ve used empty Method bottles in the past, until the sprayers wore out. I’m currently using an ugly Rubbermaid bottle that leaks every time I spray it. A funnel is also very helpful, but not necessary.

First, add 2 tsp. of borax. I find the funnel really helpful for this, since it’s hard to pour into the small top of my bottle without spilling powder everywhere.

Next, pour in 2 TBSP of white vinegar. Again, use the funnel if you have it.

Give the bottle a good shake, with the lid on, until the vinegar and borax are well mixed.

Heat up the water from the faucet till it’s really quite hot, and then fill up your bottle. About 25 ounces works well, if you’re using a bottle like mine. I’ve found that most cleaning bottles are about the same, so you don’t have to be super exact. Just don’t fill it to the top. You’ll need room to add and mix your final ingredients.

Add 2 TBSP of your favorite liquid dish soap. I’m using Seventh Generation, which I don’t think claims to be organic. If you want this cleaner to be organic, that’s the only ingredient here you’ll need to pay extra attention to. Oh, and don’t use the funnel. You’ll just end up with a funnel full of soap that won’t pour in all the way.

Finally, add 10-15 drops of tea tree oil. The original recipe said you could use any essential oil. I use tea tree oil because of its natural antiseptic properties. The smell takes a bit to get used to, but now I associate it with clean things. Don’t go overboard. More isn’t better with this one. More than 15 drops will be way too strong smelling!

Put in the lid, give it a good shake, and you’re done! Though you certainly don’t want to ingest it, you can clean without worrying that you’re harming yourself with the fumes or skin contact.

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  1. So this may be really stupid… but does it REALLY clean as well as say… comet? And another stupid…but where do you buy tea tree oil? I need to get better about my cleaners for reals!

  2. Now in place of Comet, I use a Martha Stewart recipe. I mix baking soda, a bit of dish soap, and some tea tree oil with water into a paste. That scrubs anything out of the tub, and is the best for cleaning the stove.

    But as an all purpose cleaner, this recipe cuts crud on counters and cabinets better than the store bought all purpose cleaners I used to use. It’s been years – maybe four? – since I bought one, so I don’t remember brands to compare it to. Usually if this cleaner won’t get it clean, it’s time for a Magic Eraser. I cleaned my cabinets with the batch I mixed up for this tutorial. They are white laminate. I could actually see the drips where the cleaner was making them whiter as it dripped, and they weren’t THAT dirty.

    But if you’re looking for a scrubber like Comet (it is an abrasive cleaner, right? I’ve only used it other places long ago…never bought it), then go with the Martha Stewart recipe in this comment. It’s really amazing – and it works just as well as a Magic Eraser, honestly. I just don’t always mix it up for little things and the erasers are easy.

    I hope that helps! I have asthma, and any of the harsh stuff flares that up. So I’ve been using natural cleaners for a while. I love them!

  3. Do you even need the tea tree oil/essential oil? I don’t really care if my cleaner smells, as long as it cleans. :)

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