If you have been around for any length of time at all, you have probably heard the old saying, “If something is good for everything, chances are good that it’s good for nothing.” It’s a cute saying, to be sure, but one that has more than its share of truth to it. After all, when it comes right down to it, there is probably a drawback to nearly any kind of product, which includes household cleaners.
When was the last time you looked at the back of a bottle of cleanser and read the warning label only to discover that there were several surfaces that it was not recommended you use it on? Or if the maker wasn’t quite as open about their supposed “all-purpose cleaner,” and only happened to list the ingredients, you might have noticed that there were probably more than a good number of those that you wouldn’t want anywhere near your sealed or painted surfaces.
The trouble with buying products of this type is that unless you happen to have a Ph.D. in chemistry you are probably stepping out with a great deal of faith to use any of them. And if you did, when was the last time you used your all-purpose cleaner to discover while you were using it that it left stains or streaks, or even took the paint right off the surfaces you used it on? Lesson learned.
Another reason for avoiding commercial cleaners is, and I don’t mean to sound like the grim reaper, but they can often be dangerous. You have probably, at some point, seen a warning label on a cleaner that read something like “This product has been known to cause cancer in lab animals.”
This is not to discount the danger to lab animals, but what about humans? What about our reproductive or respiratory systems. Perhaps, if enough people started making their own safer alternative cleaners, the big companies would get a more healthful message.
The good news in this is that this article was written to change all of that. There might not be a truly all-purpose cleaner, but with a little research, you can mix ingredients yourself that will be good for use on nearly every surprise of your home as well as significantly reduce the number of “all-purpose cleaners” under your kitchen cabinet. Further, although the author of this article doesn’t have a Ph.D. in chemistry, his Ph.D. in molecular biology does give him the ability to discern what is best for what purpose. In short, you now have a minimal number of products to use in your home. The elbow grease you have to provide for yourself.
Before we jump into the DIY options for creating your own all-purpose cleaner, here’s an all-natural option we like… it’s by HAUS Naturals.
The Best All-Purpose Cleaner Out There
OK. I’ve already told you that there really is not truly an all-purpose cleaner available that isn’t dangerous for use on something. Now I will tell you something almost to the contrary. That is this: what follows is a recipe for an all-purpose cleaner that is as close to being truly all-purpose as you can come.
You will notice that this recipe does not have either vinegar or lemon juice in it. This is because both of these have acids in them, which will eat through many of the surfaces in your home that have some kind of sealant on them, such as your granite countertops. They will also ruin painted surfaces such as your kitchen cabinets. And even if your surfaces have a stain on them such as many kitchen surfaces, they will be ruined.
It is also true that when you use vinegar or lemon juice to a cleaning solution, most people also include another ingredient such as washing soda. This is a combination of an acid and a base, which when combined neutralizes the active ingredient in your mixture, rendering it practically useless.
Now for the recipe:
- 1 tsp borax
- 1/2 tsp washing soda
- 1 tsp liquid castile soap
- 10 to 20 drops of essential oils of choice – Drops of lemon, lavender, orange, peppermint work well
- Spray bottle for storage
1. Combine borax, washing soda, and soap in the spray bottle (Many people like to use glass, but many don’t because of the problem of possible breakage).
2. Add 2 cups of warm water. Distilled is best, but any bottled water is good too
3. Add essential oils of choice
4. Cover the bottle with spray top and shake well to use.
This is an excellent cleaner that is good for floors as a pre-treater, bathroom cleaner, kitchen cleaner, and for toys.
If you are a mother, chances are good that you will scream when you note that this cleaner is good for use on toys. After all, everybody knows that more often than not a toy will end up in the mouth of any child who gets to it. Fortunately, in this regard, this cleaner is very gentle, and in the amount of it that remains after a toy has been cleaned it will not harm a child.
It is important to note that this recipe should not be used as a disinfectant. Further, most home messes don’t absolutely need disinfectant qualities. Further, using too many disinfectants can cause problems as well. This recipe is, however, good for most home messes.
It would probably not be good for use on messes that are food-related, especially in the case of raw meats, but for most other hard household surfaces such as counters, floors, and cabinetry, this is great. Some studies have shown that essential oils do possess very mild disinfectant qualities, but if you are looking for this aspect, it would probably be best to stick with hydrogen peroxide or food-grade alcohol mixed with soap and water to disinfect messes involving raw meats.
What About the Use of Borax?
There is a whole other group that will scream at the suggestion of using borax as a cleanser. Fortunately, much of this concern is unfounded. Borax should not be used on surfaces that involve foods, but outside of this, it is perfectly safe. If you still have concerns, however, you can either eliminate it from your recipe or substitute it with witch hazel or food-grade alcohol. Another alternative that many people swear by is a family of products that are all-natural called Branch Basics. The Branch Basics products claim to be safe for humans, plant and mineral-based, free of preservatives, and biodegradable.
Here’s another recipe:
What you’ll need:
- One part white vinegar
- One part water
- Lemon rind
- Rosemary sprigs
1. Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle.
2. Allow to infuse for a week.
After about a week you can use this solution to remove all sorts of stains, clean trash cans, get rid of wall smudges, and a lot more. The rosemary sprigs and lemon rind provides a nice, fresh scent and might even boost its’ cleaning power. As mentioned before, however, do not use this on granite, since it will ruin the seal and etch the stone. Otherwise, this is a great cleaner.
Here’s another recipe that good for cleaning the kitchen and for use as a deodorizer
- 4 tablespoons baking soda
- 1 quart warm water
This is a great recipe for use on kitchen counters, on appliances, and for the inside of your refrigerator. Yes, we know that all it is is basically baking soda, but don’t let that deter you. Baking soda is a great cleaner and can be used for a lot of things, such as adding a shine stainless steel sinks and appliances. It should be mentioned that baking soda is an abrasive, but it is also very mild, which will leave your stainless steel clean and bright long before it will scratch your kitchen surfaces.
Baking soda might get a bad rap, but the truth is that it is great for deodorizing surfaces. Further, you can pour baking soda directly from the box and into your drain and garbage disposal to knock out odors. You can also make a paste of baking soda and use it to remove spots and stains from your stainless steel. Just apply it on a damp cloth and gently rub it in the direction of the metal’s grain, rinse and let it dry. If you are still concerned about the safety of using baking soda, just consider that many dentists recommend it for use on your teeth to clean and polish them between visits. How bad can that be?
Another recipe, this one for glass.
We have looked at several do it yourself cleaners so far for use on several different types of surfaces, but we have proposed nothing for cleaning glass. Here’s one to solve that problem.
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup white or cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol at 70 percent concentration
- 1 to 2 drops of your choice of essential oil for smell (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a bottle with a spray top and you are good to go.
Anyone who has ever had to clean glass knows that one of the biggest issues with doing so is streaking. There are a lot of ways to get dirt and grime off of windows, all of them pretty effective, but when it comes right down to it, the finishing part of the job is getting the steaks off. That’s the point at which this cleaner will come in handy. You can use this mixture by itself or use it to finish the job of cleaning any windows or mirrors you might have.
One bit of advice: don’t clean your windows on a hot, sunny day. The solution will dry on the surface of your windows before you can clean them, leaving you with more streaks than when you got started. Do the job during the cool of the day. All you need to use is spray the solution on a soft cloth or a paper towel first before wiping.
If you happen to be fresh out of rubbing alcohol, an alternative is vodka, seriously.
Another recipe, this one for brass
As has already been mentioned, it is highly advisable that you avoid the use of vinegar or lemon juice for cleaning, but in one case you can make an exception: cleaning brass. Vinegar or lemon juice is excellent for cleaning brass, as is the case with this brass cleaner.
- White vinegar or lemon juice
- Table salt
To clean any brass non-lacquered cabinet pulls, bathroom fixtures, and more, dampen a sponge with lemon juice or vinegar, then sprinkle on salt. Now lightly rub over the surface. Rinse thoroughly with water, then immediately dry with a clean soft cloth.
Brass is another tricky surface to clean, not only what you use on it, and how you do it. This recipe is not only great on brass, but it’s easy to use too. Another complaint is often about the use of salt, which is also unfounded. Salt will not scratch the surface unless you use a lot of it. Further, by the time you get the shine you want on it, the salt will usually be dissolved.
Another recipe, this one for a heavy-duty scrub
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup borax
Probably everybody has a surface or surfaces in their home that just for the sheer heavy-duty nature of the cleaning job is the bane of their existence. If you have a heavy-duty job, you will need an equally heavy-duty scrub. Those are the kind of jobs that this cleaner is best for. All you need to do is to dip 1/2 of a lemon into the borax and scrub the surface, then rinse.
Please note that you don’t need to use a sponge or cloth. Just use the 1/2 lemon as your scrubber dipped into the borax. This cleaner is great for use on rust stains on porcelain or enamel sink surfaces and tubs. Please also note that this treatment should not be used on your granite or marble since it will damage the seal and leave the surface open to stains and discoloration.
Another recipe, this one for a degreaser
- 1/2 cup sudsy ammonia
Combine 1/2 cup ammonia with enough water to fill a one-gallon container.
Do you have a tough, greasy job to do without knowing the best way to get it done? And let’s not forget that you usually use those horrible, pungent, sinus-clearing oven cleaners to do the job. Making matters worse, you have to apply them, then wait for a period of time for them to work? This recipe will solve all of your problems quickly and won’t have to wait for it to work like the commercial cleaners.
If you want to clean your oven racks, your stove hood, outdoor grill, or other heavily greasy surfaces, just dip a sponge into the sudsy ammonia solution and wipe it over the surface before rinsing it with clear water. You can also use the solution to soak oven racks and grill grates directly. Are they extra greasy? Just use a little extra ammonia to get them sparkling clean.
Another recipe, this one as a last resort clothing stain cleaner
- 1-gallon hot water
- 1 cup powdered dishwasher detergent
- 1 cup regular liquid chlorine bleach, not ultra or a concentrate
Mix the ingredients in a plastic, stainless steel, or enamel bowl (not aluminum).
Once you have created the mixture in a bowl, soak the garment for 15 to 20 minutes. If the stain remains, soak it a bit longer, then wash the garment as usual.
Another recipe, this one for marble
- 2 drops mild dishwashing liquid
- 2 cups warm water
Mix dishwashing detergent and water the next time you want to clean natural stone countertops. Sponge over marble and rinse completely to remove any soap residue. Buff with a soft cloth; do not let the marble air-dry. Caution: It’s been said before but bears repeating, never use vinegar, lemon, or any other acidic cleaner on marble or granite surfaces; it will open the seal and leave the surface vulnerable to stains and discoloration.
Okay, so there is no truly all-purpose do it yourself cleaner, but by using the suggested tools and methods listed above, chances are probably pretty good that you will not only accomplish your purpose of cleaning some things around your home that have proven themselves to be virtually impossible to clean, but you will now be cleaning them with ingredients that will not only not harm the surfaces you use them on but you won’t be endangering anyone who comes into contact with them. You will also be cutting down on the number of commercial cleaners you have in your home, which is better for everyone. You will also be saving considerable amounts of money in the process.