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How to make DIY all-purpose cleaner in 3 ways


  • Making your own all-purpose cleaner is convenient and inexpensive.
  • A combination of vinegar and water is a popular all-purpose cleaner.
  • Use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect.

All-purpose cleaners provide a quick and convenient way to clean everything from countertops to windows. Still, there’s no need to buy a specialty product because you can make an effective all-purpose cleaner at home, says Vera Peterson, president of Molly Maid.

Homemade cleaning products use ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, and they stand up to commercial options, says Alicia Johnson, CEO of Cleaning Green LLC.

Here’s how to make an all-purpose cleaner from ingredients you probably already have on hand.

Common homemade ingredients for all-purpose cleaners

Most homemade all-purpose cleaners use vinegar. Vinegar has a low pH value, which means it is acidic. That makes it great for cleaning up the basic dirt we find in our homes, says Johnson. Vinegar can cut through dirt and oil and kill some bacteria, although it’s not the best disinfectant. Lemon is also popular because it is acidic enough to cut through dirt while leaving a wonderful scent.

If you want more cleaning power for areas like the bathroom or for sanitizing, use a diluted bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide, says Peterson. Both kill germs and most households already have the ingredients on hand.

Cleaner 1: Vinegar and water

The go-to all-purpose cleaner is a mixture of vinegar and water, says Peterson.

To make it, combine half a cup of distilled white vinegar with 2 cups of water. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil or a squeeze of lemon for fragrance; since these are in low concentrations, they are safe for more surfaces. Stir the mixture gently and keep it in a plastic spray bottle for as long as needed.

How to use: Spray the mixture on counters, windows, or spilled carpet. Wipe off with a damp cloth and store in a bottle until next time.

Avoid surfaces: Don’t use vinegar on tile, grout, or wood, as the acidity can damage these materials, says Johnson.


Cleaner 2: Vinegar and Borax

Borax in a small bowl on a dark background.

Borax is a powdery alkaline substance that can clean many surfaces.

venus photo/Getty Images

Borax is similar to baking soda, but more alkaline, which gives it extra cleaning power. Combined with acidic vinegar, borax can remove stains from toilet bowls, showers and carpets.

How to use: Make this cleaner just before you plan to use it by mixing ¼ cup of vinegar with 1 cup of borax. If you don’t have borax, you can substitute baking soda. Apply the mixture to the area you will be cleaning, wait five minutes and then wipe it off. For annoying stains on toilet paper, leave the paste overnight.

Surfaces to avoid: Borax is generally safe for household surfaces, but can occasionally discolor carpets, so test it in an inconspicuous area before using. It’s generally safe to clean with, but avoid inhaling borax, which can cause poisoning.

Cleaner 3: hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a strong disinfectant that can even work in hospital rooms.

“This all-purpose cleaner is best for cleaning kitchens and bathrooms because it kills germs at a professional level and leaves a pleasant scent,” says Johnson.

How to use: Pour it into a spray bottle and optionally add a few drops of essential oil or lemon to add fragrance. Spray the hydrogen peroxide on your surface and wipe it off with a microfiber cloth. Keep the bottle for as long as needed, but keep it away from light, which can reduce its effectiveness.

Surfaces to avoid: Hydrogen peroxide can be used on most surfaces, but should never be mixed directly with vinegar. Combining them can create peracetic acid, which is corrosive and can irritate the skin.

Insiders takeaway

All-purpose cleaner is easy to make with ingredients you have at home, such as vinegar, borax, and baking soda. Natural cleaners such as a combination of vinegar and water are great for everyday cleaning tasks. But if you must disinfect, use a cleaner that can kill bacteria, such as hydrogen peroxide.