All Purpose Spray by the Gallon w/Printables: 17 Days of Natural Cleaning

Let’s talk about vinegar for one moment. I received an email asking if I was sure vinegar was a disinfectant. I can say with complete faith that it is. Why? Not only because my boys and I have conducted some at home studies and seen great results but also, keep in mind that vinegar, throughout history, has been reputed to have strong antibacterial properties. One test by Good Housekeeping’s microbiologist found that 5% vinegar is 90% effective against mold and 99.9% effective against bacteria, while another study linked with Clorox and Lysol showed vinegar to be too weak or inconsistent for it to be used effectively as a disinfectant. Hmmm. Am I the only one who finds that a bit funny?  (sources listed at bottom of post)

When you do research on vinegar and you are looking for scientific studies, search for the scientific term “acetic acid”. If you search for the layman’s term, “vinegar,” then you are likely to get results that are not scientific.

I also want to point out that we are not solely relying on vinegar for the antibacterial properties. We have a host of other ingredients that add to the effectiveness. Don’t fall for the marketing schemes of corporate companies. Their goal is to get you to keep buying their product.

***off my soapbox***

After trying dozens of recipes for all purpose cleaner I can safely say that this one is by far my favorite. It does the job of several cleaners and works better than most commercial stuff I’ve tried. I use this stuff all the time. I use it so often that I got tired of making it. That’s when I decided to make it by the gallon. That means I can go longer between batches before I have to make more.

This cleaner is PH balanced so it is safe to use on granite and marble. You can test your own recipes or solutions by using PH test strips available at any pharmacy. Right around “7” is safe range for the materials in our homes.

I use it for all basic clean up. It does disinfect but if I need a bit more assurance that an area is bacteria free then I’ll use a bit of hydrogen peroxide. I call that the one, two punch. The way you use this “death to all bacteria” method is by first spraying hydrogen peroxide and then spray the vinegar solution on top. Do not mix them in a bottle. Hydrogen peroxide looses it’s effectiveness when in bottles that aren’t opaque and when it is mixed with other solutions. Sprayed individually they have germ busting power that beats out most stuff on the market. It makes what is called paracetic acid. This is safe. The solution is not near concentrated enough to cause any type of irritation but it is strong enough for cleaning up after raw meats and germs.

I’ve tried many recipes but this is my favorite because:

  1. there is a little more vinegar in this recipe than I have seen in some others and I like that because that makes it a stronger disinfectant and I can smell the clean. DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE INITIAL VINEGAR SMELL. It goes away after a minute or two and leaves behind whatever scent of essential oils you use. I like smelling the vinegar immediately. It reminds me of when I used to watch my grandma clean and it gives me the immediate satisfaction of knowing that the cleaner is working.
  2. upon first wiping it leaves a slight film. This will go away if you let it evaporate but I like it because it prompts me to wipe again ensuring that the area is thoroughly cleaned.

Ingredients (one bottle):

  • 1/2 tsp of liquid Castile soap or Sal’s Suds
  • 1 tsp Borax
  • 1 tsp of washing soda
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups hot water (distilled or boiled to remove impurities)
  • 25-30 drops of essential oil ( I use Tea Tree, Grapefruit, and Eucalyptus)
  • 24 oz spray bottle
  • label

Put the hot water in a deep bowl. Mix in the castile soap, Borax, washing soda. Finally add the vinegar. Slowly add the water and stir. Allow it to cool a bit then add some essential oils. Using a funnel pour it into the spray bottle. Label your bottle.

Ingredients (gallon):

  • 3 tsp of liquid castile soap
  • 2 tablespoons Borax
  • 2 tablespoons washing soda
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 12 cups hot water (distilled or boiled to remove impurities)
  • gallon jug
  • label

Put the hot water in a deep bowl. Mix in the castile soap, Borax, washing soda. Finally add the vinegar. Slowly add the water and stir. Allow it to cool and then add some essential oils. Using a funnel pour it into the gallon jug. Label your gallon jug. When you are ready to pour some into your spray bottle leave room for 25-30 drops of essential oil  ( I use Tea Tree, Grapefruit, and Eucalyptus). I add the oil only to my spray bottle.

To use simply spray the area to be cleaned and wipe with a dry cloth. Sit back, relax, and smile because you just benefited your family in a major way!

I like to personalize everything so I created my own labels. I have many of these labels for other cleaners and such that I make and I will post them in upcoming weeks along with their respective recipes. Simply download your label of choice and insert it into your label making software (Word, Open Office, etc) and print on shipping labels. You could also print on Avery sticker paper. After putting the labels on my bottles I use contact paper to seal over the top of the label to avoid the label from smearing or being damaged if it gets wet. You will also find some older labels here: DIY Homemade Natural All Purpose Spray w/Printable Labels.

Download Labels:





Clean Modern Label





Antique Vintage Label





Classic Natural Label





Shabby Chic Label





Funky Fun Label





Traditional Contemporary Label





Simple Earthy Label


Other posts in this series:

Source of Good Housekeeping test results: Link
Source of sponsored tests by Lysol and Clorox: Link
Additional sources: Link and Link
Some links are affiliate links. I do receive a small commission for any purchase.
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  1. Hey, just a said to put the hot water in a bowl then add the other ingredients. Then at the end you said to slowly add the water. Do you add the water in the beginning or at the end? Thanks! 😀

    • I was wondering the same thing! I’ve made other cleaners and had a film (soap and oils I think) floating on the top of the water. Is there someway to avoid this?

    • I think I replied to this via email instead of here so I’ll post my response. I pour a portion of the hot water then mix the Borax and washing soda in. I wait until it is well mixed and then add the vinegar. After stirring a few times I add the castile soap and then the rest of the water. I hope that helps. 🙂 I’ve not had anything floating when I mix it this way.

  2. I really would like to try your recipes for the toilet bowl cleaner and Glass and Mirror cleaner but they both have castile soap AND vinegar together which Dr.Bronner’s daughter(?) says is a big no-no. I know you mentioned this in the other comments that she addresses it in the comments after her article on the subject but I could not find it. Can you explain what she may have said? I am new to natural cleaning. I want to do the best thing for my family but unfortunately I have relied on bleach etc. to “know” things are clean and disinfected. When I hear that the vinegar and soap combined may not make anything clean, I get concerned that I am not cleaning anything and wasting my time. Please help!! I am so thankful for this blog! Bless you!!

  3. Hi Amy, I bought peppermint scented liquid Castile soap and I find it to be a lovely scent. I was thinking that in that case I wouldn’t need essential oils if they are included in the recipe just to give it an aroma. Are the essential oils necessary for cleaning/a part of this recipe for anything reason other than to give it a scent?

  4. HI, I read that Borax is harmful to the reproductive tract especialy children and to skin and respiratory tract. I stopped using it, Please check it out.

    • I’ve addressed this before. Borax is ingested in large quantities in other countries so that is why a study was done on it. In that sense, yes it is harmful. You are not ingesting this.

  5. I have a question. I saw it asked in the comments, but never saw an answer. Is this cleaner safe to use on marble or granite countertops? Also, what about concrete floors coated with polyurethane? I love the idea but am concerned about damaging my surfaces!

  6. I’ve been enjoying reading your site so far & look forward to trying out your recipes/ideas. A comment about purpose cleaner, is it not bad to store it in plastic since the vinegar is acidic & wouldnt it leach chemicals into the solution?

  7. Yay auto correct! That was meant to be Borax.

  8. Aren’t Voracious and washing soda one and the same?

    • NO, they aren’t the same. Washing soda is similar to baking soda but stronger. Borax is simply borax.

  9. Can you use this on granite countertops since it contains vinegar? If not, what could I use?
    I have an engineering degree, so I love that you have done your research and back things up scientifically! Thanks for your hard work!

  10. Amy, I am trying to figure out all this natural cleaning stuff and get it instituted in my home. I came across this article today:, which states that you should not mix vinegar (acid) and castile soap (base) together because they would then negate one another’s function. What do you think? Thanks for the help!

    • I am curious about this as well.

      • I’m familiar with what is said in the article you shared. Rendering the ingredients ineffective only happens in certain recipes. Ms. Bronner even says that in a comment if you read on. The recipe I use has ingredients which act as a buffer and the ph balance is 7.5 which means it is effective. The recipes I have do work but if you are hesitant to use the castile you can use the Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds in place of it. I just prefer the Castile because it is the most natural.

        • I read through the linked post by Ms. Bronner, but I’m not sure of the comment you referenced. She mentioned that the washing soda and the vinegar react, and that may keep the vinegar from reacting with the castile soap. Is that what you referenced?
          I’m so confused on this issue!! I have friends who are wanting me to teach them about all the natural cleaners I’ve been making and loving, but up til now, I’ve kept castile away from vinegar…
          I LOVE all the recipes you have shared, and obviously you are happy with them. I just wish there were a clearer answer to this issue.

          • Actually I can’t find the comment either. I remember it well though because a scientist actually presented her with several reasons why a castile/acetic acid mixture could and would work and she replied that at times the ingredients and the amounts play a key role. They went back and forth a few times and she finally quit responding to him. I know I saved his URL. I’ll have to find it. In any case, I remember what he said because it was the same thing I was told by the lab who tested this recipe. With a buffer in place the function of the acid is protected. The castile (which is nothing more than oils) still effectively blend with the liquid and attach to dirt, germ, and oil particles to aid in removing them.

            I am also told that plain water works just as effectively as most cleaners do. Any addition to the water is a bonus. So, no matter what you can’t go wrong. The only things you want to avoid are mixing hydrogen peroxide with vinegar.

  11. Heather Ball says:

    I am very late in getting onto your page – ‘late in life’ and ‘late in following this article (or is it called a blog?)
    I love the idea of making my own cleaner but am puzzled by th ‘liquid castile soap’ as I’ve never heard of it. Is it available in England? if not what can I use as a substitut (it sounds quite potent as you only use a small amount)?
    I only got into ‘Blogs’ to support my daughter as she created one outlining the joys of Home Shooling and have found myself following others that I find interesting. I got onto yours by ‘happy’ accident and am very pleased with it – Keep up the good work (please!!!)
    I look forward to your reply so that I can try your recipie

  12. Amy, I have been using your All Purpose Cleaner made by the gallon for a couple months now. I absolutley LOVE IT!!! The essential oils I add to my spray bottle are grapefruit oil, orange oil, pepperment oil, and tea trea oil. I am not one of those “love to clean” kind of gals. But, with this spray, I just keep cleaning and cleaning. I go looking for things to wipe down just so I can smell that fresh clean scent! THANKS A BUNCH for sharing!

    • Do you add all of these essential oils to the same batch, or have separate batches for each oil?

      • These are added per bottle of spray. It makes an amazing citrus mint blend. The ration I use 6 peppermint, 5 tea tree, 3 orange, 3 grapefruit, 3 lemon, and 3 drops of lime.

    • And what proportions do you use of the oils? Equal parts or more of one or the other? Thanks~

  13. Just now finding your blog…and loving it!!! I just had one question. When you tell what essential oils you use (like tea tree, grapefruit, and eucalyptus), does that mean you add all three to one recipe, or does that mean you like using all three of those separately? I’m new to this and will just have to try different things and see, but thought I’d try the way you like it first to see what I think. Thanks for all the research and help you willingly share!

  14. Jonathon says:

    Is there a reason why you only add the essential oils to the spray bottle and not the 1 gallon container?
    Or, did I read that wrong and you add the oils after cooling AND when you refill your spray bottle?

  15. Hi Amy, can I use all purpose spray on wood or on wood laminate?

  16. Lindsey says:

    Isn’t the big box of Arm & Hammer in the laundry detergent eisle the same as “Washing Soda?” I’ve seen it in ingredients for homemade laundry detergent, and when I looked into making it, I found the big box in that eisle next to the Borax, etc. I didn’t think it was too expensive, maybe I’m just new to this! 🙂

    • Yes, you are right. At wal-mart it is just over $3. But if you can’t find it at your local stores (it took mine a long time to get it), then it can be pricey to get shipped.

  17. I can’t find washing soda anywhere other than on amazon and it is pretty expensive there. I was wondering if I can omit it from your formula or use baking soda instead. I know washing soda is stronger but it is impossible to find. Suggestions?

    • Katie, you can also look for soda ash (sodium carbonate). That is all the washing soda is. It can be found at some pool supply stores. I can actually buy my washing soda at WalMart now.You can also find it here:

      Baking soda and washing soda aren’t one in the same. However, you can make washing soda (soda ash) from baking soda by heating it. BUT… this produces carbon monoxide and should not be done indoors. That is why I prefer to buy the washing soda. Some of the other suppliers of soda ash add other ingredients too. Another reason I prefer the washing soda by Arm and Hammer. I’d just look at the labels before purchasing.

      The washing soda (soda ash) is needed to maintain the PH balance so that the cleaner is effective.

  18. I wonder if you used the regular Castille soap, or used perhaps Peppermint or flavored, still adding essential oils?

    • The essential oils give additional benefits. They aren’t necessary but I find the cleaners more effective and more pleasant smelling with them.

  19. where i can find some of those indgredients to make the natural cleaning spray?
    vineagar i know can bought any where but where can i find the borax, washing soda and liquid castile soap? these i have not heard of before. maybe i’m not use to natural or maybe it’s becauise i’m from ohio. 😉

    since i became a mom i been more concern on being natrual so i search the internet for all blogs,websites and other places to teach me.

    just bought the ebook pursuite of proverbs 31 can’t wait to read it. only if i did’nt lose the webpage to download my ebook 😉 i snet a email out asking for help. 😉

    help is something i always need which is funny since my gift from god is that i’m a helper. lol;)

  20. Thanks Amy! This series is wonderful. I’m looking for ingredients this week. Need to pick up Borax, True Lemon, and Washing Soda. I’ve been pinning you on pinterest!

    Just a quick question – could I use a different type of essential oil? It seems to me that Tea Tree and Eucalyptus definately have properties off their own, but I’m not sure my family would enjoy the smell! Does the scent linger very long?

    • Hey, Kristi! I think it is a personal thing for everyone. I like the way they smell but if you don’t then you can definitely use other oils. Many of the essential oils have benefits that would make your home a safe haven.

  21. Awesome! I make my own all purpose cleaner….but I only make it one spray bottle at a time. The kids love it too and complain when I take too long to make a new batch- DUH! Make up a gallon! Thanks for the idea….ha ha!

  22. Momma Ruby says:

    This may sound totally ignorant of me, but I’m gonna ask anyway. Isn’t an all purpose cleaner, by definition supposed to be used on anything and everything. If so why do you need the glass and mirror cleaner or any other for that matter? If it can’t be used on EVERYTHING what are the things it should and shouldn’t be used on? I’m not trying to antagonize but to truly understand.

    • Yes, Ruby it is all purpose. You can use it to clean anything. The reason I choose to create more solutions for other uses is because I want more than just clean or in some cases I want a specific kind of clean. For example, I can use the all purpose cleaner to clean my mirrors and glass and it will indeed clean but I also want it to have a streak free shine. The all purpose cleaner will clean it but it won’t be streak free and it won’t shine. Therefore, I made another solution that cleans, is streak free, and leaves a shine. Same for floors. I can use this to clean my floors with a rag and it will clean just fine. But, because I use a mop and not a rag most of the time, it is going to leave behind a soapy residue. That is why I made a separate solution for mopping.

      You will see throughout the series that I refer back to the all purpose for lots of cleaning in all rooms but I also offer alternatives to get more efficient results than just cleaning (shine, no residue, need for less product, more germ busting, etc).

      Does that clear it up for you?

      • Momma Ruby says:

        Yes, thank you. I was told to clean, but never really taught to. It was always clean this, use this, you forgot this, type of thing. I’m the type of person that needs to know the why’s most of the time to get excited about it.

        Thanks again for clearing this up for me.

  23. Ok, I love this idea, but I’m hoping I can still do it. I have never seen distiller vinegar here (Ireland). I CAN get clear malt vinegar…..will that work??

    • I know I sent you an email already but I wanted to reply here too just in case someone else had the same question. That vinegar is fine. If it is clear then it was distilled. The fact that it is malt just means it was derived from a different natural ingredient. That vinegar is totally fine to use. 🙂

  24. What a great tips! and beautiful designs. Thank you Amy.

  25. Question:  It looks like the gallon jug is an old milk jug.  Is that what you use, or do you buy jugs somewhere?

  26. Jaime Cartagena says:

    You mentioned three different essential oils. Are all three used together?

  27. Michele Williams says:

    Where do you get the castile soap?   Also, my daughter and family live in an apartment that has a basement and two other floors.  All the apartments have mold problems due to flooding etc….  My daughter’s family are always sick.  The apt. manager says there is nothing he can do about it, because that’s what you get living in the area.  They are trying to find another place to live, but in the mean time mold continues to grow even after they clean.  What can they do?

    • I get my castile soap from Whole Foods but you should be able to find it at local health food stores or on Amazon. I’m not sure what your daughter should do. That is a tough situation. The apartment nmanager should fix the problem. That is a health hazard. There are things that can be done to reduce the amount of spores in the air but it will continuously be cycled into the apartment through ventillation as long as there is a mold problem.

      • Hi Amy, I just found this site and its great. I just made the all purpose cleaner but used the lavender Dr.Bonners. Hope it works 🙂


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