How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Surface Cleaner

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How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner: 2 Ways. These are so easy, just three ingredients. Plus, they work on just about anything.

Monday is usually a food day around Live Simply. Over the past few months we’ve talked about shopping for real food and various ways to prep real food for the week ahead. We will return to our traditional Monday food talks in a few weeks. Over the next three weeks, may we branch away from real food and talk about natural cleaning? One of the recipes we’re going to mix up today is technically edible (minus the essential oils), so technically we’re still talking about food ;).



I knew you’d be up for a change of pace.

How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner: 2 Ways. These are so easy, just three ingredients. Plus, they work on just about anything.

With a new book, DIY Natural Cleaning Challenge, I’ve been spending my days, nights, and weekends testing and retesting the beloved natural cleaning recipes I use in my home. The Cleaning Challenge is about helping you navigate the world of do-it-yourself, natural cleaning using a simplified, practical, no-condemnation approach. Before I share over 50 of my tried-and-true cleaning recipes with you via this new resource, I want to help you confidently get started with making homemade cleaners over the next three weeks to show you just how easy it is to naturally clean your home. Homemade cleaning recipes are super easy to make, and most recipes are made using the same basic ingredients to clean multiple surfaces/rooms of the house (the beauty of simple, natural products).

Let’s take a look at what we’re going to make over the next three weeks to help you confidently get started (or reignite a passion) with making natural cleaning products.

Natural Cleaning

3 Homemade Cleaning Products

Product 1: All-Purpose Surface Cleaner: Two Ways (today’s recipe)

Product 2: Glass and Window Cleaner

Product 3: General Floor Cleaner

Stock Your Cleaning Toolkit: Ingredients You’ll Need

Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to make today’s cleaning recipe as well as the glass and window cleaner and the floor cleaner. These are the products I recommend stocking in your natural cleaning caddy.

How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner: 2 Ways. These are so easy, just three ingredients. Plus, they work on just about anything.

Castile Soap

Castile soap is a concentrated vegetable-based soap made of ingredients you can actually pronounce. This soap is gentle on the skin and effective in the fight against dirt, grease, and unwanted germs. Dr. Bronner’s is a very a popular brand of castile soap.

The world is just a better place with castile soap, really! Castile soap can be used to clean just about anything and everything: your face, your laundry, and even your stinky dog! Pretty amazing stuff.

How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner: 2 Ways. These are so easy, just three ingredients. Plus, they work on just about anything.


Vinegar is 5% acetic acid. This acid fights against bacteria and other yuckies you don’t want living in your home. Vinegar can’t be used on every surface (like marble and granite), but even with its limitations vinegar is an extremely versatile product to keep in your natural cleaning toolkit.

How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner: 2 Ways. These are so easy, just three ingredients. Plus, they work on just about anything.

Lemon Juice

Fresh citrus, particularly lemons and lemon juice, is an amazing addition to natural cleaners. Lemons contain antibacterial properties which aid in fighting unwanted germs and bacteria in the home. Plus, citrus provides an amazing fresh scent to homemade cleaners.

How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner: 2 Ways. These are so easy, just three ingredients. Plus, they work on just about anything.

Rubbing Alcohol (or Vodka) 

Rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, is considered an antiseptic and sold as such in grocery stores. Rubbing alcohol is used in homemade cleaners to kill germs. Rubbing alcohol will be used in the floor cleaner spray to speed up the drying time (no Slip ‘N Slide this time).

I know some people in the natural community avoid rubbing alcohol for cleaning purposes. Vodka may be safely substituted for rubbing alcohol in cleaning recipes.

How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner: 2 Ways. These are so easy, just three ingredients. Plus, they work on just about anything.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are very popular today, but the truth is before the popular oil brands marketed online and bloggers started filling Pinterest with recipes, essential oils were being used by generations before us.

Essential oils are basically concentrated oils derived from plants. For those wanting a more scientific definition, here’s how Retha, a certified aromatherapist from Plant Therapy, defines an essential oil,  “An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam.”

Essential oils not only provide a pretty, natural fragrance to homemade cleaners, but also important disinfecting properties. A few of my favorite essential oils for cleaning, include: lemon, tea tree, peppermint, lavender, and orange. My favorite trustworthy and affordable essential oil brands for cleaning include: Aura Cacia, NOW, and Plant Therapy. All of these brands can be found online.


Yep, good ol’ H2O is a staple in every single recipe we will make over the next three weeks. When making homemade products, clean tap water may be used for temporary storage (1-2 weeks); for long-term storage use distilled water or boiled and then cooled water to limit the possibility of bacteria growth.

How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner: 2 Ways. These are so easy, just three ingredients. Plus, they work on just about anything.

Spray Bottles 

In order to make these cleaners you’re going to need spray bottles. There are several options when sourcing spray bottles for homemade cleaners: 1) repurpose old surface cleaner bottles; just make sure you wash the bottles out thoroughly; 2) make your own cleaner bottles from vinegar bottles (small Perrier water bottles also work!); 3) Purchase ready-to-go cleaner bottles (these are my favorite).

How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Surface Cleaner

The first recipe we’re going to make together is a basic surface cleaner, actually two depending on your preference.  A surface cleaner serves an all-purpose role in the home and can be used to clean many surfaces: kitchen and bathroom cupboards, the inside of the fridge/freezer, kitchen and bathroom surfaces, carpet accidents (the vinegar cleaner is best for this use), and some appliances.

When it comes to making a surface cleaner, or any homemade product, it’s important to be educated and know what ingredients should or shouldn’t be used on various surfaces.  For this reason, today’s post contains two different recipe options: castile soap or vinegar.

How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner: 2 Ways. These are so easy, just three ingredients. Plus, they work on just about anything.

The castile soap cleaner is safe to use on any surface (always test cleaners in a small area first before applying to a greater surface area), including granite and marble.

How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner: 2 Ways. These are so easy, just three ingredients. Plus, they work on just about anything.

The vinegar cleaner does have a vinegar scent (hey, it’s vinegar!), but it works very well for cleaning multiple surfaces, including carpet mishaps. If you have a marble or granite surface, do NOT use a vinegar-based surface cleaner since it can etch away at the stone.

Let’s get started!

How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Surface Cleaner
4.91 from 11 votes

Homemade All-Purpose Surface Cleaner: Two Ways

A surface cleaner serves an all-purpose role in the home and can be used to clean many surfaces: kitchen and bathroom cupboards, the inside of the fridge/freezer, kitchen and bathroom surfaces, carpet accidents (the vinegar cleaner is best for this use), and some appliances.

Course DIY, Homemade
Cuisine Cleaning
Keyword Homemade All-Purpose Surface Cleaner
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 2 16oz
Author Kristin Marr


Castile Soap Surface Cleaner

Vinegar Surface Cleaner


  1. For the castile soap cleaner, pour the water into a 16oz. spray bottle (use a funnel, if needed). Add the castile soap and essential oil. Gentle shake the cleaner. This cleaner may be stored at room temperature.
  2. For the vinegar cleaner, pour all the ingredients into a 16oz. spray bottle (use a funnel, if needed). Gently shake the cleaner. This cleaner will need to be stored in the fridge between uses due to the fresh lemon juice.
  3. To Use: 

  4. Gently shake the spray bottle before spraying the cleaner on the desired surface. Spray the cleaner and wipe off the surface with a damp cloth (this is important when using the castile soap cleaner since it can leave a soapy residue if left to dry)! Do NOT use the vinegar cleaner on marble or granite. The castile soap (avoid the citrus variety) cleaner may be used on sealed marble or granite.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

*I recommend starting with 2 tablespoons of castile soap, and then increasing the amount to 1/4 cup if you want more of a soapy cleaner. 

I recently wrote a detailed post on how to make each cleaner featured above. Check out these posts for more information about each all purpose cleaner…


How to Make Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner: 2 Ways. These are so easy, just three ingredients. Plus, they work on just about anything.

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Must Have Ingredients to Clean Your Entire House, Naturally!

12 Must-Have Ingredients To Clean Your Entire House

Laundry Products to Stop Buying and Start Making

6 Laundry Products to Stop Buying and Start Making

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9 Beauty Products to Stop Buying and Start Making

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  1. says: valentina | sweet kabocha

    5 stars
    I love your diy! I can’t wait to try them 😀

    I’m moving to California for 6 months, so I’d like to know your opinion about organic food delivery at home. Do you think services like are a good choice or Target and Trader’s joe are cheaper?

    Thanks a lot ^_^

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Hey Valentina, Thank you so much!

      I believe California can be a pricey state when it comes to food. I definitely recommend pricing everything out when you get there and comparing prices between the options. I’ve heard the farmer’s markets in California are pretty amazing, so that may be a very affordable option. I’ve used a delivery service and liked it, but found myself still shopping at the store for produce.

      PS: Your blog is gorgeous! I can’t wait to read more.

      1. says: valentina | sweet kabocha

        It’s a good idea, I’ll have trader’s joe, walmart – any chance to find something organic? – target and safeway at a walking distance from home, so I’ll made a little comparison while there! Thank you so much, I’m happy you like my blog ^_^

        1. says: Charli Brewerton

          Hello Kristin,
          Thank you so much for all your hints and tips for green cleaning, especially doing all the niggly research! I was curious to find out whether you use the castile-based or vinegar-based surface cleaner more and why? I am a homemade cleaning novice and this will be my first time making something at home so would be great to know which to start with. Many thanks, Charli

          1. says: Chardea Singer

            I like the vinegar cleaner. I don’t have stone surfaces in my home and I don’t mind the vinegar scent.

            LS Team

    2. says: Stefani

      5 stars
      I was just wondering about the essential oils in the recipe. I have always heard they were toxic for cats, and I wanted to be sure this is non-toxic for my furbaby. Thanks.

  2. says: Laura

    Hi Kristin,
    I just watched this video and wanted to drop you a quick note. A friend recently taught me about Norwex microfiber cleaning cloths. I searched your site to see if you had a post about their microfiber with BacLock, but didn’t find anything. I so don’t want to sound gimmicky, but I was wondering if you have tried it (I would have emailed you personally, but couldn’t find how)?? I was making homemade cleaners too, but have found I need almost nothing besides the microfiber (like the EnviroCloth) and water. You should check it out if you haven’t heard about it yet, because even my floors I clean with only the microfiber pad and water…I am LOVING it! It is so much faster, and I am keeping up with the cleaning better! With four kids myself and as much as we do from scratch, this is helping me in my daily routine so much!

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Thank you for sharing, Laura. I’ve heard of Norwex and received a microfiber cloth a couple of years ago as a gift, but never used it. I still have it in my toolkit, so I’ll try it out. I use a microfiber cloth for cleaning mirrors, etc. Do you know what the difference is between the Norwex cloths and cloths sold at Target (or any store ;))?

      PS: For the future, if you need to email me: :).

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Hey Bethany, That’s a great question and, truthfully, one of the greatest challenges I faced as I wrote the cleaning book. There are so many ways (formulas) to clean a home naturally. The solution that’s right for one person may be different for another (based on scent preferences, ingredients at hand, etc.). My personal opinion is to use what you love and stick to it (as long as it’s not Windex or ammonia ;)…you know what I mean). So, I’d say stick with bathroom cleaner for everything–it’s really amazing stuff!

  3. says: Denise Veggerby

    5 stars
    I love the surface cleaner; I made the cleaner with castile soap as I have marble and granite counters. Worked beautifully and the bathroom smells clean and fresh with no chemical smells!

    1. says: Kim

      You can use your Apple Cider Vinegar glass bottles for spray bottles. I have a few different homemade cleaners using these bottles. Hope this helps you out.

  4. says: Shannon

    I am interested in making this surface cleaner, but I do have granite countertops. As far as the essential oils are concerned, which ones are safe for granite countertops? Thanks so much. I just found your blog and am loving it!

  5. says: Jessica Bower

    5 stars

    How long do you have to let the cleaner sit for it to be a good disinfectant? Do you recommend the vinegar solution for that?

    I have made several batches of the laundry soap and LOVE it! Thank you for sharing!!

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Hey Jessica, For the vinegar spray, I would let it sit for about 15-20 minutes, or longer depending on the surface. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the soap!

  6. says: Abbie

    Woah! Your homemade collection looks so good that I actually want to revise my own and make it all fancy and gorgeous. Is this silly of me? 😀
    In the past, my mind was always predetermined when it comes to DIY cleaners, I don’t know why, but I always thought they were somewhat gimmicky. I don’t know, I didn’t think they have the same power as the store-bought products.
    But more and more of my close friends turned to green cleaning and were quite happy with it. This was my only reason to even try in the first place (well, saving some money sounded pretty darn awesome too). And I was so glad that I did.

    For all the people out there that are wondering whether or not to make that transition, my advice is to just try it out. You don’t have to completely exclude your favorite cleaners from your shopping lists. But try using just one homemade product and see the difference yourself. It’s life changing.

  7. says: Andrea


    Are the essential oils necessary for the cleaning power? I have enjoyed using the oils, but do not like all the glass bottle waste. While I realize they can be recycled, I would prefer to either bulk fill them, which I cannot find anywhere or to just reduce use.

    Let me know what you think.

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Hey Kelly, As long as you don’t have granite or marble, I’d use 100% vinegar. You could also use the same technique for disinfecting cutting boards using vinegar and then hydrogen peroxide: If you have granite or marble, then I can share my granite disinfectant with you (it’s in my cleaning book)…just let me know :).

      PS: I’m finally back at our health food store working today in the cafe, so I’ll respond back to the wine comment shortly ;).

  8. says: sandy

    Hi, I am making some of the diy cleaning products I come across online and one of my favorite site is yours. My question to you is you have mentioned that water base all surface cleaner should be used quickly because of possibility of growing bacteria in the water. I would like to make four to five bottles at a time. So do you mean to say, I should not be making in bulk.

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Hey Roxanne, When it comes to cleaners, both will work. I tend to stick with white vinegar, since it’s cheaper and it doesn’t leave any sticky residue. I’ve found that some apple cider vinegars, particularly the ones with the “Mother”, may leave behind a sticky residue on some surfaces.

  9. says: Miriam Dudek

    5 stars
    What a wonderful product.
    Like always, with good humour, well described with absolute perfect photos (that is in fact why I linked into this website) and good explanations.

    This product is the best thing that ever happened to me (I am not a house-lady)! It eases everything, cleans everything so well, dries quickly.

    As a present to my sister and my mother in a nice bottle – they use it regularly. My sister ONLY cleans all surfaces with this cleaner and has asked me for the link of the site.


  10. says: Erin

    Hi. I’m new to your site and so far think it’s great. I’m currently using the same spray bottles you have from Sally’s organic and have used a myriad of others. I find that whenever I use a homemade cleaning solution The sprayer only lasts for 3-4 batches before the rubber inside deteriorates and I need a new sprayer. I’m going with your Castile soap recipe for this batch (all previous attempts have included vinegar, borax, or washing soda). I would love to have a vinegar spray at the ready but don’t know how to get around the sprayer issue. I don’t want to keep having to throw out sprayers. Thanks!

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Hey Erin, Welcome to Live Simply!
      Hmmm, is the cleaner sitting for a long time? My thought is the vinegar may be causing the rubber to erode–a very common issue with rubber and vinegar. I use vinegar in my Sally’s amber bottle (the Sal Suds and vinegar spray cleaner here on the blog), and haven’t had issues, but it also only lasts about 2 weeks at a time. The Sally’s bottles usually come with a cap as well. My thought is maybe you could use that cap for storing the vinegar cleaner and then place the spray nozzle on when you need to use the spray.

      1. says: Erin

        Thanks, Kristin. I don’t think the cleaner is sitting more than a couple of weeks but I could be wrong. I’m going to go with you recommendation of storing the vinegar solution with the cap on and see how that works.


          1. says: Erin

            My husband figured out that it wasn’t the gaskets corroding that was causing my sprayers to fail (although this had been a problem previously), but rather the piston was getting gunked up, presumably because of our hard water. A little olive oil on the piston every couple of batches has fixed this problem.

  11. says: Glenda B.

    I love the recipes but I was wondering if I could use alcohol or Vodka instead of distilled water. That way it would last longer & have more germ killing power. Thank you. God bless.

    1. says: Philip Moodley

      Hi this is Philip from South Africa. I am absolutely amazed by your home made cleaners and comments from your audience. I am looking forward in trying this out.
      Please provide me a starting point stage to stage. Will really appreciate that. Kirsten you amazing. These cleaners adds up to a small fortune by the end of the year. Take care.

  12. says: Anca Dobrinescu

    Hi, can you please comment on the need of distilled water vs regular tap water? I have all the other ingredients and plan on paying with essential oil for different fragrance.

    Also, are there any essential oils that should NOT be used in cleaners?


  13. 5 stars
    Hi Kristin,
    thank you for sharing these great all purpose cleaners! I am in the middle of spring cleaning and want to make sure that I am only using natural cleaners from now on. It’s been an eye opener how much we can actually clean with just a few pantry items as opposed to the shelves full of highly marketed cleaning brands in the supermarket!! I will use your cleaning recipes from now on in our home :). Much love from Melbourne, Katrine x

  14. says: Heather

    Hi Kristin ~ . I love your website! I was looking for a cleaner to use on my computer screen. Would you use your glass cleaner to clean the computer screens?

    Thanks in advance.


    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Hey Heather, I do! The recipe is in my cleaning book: 3 tablespoons distilled water (to prevent mineral deposits caused by tap water)+ 3 tablespoons rubbing alcohol. Add the ingredients to a spray bottle and shake to combine. Spray the electronics cleaner on a microfiber cloth. Wipe electronic screens. Always test a small area first.

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog!

  15. says: Becky Tuck

    Hi, I am looking to make my own cleaning products. I was wondering if you can use filtered water instead of distilled water? Thanks 🙂

  16. says: Jo

    5 stars
    I love making my own cleaners and these recipes are great! I’ve noticed however that a a few weeks after making them, the one with lemon essential oil is now sort of cloudy and it was originally clear. Is it growing mold or is this normal? It’s in an amber colored glass bottle so it’s sort of hard for me to see what is happening. It still smells great, so I’m very confused.

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Hey Jo, Did you use distilled water? If so, it could just be the essential oil making the blend cloudy, or another ingredient (castile soap will do this). If not, I would play it safe and toss the cleaner.

      1. says: Jo

        I used bottled water for one of them, ironically the one with the castile soap, and the other I made the next day and just used tap water (completely forgot about using distilled). But basically, if the mixture starts clear – it should remain clear right? I think I will be tossing the cloudy, non-castile one.

        Thank you!

  17. says: Reba L Patches

    I am used to cleaning with a bucket of water that I dump a bit of a cleaning solution into and a soft cloth. Can I do this instead of making a spray?

  18. says: Sam

    4 stars
    I have used the “Castile Soap Surface Cleaner” for a year or so. While it is effective, it is also frustrating to use. No matter how often I shake it, the soap seems to settle at the bottom so once the spray bottle is 1/3 full or less, the solution is MUCH soapier. I only use 2T of Castille soap, so that shouldn’t be a problem. I had this same problem with another soap-based AP I used. I may try just 1T or go back to my old AP cleaner.

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