This homemade floor cleaner is the best all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant! Clean nearly every surface in your home with just 5 simple ingredients.
NOTE: This post started as a very simple recipe for a homemade floor cleaner. Over the years I’ve experimented and refined it to it’s current form. Today, it’s not just a floor cleaner; it’s the best truly all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant. And it’s the only cleaner I use for nearly every surface in my home.
When I was growing up, the only thing we used for cleaning our tile floors was a certain pine-scented concoction with a mop and bucket. In fact, I’ll bet if you grew up in North America, you probably just got flashbacks of that overwhelming fake “pine” scent just as you’re reading this!
And although that pine cleaner is still around today, we’ve also become much more conscious of the products we bring into our homes.
We want to know exactly what’s in those products. How they’ll affect our health and the environment. What kind of longterm effects we can expect down the road.
So what exactly is in Pine-Sol®?
To be honest, I didn’t expect to find a complete list of the ingredients in this product, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that their website actually has what looks like the full list here!
I’m fairly certain that this is something new, so bravo to the Clorox Company (creators of Pine Sol) for listening to their customers and being more transparent with their product labeling!
That being said, there are a few ingredients on that list that are on my personal list of chemicals to avoid in cleaning products:
Can be contaminated with the hidden ingredients, ethylene oxide and/or 1,4 dioxane, during the manufacturing process. Both of these have been classified as “carcinogenic to humans” (can cause cancer) by the EPA. Read more about the ethoxylation process here.
This term is very ambiguous; manufacturers can put it on a label to describe any number of the more than 3,000 different chemicals that are known to be used in fragrance compounds. I do appreciate that The Clorox Company is now transparent in their labeling and provide a complete list of the common fragrance ingredients used in their products.
That being said, I do try to avoid artificial fragrances when possible since they’re well known now for being linked to a long list of health problems like allergies, chemical sensitivities, and reproductive and developmental issues. (source)
So how do we clean our homes without worrying about bringing toxic chemicals near our families?
By going back to the basics and using simple, trusted, time-tested ingredients.
Vinegar is probably as old as civilization itself (seriously – it’s even been found in Ancient Egyptian pots and referenced in Babylonian scrolls!), and people have been cleaning their homes with water and vinegar for years.
But when I tried a simple 50/50 solution as a simple homemade floor cleaner, I was left wanting more.
More grime-fighting power. More “streak-free shine.” And let’s face it, more nice scent (vinegar can be quite strong and overpowering, although the scent does dissipate once it dries).
In my search for something stronger, I found a recipe which mixes equal parts water, vinegar, and alcohol, with a few drops of dish soap.
After testing out a small area, I was in love. I finally found something that really cleaned my floors and didn’t leave any streaks on my dark colored wood!
Oh God, the smell… It was so strong. Like “hurry and crack a window before you get light headed and possibly pass out” strong. Yeah…
So my work wasn’t done yet.
I played around with the recipe and came up with what I now lovingly refer to as the ultimate all-purpose cleaner. Yep, it’s that good.
After changing the ratios a bit and adding some essential oils, I’m now very happy with this cleaner. Keep reading below to see why I chose the specific oils that I did.
So what started as an amazing homemade floor cleaner, is now the best all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant spray ever.
Ultimate All-Purpose Cleaner
- 1 cup distilled water (distilled is best, but filtered tap water is fine for short term storage)
- 1/2 cup vinegar (white distilled vinegar)
- 1/2 cup isopropyl alcohol (aka rubbing alcohol or surgical spirits)
- 2-3 drops dish soap
- 25-30 drops essential oil (my recipe uses 7 drops lavender, 7 drops orange or lemon, 10 drops tea tree oil, and 5 drops peppermint)
- Fine-mist spray bottle at least 16 oz capacity
And it really is an ALL purpose cleaner!
This is now the only cleaner that I use on nearly every surface in my home. Sometimes I’ll use it along with a good sprinkle of baking soda (great for scrubbing!), but mostly I use it on its own to clean things like:
- Floors – laminate, tile, linoleum
- Glass – Windows, mirrors, tables, etc.
- Cabinets and countertops (vinegar is too acidic for granite, so use this homemade granite cleaner instead)
- Stainless steel – appliances, faucets, sinks, etc.
- Walls, baseboards, window sills
- Porcelain and acrylic – toilets and sinks
- Basically anything that needs to be wiped down.
Why do these ingredients work so well?
Even though I knew vinegar and water have been used to clean homes since time immemorial, I still needed to know exactly how and why the ingredients in this all-purpose cleaner work so well to clean surfaces, cut grease and grime, and disinfect areas by keeping bacteria at bay.
With a very low pH level of 2 and a high acid content, vinegar is a very unpleasant environment for the growth of microorganisms. In fact, a study from 2014 found that acetic acid (the active component in vinegar) is “an effective mycobactericidal disinfectant that should also be active against most other bacteria;” however it will not kill dangerous bacteria like staphylococcus. (source)
Vinegar is also a great degreaser and buildup fighter. It cuts through mildew and soap scum, and can kill mold in the bathroom.
For household cleaning, you want to use distilled white vinegar that you can pick up at the grocery store. It will look something like this.
We’re using isopropyl alcohol here, not the boozy kind. 😉 In some countries it’s called surgical spirits or rubbing alcohol, and can be picked up at any pharmacy or chemist. Whatever you call it, it’s the clear stuff that’s used as to clean and sterilize minor cuts. 70% alcohol is what I use, but you can also find 91% (although the higher concentration will have a stronger smell). It will look something like this.
Alcohol is a wonderful disinfectant, which is why it’s our first line of defence in cleaning wounds and preventing infection. Alcohol is also a solvent, so it’s great at dissolving dirt and oils. It’s also very volatile and will evaporate quickly, leaving your surfaces with no residue or streaks left behind.
Caution: Alcohol’s fumes can be very strong (though they’re nowhere near as bad as bleach), so make sure you’re using it in a well-ventilated area. Alcohol is also flammable, so keep it far away from any flames or heat sources.
Essential oils are amazing little powerhouses of therapeutic and antimicrobial properties. Their use in this recipe is not just for the nice scent (they do a great job of covering up the strong smell of the vinegar and alcohol); I specifically chose these oils (lavender, lemon or orange, tea tree oil, and peppermint) for their ability to kill microbes.
- Lavender is naturally antibacterial, and it has a lovely, relaxing scent.
- Lemon, orange, and most citrus oils are great at cutting grease; lemon specifically is antiviral and helps freshen the air.
- Tea tree oil is the major antibacterial player in this recipe as it fights germs, bacteria, and viruses.
- Peppermint is also antibacterial and has a strong, cool, invigorating scent.
Where to buy essential oils
Where can you buy the cleaning equipment?
Make sure to use microfibre cloths (like these) so you get a nice, streak-free clean on surfaces that really need it. Sometimes it helps if you dampen the microfiber cloth just a bit before using it to clean.
Microfiber cloths are also great for scrubbing and lifting up dried, stuck on spots from pretty much any surface. Read more on microfiber cloths here.
For floors, I use a microfiber spray mop like this one, which comes with a refillable compartment for your own homemade cleaner, and washable pads. Make sure to get some extra pads, because you’ll need them!
I just manually spray the cleaner on the floor, then wipe it up with the mop. I found that if I don’t remember to remove the refillable compartment before storing away the mop every time, the spray nozzle gets clogged and it’s a pain to clean out and get it working again.
Lots of readers have also tried this cleaner in their Shark steam mop with great results!
Is this cleaner safe to use around pets?
The base of the recipe (water, alcohol, vinegar) is perfectly fine for use around pets, but some have voiced concern that essential oils may be harmful if ingested by pets, especially cats.
Although essential oils, when used properly, have been used to treat many ailments in pets and humans alike, you should take precaution when using them around your furry friends, especially if they have compromised immune systems or other health issues.
As always, please do your own research and consult with your pet’s veterinarian or a licensed aromatherapist, if you have any concerns.
If you’d rather use this with a mop and bucket:
Several people have asked this question, and although I haven’t tried it myself, I did find a recipe online that seems like it would be comparable to this one. So if you want to use a mop and bucket, try this recipe:
For a gallon of water, add:
- 1/2 cup of vinegar
- 1/3 cup of alcohol
- 1 teaspoon dish soap
- essential oils, if you’re using them
Have more questions, but don’t feel like reading through the comments?
I’ve created a new page with all of the most frequently asked questions about this all-purpose cleaner, as well as some extra tips and tricks to help you get the most out of it! Check it out here: Ultimate All-Purpose Cleaner – Tips, Tricks and FAQs
Some of the questions/tips you’ll find there include:
- Can this cleaner be used on hardwood floors?
- Can I use this on other surfaces around the house?
- Do you have to use essential oils in the recipe?
- …and more!