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How to Make Your Own All-Purpose Cleaner

Living your best Zero Waste Ewe-nitiative® life!

Did you know that over 60 million plastic bottles are thrown away every day? With just a few simple tweaks to our daily routine we can change that to ZERO. When we start going plastic free, it’s easy to overlook a big area in our household—cleaning products. These are almost always sold in disposable plastic containers, and they come with additional concerns as well.

Full of synthetic chemicals that can be extremely harmful to the environment and our health, these commercial cleaning “solutions” are approved with the premise that they will not be inhaled, ingested, or come into contact with our skin. Raise your hand if you have ever had a cleaning solution on your skin or inhaled the odors? Yup, us too. We probably don’t think much about these chemicals, but often a residue is left on countertops, tables, and other surfaces, and they have a sneaky way of making their way into our bodies. Yuck!

Chemical household cleaning solutions are designed to sterilize the surfaces they touch—helpful in highly contagious areas or a surgical theater, not so much in our homes. We actually need some of these microorganisms to survive and stay healthy, so we don’t want to indiscriminately kill all the helpful microscopic friends along with the bad guys.

How can we feel like our home is clean without the use of all these harmful chemicals? Introducing an old friend—distilled vinegar!

Grandma’s Little Helper

Distilled white vinegar is made from the continued fermentation of a grain alcohol. Ever tried an opened bottle of wine that was sitting on the counter a little too long? That was the alcohol continuing its journey to becoming vinegar. (Tempted to make your own red wine vinegar? We suggest reading this blog.)

Vinegar works as a great cleaning solution because of its disinfectant and grease-dissolving properties. It also happens to be extremely affordable—a gallon will cost anywhere from 99¢ to $3. The low pH and acetic acid content of the vinegar act as a mild antiseptic and will break down molds, bacteria, and oils while cleaning dirt. 

However, keep in mind that while it is an effective cleaner, it shouldn’t be treated like a broad-spectrum disinfectant like household bleach. Speaking of bleach…just a friendly reminder about your high school chemistry lesson—never mix any vinegar with chlorine bleach! This will release potentially deadly chlorine gas and can cause asphyxiation or worse. Luckily, other than that user error, vinegar is super safe and easy to use.

How to Make Your Household Cleaner

We like to stick to a 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water for a simple cleaning solution. If the vinegar aroma is too intense for you, or to customize your cleaner, try these options: 

  • Add a few drops of essential oils. We love lavender because it seems to be the most effective at masking the scent, but other oils such as rosemary, peppermint, and citrus work well too. 
  • Add a few drops of scented castile soap. We like Oregon Soap Company and Dr. Bronner’s for added degreasing power.
  • Make your own scented vinegar. You can use citrus peels, lavender or herbs like rosemary. Place up to a cup of the fresh or dried plant parts in 4 cups of vinegar. Let them infuse for about a week, then strain. the vinegar into a glass jar or right into the container you want to use for storing your homemade cleaning solution. 

Once you have your scented vinegar + water solution ready to go: 

  • Grab a bunch of reusable cloths, like our Paper[less] Towels
  • Place them in a large jar or other suitable container. 
  • Pour enough vinegar solution to cover the towels. 
  • Whenever a good cleaning is needed, just grab a towel, wring it out, and get scrubbing! 

Our Paper[less] Towels can be thrown straight into the wash (consider a good laundry bag) and the vinegar acts as a bonus deodorizer for anything in the washer with it—sweet! You can even add a little baking soda to the wash and they team up to act as an all-natural oxygen-based stain remover.

Make the Magic Happen

We don’t have to save the world in one day, but with each step we take on our zero waste journey, we reduce plastic in landfills and we prevent more synthetic, harmful chemicals from making their way into our bodies and into our ecosystems. Your home, your family, and Mother Nature will thank you!

Have fun and don’t forget to share your creations with us! Use the hashtag #ZWE on Instagram and Pinterest so we can see what you’re up to. We love hearing from you and learning about new ways to live our Zero Waste Lifestyle.