All-purpose disinfecting spray is, hands down, the most used cleaner in our home, and probably yours too. So I want to start filling out my ‘A-Team’ of household cleaning products by finding its leader: an all-natural (non-toxic), reliable, multi-functional, ass-kicking, disinfecting spray. And, for the purposes of comparing apples to apples, the best DIY recipe I can find. (I plan on giving store-bought, eco-friendly versions a shot later.)
As I mentioned, there are a shit-ton of recipes out there (and most of them claim they are the best). It would be impossible (and drive me insane) to try all of them to find the best one. So I picked five different recipes (in addition to the basic one) from various sources and went to work.
Here’s what I expect from my ideal all-purpose spray:
easy to make
cuts through grease/grime
must smell good
safe on most surfaces
not leave any residue or streaks
For the full rundown on each, check out this chart to see the contenders and how they stack up.
I put these all-natural DIYs through the ringer with a Grease Test, a Scum Test, and a Food Test.
While most of these recipes are respectable options, there were three contenders that rose to the top: AP #3, #4, and #5 (for now they get numbers, names will come when the worthiest gets initiated into my arsenal of cleaning supplies).
Let’s look at how they did in my very official tests.
(Keep in mind, your choice of rag/sponge/wipe and whether you spray the cleaner directly on the mess, or on the material you’re using makes a difference. In my limited experience, different techniques work for different messes.)
THE GREASE TEST
The test subject: Our stove. Unfortunately, the images from this test don’t capture the results that well, so you’ll just have to trust me.
The honorable mention: AP #4 really tried. He did a good job, and definitely brought the best scent to the party, but took quite a bit of elbow grease to cut through the actual grease. (It may help to let it sit for a few minutes, I only gave it about a minute.)
The runner-up: I had high hopes for AP #5, the baking soda/lemon surprise, and it did a decent job, but did not cut through the tougher grease spots with the ease I expected.
The winner: AP #3 did the best on grease, and seemed to make the job a little easier too. This was the clear winner on the stove. I ended up cleaning the rest of (the outside of) the oven with it, including the bits the other cleaners left behind.
THE SCUM TEST
The test subject: Our bathtub! I let the tub get REAL gross (maybe too gross?) for this test. Just to see if any of these were up to a real challenge.
The honorable mention: AP #3 did better than the basic solution and the plain citrus vinegar, but that’s really about all I can say for it. Which surprised me because it did so well on the first test. If I had kept scrubbing, it might have gotten cleaner. But I wanted to give each cleaner the same amount of scrub time and force.
It’s a tie!: AP #4 and #5 both did fairly well on this! They also were both used at the end of the tub with less dirt. But this is too close to call, so I am going to give each another shot cleaning up the dirt the first two solutions missed.
Wow, this was really telling. #4 actually did the better job!
The runner-up: AP #5 really put up a good fight here, cutting through the grime quickly. I’m impressed. However, it did leave lots of bits of dirt behind.
The winner: Then, AP #4 showed UP! Cutting quickly through the grime and leaving next to nothing behind.
(FYI, normally I would tackle this much grime with a deep scrub. And to get the leftover mess from the whole experiment, that’s exactly what I did.)
THE FOOD TEST
The test subject: Our butcher’s block kitchen island. This was fun. I got to drizzle and smush food (coffee, some Indian mint chutney, and strawberries) all over the table, let it sit for a while, then see which solution could clean up my mess before Kris got home to see what I did.
The honorable mention: #3 looks pretty wimpy here! Which is funny, because I thought it got that coffee stain much better than it looks in this photo.
The runner-up: #4 did okay, though it didn’t do shit on that strawberry stain. (Spoiler alert: none of them did.)
The winner: #5 really showed up for this one. That coffee stain didn’t stand a chance and even the strawberries took a beating, although they were very stubborn.
BUT THERE ARE STILL STRAWBERRY STAINS ALL OVER THE TABLE! So I gave them each another shot being sprayed or poured directly on the stain, and then scrubbed hard with both sides of my unnatural bright blue sponge (don’t judge, baby steps).
Time to bring in the big guns. I know exactly what’s going to take care of these stains.
DUN-DA-DA-DA! HYDROGEN PEROXIDE.
I thoroughly cleaned out one of the sprayer nozzles and put it directly on the HP bottle and went to town on those stains. Let them sit for a couple minutes then used the sponge (rinsed with warm water) to scrub the last bit of pink out.
So the final results? Well, each one performed differently on each test! I was really hoping for one to rise above the rest and really impress me. But really, each has their strengths and weaknesses. Is it impossible for one product to do it all? Are my requirements asking too much? I think not. And I think a few tweaks might give some of these the edge they need.
But for me, right now, I’m starting to really like #5, the baking soda/lemon surprise (totally calling it that, or BSL Surprise, if I keep it). And I can boost its disinfecting power by adding some Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) or Thieves oil (which would change the scent). I may try some things and come back with a my own version at some point.
I have to say though, #4 really impressed me on the bathtub, and I would recommend trying it if that recipe suits you better.
So, it really comes down to preference, but some of the other details like cost and ease of making it can help make the difference. Luckily I made this handy chart to weigh all the factors!
If you are following along: Have you tried making any of your own cleaners yet? How have your results been?
If you are ahead of us: Do you have a trusted go-to recipe? Post it!
Here are the links to recipes for each. I modified some of these as noted.
AP #1 - Detoxinista - Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner
I used a full cup of vinegar instead of a half, as I was actually working from a recipe Sarah Scherr gave me.
AP #2 - Tried &True - Citrus Cleaner
This is an easy explanation/visual. My recipe came from my sister, Virginia, but it is essentially the same thing.
AP #3 - Tipnut - Grapefruit Seed Extract & Lemon
This is actually a list of quite a few cleaner options. This one is a little more than halfway down the list. And I left out the Castile soap. I learned the hard way that mixing it with vinegar is not a good idea. More on that later.
AP #4 - One Joyous Heart - DIY All-Purpose Cleaner
Again, I left out the Castile soap.
AP #5 - Housewife How-Tos - Natural Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner
It's important to follow the directions on this one!
AP #6 - Housewife How-Tos - Homemade Granite-safe All-Purpose Cleaner
Same link, just scroll down to the second recipe.
You can also find these and more DIYs to try on our Pinterest. Check it out!
DISCLAIMER - These statements and ratings are based on personal opinion and home research, and the author is not liable for any injury or other outcome due to actions taken based on this chart or article. I mean, one of the ratings is “suck-fest,” come on!
As always, do your homework before choosing the best products for your home.