Homemade Natural All-Purpose Cleaner

For keeping a green home clean, vinegar is your best friend: it’s a powerful disinfectant, it’s safe and natural, and you can bring home a huge jug of it for pennies. But when we get done cleaning the house, we want it to smell fresh — not burn our nostrils out. That’s why we’re infusing vinegar with lemon and thyme to make an all-natural cleaning spray. It has all the scrubbing power of vinegar, but with a lovely, refreshing scent.

Fans of natural cleaning products know that they can be pricier than their chemical-laden counterparts. But making your own is cost-effective and easy. Just plop your herbs and lemon peels in a mason jar and steep them in the vinegar for about two weeks. It’s worth the wait — a study in the Journal of Environmental Health found that vinegar was more effective in removing microbial contamination than other DIY home cleaners.

We used our DIY cleaner to degrease oven surfaces, make counter stains disappear, sanitize cutting boards, and wipe away mold and mildew in the bathroom. (The only thing we don’t recommend using vinegar to clean is marble, since it can cause etching.)

Don’t love lemon and thyme? You could use:

  • orange peels
  • lavender
  • rosemary
  • peppermint, citrus, balsam fir, or tea tree essential oil
  • eucalyptus
  • cloves
  • cinnamon sticks

Create your own aromatherapy infusion!

The Castile soap is optional, but it’ll enhance the spray’s cleaning and degreasing power. (You can buy it in the personal care section of most grocery stores.) The soap will separate out a bit from the vinegar over time, but just shake up the bottle (or zap it in the microwave for a few seconds) to reincorporate everything.

Natural All-Purpose Cleaner

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 10 – 14 days


  • 2 lemons (peels only)
  • small bunch of fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Castile soap (optional)
  • 2 cups water


    24 oz spray bottle


  1. Add the lemon peels and fresh thyme to the mason jar and cover them with the distilled white vinegar. Screw the lid on the jar and allow the vinegar to infuse for 10 to 14 days.
  2. Once the vinegar has infused, strain the lemon peel and thyme out and transfer ½ cup of the vinegar to a spray bottle. Add the water and the Castile soap (if using) to the vinegar to dilute it. Place the spray nozzle on the bottle and give it a good shake to mix the soap into the vinegar and water solution.
  3. Use the cleaning solution to clean countertops, sinks, and toilets. Spray the surface to be cleaned, and wipe it with a wet towel or sponge.

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn.