The Solution to my Solution

My Quest for the best home made all-purpose cleaner…

My transition into home made cleaners was gradual…and is actually still on-going.  I started with the goal of making a basic all-purpose cleaner.  As with most new ideas, I immediately got on-line and stole someone else’s. With the pride of an elementary school student I produced my first bottle and immediately started using it–I even showed it off to my husband and made him acknowledge my saavy.

The recipe was one that you find quite often on green or better living web sites.  It started with Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap, Vinegar, some essential oils, and water.  I chose the lavender soap scent, because, well, I always choose lavender.  I also added some lavender oil, as well as eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil. I also soaked some orange peel in vinegar for a few days until it turned orange and smelled more citrusy and less vinegary.  I don’t know if this actually improved the efficacy of the vinegar, but marketers had long since convinced me that citrus cleans stuff and a website I saw somewhere recommended this, so I decided to go with it.  I did not bother with distilled water.

Unfortunately, what I actually produced was a clumpy mess.  I thought perhaps I had mixed incorrectly since there were some sites that warned about the order of mixing the solution.  Still…it smelled nice, and I figured it still worked because, well…site after site said that this was how you make your own cleaner.  I mean, do you get it? Dozens of site out there say that this is how you make an all-purpose cleaner.  (A lot of sites also indicated that you could just mix a little bit of Castile Soap and all water…maybe some essential oils, but if you really wanted to fight germs, use vinegar.  So that’s what I did.  For no other reason than vinegar seems to be used as a natural cleanser a whole lot and I wanted potency to kill bad things in my kitchen.)

What I ended up making was a whole lot of nothing.  It seems that the vinegar and the Castile Soap cancel each other out because–as a very helpful website established by a family member of Dr. Bronnner pointed out–vinegar is an acid and soap is a base.  Duh. Check out the website is by the sister of the grandchildren of the founder,, specifically, for lots of nuggets of gold like this one.

If you think about it, it is so obvious.  It is possible that I put more soap in than vinegar, or the reverse, so that there was some cleaning power, but certainly not the super-powered cleaner I thought I was making.  Plus it looked nasty.

So the solution was either to make something just with the Castile soap and some essential oils and water, or use another product with vinegar.  Incidentally, it does seem that regular old soap and water cleans plenty fine. However, the complaint seems to be that it would leave a film on your counters, which you are then supposed to follow up with a vinegar rinse.  Now, I have light colored counters, so I don’t really know if the film would bother me, but this simple soap solution didn’t really seem complex to fight all those kitchen nasties. Plus, it’s like, two steps.  Ms. Bronner recommended using another Dr. Bronner product, Sal Suds, it being not-quite-soap, and therefore, not a base. Hurrah, it can be mixed with my vinegar mixtures.

I then ordered a big bottle of Sal Suds and got to work, adding my citrus vinegar (hey, no problems popped up with this little trick yet). This mixture was pleasant enough, though just the Sal Suds and vinegar with water mixture smelled a little to vinegary for my liking.  The logical step was to add essential oils.  These, after all, have their own antibacterial, anti-fungal, antimicrobial properties. Naturally, I already had lavender essential oils and tea tree oil.  I started to do some research, though, on what essential oils had the best bad-stuff fighting properties. It seemed that the answer was oil of thyme.

I have now produced several bottles of my home made cleaner.  It smells wonderful.  Herbal, fresh, and clean. I still experiment a little with oils and amounts, because the truth is I have no clue what I am doing, and I understand enough about chemistry to know that I never learned anything about solutions.  My basic formula is one quarter cup Sal Suds, one ounce citrus vinegar, several drops of thyme oil and tea tree oil, and lavender and eucalyptus if I have it on hand.

I am trying my best to figure out exactly how effective this solution I have is.  It wipes things up very well and is all natural.  Unfortunately, it is all the little things that you can’t see that you have to worry about.  I need to find an eight grader willing to do a science experiment on this.  So this story continues.



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