Get Squeaky Clean With Our Homemade Cleaner

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

Brand name cleaning products are often expensive and filled with toxic chemicals. A look at some of the cleaning products in our cupboards reveals that several of the labels recommend calling a poison control center if swallowed!

Two motivating factors in our Big Box Detox theme and philosophy are to be environmentally friendly where possible and save money along the way. That fits perfectly with today’s post about how to make your own homemade all-purpose cleaner. Now, being an engineer, I also couldn’t pass up this opportunity to conduct a Myth Buster’s-style pseudo-scientific experiment comparing our homemade all-purpose cleaner to a couple of other brand name cleaning products! Keep reading to see how our homemade all-purpose cleaner stacks up against Easy-Off Bam and Fantastik Total Bathroom.

I found several recipes for homemade cleaners on the internet that varied in ingredients and quantities. So I cross referenced those recipes with ingredients we already had in our house. A few of them called for Borax, which we don’t have handy and I didn’t see in the grocery store today, so I eliminated those recipes. Then I compared the ingredient mixtures to come up with a reasonable recipe of my own:

Big Box Detox Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe:

  • 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap
  • 1 half  teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 cups water

First I combined the liquid dish soap, baking soda and water in an empty spray bottle. I added the vinegar after the baking soda was already diluted by water to avoid a reaction (remember building baking soda and vinegar volcano’s as a kid)?

Big Box Detox Homemade Cleaner vs. Brand Name Cleaners

There’s no doubt that our homemade cleaner can be made for a fraction of what a brand name cleaner costs. The big question is, how well does it clean compared to the brand name cleaners? I decided that I would compare our homemade cleaner to the brand name cleaners based on its ability to:

  1. cut grease,
  2. clean up a grimey mess, and,
  3. eliminate soap scum.

Test 1: Cutting Grease (Homemade Cleaner vs. Easy-Off Bam)

The first test pits our homemade cleaner versus Easy-Off Bam in a battle to eliminate grease. In this test, I simulated a greasy mess by pouring a half teaspoon of olive oil on our counter top and spreading it out with a spoon to form a spot about 10 cm (4 inches) in diameter. I made two of these oily messes, one for each cleaner. Then I sprayed a roughly equal amount of homemade cleaner on one oily spot and Easy-Off Bam on the other oily spot. I used separate paper towels to wipe up each side of the spill.

Before wiping with the paper towel, I noticed that both cleaners were cutting the oil but the Easy-Off Bam appeared to do a better job. Then after wiping both messes up, I found that the Easy-Off Bam left less oily residue on the counter compared to our homemade cleaner. After another application and wiping of homemade cleaner and Easy-Off Bam to each spot, neither left any further oily residue really. It’s not really a surprise that the Easy-Off Bam did a better job on oil than our homemade cleaner given that it is a universal degreaser. I suppose it’s not really fair to pit an all-purpose cleaner against a degreaser in a battle to eliminate oil but unfortunately that was all we had available around the house. Still, I think the homemade cleaner did fairly well and that is likely because I included some liquid dish soap in the recipe.

Test 2: Cleaning up a Grimey Mess (Homemade Cleaner vs. Easy-Off Bam)

Our second test is similar to our first test, except that I used pasta sauce instead of olive oil. I allowed the two pasta sauce messes to become  mostly dry and caked onto our counter top. After applying similar amounts of homemade cleaner to one spot and Easy-Off Bam to the other spot, I wiped each spot with a separate paper towel.

In this test I found that both spots needed a second application of cleaner and a second wiping. After two applications I found that neither product had outperformed the other, so I’m calling this one a draw.

Test 3: Eliminating Soap Scum (Homemade Cleaner vs. Fantastik Total Bathroom)

For the final test, I compared our homemade cleaner to Fantastik Total Bathroom. For this test, I removed the chrome pan behind our shower handle, which had heavy soap scum staining. I applied a generous amount of homemade cleaner to one sponge and an equally generous amount of Fantastik to another sponge. Then I cleaned half of the chrome pan with the homemade cleaner and half with Fantastik.

Here I found that both cleaners removed a significant amount of the soap scum on their respective side of the chrome pan, but neither was able to get rid of all the soap scum, even after multiple applications and vigorous scrubbing. Since both cleaner’s removed a roughly equal amount of soap scum, I had to call this battle a draw as well. I have to say that this result surprised me given that Fantastik is bathroom cleaner that is supposed to “Remove Soap Scum Easily!” and was “specifically formulated to attach soap scum”.


After three tests comparing our homemade all-purpose cleaner, I was pleasently surprised at how well it stacked up against the commercial cleaners. In two out of three cleaning tests I could see no difference between our homemade cleaner and the brand name cleaner. In the grease cutting test, the brand name purpose-formulated degreaser definitely outperformed our homemade cleaner. But for small greasy messes our homemade cleaner would be perfectly fine, even if you do need a second application.

Given that our homemade all-purpose cleaner probably cost us mere pennies, is non-toxic and did a good job compared to our other brand name cleaners, we’ll definitely continue using it

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  1. says

    My grandmother (who helped my dad raise me and lived with us lots) taught me to clean this way when i was a kid.. she was every allergic to the air if we used the store bought chemicals. I have always preferred the homemade, I love that I can breathe and don’t need to air out the house afterward to have fresh air.

    Good discover though with the dish soap – never tried it with that, Ill have to try it :)
    Fonda LaShay´s last blog post ..Writers Cottage in Askers Norway

  2. says

    Hey Fonda, You made an excellent point about the small of harsh chemical cleaners as allergens I had not thought of that! Just another great reason to make your own products!

  3. Christal says

    I know this is an older post, but I wanted to say something about the soap scum on chrome in the bathroom. To make my bathroom fixtures shiny, I use water, baking soda, and vinegar. I lightly mist the chrome with water first, then sprinkle baking soda (the water helps it stick to the chrome :P), then I spray the vinegar onto the chrome, over the baking soda. The ‘volcano’ reaction cleans the soap scum like nothing I’ve ever seen 😀

  4. Maggie88(IQ? AGE??) says

    Re: soap scum on bathroom chrome: For over a year now I have been simply wiping down the shower walls and chrome as soon as my shower is done. I do this with an old beach towel that I keep hung up on a hook just outside the shower. Leaving no moisture behind when I exit the shower guarantees no soap scum. It probably sounds too time consuming but I’ve timed myself and this small step adds only two minutes to my shower routine.

  5. Dani Stephan says

    Quick question: My aunt cleans naturally with lemons. I’m not sure just how well it cleans. Could lemons be added to this solution to leave a fresh lemon smell? Not sure about any chemical reaction with the natural acid in the fruit. :) Thanks!

  6. says

    Hey Dani, I think lemons would be a great addition. I would give it a go… you have nothing to lose! If you like how it turns out, let me know!

  7. Kaitlyn says

    I tried this all-purpose cleaner recipe today because I found it on pinterest. I have to say, I love it! It worked great on our bathroom sink and shower. It didn’t do a great job on the soap scum, as mentioned earlier, but our chrome is very shiny! I feel like it did a great job making our bathroom clean without the overpowering scents of store bought all-purpose cleaners.

  8. Stacy says

    I have found the best way to clean soap scum out of the tub and shower is to sprinkle Borax in the tub and wipe it around with a damp cloth, eats right through the soap scum. This is the only way I clean my tub as my daughter has very sensative skin :)


  1. […] a bit of store-bought detergent, so haven’t tried it yet. I did, on the other hand, try this natural cleanser which has been working GREAT. Still haven’t done much crafting, though.) […]

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