Zero Waste, non-toxic all-purpose cleaner #SimpleSwap

In supermarkets or drugstores there are aisles and aisles full of highly specialized cleaners, decorated with warnings on their labels. We, too, had so many of these at home. When we went Zero Waste, we started to look for alternatives, since basically all cleaning products come in plastic. I was also tired of the aggressive cleaning products that I couldn’t use without wearing gloves because I would break out almost instantly.

We went for vinegar, and after a while we realized that we actually neglected all of the cleaners we still had! The vinegar cleaner has become our all-purpose cleaner! In the end, we gave away all of our pre-zero-waste cleaning products. Oh, and there is no need for me to wear these unsexy yellow rubber gloves anymore – yaaaay 😝!

All-purpose cleaner based on vinegar

This recipe is so simple I always feel like a fraud when I tell people “Nah, I make my own cleaning products” and they all go “Wow, that’s so amazing!” 😅


1 part of white vinegar*
4 parts of water


1 tbsp vinegar essence**
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) of water

* It is important to use white vinegar because other kinds of vinegar will leave residues when cleaning. Please also note that white vinegar is not always vegan because sometimes gelatine is used in the manufacturing process as a filter agent.

** Vinegar essence is basically a very concentrated white vinegar. We prefer to buy vinegar essence, since it is so yielding that we only need two bottles (glass bottle with a plastic cap) per year.


Mix. Pour into a spray bottle. That was it!

Pimp my all-purpose cleaner

Personally, I do not mind the smell of vinegar. Well, not any more than I mind the smell of bleach or the other cleaning products we used to use. The smell disappears really fast anyway.

One way to disguise the vinegary smell is to add a few drops of essential oil of your choice to your all-purpose cleaner. Go easy on the essential oil – I find 5 drops for maybe a liter (~4 cups) of all-purpose cleaner already very intense.

However, you can infuse the vinegar with citrus peels prior to diluting it. This is also a great was to repurpose some kitchen scraps 😉.

As I said, we do not mind the vinegary smell, so I usually prefer to grate the citrus peels, freeze them and use them when baking. Besides, we have cut back on buying citrus fruits because we live in Germany and they are definitely not a local product. Anyway, for demonstration purpose we did actually buy a lemon! So here we go.

After you have used the lemon juice for whatever purpose, cut off the outer layer of the lemon peel. You’ll only need the outer layer because that is where the nice smelling citrusy oil is.

Put the peel into a jar and cover with white vinegar. If you want to infuse vinegar essence, dilute 1 part of vinegar essence with 4 parts of water. Let sit for at least 2 weeks. You can leave it like this for months though.

All-purpose cleaner based on citric acid

I was told by a reader that vinegar-based cleaner might be bad for sealings like the ones in your dish washer. I don’t know, we still use our vinegar-based all-purpose cleaner, but I do avoid using it to clean the inside of the dish washer or the rubber seal thing on the fridge. You never know, right?

An alternative all-purpose cleaner that works just as fine and does not have the vinegary smell is this citric acid water mixture. Citric acid is normally available in supermarkets as a powder. I am not sure if you can get the ingredients in bulk tough? I have seen citric acid being sold in a big paper box, but there might have been a plastic bag (= plastic surprise) inside.


10 g citric acid
1 liter water


Dissolve the citric acid in the water. Pour into a spray bottle. Done.

How to use the cleaner

As the name suggests, you can use the all-purpose cleaner for pretty much everything. Just spray on and wipe. You can add baking soda or salt for nasty stains and scrub using a brush.

  • Kitchen: Spray, wipe, or spray and scrub with a brush and some baking soda or salt (optional).
  • Bathroom: Yes, you can also use it to clean the toilet bowl! Spray on and pour a bit of it into the toilet. Let sit for 5 minutes, scrub with toilet bowl brush. You can also use full on vinegar if you have troubles with the rim around the water mark.
    Optional: Add a drop or two of essential oil to the clean toilet bowl. This will make your bathroom smell so nice after cleaning it.
  • Windows and mirrors: Spray, wipe with a cloth rag, polish with another dry cloth rag.
  • Floors: Fill a bucket with water and add some of the all-purpose cleaner.

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Filed under #SimpleSwap, Housekeeping


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