Make this recipe as a standard spray cleanser. Just keep it in a handy spray bottle, which you can find just about anywhere (Target, Rite Aid, Home Depot...), and get squirting whenever the cleaning mood strikes.
Or, use it to make convenient cleansing wipes. Sanitize your counter tops with them, keep them in your glove box, or take a stash with you on a camping trip for quick and sanitary hand-washing. Just slice up some old T-shirts into small squares, jam them into a cleaned-out old peanut butter jar like I do, and pour this solution overtop until all the rags are submerged. (Go 'head, cram a few more rags in there. You can fit more of those suckers in there than you think!)
1 C White Vinegar
1/4 C Water
1 Tablespoon castile soap, like Dr. Bronner's
2-3 drops Tea Tree Oil
6-8 drops essential oil
Blend all together, in any order you please. Shake well. If using for cleansing wipes, pour over a leak-proof container filled with cut-up T-shirts. Now get cleaning!
I've tweaked this over the years and gone back and forth on some, but am truly settled on a recipe I swear by. Once you have all the ingredients, you can keep them around for a long time and they don't go off. I buy my Tea Tree Oil at Trader Joe's--it's in the soap aisle. And I've gotten essential oils from Whole Foods back when I could afford to shop there!
Explainers On Each Ingredient:
If you're a major germophobe, you can always boil your water beforehand and allow it to cool to ensure there's absolutely zero possible gunk in there. Using distilled water is also an option, but I don't find it's necessary because I use this stuff so frequently I'm always making a new batch. It's not like it sits around for very long.
I like white vinegar because it's clear. I wouldn't do this with either the apple cider or red wine varieties:) But any vinegar has antimicrobial properties, and science has proved it's a great germ killer.
Some people say castile soap turns gloopy. I disagree. This blend has worked for me for a long time; I just give it a good shake before each time I use it. Besides, it smells great and adds a special cleansing kick, which takes this from boring DIY cleaner to killer awesome recipe!
Tea Tree Oil is important because it's antimicrobial and doesn't allow this tincture, or the DIY rags you're using to make wipes, to grow mold or bacteria. Don't skip it. It also has a boldly strong scent that just screams clean!!!
If you're wondering what kinds of essential oils are best, I like the really fresh-smelling ones like peppermint, lavender, and lemon. They, along with the Tea Tree Oil, completely overwhelm the vinegar stench. Which, if you're sensitive about that, rest assured it does evaporate quickly.
To scrub off anything that's sticky or caked-on, add a little baking soda for its scouring swagger. That gunk will come off in no time!
Why Even Bother Making Your Own Cleanser?
Where do I begin?! Home cleaning products are filled with all kinds of chemicals and fake fragrances that are harmful to our health. Everything from formaldehyde to the carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane have been found in these products, yet their labels don't tell us squat about what we're fumigating our homes with.
Meanwhile, asthma is on the rise--and no wonder. Have you ever walked into a public bathroom after the custodian has just finished cleaning? Even if you don't have blocked air passages, all it takes is one whiff and you could pass out.
Check out Environmental Working Group's rundown of what's wrong with commercial cleaning products and you'll be first in line at the market for a gallon jug of white vinegar.
For Super Disgusting Jobs, Peroxide is the New Bleach
Now, if you have a really big job like a rank-as-haale sink to sanitize, or a particularly foul toilet to scrub, skip my happy blend. It's not strong enough. Hydrogen peroxide is the new bleach, and when you have nasty funk to clean, nothing works as well. I swear by Flo-Chem All Purpose Peroxide Cleanser. It's affordable, it lasts a long time, and it's strong as all get-out.