ashley englishsmall measures

small measures with ashley: so fresh and so clean

by Grace Bonney

My tendency for cleaning fastidiousness evidenced itself rather early in life. In fact, I told my mom that when I grew up, I wanted to be a professional house cleaner. No astrophysicist or molecular biologist dreams for me. Nope, it was housecleaner all the way. Each bedroom I kept was carefully curated, every object in its place, every toy put away after I finished playing. As I aged, I found myself delighting in arranging the pantry, styling the linen closet, and sweeping the floors. Arranging, straightening, and dusting calmed my overactive mind, kept my sanity in tact, and made my house shine.

Even if you’re no clean freak (neat-nick is the euphemism I prefer…), at some point or other, a bit of elbow grease will be in order, lest you end up living in a den of iniquity (the euphemism preferred by many over ‘pigsty’ or ‘cess pool’). Because we all share this common plight (or, in my case, delight), most of us host some assorted collection of cleaning products under our kitchen and bathroom sinks. I’ve found it astonishing to learn that over 17,000 petrochemicals are approved for home use , only about 30% of which have been tested for human and environmental safety. Petrochemicals are, by definition, derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource.

I decided long ago that the best products for my house, my body, and the critters sharing the same space with me are those forgoing use of petroleum-derived ingredients. More recently, I’ve been whipping and mixing up my own home cleaners, saving money in the process. Additionally, by creating my own blends, I’m able to customize the scents, tricking my house out with my favorite aromas and not limiting myself to whatever fragrance might be found in a store-bought item.

CLICK HERE for the rest of Ashley’s post (and her Homemade, Dollar-Saving, Fragrance-Uplifting, All-Purpose Spray) after the jump!

As I have a literal arsenal of cats (5! and I STILL think of getting more!), 2 furry dogs, a forest of dirt outside my front door, an exquisitely gifted yet perpetually messy cook of a husband, and an innate need to clean, my go-to homemade cleaner of choice for wiping down any and every surface in sight is an all-purpose cleaner. The recipe below, adapted from Sophie Ulliano’s fantastic green guide “Gorgeously Green” (a wonderful gift idea, for yourself, or for shining the green light on the ladies in your life), takes about 3 minutes to make, tops. It is also made from inexpensive, easy to find ingredients (tea tree oil and other pure essential oils can be found at any natural foods store or online from distributors such as Aura Cacia).

Homemade, Dollar-Saving, Fragrance-Uplifting, All-Purpose Spray

The Goods:
-1 empty 32 oz. spray bottle
-3/4 c. Distilled White Vinegar
-1 c. Hydrogen Peroxide
-1 1/2 tsp. Castille Soap (Such as Dr. Bronner )
-30 drops Tea Tree Oil
-30 drops Essential Oil of choice (some of my favorite choices include lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, lemon verbena, spearmint, clove, cinnamon, anise, sage, grapefruit, lemon, and lime; experiment with one or a combo and see what scent makes you want to get lean and clean!)

The Deal:
-Place all ingredients into the spray bottle using a funnel or measuring cup with a spout.
-Add water until contents reach top of bottle.
-Shake vigorously and use with abandon!

*For those with no time, or inclination, to make their own natural cleaning products but still needing a good cleaning kit, these companies offer a repertoire of items you can feel good about purchasing:

* Mrs. Myers
* Seventh Generation
* Method
* Ecover
* BioKleen

Suggested For You


  • Thank you! I love my homemade sprays and actually label the bottle so fresh and so clean clean. ****

  • Thanks for the recipe, Ashley. I share your addiction… err… passion for cleanliness. This might be a silly question, but what is the best way to add fragrance to this recipe? Oils? Or can I just add some herbs to the Spray Bottle. Thanks again!

  • so there are more of us out there!! whenever i have a lot going on and get stressed cleaning and reorganizing is my therapy! Can’t wait to try this homemade cleaner! Thanks.

  • hmm… adding vinegar and hydrogen peroxide- well, that makes sense. I usually dilute Dr. Bronner’s peppermint castille soap and use that as an all-purpose & use straight vinegar and water for my glass cleaner.
    I’m going to give this a try. Thanks.

  • Thanks to all for pointing out the error of my html-coding ways! It’s still quite new to me.
    Graham, I’d stick with essential oils. Fresh herbs and spices can get gummy and resinous pretty quickly in the bottle.
    Laura, the whole recipe is there, only the end of the last paragraph was previously missing.
    Heather, more recipes forthcoming…
    Thanks, ya’ll! I love hearing your feedback!

  • The hydrogen peroxide concerns me. Isn’t there a risk that, if the solution got on certain surfaces, it would have a bleaching effect?

  • Please add SHAKLEE to the list of safe cleaners. I have been using them for 3 years and they are safe, powerful and green–right down to the packaging!

  • Thanks for the cleaning recipe! I would love to hear more! Also, not sure if anyone has tried Soap Nuts for their laundry soap? I felt liberated from buying laundry detergent after I started using these! Love them!

  • I love cleaning the kitchen’s greasy stuff with baking soda and 1:1 vinegar:water spray. I added about 5-7 drops of an essential oil to the spray and it smells really nice (the vinegar smell dissipates rather quickly, but the eo makes it smell really lovely). I think I might try Ashley’s recipe for a more robust cleaner–thanks for posting!

  • love it! i am such a neat-nick too ashley! i was that same little girl. can’t wait to try this!

  • Alix-I understand your concern. However, the hydrogen peroxide is diluted in this solution, which prevents it from bleaching, merely cleaning instead. If a pool of straight-up h.p. were left on your counter in a pool, then you might have a little bleaching action going on. In a spray, diluted with vinegar and water, and quickly wiped up, your countertops will go unscathed!
    Kimberly-You’re right, Shaklee products are great, too!

  • If you are looking for more recipes, at my house we love Annie Berthold-Bond’s “Better Basics for the Home.” It has everything from household cleaners (tiles, marble, wood, upholstery….) to paint-strippers to bath/body recipes.

  • Can you use this formula on bathtubs? That’s where I’m particularly interested in reducing harmful chemicals. I don’t want to soak in “scrubbing bubbles”!

  • Is there anything better than your whole home smelling like lemon verbena, I ask you? I love the do-ability factor of making your own cleaners–great post!

  • Be very careful with tea tree oil and pets. Tea tree is toxic to dogs and especially cats. (So are pine oils, so nix the Pine Sol cat areas too.)

  • Yay! Thank you, Ashley! I’ve been meaning to start making my own cleaners for a while. It’s time to make it happen!

  • i wonder if adding lemon juice would help. i used to use it to clean the flat top grill when i worked in restaurants. makes steel shine like new.

  • Ashley- I love your writing style. And the tips are great. I think a special trip for essential oil is in order! Can’t wait to try it. And keep writing more articles for us!

  • Thanks for the tip. I actually just bought several new essential oils and can’t wait to try them this way! I will definitely enjoy making my own cleaning solution, but my well-stocked cleaning supply stash is evidence of my love of good smelling (and natural) pre-made cleaning products. I…can’t…help…it!

  • nice! i love to hear that others shared the childhood of cleaning and arranging everything… i used to go over to friend’s houses and want to clean their room before we played.
    and thanks for an all-purpose cleaner recipe that includes something besides just soap and water :)

  • This is a great recipe! I can’t wait to try it! I have two little ones so reducing toxic chemicals is at the top of my list. Thanks so much!

  • If you think there are tons of chemicals in cleaning products, consider this: the FDA doesn’t have the authority to approve the safety of cosmetics and body care before they are sold to us in stores. Who does? The cosmetics industry’s own panel, the CIR. Learn more–there’s a great non-prof out there doing awesome stuff: http://www.safecosmetics.org. You’ll be glad you did!

  • CLF, to add a bit more to Grace’s link about Tea Tree oil, check out these clinical trials, compiled by my friend Ric Scalzo’s herb company Gaia Herbs: http://www.gaiaherbs.com/herbs.php?BaseDir=/herbs.php&GET=/HerbTemplates/subcategory.asp?varHerb_ID=105
    Amanda-Absolutely use this in your tub! I’ve used it with wonderful results!
    Ambeur-I agree, direct application of tea tree oil, even in minute doses, can be potentially risky to pets; in this solution, however, where it is heavily diluted and quickly removed, it is considered safe.

  • Thanks! Finding cleaners that are safe to use around my parrot & canary is tough. This is perfect!

  • You should not mix the hydrogen peroxide and vinegar together in the same bottle. It isn’t nearly as effective when pre-mixed. There are plenty of articles out there talking about this. Also, it is best not to dilute the vinegar or peroxide. Tea Tree Oil is nice, but it does the exact same thing as the vinegar, so you don’t necessarily need it.

  • When I don’t have time to make my own beeswax furniture polish, I make a quick blend of:

    1/4 cup Virgin Olive oil
    20 drops of lemon oil
    15 drops of pink grapefruit oil
    blend well and let sit for about 15 minutes.

    Your furniture will look and smell fabulous. If you have more time, drop a couple small pieces of beeswax to make a polish.

    If you read the toxic ingredients in most furniture polishes you would never touch that stuff again especially if you have small children in your home.


  • great new post!
    I usually blend in baking soda instead of hydrogen peroxide (my mouth wash of choice!) on certain surfaces due to the bleaching properties associated with hp…. word to the wise – just be careful near fabrics and other surfaces like stained or oiled wood…

  • You know you can also clean brass with ketchup or Worcester sauce? Pour the stuff on a cloth or newspaper and whipe away! Be sure to rinse though since they’re mild acids..

    Vinegar + water sprayed and wiped with newspaper cleans windows like a dream also.. (this is an “old-fashioned” method)

    Oh, here’s two more, get a lemon, remove the innards and fill with salt to scrub scummy baths, and then microwaving a cut-up lemon in a bowl of water for a few minutes lifts grease + nasty from inside the microwave, making it easier to clean after spatters dry and smells great!

    Can you tell I love that British shoe “How Clean is your House?” ?

    Does anyone have any opinions on “Method” brand cleaner? Overly expensive, or handy for those on the go? I always admire the packaging.

  • Not only do you list tea tree oil but you suggest a number of other oils potentially toxic to cats. Natural does not always mean safe. A cats liver is very unlike a humans and they lack the ability to properly metabolize the various compounds in essential oils.

    Toxicity in cats can occur very quickly, through internal or external application, or over a longer period of time, through repeated or continuous inhalation of essential oils, but either way, it can lead to serious liver damage or even death.

    There should be no need to scent your cleaners with any oils if they do the job then your home should smell clean and, as Brian said, tea tree does the same as vinegar so you can do without it too.

    Please be careful of your animals health when mixing your own concoctions and check what is and isn’t safe for them.

  • As I was reading the comments I was thinking how people were going on and then their pets – then I thought it is so true if I had a cat it would have been the first things I would have thought to clean is their litter box. So good call – no essential oils in the litter either!

  • I agree with commenter Brian above – pre-mixing and diluting hydrogen peroxide (and wiping it up right away) renders it useless. Also, Castile soap reacts with the minerals in water and will leave an icky residue on services that will build up over time – its best to use a synthetic detergent made of plant-based materials (Seventh Generation dish soap)

  • While you have the vinegar handy, remember it is wonderful for setting colors in cotton so if you just bought a black t-shirt or red towels, soak them in vinegar water before washing to help them retain their color.

  • I was all set to love this post (you had me at “fastidious”), and the cleaning formula sounds great, but why oh why the line, “for shining the green light on the ladies in your life”? Why not just exhort readers to buy the little lady an iron? Or a washing machine for her birthday? Argh. I enjoy this blog and all, but between the oft tweeness of it and lines like that, it sometimes makes me cringe. Caitlin Flanagan would approve.

    • april

      the green book that ashley was suggesting isn’t just about cleaning- the book contains a lot of great “green” ideas that aren’t relegated to home cleaning. there are ideas for clothing, makeup, travel, etc.- i can assure you that all of us here are far from suggesting that women should be the only one cleaning, or anything like that. ashley’s column is about small ways to green your life, and green home cleaners happen to be one of those ways.

      i’m not sure what else about the site makes you feel caitlin flanagan would approve, but twee and suggesting washing machines for women don’t really have any connection for me. we talk about home cleaning, cooking and design because we’re a home site. our audience is predominantly female so a lot of our language will call out to women, because they’re the majority of our audience (and staff).

      d*s does a lot to support women running their own businesses (3 years of free biz ladies meetups and articles) and attending or going back to school (the d*s scholarship) so i’ll have to admit the idea that we’re doing anything close to suggesting “buying women a washing machine” is pretty off-putting to me.


  • Hurray! There is a God! Do all of your Neat Freaks…I mean… Conscientious Cleaners want to come party at my place? I’ve got enough dirt for everyone and I would LOVE to share!
    Thanks for making this less than pleasant task more enjoyable.

  • This post and the summer day make me think of my favorite spot remover for laundry: Put lemon and salt on the spot and lay out in the sun before washing.

  • I was just told by our local coop that they don’t carry Mrs. Meyers body products because they contain too many chemicals! I was so surprised. They carry the cleaning products because they feel that having them in one’s environment is not the same as having them on one’s body…

  • thank you so much for posting on this topic! i’m trying to go all green and all natural for cosmetics and home products, this is very interesting!! :)

  • Grace,

    I appreciate your clarification about the book, although the phrase, “for the ladies in your life” still sits uncomfortably with me.

    I applaud your efforts to help women entrepreneurs; I don’t mean to suggest that you are personally advocating a return to 1950’s domesticity, or that your site consciously reinforces gender stereotypes — it does not. I certainly don’t take issue with the fact that this site targets women. As I mentioned, I read it and enjoy it, and I think you’ve done an admirable job in building a brand and leading by example.

    But what I sometimes perceive as an overarching girlishness in content and tone — it comes with the territory, perhaps — occasionally gives me pause. It’s not a good or a bad thing in and of itself (nothing wrong with understanding and speaking to your audience), it’s simply a matter of personal preference. My tolerance may be somewhat less than others. What some call twee, others call sweet. Tomato, tomahto. And it’s easy to remedy: if I need a dose of Helvetica, I’ll head over the Swiss Miss. When bold type, left justification and right angles become too much, I head back over to your site.

  • The Caitlin Flanagan reference was a knee-jerk response to the post and unfair to your site as a whole. I apologize for that.

  • Wow, where did all that crap come from?

    Women (men, womyn, wombyn, girls, guys, gals, etc.), if you want to read a muscular, sans-serif Women’s Powertool Smackdown blog, go read that, by all means. Sounds fun, but why does everything have to be butch or gender-neutral to avoid this kind of nit-pickery? How… rigid and constraining. Reminds me of my mom in the 70s, and not in a good way.

    Anyway, thanks for the recipe!

  • There is a great Australian green cleaning guru – Shannon Lush, who has a handy ‘stain database’ at this address. She’s already on Australian ABC radio, and is about to get a show on the Lifestyle channel on Australian cable tv. I think you’d love her book ‘Spotless’! Thanks for the post!

  • Post-femenist rants?
    Whoa. It’s that kind of thinking that just furthers the kind of the gender stereotyping that we (read: men, women, trans, queer) have been trying to get past for, well, a billion years.

    The ladies in the 80s proved that we can work it in power suits in business. Mamas in the 70s proved that we can have babies and sex however we want. It’s our job to explode these typified gender roles and reclaim them on our own terms. Ladies like to clean? Great. A dude wants to make curtains? Awesome. I like to quilt? That’s ok too, cause I claim it as my own.

  • My issue was not that some women like to clean (for instance, I do; hence, I was initially drawn to the post), or that some men like to craft or whatever. It was the assumption that because you are of a center gender you will necessarily want to do one or the other. If you think certain types of activities are not stereotyped as “women’s work,” and therefore fraught in certain contexts, you aren’t acknowledging history. And, as I’ve stated, I felt my first reaction was not particularly nuanced.

    Labels like “post-feminist,” are meaningless, especially when they’re thrown around with little understanding for what they’re supposed signify. The relativistic position you espouse is exactly what some might call “post-feminist.” And I don’t take being called a feminist of any stripe an insult, although I think it’s interesting that you seem to think it is. But whatever. I don’t believe we live in a post-feminist, post-racial, or post-anything kind of world, anyway.

    I’m sure Grace is probably wanting to get back to regularly scheduled programming, so I’ll leave it at that.

  • Thank you so much for the post and all the wonderful comments. My dog loves to lick the shower (he’s a clean freak like me, apparently…) and I’ve become concerned about the cleaning products I use in the bathroom. I’d been wanting to try something like your recipe. I just made it up and used it and it smells fabulous and gets the job done. I think I’ll try a vinegar/lemon solution in the shower and see if that works, since it sounds like Chewie shouldn’t be eating tea tree oil either. I’m so excited to be on my way to “mystery chemical-free” cleaning! Thank you. :)

  • ashely, i was wondering how long this cleaning solution keeps? i’ve seen recipes before that advise you to make a new batch every two weeks. for those of us that, ahem, might not be cleaning every day, i worry about my cleaner going bad. any thoughts?

  • Wow so much info, so little time! Thanks for all the great and educational information! I really need to sudy all this and show myself approved! MOM

  • I have found that the site run by Environmental Working Group (safe cosmetics database mentioned above) is really fantastic if you’re concerned about chemicals. There are so many products I simply won’t get near anymore, including Method.

    Hand soap and dish soap in the house is Dr Bronners and Seventh Generation, I use Ecover soft scrub, but have to find a good replacement for Windex. Darn if I’m not addicted to Windex. I’m sure vinegar would go a long way.

    Salt in olive oil is a fantastic body scrub and you can make it in 15 seconds from your cupboard. There are some great non-toxic ideas.

    Also there was that guy from PBS who cleaned everything in the house with about 5 different things. As I recall his list was: baking soda, vinegar, cream of tartar, toothpaste, and ? …. Granted, he hung his onions in old stockings too. ;-)

  • Hydrogen peroxide is sold in a dark brown bottle because it will break down from sunlight. Therefore it’s a good idea to use a dark spray bottle for your cleaning concoction. Have you used it on your carpets and furniture for pet odors?

  • Is it ok to forgo the castile soap? I dont think i will be able to find it here.

    And also, i’m getting confused: do we mix the hp and vinegar or not as one reader commented earlier?

  • Great article Grace. Cleaning products made at home are great but you mention some products for people who don’t have the time and I thought I would highlight Norwex Products. Great chemical free products.

  • Grace–
    Is there a way to add a “print” function so that articles such as these can be printer-friendly? Simply hitting the print command doesn’t work…you don’t get the whole article (or the comments). I’d love to take this to the store with me.

    • susan

      we’re testing a few out now, but they don’t seem to work with our custom template. we’re trying to find something, i promise. in the meantime you can always copy the text with your mouse and cut and paste it into a doc :)


  • yes, i did do that and printed for safe keeping. thanks for your reply and working on the print function.

    i LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this topic and am so grateful for it! i just went to WF’s and bought some essential oils. thanks for all you do, Grace. i get so much inspiration from this site.

  • I have made this a couple of times and love it. BUT the so.ution has clogged two different spray bottles. Any suggestions on how to stop this happening?

  • Amazing!!! I didn’t have that much peroxide so I just poured a bit in and Seriously the best cleaner EVER!!! My Stove Top Was NASTY, usually would take me 10 mins to clean it off-But it took 30 sec with this!!! Thanks!!!!!

  • First of all I want to say great blog! I had a
    quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
    I have had trouble clearing my thoughts
    in getting my ideas out. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted just
    trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips?
    Appreciate it!