Make Your Own Disinfecting Cleaning Spray That’s Safe for Cats and Granite Counters

Save money and reduce plastic with this natural organic cleaning spray cleaner recipe. It’s eco-friendly, has no vinegar, disinfects and is also safe for cats and granite countertops.

In my quest to reduce plastic in our household, it occurred to me that I could save money and cut down on plastic waste if I figured out how to make my own homemade all purpose cleaner. Even though spray bottles are recyclable, the spraying nozzle isn’t. So when I recently finished a bottle of Seventh Generation disinfecting spray, I thought to myself, “Why am I tossing out a perfectly good spray bottle? Why don’t I try to make my own natural cleaner?”

My husband had recently attended a Vipassana meditation course and he told me that the Vipassana center used vinegar solution to clean everything. He suggested we switch to vinegar, which reminded me of how when I worked in a fast food joint as a teenager (please forgive me), we used a vinegar and water solution to clean the windows, counters and food serving surfaces. 

I did some research and discovered that vinegar is indeed a great disinfectant. It’s powerful enough to kill e-coli and other gram-negative bacteria. Plus, vinegar as a cleaning solution is safe for cats too.

While I don’t like the smell of vinegar, I wanted to give it a try since it’s safe for cats. Then I did some more research and discovered that vinegar isn’t appropriate for granite counters because the acidity level will damage natural stone.

Since we use cleaning spray on the kitchen counters, that ruled out the vinegar solution. What else could we use that would be safe on granite, disinfecting, and also safe for cats? I needed to come up with a DIY all purpose cleaner without vinegar in it.

I found a castile soap cleaning spray recipe where you could add essential oils like lavender and citrus for disinfecting purposes. The recipe seemed promising. The only drawback was that many disinfecting essential oils are toxic for cats. What were my options?

I did some more research, and I narrowed down the field of potential candidates to rosemary oil and tea tree oil. According to PetMD, small concentrations of tea tree oil are considered safe for pets. It’s bad for pets to ingest them at full concentration, but small diluted amounts in the 0.1{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} to 1{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} range are used in natural products that are applied directly to pets such as a solution to eliminate fleas. 

On the other hand, rosemary oil was on a list of essential oils safe for pets. Since I prefer the smell of rosemary over tea tree, I decided to use rosemary oil for my first DIY batch of all purpose multi-surface spray cleaner.

Experiment #1 – DIY Rosemary Essential Oil

We have a giant rosemary bush so I thought, “Why not try making my own rosemary essential oil?” The internet delivered another recipe on how to make your own essential oils with a crock pot. All you needed was water. Check. A crock pot. Check. And rosemary. Check check check!

I started by gathering some branches from the rosemary bush. I did my best to strip off the needles and then filled a crock pot with about three cups of rosemary. I set the slow cooker for “high,” then turned it to “low” as directed, and let it do its thing for a few hours. The house was infused with the scent of rosemary, like a gallon of Pine Sol had spilled in my kitchen. 

By the end of the cooking period, the rosemary scent was so intense, I was wishing I had chosen tea tree instead. However, since the smell was so strong, I was expecting a highly potent oil.

Once the temperature of the mixture cooled down, I peered inside the crock pot and saw brownish water. I followed the slow cooker recipe for essential oils and allowed the mixture to cool. Then I placed the pot in the fridge overnight. 

I was looking forward to seeing a thin film of oil on top, but the next morning, I was disappointed to see that I still had a pot of brownish water. There wasn’t even a trace of an oily film. Perhaps I didn’t use enough rosemary or perhaps the plant I had wasn’t suitable for the crock pot method. 

I let the solution sit in the fridge for another day, but when I checked on it again, it was still murky brown water. I had to conclude that the experiment didn’t work for me. I did have a really deep brown liquid that smelled like Pine Sol on steroids. I thought, “Well since I’m supposed to extract the oil and then add it back to water, maybe I could I just use this liquid instead?”

In the end, the deep brown color was what made me take a pass on this idea. I wasn’t sure if it would stain white surfaces. I also had no idea how high the concentration of rosemary was in the mixture. I used the brown water to soak the kitchen sponge and reusable cloth wipe, figuring I was giving both a deep disinfecting treatment.

Experiment #2 – Homemade Disinfecting Cleaning Spray Recipe

After the failed experiment to make my own rosemary essential oil, I couldn’t bring myself to buy it at the store because I had such a big rosemary bush. Why pay for it when it’s growing for free outside in such abundance? I figured I’d tackle this DIY brewing again in the future. 

On the other hand, my husband already had a bottle of tea tree essential oil in the medicine cabinet. I reexamined the recipe for making your own disinfecting cleaner and realized I needed to do a few calculations in order to make sure that the concentration of tea tree oil was safe for my cat. 

Since the recipe had a range for the number of drops to use, I wanted to make sure that the concentration of tea tree oil was safe for my cat. The spray would primarily be used on the counters where the cat is not allowed, but we might occasionally use it if something spilled on the floor. 

I decided to make a test batch. First, I measured and poured 8 ounces of water into an empty spray bottle (Thanks Seventh Generation). Then I counted out drops of tea tree oil into a measuring spoon. According to Google’s online calculator, one drop is equal to 0.05mL. I wanted to confirm this to be sure that the concentration of essential oil was safe for my cat. 

Our dropper was making BIG drops because when I measured 10 drops, it was close to one teaspoon of tea tree oil. If I had followed the recipe based on the online calculator, I would have far exceeded what was safe for pets. At this point, I realized trying to adapt a DIY cleaning spray recipe to be cat safe, while using imperial measurements was ridiculous and difficult. As a result, I converted everything to metric.

10 drops of tea tree oil from our NOW bottle was close to 1mL of liquid. 8 ounces of liquid is equivalent to 236.6mL. So 1mL divided by 236.6mL is  0.4{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8}, which is well below the recommended cat safety range of 0.1 to 1{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8}. But how much would be enough to disinfect and kill germs?

To help me answer this question, I looked at the ingredients list on the Seventh Generation bottle. It listed a concentration of thymol (thyme oil) at 0.05{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8}.—so 1/20th of a percentage of thyme oil was sufficient to create a disinfecting spray that they claimed, “kills 99.99{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} of germs botanically.”

According to this study on ScienceDirect, “Thyme and tea tree oils reduce biofilms significantly.” I interpreted that as a “close enough” basis to use the Seventh Generation concentration as a guideline for how much tea tree oil to add to my eco-friendly cleaning spray concoction.

With this information in hand, I made a test batch with 236.6mL (eight ounces) of water, 10 drops of tea tree oil (1mL) and 15mL (one tablespoon) of castile soap.

This would give me a 0.4{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} concentration of tea tree oil, which was much higher than the 0.05{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} concentration of thymol in the Seventh Generation disinfecting spray, yet still in the safe range for applying directly to pets. Since the spray was only going to be used on the counter and floor instead of the cat, I considered this to be a safe amount to use for my cat. 

Please note, that this amount may differ for your pet and how you use the cleaning spray, so please consult with a veterinarian before making your own spray. If you absolutely must disinfect a surface for safety, don’t blindly trust my calculations. Consult with a specialist to confirm that this concentration is actually disinfecting.

Making the cleaner was as simple as pouring each element in the spray bottle and giving the bottle a shake. I didn’t even use a funnel because I’m lazy. I should also mention that I didn’t use distilled water either. This was a test—a proof of concept.  

After mixing everything together, it was time for the moment of truth. 

I took the batch of homemade spray cleaner and sprayed it on the cooktop and on the cabinets below the cooktop where drops of sauce inevitably get splashed. Would this cleaning mixture smell okay and would it actually work? If it did, this would be a great cleaning spray without vinegar. Could this castile and essential oil spray smell nice AND clean?

The Results of the Make Your Own Cat Safe Cleaning Spray Experiment

There was definitely a noticeable difference. It was much easier to remove food spots with the cleaning spray than just water. It also gave the surface a “glide-y” feeling while I was wiping. The surface was slightly streaky after it dried. In addition, the wiping cloth felt a bit stiffer than usual when it dried off. I figured this was an indication that I should try reducing the amount of castile soap in the next batch to minimize this effect.

Smell-wise, it was not unpleasant—nothing like a vinegar and water solution. It was surprisingly mild. In terms of cleaning, I tried a side-by-side comparison where I used the spray on one side and only a damp cloth on the other.

In conclusion, would I make my own spray again? Was it worthy to replace the Seventh Generation natural spray?

To answer the first question, YES. I felt the cleaning action was sufficient and equivalent to using the Seventh Generation for cleaning. The only thing I’m not 100{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} sure about is whether the homemade spray actually kills bacteria and germs. 

My husband wants to cultivate some bacteria in petri dishes to test it out, so stay tuned for experiment #3. Once we get the results from that, we’ll know whether we can trust that the DIY tea tree oil spray is doing its job.

In the meantime, we’ll use vinegar and water on non-granite surfaces to disinfect, and use the DIY spray for general cleaning when disinfecting is not mandatory. E.g. wiping up bread crumbs. And for times when we’re handling raw meat, we’ll stick to the commercial product.

Money Saved by Making Your Own Eco-Friendly Cat Safe Cleaning Spray

I haven’t yet tested the antibacterial properties of the spray, so for now, I won’t yet be using cat safe multipurpose spray to clean surfaces that have been contaminated by raw meat or other harmful bacteria. However, most of the time, I use cleaning spray for general cleaning. Switching to this DIY formula will save us money and significantly reduce plastic and eliminate the waste from throwing out a perfectly good spray nozzle.

If you’re into numbers, here are the calculations on how much money you’ll save.

Please note the following assumptions:

  • For future batches, the amount of castile soap will be reduced to 12.5mL per 273.3mL because the test solution was a little too filmy
  • When making the recipe, it’s not possible to fill a spray bottle to full capacity because you need extra room to shake the contents. However, for comparing similar volumes and costs, I’m going to base the calculations on producing a 768mL bottle of spray cleaner, which is the same amount in the Seventh Generation bottle.
  • I’m using tap water instead of distilled water because I’m not that fancy. The cost of water is not included in the calculations.

The Calculations:

  • The original recipe makes 249.6mL of solution (236.6mL water + 12mL castile soap + 1mL tea tree oil)
  • 768mL/249.6mL = 3.08, which is the number of times you need to multiply the recipe to equal the amount in the Seventh Generation spray bottle
  • 3.08 x 12.5mL of castile soap = 38.5mL of castile soap to make 1 bottle of spray cleaner
  • 3.08 x 1mL of tea tree oil = 3.08mL of tea tree oil to make 1 bottle of spray cleaner

Cost of Castile Soap:

  • One bottle of castile soap makes 12.29 bottles of spray cleaner: 473mL bottle of castile soap / 38.5mL of castile per bottle of spray cleaner = 12.29 servings
  • You use $0.98 of castile soap for one bottle of spray cleaner: price of castile soap $11.99/12.29 = $0.98

Cost of Tea Tree Oil

  • One bottle of tea tree oil makes 19.2 bottles of spray cleaner: 59mL bottle of tea tree oil / 3.08mL = 19.2 servings
  • You use $0.58 of tea tree oil for one bottle of spray cleaner: price of tea tree oil $11.20/19.2 = $0.58

Total Cost of DIY Multipurpose Spray Cleaner

  • It costs $1.80 to make one bottle of multipurpose spray cleaner: Total cost = $0.98 + $0.58 = $1.56
  • Making your own cleaning spray is 61{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} cheaper than buying it: a bottle of Seventh Generation costs $3.99 at Target (Total Savings = $3.99 – $1.56 = $2.43 per bottle)

Recipe for Multipurpose Cleaning Spray That’s Safe for Cats and Granite Counters

Please note that this is a DIY concoction so I can’t vouch for how effective it will be for killing germs. And because I am not a veterinarian, I can not vouch for the pet safety. However, if you’ve read this entire article, you’ll see that the concentration of tea tree oil is within the 0.1{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} to 1{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} safe concentration listed in the PetMD article. Tea tree oil is commonly found in many pet shampoos.

I feel comfortable using this spray on my counters and floors, but you should consult with your veterinarian for your pet. For food safety, you should consult with an expert as I am only using this spray for surfaces where the risk of bacteria contamination is low (until I conduct an experiment with bacteria in petri dishes). However, the science says that tea tree oil is disinfecting.

After these obligatory disclaimers, if you’d like to save 61{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} on your cleaning supplies and eliminate 12.29 plastic spray bottles by using one bottle of castile soap and a small bottle of tea tree oil, here’s the final recipe for a bottle of multipurpose spray cleaner that can be used on granite and has tea tree oil for disinfecting. This is based on the recipe and guidelines in an article written by Karen Peltier for The Spruce.

Makes one almost-full bottle of spray cleaner (24oz in a 26oz bottle)

  • 3 cups (710mL) of water
  • 7.5 teaspoons (37.5mL) of castile soap – I used Dr. Bronner’s unscented castile soap made with organic oils
  • 3.08mL of tea tree oil – This is tricky to measure using teaspoons, but a half teaspoon is equal to 2.5mL and one-eighth of a teaspoon is equal to 0.6mL, which is close enough to 3.08mL. I used the 2oz bottle of NOW tea tree oil. If you use a lot of tea tree, it’s about 15{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} cheaper to buy the 4oz bottle of tea tree oil.

Directions:

  1. Use a funnel to add 2 cups of water to an empty spray bottle that can hold at least 26oz of liquid (I used a standard Seventh Generation spray cleaner bottle)
  2. Add the castile soap
  3. Add the tea tree oil
  4. Shake well.
  5. Add the remaining water and shake again. Allow the cleaning spray to sit for several minutes until the foam settles.

If you’re like me, once you make your first batch of DIY natural organic cleaner, you’ll be tempted to clean. Lol! Go ahead, try out your homemade spray and see if it’s the purrfect cat safe disinfecting cleaning spray for your home

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Green Little Cat is the only blog that's all about eco-friendly ideas for cats and cat lovers. This blog is a labor of love, created by Holly Tse, author of Make Your Own Cat Toys.