When we first moved into our new apartment, I complained a lot about our black granite kitchen countertops. "They’re boring," I’d tell anyone who’d listen. "Too safe," I’d add. Funny how things change, because five months and a pandemic later, I am incredibly thankful for them and their “safe” (read: stain-repelling) practicality.
Our kitchens have never worked this hard, and this means a lot of dirty surfaces. And dirty surfaces need efficient cleaners.
Full disclosure: I have a preternatural tendency to collect cleaning products—open the cabinet beneath my sink and you’ll see about 16 bottles of them. At some point though, I became very aware of the undesirable chemicals found in commercial household cleaning products, as well as the single-use trash problem that my habit was creating.
I finally broke my habit a couple months ago, when I decided to DIY something to wipe away the smudges on our appliances. It took all of 30 seconds and two ingredients (vinegar and olive oil) to make. Success! Next, I progressed to a toilet bowl "sizzle", which was both easy and fun to watch. But I knew I wouldn't really put a dent in my cleaning caddy until I found a way to make the one cleaner I reach for the most: an all-surface, all-purpose cleaner.
In pursuit of this, I turned my kitchen into a bit of a laboratory.
After many hours of internet sleuthing and several trials involving borax, vodka, and vinegar, a few weekends ago, I finally found the onevia this blog. Surprisingly, it was also the simplest to make. With just three ingredients, this DIY all-purpose cleaner comes together in under a minute, and leaves my kitchen feeling clean and smelling amazing—I've since put it to work on rug stains and pantry spills. I've also added a few drops of tea tree oil to the mix, as it's known to be a natural antibacterial/antifungal agent.
- 2 cups water (distilled water, if possible)
- 3-4 tablespoons castile soap (Dr Bronner's is my favorite; I use it to clean everything)
- 7-10 drops lavender or lemon essential oil
- 5 drops of tea tree oil (optional)
Add all the ingredients into a refillable glass bottle, or better still, a repurposed old surface cleaner bottle (thoroughly cleaned, of course). Fasten the top, shake-shake, and use. It’s really that easy.
The best thing about this is that, unlike the ones that use lemon juice and need to be refrigerated, it can be stored at room temperature. Also, if you use distilled water (less chance of water getting murky), you can keep it out for longer (I used tap water, and kept mine for 7-10 days). The other great thing about using castile soap instead of, say, vinegar (which is a popular base for DIY cleaners) is that it’s much safer to use on porous countertops like granite (hello, old friend!) or marble.
I will say that because of the addition of soap, you do need to give your surfaces a second wipe with water to avoid a sticky residue. And remember: For an extra boost when removing tougher stains, just spray first, then sprinkle on baking soda, and scrub out with a sponge. Ta-da!
Do you have an all-natural DIY cleaner that you swear by? Tell us in the comments below!
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Arati grew up hanging off the petticoat-tails of three generations of Indian matriarchs who used food to speak their language of love—and she finds herself instinctually following suit. Life has taken her all across the world, but she carries with her a menagerie of inherited home and kitchen objects that serve as her anchor. Formerly at GQ and Architectural Digest, she's now based in Brooklyn.