Cleaning

The DIY Surface Cleaner You Can Make in 60 Seconds

...and with three ingredients.

August 14, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

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.

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Top Comment:
“cups water 1 cup vodka 1/2 cup vinegar optional: a few drops of essential oil optional: a few drops of blue food coloring The good people of Costco think I have a drinking problem, but that vodka makes the windows sparkle!”
— Ann
Comment

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 one via 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.

Sometimes, simple really does it.

What You'll Need:


- 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)

Method:

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.

Storage:

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!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 may earn an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.


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Arati Menon

Written by: Arati Menon

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.

21 Comments

Ann October 7, 2020
My best DIY cleaning recipe is the glass cleaner from unsophisticatedcook.com. My college kid drove off for his COVID semester with two bottles of this glass cleaner.
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup vinegar
optional: a few drops of essential oil
optional: a few drops of blue food coloring

The good people of Costco think I have a drinking problem, but that vodka makes the windows sparkle!
 
Author Comment
Arati M. October 7, 2020
I can’t wait to try this one out. Thanks for sharing!
 
Nancy October 5, 2020
a few answers to EO questions ( i am a trained Aromatherapist with over a thousand hours of training) NO the few drops of tea tree( or any other EO or EO blend) will not keep bacteria from growing in a water based product. Best to mix EO's with castile soap before adding water- the soap will help the EO's stay 'in solution' as they will otherwise separate - so in any case always shake your DIY well before using. IF using bergamot make sure it is FCF (furanocoumarin free-this eliminates any chance of residue on your skin being photosensitizing.
 
TxSun October 6, 2020
Are you saying that water deactivates the antiviral/antibiotic properties of EOs?
 
Nancy October 6, 2020
No i am not saying that the water de activates the EO. Water and EO do not mix therefore the properties of the EO do not affect the the water to any great extent.
 
Ann K. August 22, 2020
I also use this recipe w alcohol. I like how it doesn't leave streaks. It truly is so quick to put together. Dr. Bronners castile soap is great on many things. Found this cleaning recipe during pandemic because of the supply shortages in stores. I won't use anything else now.
 
BabyKakes August 21, 2020
Curious to know if one can use other kinds of essential oils, such as i.e. bergamot, peppermint, grapefruit. Thanks!
 
Author Comment
Arati M. August 21, 2020
I don’t see why not, BabyKakes, if you prefer another scent to lavender or lemon!
 
Linda D. August 22, 2020
You can use most essential oils as most are antibacterial. Use what your nose likes best!
 
Lauracm August 21, 2020
We have a horrible dimpled floor and dogs. Not wanting to poison them I clean the dirtiest spots with straight vinegar and rinse only where I need to (traffic paths, center). It’s the only thing short of professionally steam cleaning that cleans my floors.
 
Rebecca R. August 21, 2020
My favorite is hydrogen peroxide. It kills germs effectively, is safe on natural stone, not corrosive, no bleach worries and decomposes into hydrogen and oxygen.
 
Jacki D. August 21, 2020
I googled what is about only ok ingredient on granite for sanitizing (not just cleaning) - isopropyl alcohol mixed with water. To that end- isopropyl alcohol is hard to find. I ordered some online. Could not find in any stores after multiple attempts.
 
Regine August 21, 2020
It is the alcohol you buy in a drugstore. Any form of pure alcohol will do, but this is cheaper.
 
Fiona B. August 21, 2020
What do you mean by this ". Also, if you use distilled water (less chance of water getting murky), you can keep it out for longer (I kept mine for 7-10 days). " Do you mean that the cleaner only lasts for a week or so?
 
Author Comment
Arati M. August 21, 2020
H Fiona. You can certainly use clean tap water, which I do, and store for 1-2 weeks. Using distilled water (or boiled and cooled water) is recommended if you want to store this for longer: to reduce chances of bacteria growth.
 
Helen August 25, 2020
If using the essential oils,esp tea tree, shouldn't that be enough to keep it bacteria free for as long as you need it, even months, stored in a dark,cool area? In conjunction with properly prepared or distilled water of course
 
Joanne G. August 16, 2020
The best DIY cleaner is 1/2 vinegar, 1/2 water, and some squirts of dish detergent for scent and a little foam. You don’t have to rinse it. For heavier jobs some baking soda and enough peroxide to make a paste. It’s great for dirty grout and any heavy grime.
 
Author Comment
Arati M. August 16, 2020
Hi Joanne! I do have to agree—vinegar is amazing. However it’s sadly not recommended for surfaces like granite and marble, both of which I have at home. But yes, vinegar is such a powerful cleaner.
 
Joanne G. August 21, 2020
Arati:
I agree if you use it full strength, but I don’t use vinegar full strength, half water & vinegar, and you can dilute it more if you want. I have both marble and granite. Both look spectacular, whether I seal them or not. I am a crazy OCD housekeeper. I have a beautiful home, but I’m cheap so that’s the way to go for me.
 
Author Comment
Arati M. August 21, 2020
That’s good to know! I shall give it a try on mine!
 
Joanne G. August 22, 2020
👍