Ara the altar
earth-aware adornment for the everyday
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Letters of Ara

An online journal & e-mail newsletter in which to explore areas of interest and influence for Ara the altar.

A Spring Clean: Natural, DIY Cleaning Recipes

Ara the altar cleaning basket

As we welcome Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are a little longer and lighter and, for many, this is traditionally the time for a good Spring clean.

I had my first dabble with a DIY, low waste cleaning recipe a few years ago. I was frustrated by the abundant use of plastic bottles for consumables such as cleaning products, and had also recently learnt that I had a skin contact allergy to fragrance, which, in case you’re wondering, is seemingly in everything. Even ‘fragrance free’ products often sneak an ingredient such as ‘parfum’ in to mask an ingredient that does not smell very nice, thus making it ‘unscented’. I had given up the search for 'eco friendly' cleaning products that would not irritate my skin. After doing some research I landed on a natural, easy recipe that eliminated the need for harsh chemicals and unnecessary plastic. I found it so simple and genuinely much more preferable -and cost effective- to using standard cleaning products that I've been using it ever since. Having picked up a few variations along the way, I thought it might be helpful to pull them all together in one place, for anyone else thinking of giving this a go.

In this post, I share the little basket of tricks I use and the three DIY recipes (with varying degrees of required effort) that I switch between to clean the whole house.

Ara the altar natural cleaning recipes

In the basket

  • A tin dispenser for bi-carbonate of soda (if you’re looking for plastic free bicarb try Zero Waste Club)

  • Essential oils - I use Sacred Soul Holistics who produce organic essential oils (as an added bonus their packaging is beautiful)

  • Castille soap - if I’m honest I use this the least and tend to reach for my vinegar based cleaners but its good to have the option in case I’m out of vinegar. Generally, this stuff has so many uses so it’s good to have knocking around and it can be bought in bulk and refill. I’ve had this bottle for such a long time - I was reluctant about buying the plastic bottle but a little goes such a long way. I use Dr Bronner as their products are organic and fair trade. This is the only company I am aware of who source palm oil responsibly. Many claim to use ‘sustainably sourced’ palm oil but with very misleading assurances. I understand that Dr Bronner work closely with small scale farmers who grow palm oil organically in Ghana, without any need for mass-deforestation

  • Cleaning cloths - we have a handful of old rags for use in different areas of the house. I also recently picked up this pack of biodegradable abrasive cloths - they’re machine washable and made from natural fibres which I find preferable to using and washing micro fibre cloths usually sold for cleaning

  • I have a couple of amber glass bottles with spray tops but if you’re nifty you can put an old spray lid onto the top of your white vintage bottle (that you’ll need for recipes i & ii)

Ara the altar pink grapefruit cleaner.jpg

Recipe i | Citrus Peel Infused Vinegar ~ a little labour intensive, requiring prep a few weeks prior to using

Multi surface cleaner, also great for glass. Not suitable for marble/granite due to the acidity of the vinegar.

This citrus peel infused vinegar cleaning solution was recommended to me during discussion around Recipe ii (when shared on Instagram a little while ago), as it does not produce the same intense vinegar scent. Upon doing a little research into this recipe, the ones I’d seen used orange or lemon peels but, with an abundance of grapefruits around the house, I thought I’d give a variation of the recipe a go. You would not believe how many grapefruits we get through - they’re one of the fruits we can easily pick up plastic free which is an added incentive but they are also a favourite around here. I love the smell - it’s such a refreshing balance of sweet and sharp.


  • Citrus Peels - these can be peeled or chopped as long as the flesh of the fruit has been removed (it’s worth taking the time to remove the fruit otherwise the sugars can make the solution sticky)

  • Distilled white vinegar (ideally organic which seems impossible to source in the UK at the moment) - you can pick this up in a glass bottle from large supermarkets (yes - it is different to white wine vinegar - I checked!)

  • A wide topped jar (nothing special, just something wide enough to easily get your peels in and out of). Mine (pictured above) is from Weck

The Process

  1. As you go, you can store your citrus peels in an air tight container in the fridge (no need to OD on vitamin C)

  2. When you have enough peels, take your wide topped glass jar, pop in your peels, cover with vinegar and make it air tight

  3. Leave it be for a few weeks, this allows time for the peels to infuse the vinegar

  4. Strain out the liquid into a jug, separating it from the peels and dispense the liquid into a spray bottle. Fill it half way and then top up with H2O

  5. You can add essential oil to your liking or leave it as is - I find it’s pretty sweet smelling with the grapefruit peels but there’s also no harm in adding a few drops of lavender or eucalyptus

  6. Spray away! I find this is particularly good one to use in the bathroom - I give everywhere a good spray and leave it to work for a little while before a light scrub and a rinse

Recipe ii | Vinegar & Essential Oil Solution ~ little effort required

Multi surface cleaner, also great for glass. Not suitable for marble/granite due to the acidity of the vinegar.

This is the first DIY recipe I tried, it’s super simple. I’m not convinced it’s quite as powerful as the citrus peel solution but it doesn’t require the two week prep so no waiting time (or excuses!) - you can just get cleaning with this one:

  • 1 part distilled organic white vinegar

  • 1 part water

  • A few drops of essential oil - I have recently moved to using peppermint essential oil which I find pretty much eliminates the potent vinegar scent. The mint is so fresh and makes this a really nice one to use

  • For a really thorough clean, you can also sprinkle a bit of bicarb on the surface before or after spraying and leave it for a little while before giving it a scrub and a rinse

Recipe iii | Castile Soap Solution ~ effortless

Multi surface cleaner - safe to use anywhere (even on the dog, your body & your barnet)

  • 1/2 table spoon of Castile soap - lavender smells AMAZING and makes this a pleasure to use

  • 100ml water

  • Spray!

Ara the altar DIY cleaning recipe

If you give any of these a dabble or have any other recommendations, let me know.