Garden Pest Control & Prevention (Natural Options)

Gardening can be a great way to save money and eat the freshest food available, but it can also come with its fair share of frustrations. From pests to proper watering… there are a lot of factors involved, especially if you are using organic methods to avoid chemicals.

Fortunately, the healthiest approach can be the easiest with a little preparation and research. Companion planting, proper spacing and natural methods of disease and pest control can ensure a healthy garden production without the need for nasty chemicals.

Garden Pest Control with Companion Planting

Some plants have natural properties that help others grow and deter pests when planted close by. Making use of these natural properties is a way to increase production in the garden and fit more plants into a smaller space. The following are a few popular companion plants:

  • Basil planted with tomato improves production and flavor. Basil is also good for peppers and has been said to repel mosquitoes. I plant basil throughout the garden for its aroma and beneficial properties.
  • Borage is a great companion for tomatoes and cabbage as it repels both tomato horn worm and cabbage moths. It also helps strawberries and is beneficial to practically everything in the garden. I plant throughout.
  • Chamomile is a great companion for cabbage, cucumbers, onions and all the brassicas. It improves flavor and is a great herb to have on hand. It attracts beneficial insects and has delicate and beautiful flowers.
  • Dill is also great planted with cabbages, cucumbers lettuce and more. It improves flavor, helps repel pests, and is useful in making homemade pickles! It can get pretty big so I plant in the middle of cucumber beds. Don’t plant with tomatoes!
  • Catnip is another great herb to grow and have on hand. Planted near squash and cucumbers it will repel squash bugs and aphids. The dried leaves can be steeped into a tea to help sooth the stomach, and can double as a pest control spray for many plants.
  • Radishes can be planted throughout the garden and under plants like cucumbers to deter cucumber beetles.
  • Marigolds planted throughout the garden help prevent nematodes and repel pests. They will flower all summer as long as you keep pulling the dead flowers off.
  • Nasturtiums are also great companion flowers to tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage and more. The flowers are edible and can be added to salads. They benefit melons and squashes as well.
  • Onions can be planted freely throughout the garden but help keep pests away from cabbages, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, cucumbers and more. Intercropping a few with all of these plants can greatly reduce garden pests.
  • Sunflowers are great companions and beautiful throughout the garden. Plant with Cucumbers, beans, and vining plants to provide a trellis. They are hardy and a great trap crop for aphids and other pests. They typically produce plenty of their own seeds to use next year.

There are many other great companion plants. Check out this chart for some other ideas.

Natural Pest Control Options

Companion planting is helpful, but if you’ve already planted and are having trouble with pests, some other natural solutions can be helpful:

  • A tea or solution made from powdered Kelp will help deter Japanese Beetles and Aphids and is also nourishing to plants. Spray on once a week or so before and during infestation times.
  • garlic and hot pepper spray (see recipe below) repels many garden insects and wildlife pests. It is probably the most inexpensive option to make at home and isn’t harmful to you while applying. Use once a week or more for several weeks before and during infestation times.
  • tea made with lemon Balm repels squash bugs and aphids. Apply 2 or more times a week as needed.
  • A solution of several teaspoons of Baking Soda dissolved in water can help prevent and treat fungus and powdery mildew on plants. Use as a preventative and acute treatment as needed.
  • Powdered Diatomaceous Earth is a good all purpose insect prevention and treatment for any insect pest, though it kills indiscriminately, so use carefully. I make to use this only in areas away from honey bees to protect them. I use mainly if I see slugs or larvae of any insect on plants, as it is especially effective on these. Has to be re-applied after watering or rain. Just sprinkle on plants as needed. [note: I buy food grade DE and also use it for indoor pests like ants and as an internal cleanse for parasites in humans and animals. This is the brand we use.
  • Neem sprays (like this one) are an increasingly popular pest control option and are available in many stores now.

Natural Hot Pepper Garden Spray Recipe

This is my go-to homemade garden pest control spray and it works really well!

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 Cloves of Garlic
  • At least 4 hot cayenne (or hotter) peppers
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil or other liquid oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Liquid Castille Soap like Dr. Bronners
  • 2-3 cups hot water
  • Blender (I use my Vitamix)
  • Towel, strainer, or cheesecloth

Instructions:

  • Put garlic, peppers, oil, soap and water in a blender and blend on high for several minutes.
  • Leave in a bowl or pitcher overnight or for at least 12 hours to intensify the effects of the garlic and peppers.
  • Strain through towel, cheesecloth or strainer and store in a glass jar
  • To use, pour about 2 TBSP in a 16 ounce spray bottle (or 3 TBSP in a 24 ounce) and shake well.
  • Spray directly on plants as needed… I recommend wearing gloves!
  • Can be used as often as needed for preventative and pest controlling effects.

Homemade Organic Fertilizer

Good planning and companion planting can go a long way towards a good yield, but if you are starting with poor soil, some fertilizer supplementation may be needed. Strong plats resist pests more easily too, so supporting the plants is an important step in protecting your garden from pests.

  • Kelp tea is a great foliar spray that nourishes plants when sprayed on the leaves (just don’t spray during the heat of the day). Sprinkling powdered kelp around plants can also have a nourishing effect.
  • Nettle Tea is another nourishing option and dried Nettle leaf can be added to supplement the soil and sleep composting if you compost kitchen scraps or leaves.
  • Yarrow flowers can be made into a tea or liquid mixture and used to water plants for extra nutrients. You can also just sprinkle yarrow flowers throughout the garden and they are said to have a pest repelling effect also.
  • Fish Emulsion is a natural fertilizer that can be sprayed on the leaves of plants to help promote growth. It is especially good for Tomatoes. It smells awful but if very effective.
  • Bone and Blood Meal (like this) are high in nitrogen and can be very fertilizing to plants but are also somewhat controversial since they are animal products. Organic options are available and can be great if you are comfortable using them.

Top Gift Ideas for Men (for Father’s Day, Birthday, Etc)

What do you do for gifts when the man in your life is hard to shop for? I’ve been trying to answer that question for years, as it always seems tougher to find good gift ideas for men than it does for women.

My husband is a perfectionist who insists that anything he buys is of the utmost quality. He doesn’t like things that sit around or take up space without a purpose, so strictly sentimental gifts are out. Though I did think of one sentimental gift that was also useful so he loved it… see below. He also hates being surprised, so keeping the gift a secret without him finding it is another challenge!

This post includes some of the best gifts I’ve found for my husband over the years. It also includes gifts that my many brothers-in-law have enjoyed and items on all of their wish-lists.

Focus on Experiences

I firmly believe that often the best gifts are not something you can wrap. In our house, experiences always beat material gifts and we choose these whenever possible. Recent reports indicate that most Americans have over 300,000 items in their homes, and storage units are the fastest growing real estate segment.

On top of that, we have:

  • an average of 30 outfits each while our grandparents only had 7-9
  • 200 toys *per child* (while they only play with an average of 12)

And over half of us claim to be overwhelmed with the amount of clutter surrounding us. If this sounds like your family, I’d recommend the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Maybe that would even be a good gift for the man in your life if you are trying to get him on board the minimalist trend!

If you already have the clutter under control, I’d still recommend an experience instead of a gift.

I share all of our favorite experience-based gift ideas here if you’re looking for some ideas. If you want to give a physical gift, just make sure it is practical, useful and long-lasting so it doesn’t end up in the back of the closet or a landfill.

Here are some of my favorite ideas for men that I have given or my husband has mentioned he loves.

Practical Gifts Ideas for Men

Your dad, husband, uncle, etc. probably doesn’t need a paperweight or another tie. If you’re looking for a gift he will use and love, here are some great options:

Blue Light Blocking Glasses

My husband and I have been wearing Blue Blocking Glasses for years. These glasses help reduce eye fatigue from computers and reduce blue light for better sleep. We put them on after the sun goes down each night to block the blue light from computer screens, television, and phones. My husband loves this style of blue light blocking glasses and I like that they are metal instead of plastic.

A Good Knife

I didn’t buy this for my husband, but his folding knife is an item that he uses daily. He has carried a knife since I met him and he uses it for “anything and everything.” I actually find myself asking him to borrow it pretty often when I need to open boxes, cut a thread off of a sweater in the car, etc… A folding knife (or any knife really)  is a classic guy gift and a pretty safe bet.

Good Wine + An Aerator

If your man is a wine drinker, wine is always a great gift option. It is consumable and typically lends itself to spending quality time together. Some of our favorite date nights have been just sitting on the back patio after the kids go to bed and drinking wine.

Just try to choose a high quality organic wine. We always stick to natural wines whenever possible, which are grown organically and lab tested to have no mold and mycotoxins or additives. He also loves our Wine Aerator which improves the flavor of wine and removes sediment as you pour it.

The Last Wallet He’ll Ever Need

en are tough on wallets! My dad used to go through one every year or two and that was almost always what we knew we could get him for Christmas each year. I mentioned my husband likes the best of things, and I found a wallet that meets his expectations.

It has a 100 year warranty (so his grandkids can use it one day)! They also have a bigger wallet if he likes that kind (I have this one and love it). Saddleback Leather also makes briefcases and bags (which have been on his wish list forever) and they even recently started making a purse for women (all are covered by the 100 year warranty). They are more pricey up front, but considering they will never need to buy another one, they are a great gift for someone who values quality.

A Notebook or Journal

Every man needs a good notebook or journal to jot down thoughts, ideas, take notes, set goals, and keep track of his schedule. This Dot Matrix Bullet Journal is a very popular option (that I stole from my husband!) because it’s so nice, easy to use, and serves as both a journal, calendar, and notebook all in one. And at under $10 it’s a great value too!

A Great Flashlight

My husband loves his Surefire Flashlight and it goes almost everywhere with him. This flashlight is super bright and small enough to fit in a pocket.

Better Shaving Tools

For men who have sensitive skin or really thick facial hair (like my husband), natural shaving options are a great gift. I was proud that this was one I actually thought of on my own, and he is really glad he switched!

His face used to get irritated from conventional disposable razors (even the good ones) and I didn’t like the chemicals in regular shaving cream, so the old-fashioned style seemed to be the best choice.

He now uses a double-sided safety razor which he got with a brush, mug, and razor stainless steel set (he loves it!). he used to hate shaving and actually enjoys it now. I make homemade shaving soap for him to go in the mug (recipe here) but there are also some good ones available if you don’t want to make it.

If you aren’t sure your guy will go for the old-school shaving, there are cheaper sets available and he can always upgrade to the nicer version if he likes it.

If your man doesn’t shave, consider this awesome Beard Oil! My hubby grew out his beard last year and loved that oil.

Rumble Roller

The rumble roller is one of my favorite gifts of all time too. Basically, it is a deep tissue massage at home. It is a lot cheaper than regular massages in the long run! The big spikes make it great for athletes (my hubby and a lot of men) and people who get stressed out/tense easily (me). My husband also doesn’t like taking the time to get a massage, especially since the sitting-still-and-doing-nothing for an hour really annoys him. This is the solution!

It doesn’t take up much room and it is wonderful for sore muscles! I use this regularly and it has made a big difference in my muscle tension. Plus, it looks manly and tough, so men don’t mind using it. Here is the Rumble Roller I got and there are two different sizes and firmness levels.

Camping Gear

These gifts are great because they combine a physical gift and lead to an experience of camping as well. Camping is a great family activity with some major health benefits. In fact, a recent study found that a week of camping without artificial light drastically improved circadian rhythm and sleep. If your guy likes camping, here are a few great gear options:

  • Fire starter kit – Useful tool to start fires without matches or a lighter.
  • Lifestraw or Sawyer water filter – Survival water filters that fits in your pocket.
  • Smart Wool Socks – Warm but not sweaty and they keep feet dry. Great for hiking, skiing, or everyday use.
  • 30-day Lantern for Camping – A really long lasting lantern for the outdoorsman who loves to camp.
  • Esse 3 Knife – Really high quality multi-use knife.
  • Hydroflask Insulated Water Bottle – Insulated water bottle that keeps water cold for days.
  • Tactical Pen – More than just a pen, it works in all conditions and can break a car window if a person is trapped.
  • ENO Hammock – Portable hammock that fits in a small bag and is great for travel, camping, or lounging in the backyard.

Protective Laptop Board

If your guy works on a computer as much as mine does, a protective laptop board is a great gift. This board makes it easier to work with a laptop in your lap. It also protects the legs and stomach from the heat and radiation from a laptop. We use the Defender Pad and love it.

DIY Fleece Quilt (Easy Way!)

My husband had a ton of t-shirts from college, and he didn’t want to get rid of any of them, since they had sentimental value. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of them sitting in the closet forever, so I decided to make them into a quilt.

All of the patterns I found required layers of batting, interfacing, and backing and would cost a lot more than I was willing to spend. After being told by the lady at the fabric store that I couldn’t do it, I decided to use fleece as a backing (a challenge?) and couldn’t be happier with the results. This quilt has lasted for years with very little wear and he actually uses it!

Bonus: It only took me a few hours to sew, all on the machine! This would actually be a great gift for a child or other relative as well! Click Here for the easy tutorial and instructions (it really is easy to make!).

Chef’s Knife (for the Man Who Likes to Cook)

If your man enjoys grilling out or cooking up a feast in the kitchen, a good chef’s knife can’t be beat. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of options available, but I love this professional grade Damascus Steel knife because it’s excellent quality, beautiful to look at, and my husband enjoys using it when he helps out in the kitchen (and kids can use it too!).

“I Love You Because” Calendar

For our first Christmas, money was pretty tight and I wanted to find a gift that would be budget friendly and also sentimental. I got a scrapbook type calendar like this one and added photos from our dating, engagement, and wedding to make the picture for each month. Then, I wrote on every day of the year a reason that I love and admire my husband. Reasons ranged from really heartfelt/romantic “You still make my heart skip a beat,” to the silly “Your crooked toe from when you broke it,” to others that aren’t appropriate for the blogosphere. 🙂

He actually used the calendar and looked forward to reading the reason I loved him each day. I think it is one of the few sentimental gifts that he still has to this day. This was also one of my favorite gifts to give!

To be really budget friendly, you could even just make or print the calendar on your computer and write the reasons in…

All-Natural Homemade Bug Spray Recipes That Work!

Every year as warmer weather approaches, I make several homemade products for summer including my homemade sunscreen and these homemade bug spray recipes.

I don’t use sunscreen often because it limits Vitamin D production and I prefer to eat my sunscreen instead. This homemade bug spray recipe on the other hand, unfortunately gets daily use where we live!

Why Homemade Bug Spray?

At my house, we joke about mosquitoes being the size of birds, and they certainly do seem to come in flocks! Especially with small children who are prone to scratching mosquito bites, keeping them away is a top priority.

Also a priority is avoiding chemicals like DEET, which are present in many commercial insect repellents. According to Green Your Body:

One of the most widely used ingredients in store-bought conventional bug sprays for personal use is N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide, or DEET, as it’s commonly known. DEET, which is designed to repel, rather than kill, insects. DEET is used by an estimated one-third of the US population each year.

Although DEET is approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is a known eye irritant and can cause rashes, soreness, or blistering when applied to the skin. Additionally, DEET has been linked to neurological problems; according to the EPA, at least 18 different cases of children suffering adverse neurological effects, as well as the deaths of two adults, have been associated with DEET. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found that DEET causes diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes in rats.

DEET has been shown to have a negative impact on wildlife and water sources in production and during use. It is toxic to birds and aquatic life. DEET has been found in approximately 75 percent of U.S. water sources, including the Mississippi River.

As with practically every household item, natural bug spray can be made inexpensively and naturally at home. (Some of our other favorites to make instead of buying are deodorant and toothpaste).

This recipe takes just seconds to mix up and can be varied based on what you have available. I’ve included several variations so you can try whichever one you have the ingredients for.

5-Minute Essential Oil Bug Spray Recipe

This recipe uses essential oils, which are highly effective, but there are some concerns about putting these directly on the skin, especially on children.

Which Essential Oils Repel Mosquitos and Other Insects?

I prefer to use this recipe on clothing or gear instead of directly on the skin. Any combination of these Essential oils will work: Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Cajeput, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Geranium, Lavender, Mint.

All of those have insect and mosquito repelling properties, and I’ve included the mixture I use below. For this recipe I use 100 drops of essential oil total with a mixture of various oils. If you don’t have one, you can leave it out or use a mixture of the others in its place.

To save time, I’ve also just used a pre-mixed kid-safe essential oil blend that are formulated to repel insects in place of the other oils in the recipe below. If you’d rather not DIY, Badger also makes a great natural bug spray with essential oils.

Homemade Bug Spray Ingredients

  • 30 drops geranium essential oil
  • 30 drops citronella essential oil
  • 20 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
  • 20 drops lavender essential oil
  • 10 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vodka or rubbing alcohol
  • 1/2 cup Natural Witch Hazel
  • 1/2 cup water (or vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin (optional)

Homemade Bug Spray Instructions

  1. Place essential oils in a glass spray bottle. Add vodka or alcohol and shake well to combine.
  2. Pour in witch hazel and shake to combine.
  3. Add 1/2 tsp vegetable glycerin if using. This is not necessary but helps everything stay combined.
  4. Add water and shake again. Shake before each use as the oils and water will naturally separate some over time.

DIY Bug Spray Recipe Variations

Natural bug sprays can also be made without essential oil using dried herbs and witch hazel or vinegar. This recipe is typically considerably less expensive, though it is also not as potent as the recipe above.

Fresh or Dried Herbs Bug Spray Ingredients

  • Distilled water
  • Witch hazel or rubbing alcohol
  • Dried herbs: peppermint, spearmint, citronella, lemongrass, catnip, lavender, etc. I recommend using at least one herb from the mint family.

Fresh or Dried Herbs Bug Spray Instructions

  1. Boil 1 cup of water and add 3-4 TBSP of dried herbs total in any combination from the above. I use 1 TBSP each of peppermint, spearmint, catnip and lavender, and also throw in a couple of dried cloves.
  2. Mix well, cover and let cool (covering is important to keep the volatile oils in!)
  3. Strain herbs out and mix water with 1 cup of witch hazel or rubbing alcohol. Store in a spray bottle in a cool place (fridge is great because then its nice and cool).
  4. Use as needed. Added bonus: it smells great and is very refreshing to the skin.

TIP: If you have the time and want to make a stronger version of this recipe, prepare the herbs in an alcohol mixture as a tincture instead and use this directly as a spray after straining out the herbs.

Vinegar Insect Repellent Recipe

Fair warning: this stuff stinks when it is wet, though the smell disappears as it dries. It works incredibly well though, and this is the one I use when I’m going to be in the woods or in tick infested areas. It is based on a recipe that was supposedly used by thieves during the Black Plague to keep from getting sick. They used it internally and externally to avoid catching the disease and to keep the flies and other pests away. According to legend, it worked and they survived… but it definitely makes a great insect repellent these days! Its also very inexpensive to make and you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen.

Vinegar of the Four Thieves Insect Repellent Ingredients

  • 1 32 ounce bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 TBSP each of dried Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Thyme and Mint
  • At least quart size glass jar with airtight lid

Vinegar of the Four Thieves Insect Repellent Instructions

  1. Put the vinegar and dried herbs into large glass jar.
  2. Seal tightly and store on counter or place you will see it daily. Shake well each day for 2-3 weeks.
  3. After 2-3 weeks, strain the herbs out and store in spray bottles or tincture bottles, preferably in fridge.
  4. To use on skin, dilute to half with water in a spray bottle and use as needed.
  5. Use whenever you need serious bug control!

Note: This mixture is very strong and has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It can also be used as a tincture for any illness. For adults, dose is 1 TBSP in water several times a day, for kids over 2, dose is 1 tsp in water several times a day.

Other Simple Insect Repelling Ideas

  • Use a non-toxic, plastic-free insect-repelling band (I love this one), which is easier to use on children and very effective.
  • Add vanilla extract to either of the above recipes, or just rub on the skin. You can also mix vanilla with witch hazel and water for a spray version.
  • Plant insect repelling herbs in your yard. I grow lavender, thyme, mint and citronella near our patio and we use these fresh plants as bug repellent in a pinch.
  • Rub lavender flowers or lavender oil on your skin, especially on hot parts of body (neck, underarms, behind ears, etc.) to repel insects.
  • Rub fresh or dried leaves of anything in the mint family all over skin to repel insects (peppermint, spearmint, catnip, pennyroyal, etc. or citronella, lemongrass, etc.) Basil is also said to repel mosquitoes and I’ve used fresh basil leaves in the garden with great success before.

How to Make Recycled Wine Bottle Tiki Torches

In the summer I always keep homemade natural bug spray at hand, but tiki torches are a lovely and practical way to light up the patio while keeping mosquitos at bay. (And where I live, that’s a tough feat!)

I avoid plastic as much as possible and we use glass, stainless, or wood in its place, so I went in search of some DIY ideas. Thanks to the magic of Pinterest, I decided to experiment with upcycling and reusing my old wine bottles.

I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was for such an impressive (and useful) result!

Why Tiki Torches?

It has gotten more difficult over the years for my hubby and I to get away for date nights (because children), so our go-to date is sharing a bottle of wine on the patio once the kids go to bed. (Wine can be healthy, I promise!)

The one downside to our patio wine-drinking date? The previously referenced mosquitos who like to join us!

Seriously, where we live, the summertime is affectionately known as the “Mosquitopocalypse” because of the literal clouds of mosquitos. Bug spray is great, but if you sweat or swim (both common occurrences in summer) you’re stuck reapplying in order to keep the blood-sucking bastards mosquitos at bay.

I started looking for some tiki torches to use in our yard but the only options at our local store were:

  1. Really nice metal tiki torches that cost over $20 each
  2. Cheaper bamboo ones that our puppy would likely confuse with his bone and chew on the first day

I started researching how to make tiki torches by reusing glass wine bottles and found a simple all-in-one option. We have quite a few of these in our yard now, and not only do they help with the mosquitos but they add a nice sense of decor as well!

The Obligatory Caution:

As with anything DIY involving glass or fire, use caution when making and using these. Glass can break unless treated with care. Since this tiki torch uses citronella oil, it can also be a fire hazard if used incorrectly. Of course, use common sense with these and make sure to:

  • Use these only in areas where they can’t be knocked down or easily break. Or, use the kind with mounting brackets so they can be safely held in place. This is the kit I used to mount my tiki torches.
  • Consider putting small rocks or marbles in the bottom of the bottle to add extra weight and prevent tipping if using on a table.
  • Don’t use these indoors.
  • Keep the wick on the top of the bottle at 1 inch or less.
  • Store the torches in a garage or shed (or somewhere else away from the weather) when not in use.
  • Again, use common sense.

How to Upcycle Wine Bottles into Tiki Torches

This DIY project especially appealed to me because ever since I was little, I’ve loved unique glass jars. I remember asking my mom if I could save some our old bottles and jars so I could make crafts with them or use them to store little toys.

Now I love to save and reuse glass jars for making tinctures and natural remedies. In fact, my natural remedies cabinet looks like a vintage apothecary with a collection of unique, colorful recycled jars and bottles.

Thanks to our patio dates, we now have a robust collection of empty wine bottles that were beautiful enough to justify keeping. Hopefully you have a stash too. If not, start saving your favorites (or choose the prettiest bottles to buy!).

Wine habit = justified! Bonus!

Tiki Torch Supplies

To make these tiki torches, you’ll need several very specific supplies:

  • Wine, beer, or liquor bottle with a standard size neck. I recommend OZV (my husband’s favorite) or Dry Farms Wine (my fav).
  • 1/2 by 3/8 inch copper coupling
  • 10 inch tiki wick
  • Nylon thread seal tape or 1/2 inch rubber washers

Or:

  • an all-in-one tiki torch kit (try this 3-pack kit or this mounted option)

Plus:

  • Tiki Torch Fuel*

*Most tiki torch fuels are petroleum based and create harmful byproducts when burned. I like this safe and green formula that is natural, sustainable, and burns cleanly.

Tiki Torch Instructions

  1. Wrap one side of the coupling with the nylon tape or slide the rubber washers onto it. This helps hold the coupling in place and seal off the fuel from the air. You’ll want to make sure that the coupling can slide into the mouth of the bottle tightly but not fall in. For wider bottles, more nylon tape or thicker washers may be needed.
  2. Feed the wick into the coupling, leaving about ¼ to ½ inch above the coupling to be able to light.
  3. Optional step: Add clean rocks or marbles to the bottom of the bottle to fill it 1/3 full. This is optional and only recommended for tiki torches that will be on a table and not those hanging or mounted.
  4. Add tiki torch fuel until the bottle fills to the beginning of the neck. *Tip: According to some sources, you can add a few inches of water first and then the fuel. The fuel floats on top of the water and this reduces the amount of fuel needed and makes it more efficient since the fuel doesn’t have to travel so far up the wick.
  5. Carefully insert the coupling into the mouth of the bottle.
  6. Let the wick absorb the fuel for at least half an hour before lighting.
  7. Light and enjoy

Easy DIY Granite Cleaner for Naturally Clean Countertops

I use my homemade all-purpose cleaner on almost everything around the house, but it doesn’t work for every surface. Our home has granite countertops in the kitchen and since granite can be a little fickle depending on what you use to clean it, I decided to test out creating a cleaner specifically for granite surfaces.

After several attempts, this natural granite cleaner effectively gets my granite countertop clean and streak-free without damaging it, and thankfully, it’s still fast and simple to make! Simplicity is key when it comes sustaining natural choices for a family, and this one is no exception.

Why Any Old Cleaner Won’t Do

There are plenty of homemade natural cleaners out there, but granite is a picky material when it comes to cleaning. Some store-bought cleaners can strip the protective sealant off of the beautiful granite. Vinegar or lemon juice is acidic and can etch its surface. Baking soda can be too abrasive and can also scratch.

Even plain old soap and water won’t do the trick. Soap can leave a film if too much is used, and plain water isn’t great either because it doesn’t disinfect and can often leave streaks.

So… what’s a mama to do when she wants clean counters?

It’s much easier than it sounds!

A Homemade Granite Cleaner that Works!

So what does work as granite cleaner? Although many of my usual natural cleaning ingredients are off the list when it comes to cleaning granite, one simple ingredient (plus water) cleans granite to perfection.

All a granite cleaner really needs is a little alcohol added to water. Alcohol both disinfects and evaporates quickly so the cleaner doesn’t leave streaks behind.

Store-bought natural granite cleaners are much more expensive than my homemade version, and contain the same basic formula as this one. One popular natural granite cleaning option contains water, alcohol, a surfactant (like soap), preservatives, and natural and artificial fragrances.

This homemade granite cleaner works the same, minus the less ideal stuff!

Favorite Essential Oils for Cleaning Granite

Of course, I feel a little extra rewarded for my effort when my kitchen not only looks clean but smells fresh too. And let’s face it, in a natural kitchen with a lot of kid-cooking and from-scratch food prep going on, I need a little extra cleaning power at times.

Thankfully, there are two essential oils especially good for cleaning in the kitchen, and safe for use on granite.

Basil

Basil is a favorite herb to use in the kitchen and is also antibacterial and antiviral. This study foundthat it successfully inhibited E-coli, as well as various strains of bacteria and fungi. The scent of basil essential oil also helps to uplift and energize.

Grapefruit

Citrus essential oils are popular in homemade cleaners for their refreshing scent. Grapefruit pairs well with basil and is used in this granite cleaner for its range of antimicrobial benefits.

This study looked at common hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic-resistant strains. Grapefruit essential oil showed considerable efficacy against the antibiotic resistant strains tested, including MRSA and resistant strains of candida.

Note: I did mention that vinegar and lemon juice are too acidic to use on granite, so I had to check if a citrus essential oil would be safe to use in a granite cleaner. It’s true citrus essential oils can be caustic when it comes to plastic, which is why they need to be stored in glass bottles. In this recipe, however, the grapefruit essential oil is diluted to about .25%. Also, unlike citrus juice, citrus essential oils don’t have an acidic pH. From what I’ve seen, there shouldn’t be any concern when it comes to using diluted citrus essential oils on granite.

Other Essential Oils for Cleaning

I always enjoy switching up essential oils for different scents and benefits. When you’re ready for a change, substitute another essential oil or two. Lavender and lemon essential oil are cleansing and smell great together. Another good option is the antimicrobial powerhouses of cinnamon, clove and orange in a “thieves” type blend.

There are plenty of essential oils that are great for cleaning. It really just depends on preference.

Natural Granite Cleaner Ingredients

  • ½ cup vodka (or rubbing alcohol)
  • 1 and ½ cups water
  • ½ tsp castile soap
  • 7 drops basil essential oil
  • 20 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • (OR roughly 20-30 drops of essential oil of your choice)
  • 16 ounce spray bottle

Granite Cleaning Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in the spray bottle and shake well to combine. Shake well before each use.
  2. To use the granite cleaner, shake and spray liberally on a granite surface. Wipe the granite gently with a microfiber cloth, applying a bit more elbow grease where needed.
  3. Enjoy beautiful, shiny countertops!

Protecting Granite from Damage

Using a dedicated, granite-safe cleaner is just the first step when it comes to keeping your granite looking as good as new. Here are some other tips for granite care:

  • Wipe up spills immediately to avoid staining.
  • Use pot holders or coasters when setting warm or cold items on granite countertops.
  • Refresh the protective coating on granite countertops when needed. I haven’t needed to seal ours yet, but thankfully there are some greener options out there.