The key to a squeaky-clean shower is...chamomile?

Of all the home cleaning woes that feel like an uphill battle (see: never-ending piles of laundry, rampant dust bunnies), none affect me so personally as scuzzy shower grout. See, I live on the fourth floor of a prewar building with prewar plumbing—and my unvented bathroom wears these factors like a the form of grout, tile and shower curtain liners that need near-constant attention. 

Full transparency: I’d taken to combatting my mold-prone conditions with fire and fury. (“The stronger, the better! And the fact that my eyes sort of sting and lungs sort of burn? Don’t overthink it, Grace!”) 

Which leads me to the discovery of Branch Basics. When I received a sample of this all-natural, newly relaunched cleaning concentrate, I knew exactly where I’d be testing its mettle: My scary shower. And to be honest? I wasn’t too optimistic. (The primary ingredient is chamomile, for goodness' sake!) 

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Per instruction, I spritzed my shower heavily with the bathroom cleaner, allowing it to soak for 15 minutes before re-entering the room. Since Branch Basics claims to be "the safest cleaner in the world," I eschewed rubber gloves and started wiping up with a sponge directly. Guys. I kid you not—it was like taking a Magic Eraser to my shower grout: The grime seemingly melted away with a single swipe, leaving behind a fragrance-free, grease-free residue that simultaneously left my hands feeling moisturized. 

Here’s the deal: Branch Basics' formula is a combo of entirely plant-derived, all-natural ingredients—like coco glucoside (a coconut-based alternative to sulfates) and sodium citrate (a plant-based salt that acts as a water softener). These agents essentially make water wetter, which allows for that seamless grime lift. 

Look, I’d be lying if I told you I’m a convert because it's an all-natural product—I’m a convert because it’s simply the most effective product I’ve tried. The fact that using it also makes me feel like Gwyneth Paltrow? That’s just an added bonus. 

Branch Basics starter kit ($59)

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The 6 All-Natural Cleaning Products You Should Be Making at Home

1. Basic Wood Cleaner

1/2 cup lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon natural liquid soap or detergent (I used Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castille Soap.)
A few drops olive oil 

Combine the ingredients in a bowl. Saturate a sponge with the mixture, squeeze out excess, and wash surfaces.

You can use either vinegar or lemon juice in this recipe. A vinegar solution will keep between uses in an airtight jar, but if you use lemon, like I did, you’ll want to make only as much as you need for one cleaning. The original recipe also recommends 3 to 5 drops of essential oil for fragrance, but the fresh lemon scent was good enough for me.

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Photo Credit: Mark Weinberg/Food52

2. Super-Duper Dirty-Window Cleaner

1/4 teaspoon washing soda
1/2 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent
2 cups club soda

Dissolve the washing soda in the hot water, then pour into spray bottle. Add the liquid soap and club soda. Shake to combine, then spray and wipe clean.  

I’d never heard of washing soda and was convinced I wouldn’t be able to find it at the store—but it was right next to the borax in the cleaning aisle! (Arm & Hammer makes a popular version.) Just a quarter teaspoon of it in this magic spray cleaned all my glass surfaces with no streaks.

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Photo Credit: Mark Weinberg/Food52

3. Toilet Bowl Sizzler

1/2 cup baking soda 
1/2 cup white distilled vinegar

Pour the ingredients into the toilet. Let sizzle, then scrub. Flush.

First of all, how do you not love that name? Remember those volcanoes you used to make in elementary school? Imagine that chemical reaction plus extreme cleaning power! I’ve never had so much fun cleaning my toilet. (Correction: I’ve never had any fun cleaning my toilet.)

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4. Mildew-Removing Soft Scrubber

Enough liquid soap or detergent to make a paste with a frosting-like consistency
A few drops tea tree oil

Place the borax in a bowl; slowly pour in the liquid soap, stirring all the while, until the consistency reaches that of a frosting. Add the oil and stir to combine. Scoop the creamy mixture onto a sponge, scrub the surface, and rinse. 

Bond has a recipe for a basic soft scrubber, too, but I need extra power in the bathroom if I’m not using bleach. Borax, which you can find in the cleaning aisle of your grocery store, is surprisingly mighty for a natural ingredient.

Photo Credit: Mark Weinberg/Food52

5. All-Purpose Alkaline Cleaner

1/2 teaspoon washing soda (or baking soda if you want something gentler)
2 teaspoon borax
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent
2 cups hot water

Combine the washing soda, borax, and soap in a spray bottle. Pour in the hot water (it will dissolve the minerals), screw on the lid, and shake to completely blend and dissolve. Spritz every 6 inches of the surface once or twice, wiping off the cleanser with a rag as you go. For stains, leave the cleanser on for a few minutes before wiping it off. Shake the bottle before each use.

Bond has many variations of all-purpose cleaner recipes, but I found that this one best cleaned my shower tiles, bathroom sink, quartz countertops, and laminate furniture surfaces.

Photo Credit: Mark Weinberg/Food52

6. Stainless Steel Cleaner

Olive Oil

Spray the surface liberally with vinegar. Using a soft cloth, rub in the direction of the grain to clean. Polish by dipping the cloth in olive oil and rubbing again in the direction of the grain. 

Bond didn’t have a recipe for this, but my kit wouldn’t be complete without something to wipe away the smudges on our appliances. I've heard that vinegar will help, but for extra luster, The Kitchn had the answer.

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