Many of the items we can’t live without are multipurpose: They save time, space and effort on the busiest days. We all have our kitchen staples, like high-quality EVOO—essential for everything from fried eggs to Italian Holiday Bread. We also stash big bottles of white vinegar, castile soap and baking soda around the house. But here’s another multi-use recommendation: witch hazel.
Sold in drugstores, witch hazel astringent is derived from the bark and leaves of the witch hazel plant, also known as winterbloom, snapping hazel and spotted alder. Add witch hazel to your arsenal of natural cleaning products to help avoid cleaners with hazardous ingredients. Here are some smart ways to use it:
1. Gentle Surface Cleaner
Spritz witch hazel on countertops and wipe it up with a microfiber cloth. “I use it a lot on a granite or marble because you can’t really put anything harsh on those,” Reichert says. You can also use it on high-shine floors, including marble. “Spray on a light layer of witch hazel and use a microfiber mop with it. It’s going to leave the finish just like glass.” It’s always a good idea to test any new cleaning product on a small, inconspicuous part of the material before applying it liberally.
2. Pet Stain Eliminator
If you’re the proud parent of a dog or a cat, you know that accidents can happen. Leslie Reichert, natural-cleaning coach and the author of The Joy of Green Cleaning, has two beloved golden retrievers—and the perfect cleanup routine. When pet stains occur, Leslie turns to witch hazel. After sopping up any liquid with paper towels, she uses a spray bottle to spritz the spot with witch hazel, which helps prevent stains from setting and reduces odors. Finish with an enzyme cleaner.
3. Carpet Cleaner
Reichert started using witch hazel to brighten carpets after going into a client’s home and seeing her decades-old white carpet in perfect condition. “I asked her, ‘How do you keep it so clean?’ and she said, ‘I use club soda and witch hazel on it,'” Reichert says. When you have a spill, prevent it from setting with that combination. “The witch hazel acts like an alcohol so it’s good at cutting grease,” she says. Always test on a small, inconspicuous patch of carpet first to check for the possibility of discoloration.
4. Carrier Oil for Odor Neutralizer
If you’re a fan of essential oils (many use them for their nice-smelling, mood-boosting benefits), you know you need to combine them with a carrier oil or a base so you’re not putting high concentrations directly on the skin. “It’s kind of the same way with cleaning,” says Reichert. “I use essential oils a lot to get rid of odors, but you can’t just spray essential oils into the air. What you can do is use witch hazel as a carrier.” She recommends filling a spray bottle most of the way with witch hazel. If you’re interested in an odor neutralizer, add a few drops of clove or eucalyptus oil. Shake it up, and then spray. “I have a bottle of that all the time and I just go around and spray things like the carpets or the fabric on the couch. It works great.”
5. Facial Astringent
Witch hazel causes your skin to tighten up. “People with very oily skin like to use it to remove excess oil,” says dermatologist Rajani Katta, MD, professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine. She emphasizes that the skin’s tightening response is temporary. “It temporarily tightens the pores, reducing the appearance of large pores,” she says. Keep in mind that it doesn’t actually shrink your pores, though. Katta warns against using witch hazel to treat sunburns, rashes, poison ivy and bug bites. “For most people,” she says, “the irritating, drying potential is going outweigh any anti inflammatory effects.”
6. Jewelry Cleaner
Eliminate the grime and tarnish that builds on jewelry over time. Put witch hazel on a cotton ball and wipe jewelry clean. “Your jewelry tends to pick up the oil on your skin. Witch hazel will cut through the greasy buildup,” Reichert says.
And who wouldn’t want shiny jewelry? With a few bottles of witch hazel around, your home and your smiling face will both look squeaky clean.