Best Essential Oils for Cleaning
Essential oils from plants, flowers and herbs have long been popular ingredients in personal care products such as soaps, lotions, bath salts, massage oil, and shampoos, but lately they are gaining notice for their role as household cleaning agents.
Traces of these plant extracts can already be found in many cleaning products on the market. Not only do they add natural fragrances to products, but they also contain antiseptic properties that enable them to inhibit the growth and spread of harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
Commercial cleaners disinfect, but sometimes contain harsh chemicals that may irritate your eyes and throat, make your head pound, and expose you to carcinogens and other toxins that can endanger your health. Essential oils make great alternatives to these caustic sprays and scrubs. Not only have they been shown to kill bacteria and germs in lab studies, but many essential oils also double as natural degreasers, stain lifters, and air fresheners.
Unlike store-bought cleaners, they smell good, so you don’t have to open a window or hold your breath to use them. And a little goes a long way. All you need is a few drops of essential oil to make a do-it-yourself cleaner to get your countertops, windows, floors, toilets, and shower sparkling and smelling fresh.
Making your own essential oil-based cleaners is easy, and you can find plenty of recipes online for all-purpose cleaners, linen sprays, carpet fresheners, toilet scrubs, tub and shower gel, dryer sheets, and even goo and crayon removers. Most of these call for some kind of staple diluent, such as water, soap, baking soda, distilled white vinegar, oil, salt, or alcohol. When using homemade cleaners, experts suggest diluting essential oils so they make up about 3 percent of the mixture. High concentrations of essential oils can harm furniture and other surfaces, so it’s best to start with the smallest amount and perfect your blend from there. You may also want to test the cleaner on a small, inconspicuous spot before using it everywhere.
Ready to ditch the toxic ingredients and noxious fumes in your household cleaning products for your own spa-inspired mix of essential oil-infused cleaners? Here are the best essential oils for the job.
Derived from the rinds of ripe lemons, lemon essential oil is valued for its light, clean scent, and prowess as an all-purpose cleaner. Like other citrus oils, it contains limonene, a chemical that aids in degreasing and lifting of soil from surfaces. You can use it to dissolve dirt and marks from tile or hardwood floors, lift grease from the stove, deodorize the fridge, remove sticky residue from tables, and even get stubborn stains out of clothes and other linens. Wipe down glass shower doors with a few drops of lemon oil twice a month to fight grime buildup or combine with olive oil to make a wood or leather polish for furniture. You can even add a few drops of lemon essential oil to all of your homemade cleaners to give your home a Pine-Sol scent without the added chemicals.
Orange essential oil, which comes from the rinds of oranges, is also known for its ability to get the grease and gunk out of surfaces, which makes it a popular ingredient in heavy-duty cleaning products. Studies have also found that orange oil, along with other citrus oils, is effective at inhibiting the growth of foodborne pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli. This makes it great for cleaning countertops, sinks, stoves, cutting boards or appliances, especially when combined with other cleansing oils like lemon and bergamot. Orange oil has a sweet, energizing scent that diminishes foul odors and freshens up the air in rooms. Mix it with citrus oils or earthy oils like cedarwood to make a homemade furniture polish or dusting spray, or use a few drops to lift glue and gum from surfaces and materials.
Made from the Australian Melaleuca tree, tea tree essential oil has a reputation for its germ, bacteria and virus fighting capabilities. It cuts through mold and mildew and has been shown in lab studies to inhibit the spread of antibiotic-resistant strains of pathogens such as influenza and Staphylococcus aureus, which causes staph infections. It’s also a good weapon against bugs, lice and other pests, and gives off a clean, medicinal smell that masks musky, sticky odors. Use it to tackle tough germs in the bathroom. Just mix a few drops of tea tree oil with water and other disinfecting oils like eucalyptus and oregano, then spritz on shower doors and toilet rims, leaving the mixture on until it starts clearing away icky substances.
Known for its calming, relaxing qualities, lavender essential oil, which hails from the lavender flower, is the star of many botanical-based consumer products. Its soothing scent makes it a go-to ingredient for hand sanitizers, air fresheners, fabric softeners, fresh wipes, and dish soap. Lavender also works well as a disinfectant for fabrics, linens, and gentle surfaces such as toys, combs, and brushes. It even pairs well with many different kind of diluents, including vinegar. Despite its pleasing aroma and subtle feel, lavender has proven to be a tough foe for viruses and bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli, according to lab studies.
Derived from a hybrid mint plant, peppermint essential oil has a cool, refreshing scent that meshes well with other popular essential oils used in homemade cleaners such as rosemary, lavender, eucalyptus, lemon, grapefruit, and cinnamon. It makes a great addition to DIY spray cleaners and deodorizers for the bathroom, kitchen and common areas like doorknobs, stairwells and hallways where germs can spread. Peppermint oil also deters pests such as mice, spiders, and ants. Just mix with water and spray along the cracks and crevices where pests enter to send them on their way.
You can use these oils separately, mix them together or try other essential oils that are good for cleaning, such as rosemary, pine, lemongrass, thyme, cinnamon, sweet basil, clove bud, oregano, cardamom and coriander oil. Just make sure the essential oils you buy are 100 percent pure and free of diluents, synthetic fragrances, and other additives. The best way to ensure this is to buy certified organic brands.
It’s best to store essential oil cleaners in dark-colored glass bottles since their chemicals can degrade plastic containers and exposure to light can alter their makeup. But if your cleaner is diluted enough, plastic spray bottles may work fine for a while.
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or have pets, consult your OB/GYN or vet to make sure the oils are safe for you to use.
By replacing conventional cleaners with these toxin-free alternatives, you may be able to enhance the quality of your household cleaners without compromising your peace of mind or paying a high price for a squeaky-clean home that smells like roses (or the essential oil of your choice).