Essential oils have been around forever. Literally. There is evidence of them being used more than 5,000 years ago!
When something has been around for that long, you know that there is something to it. I've used oils for many years and know that they work for me. Not all of them, and not all of the time, but enough that I will gladly use an oil first before I try something else.
For instance, I made my own mosquito repellent because I really hate using the commercial ones. I feel like I'm spraying poison on myself, and then, because you use it at night, I'm going to bed with that stuff on. And since I put it on my skin, it's in me, too. Yuck.
But what about cleaning and disinfecting your home? Is it worth it to use natural cleaners and essential oils? Can essential oils contribute anything valuable towards cleaning your home?
Why Use Natural Cleaners?
Most people who choose to clean with products that contain essential oils do it for the same reason that I make my own bug spray. They want something natural without chemicals. Sometimes the essential oils are added for fragrance more than anything else; sometimes they add their own benefits.
Thyme oil, for instance, is good for eliminating bacteria and fungus. It would be great as an addition to a kitchen or bathroom cleaner. Tea tree oil is another good choice for cleaning, as it has natural disinfecting properties.
I should note here that no essential oils have been tested on COVID-19. If you are cleaning anything with regards to keeping it free of the virus, your best bet is still hand sanitizer, washing your hands, and using traditional disinfectants.
Clean Mama has a recipe for a sink scrub that she uses every night. I've tried it; it works really well. Basically, she sprinkles baking soda mixed with lemon and clove essential oils into her sink, adds a little dish soap or castile soap, and scrubs her sink.
The lemon oil has antiseptic, disinfectant, and antimicrobial properties; clove is antimicrobial. However, given that a soap product is also used, you can either look at the oils as extra protection or simply fragrant.
Do You Have to Make Your Own Cleaners?
A lot of people, including me, do make their own natural cleaners. I don't do it all the time, or for all things. I do use some traditional cleaning products, as well as ones like Mrs. Meyers. Their products are highly plant based, although they do contain some synthetic ingredients, mostly for fragrance.
Natural cleaners are not hard to make and many of them work just as well, if not better, than traditional chemical based ones. Most of them use a combination of ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and borax. Sometimes soaps like castile are added or an old bar soap usually used for laundry, called Fels Naptha.
Dawn detergent, while not natural, is a common ingredient as well. Since it's safe enough to clean oil off of sea life (and to clean our dishes), I guess it's considered a safe ingredient. It does work wonders on many things!
Hydrogen peroxide, which is considered a chemical, is also a great cleaner. My son came home once with the entire (formerly white) sleeve of his college hockey jersey stained with his blood. The whole thing was red. With a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a lot of cotton balls and patience, I got it good as new again.
Essential oils can be added to your natural cleaners to boost their cleaning power and add a nice fragrance as well. DO NOT add essential oils to commercial cleaners!
Which Oils are Good for Cleaning?
There are a number of essential oils that work well for cleaning. They have varying properties of cleaning abilities: some are disinfectants, others may be antifungal or antimicrobial, some may even kill some viruses (but not COVID-19).
Here is a brief list of some of the best and most affordable ones:
There are a lot of companies out there all selling oils and all trying to convince you that theirs are the best. I encourage you to do a great deal of research before "investing" in oils.
I have been a part of two of the most popular ones in the last ten years or so: DoTerra and Young Living. I am no longer associated with either one. That is all I feel comfortable saying.
I have a free cleaning recipe printable in my secret library and you could easily add essential oils to them . Just sign up below.
You can find essential oils almost anywhere. My local grocery store sells them; the family owned pharmacy that used to be next door sold them.
I have limited options where I live, but there is still the internet. Back when I lived in Michigan, in a suburb of Detroit, I had many more options. A small family owned health store was one of my favorite places. Whole Foods is another.
Mountain Rose Herbs is a company I have used for over 15 years. I trust them completely and would recommend them as a source of oils.
Several people I trust have recommended Revive Oils. Since I have not had the chance to try them, I can't tell you whether or not they are good, but I do intend to try them soon.
My best advice is to find a place that will help educate you, seems to sell a lot of oils (so that they are fresh), and doesn't charge too high of a price for them. Organic is a must, and if they can give you more about where they are sourced, even better.
Be cautious with essential oils. Even though they are natural and plant derived doesn't mean they can't cause harm of one kind or another.
Some oils, such as lemon, are photosensitive, which means they will react in the sun. So if you used lemon oil in your bug spray and then went fishing in the sun, you might come back to find red or brown marks on your skin from the oil.
Be aware of the properties of the oils and the precautions before you use them. Some are OK to apply to your skin as is; some need a carrier oil, like coconut oil before they can be safely applied.
As I've said, don't combine them with chemical cleaners. Simple is best. A spray bottle with some white vinegar and thyme or lemon essential oil will work great on cleaning your kitchen counters.
Start small and work your way up. If you want to use oils for cleaning, I like tea tree as a start. And start with maybe five drops. It doesn't take much. Most recipes call for about 10, depending on how much water or other substance you might be using. It's hard to count when they come out of the bottle, so don't worry about it too much. A guesstimate is fine.
Oh, and don't forget cleaning and freshening the air in your home! You can get a good diffuser for about $20 or so. Just be sure to use real essential oils in it, not the fragrance ones that may be sold alongside it. They are most likely synthetic and not healthy for you at all.
Store anything you make with essential oils in glass containers. Oils can eat away at plastic and then you have whatever was in the plastic in your mixture. They also can erode the rubber droppers that come with some oils, so store them upright in a dark place.
Finally, I have a cleaning recipe printable in my secret library of printables. You can access it by filling out the form below and getting all the printables, including my cleaning one. And they all should be safe for essential oils.