I like to make homemade cleaners with essential oils because sometimes, natural cleaners are not all that we think they are or, they need a little boost. For example, I recently came across a post from Consumer Reports that discussed cleaning myths. Some of the myths they debunked included things like coffee grounds, string mops, and vinegar. Yes, vinegar. They said that vinegar works, but only at full strength and, it can damage certain surfaces because of its acidity. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to use full-strength vinegar. That is no longer cost-effective and the thought of my entire house smelling of vinegar is, well, not very pleasant. This post includes many uses for vinegar on a smaller scale and ways to make it smell better.
But what about floors, bathroom tile and counter tops? For those larger surfaces, I create homemade cleaners with essential oils to disinfect and clean my home.
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Benefits of homemade cleaners with essential oils
I have 4 reasons for making homemade cleaners with essential oils. These are disinfecting power, cost, safety, and smell. Even so, I still use other natural cleaners for various household tasks. For example, in the laundry, I like to combine essential oils with vinegar and/or borax. Just a note: Never put essential oils in your dishwasher. They will eat through the rubber tubes. Full strength vinegar will clean it just fine.
Essential oils are concentrated, powerful antimicrobial agents. Plants make these oils to defend themselves against predators, both insects and microbes. When microbes absorb these oils into their cell walls, the oils interfere with energy production and respiration. Then, they essentially starve or suffocate to death. Depending on where the plant grew, the exact chemical composition of its oil varies to match the insects and microbes of that geographic area. Here’s a question: How does the plant know? (It knows because all things were made by, for, and through Jesus Christ. See Colossians 1:16-17 and John 1:3)
It may not seem cost effective to purchase a little bottle of essential oil for $12-$20 when you can buy a 24 oz. bottle of cleaner for $3-6. However, each 15mL bottle of essential oil contains 250 drops. You could make 3-4 bottles of cleaner with that! Depending on the oil you choose, the cost is similar but you know exactly what’s in your cleaner. Just 100% natural disinfectant with no harmful additives. And, it smells great, too.
In addition, you can use that little bottle to make a variety of homemade cleaners with essential oils instead of different bottles of cleaner for different tasks. I use one bottle of Purify blend for laundry, surface cleaner, bathroom tile cleaner, the refrigerator, and add a small amount to oven and stove cleaner, too.
Have you ever felt sick after cleaning? I have. Growing up, I frequently got headaches, sneezed and coughed, and generally felt run down after cleaning. My mother bought the strongest conventional cleaners she could find and eventually, I developed multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) because of it. Now, everything that emits a chemical odor–new carpet, paint fumes, gas fumes, newspaper ink, conventional laundry detergent, cleaners, nail polish, scented candles, and more–makes me feel like I suddenly contracted a virus. One of my sons has the same sensitivity even though I consciously avoid chemicals. I absolutely must use homemade cleaners with essential oils or other natural ingredients if I don’t want us to feel sick. For more about toxic cleaners, check out this post.
Good cleaning oils and their uses
Before I talk about the oils, I must warn you to be careful about what you buy. Personally, I mostly use Rocky Mountain Oils because they are completely transparent about the quality of their oils, offer organic oils, and generally embrace ethical business practices. And, they’re not a MLM company. If you want to know more about my criteria for purchasing essential oils, please check out this article for an in-depth examination of some popular essential oil companies. Whatever company you buy from, their business practices need to be above reproach. Because, poor quality, adulterated oils can harm you at worst and disappoint you at best. Make sure they will allow you to see their gas chromatography and mass spectrometry test results without charge and before purchase. That way, you’ll know what you’re getting. Now, let’s dig in and learn about the essential oils you can use for cleaning!
Most people are familiar with tea tree oil, derived from the Australian
Melaleuca alternifolia plant. With a broad spectrum of uses and actions, it not only disinfects the home, but is safe for human topical use also. Effective against viral, fungal, and bacterial infections, keep this one around even if you don’t use it for cleaning.
Citrus, including lemon and grapefruit
Every time you grate the peel of one of these fruits, you can feel the oily spray hit you. Chemically, these oils generally contain terpene hydrocarbons, such as limonene . These oils effectively clean the air and lemon, in particular, is often recommended for cleaning wood cutting boards. The fresh scent and cheaper price point make these anti-microbial essential oils popular.
Most of us are familiar with the kitchen uses of oregano. However, how many of us want our whole house smelling like pizza? The cost may also be prohibitive. The best use of this oil is when you want to clear the home of acute illness. The powerful phenols surpass the effectiveness of citrus and will disinfect well.
This culinary herb yields a powerful essential oil that rivals tea tree in uses. It, too, is effective against all types of infections–bacterial, fungal, and viral. This is not surprising since the active constituents, terpene alcohols, are the same.
Crush fresh pine needles and that delicious smell yields the essential oil. Another great disinfecting oil derived from terpene hydrocarbons, it rivals oregano in killing infectious agents. You can use it for cleaning surfaces and purifying the air. And, the price makes it a very affordable option.
My favorite blend: Purify
This oil blend contains Lemongrass, Tea Tree, Rosemary, Lavender, Myrtle, and Citronella essential oils. This is my go-to blend for cleaning because it smells fresh and includes the best of all the above oils. I use it in my laundry and in a variety of other surface cleaners, as I described earlier. If you can’t decide which oil is for you, try Purify first.
How to make homemade cleaners with essential oils
To prepare a spray cleaner for counters, bathroom tile, or other surfaces, start with about 60-75 drops of essential oil to a mixture of one cup water and one cup vinegar. If the surface is especially dirty, for example you cut raw meat there, you should increase the amount of oil. Since oil and water don’t mix, vigorously shake your solution before each use. You can also include a drop or two of liquid soap.
Other uses include adding 5-10 drops of essential oil to wool dryer balls before adding them to your wet laundry. You can also mix 10-15 drops into your cream or powder scrub before cleaning the bathtub or oven for an extra boost. To clean the air, add 15-25 drops of essential oil to your diffuser.
If you don’t really feel confident making your own cleaner or you prefer something ready-made, you could try the Tohi Multi-Purpose Cleaning Concentrate or Mrs. Meyer’s Cleaning Day Multi-Purpose Concentrate. Happy, healthy cleaning!