Everything you Need to Know About Cleaning with Essential Oils

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Essential Oils – I’ve talked about them for years.  Not only do they smell divine, they actually help elevate your cleaning efforts and your mood while cleaning.

I’m going to give you the what’s up on essential oils as it pertains to cleaning, and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to blissful, more effective scrub sessions.

IMG_0073 (1)Why are they good for cleaning?

Aside from their lovely scents, many types of plant essences are well-known and accepted for their antimicrobial qualities. Pure essential oils are so potent that they can destroy certain microbes (bacteria, fungus and viruses) with the compounds they contain.  With all of the cleaning recipes you can make at home, why not add some extra cleaning power and pizzazz by adding in essential oils?

What constitutes an essential oil?

Not all EOs are created equal, my friends.  You want pure essences so that you’re getting the maximum intended benefits from the healthiest and most potent plants.  Essential oils are extracted through steam distillation or cold pressing from the very herbs, plants or flowers themselves and the purest oil is derived from that.  That’s why the scent is so potent and the beneficial properties are so plentiful and are quite concentrated.  All of the benefits are distilled into the teeniest, tiniest droplets and bottled up for your use and pleasure.  Because of how potent the EOs are, it is recommended to use them diluted and not directly on skin (they can cause skin reactions or may have other side effects).  I’ll cover dilutions and risks a littler later on in the post.

essential oils in kitchen

Choosing a brand

I’m often asked about by favorite brand of EOs.  It’s not like I stand there with a microscope and have a team of scientists backing my research. I trust my gut; I go with popular brands that check out online and in-store (the ones which are highest rated on Amazon are usually the same ones that the health food store employees recommend).

To find great quality, pure and fairly priced essential oils involves nothing more than visiting your local health food store and speaking to a store rep to find out which brands they get the best feedback on and feel the most confident selling (they receive a lot of product training, so they’re a wealth of knowledge). I also order online from time to time, and rely upon good old Amazon.  Brands I use include AromaForce, Aura Cacia, Now, and Pure Essences.  Here’s a bunch of essential oils I’ve wrangled together on Amazon (affiliate link).

What to look for when buying EOs

Where possible, purchase organic, especially if you plan to use these EOs on your body or in the bath as well as cleaning.  Look for the label to state that the product is 100% pure, that way you know it is no way synthetic or the particular plant, herb or flower has been mixed with something else. And further to that, you want the ingredient list to state the essential oil only to ensure it has not been cut with anything else such as preservative or other oil.  To be clear, essential oils are not scented oils you get at a store and use to place in a scent or oil diffuser.  Generally, unless specifically stated, these products are made from synthetic perfumes and are not the real deal (this includes candles, reed diffusers, scent diffusers, sprays and plug in products).

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Risks and safety info

Essential oils are not to be taken internally, and can cause allergic reactions if used on the skin (especially if not diluted).

When using EOs, they are diluted in water, carrier oil (such as sweet almond oil or jojoba oil) or a cleaning product that you’re making as opposed to being used straight out of the bottle.  Remember, anything that comes in a concentrate form is quite potent! Unless otherwise directed, please always use these diluted.

You need to be mindful about using them around pets; even small amounts can be toxic to the organs of our furry friends.  A scent that smells mild to us may be quite strong for pets, and can affect their organs (even in some cases they can cause liver disease). Should the EO touch the skin of your pet, it can cause irritation. Further, keep bottles away from curious pets that may want to lick the bottle; ingesting can be extremely harmful to pets. Any products you use which are heavily scented with essential oils (such as linen spray, Poo Pourri spray), use away from your pet. Remember, check with your vet!

There are also warnings about using certain essential oils if you are pregnant or have certain health conditions, so please consult your doctor first before purchasing and using these.

What essential oils should I use when it comes to cleaning products?

The two reasons we’re using them to clean is to kill bacteria, fungus and viruses where and to benefit from that delicious aromatic punch they offer.   The citrus family of EOs can also help break down grease and grime, which is nice.

So, if you’re just starting out, I’d recommend picking up the following:

Lemon

Known for being antiviral and also helping to cut grease, this uplifting powerhouse of an essential oil can be used to help disinfect and remove sticky, greasy substances.  It has a beautiful, bright scent and I like to blend it in to kitchen and bathroom specialty cleaners, specifically. It blends beautifully with basil, any other citrus fruit, vanilla, bergamot, ylang-ylang, rosemary and peppermint. If you can’t find lemon, orange will help with degreasing (bit not with the disinfecting).

Tea tree

Also called Melaleuca, this is an essential oil cleaning powerhouse!  It may take some getting used to the scent, although you may come to love it overtime.  Tea tree is an antimicrobial, its antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral (watch out now!) EO.  I use this for my all-purpose kitchen spray and in the bathroom to help fight mildew in the shower. It mixes nicely with bergamot, clary sage, clove bud, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, geranium and rosemary.

Lavender

Many people associate lavender with tranquility and sleep, but it’s also great for laundry; I add 5 drops to my laundry detergent after it’s been portioned out to help keep musty odors from building up in my washing machine and forgotten loads of laundry.  Lavender helps prevent mold and mildew from building up. It’s also a perfect oil to use for bedroom and linen sprays. It mixes well with many EOs including bergamot, peppermint, cedarwood, lemongrass, grapefruit, lime, orange, peppermint, rosemary, ylang ylang and clary sage.

Thyme

Known for its antibacterial properties and is used in many natural cleaners for its powerful properties.  It’s perfect for a kitchen or bathroom cleaner and should be used in a higher concentration (see below). It blends well with bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, lavender and rosemary.

essential oils on green

When it comes to adding multiple scents to your recipes, you can play around with what you love and start creating mixtures that please your nose.  This is one of my favorite parts of using essential oils for cleaning, because it’s fun and I’m the person who stands in the store and smells every bottle until I narrow down my selections.  Want something uplifting?  Add grapefruit or peppermint.  Want something calming? Add Eucalyptus or geranium.  There are endless possibilities for scent combinations.

How much to add to a recipe?

The jury is out on this, but according to my research, here’s what is generally recommended.

For a gentle scent, in other words, not overly concerned about the properties of the oil, add 5 drops of essential oils to 3 cups of cleaning solution.

For the properties of the oils to come through in cleaning, usually 10-20 drops will do in 3 cups of cleaning solution.

In some cases a recipe calls for stronger concentrations, like our linen spray or DIY Poo Pourri spray, in which case, just follow the recipe!

Feel free to add a few dashes to your mop water or sink water when hand washing dishes, and you all know that I love adding a few drops to my laundry detergent.  I also like adding a few drops to a tissue or cotton ball and placing that in my office if I don’t have a reed diffuser or nebulizer handy.

Some of my favorite scent combinations include:

  • Bergamot, lemon, spearmint
  • Rosemary, lemon, vanilla
  • Basil, lemon, lime
  • Lime, lavender
  • Lavender, rosemary eucalyptus
  • Eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree
  • Geranium, sandalwood and mandarin
  • Vanilla, lavender
  • Vanilla, peppermint
  • Cinnamon, clove, orange

And this is just the beginning!  You can learn more about how to blend scents and create products which are perfectly balanced and clean really well. If you want to learn more about essential oils and mixing, you can use this as a great resource http://www.aromaweb.com/essentialoils/default.asp.

Tips for cleaning with essential oils

  • Add EOs after you’ve added your cleaning liquid to the spray bottle.
  • Since oil and water don’t mix well, give your product a good shake before using it
  • Store products in dark bottles where possible, and the real EO aficionados will tell you to keep them in a glass jar (this has to do with light and plastics and the decomposition of the therapeutic qualities of the oil over time).
  • They are safe to use on any surface you’d be cleaning

Some of our favorite posts with EOs are:

 

8 Easy Ways to Make Your Home Smell Great!

DIY Poo Pourri Spray

DIY Poo Spray (Make Your Own Poo Pourri)

DIY Toilet bowl cleaner

Toilet Bowl Cleaner – Day 17 – 31 Days of DIY Cleaners

DIY Hand Sanitizer

Hand Sanitizer – Day 31 – 31 Days of DIY Cleaners

DIY Linen Spray

Linen Spray – Day 28 – 31 Days of DIY Cleaners

DIY Disinfecting Cleaner

DIY Disinfectant – Day 22 – 31 Days of DIY Cleaners

DIY Natural Stone Cleaner

Natural Stone Cleaner – Day 18 – 31 Days of DIY Cleaners

I hope you’re learned a lot today and I hope you start cleaning with essential oils!

Please let me know in the comments what your favorite EO blends are and how you enjoy EOs in your home!

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.