We put a lot of work into creating clean, healthy homes for ourselves and our families. And for most of us, our idea of a healthy home doesn’t include toxic chemicals. Yet many of us spray on and breathe in potentially toxic ingredients every time we use common household cleaning products.
Fortunately, nature has provided us with a bevy of alternatives to synthetic chemicals: Plant essential oils clean, disinfect and smell great. Studies have found many to have antimicrobial properties. Use the blends below for a house that’s clean and nontoxic. (As with any new product you introduce into your home, be sure to read the instructions for each ingredient to ensure safe and effective use.)
Surface cleaner: Add 7 drops lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree, cinnamon, clove, thyme, pine, grapefruit or oregano oil to 2 cups of water. Spray on surfaces.
Kitchen cleaner: Mix the following essential oils: 8 drops lavender, 10 drops lemon, 5 drops eucalyptus, 8 drops rosewood and 3 drops palma rosa. Combine 2 cups of water with 8 drops of the mixture and spray on surfaces.
Dishwashing boost: To add fragrance or to improve the antiseptic action of your liquid soap, add 10 drops of essential oils such as lavender, orange, bergamot or lime to 3 ounces of natural liquid dishwashing soap and shake well.
Floor cleaner: Combine 1/4 cup of white vinegar with 10 drops lemon oil and 4 drops oregano oil. Add to a bucket of water. For extra cleaning power, add several drops of dish soap, but follow with a clean-water mop so floors aren’t slippery.
Window cleaner: In a spray bottle, combine 1 cup white vinegar, 10 to 15 drops lemon oil and 1 cup water. Shake well before each use. In summer, repel flies by wiping windows with a cloth dampened with 2 ounces water and 10 drops lavender or lemongrass essential oils.
Air freshener: To keep indoor air smelling fresh, mix 8 drops of essential oil with 21/2 cups warm water. (Use a single scent or 8 drops of this combination: 5 drops bergamot, 10 drops lavender, 5 drops cinnamon, 10 drops lemon, 10 drops citronella.) Store in a spray bottle and shake well before use.
Flea killer: Mix 2 cups borax with 10 to 15 drops of essential oils. Try pine or balsam fir in fall and winter; and lemongrass, lavender or any citrus oils in spring and summer. Sprinkle on carpets, then wait a few minutes before vacuuming.
Hot tub cleaner: To disinfect and fragrance the water in a hot tub, add 3 drops of lavender, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, thyme or grapefruit essential oil per person that uses the tub.
Choosing high-quality oils is essential.
Know your terms: “Fragrance oil,” “nature-identical oil” or “perfume oil” aren’t the same as 100 percent pure essential oil. They may be combinations of essential oils and chemicals, or just plain chemicals.
Check the container: Avoid oils in plastic bottles or with rubber eyedropper bulbs in the top. These can degrade and contaminate the oil. Look for small (4-ounce or less) dark or opaque glass bottles.
Read the label: Look for the correct botanical (Latin) name to ensure you’re buying the right oil.