Mother Earth Living

Best Essential Oils for Cleaning

Essential oils are packed with antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial properties. Find out how to choose the best essential oils for cleaning your home naturally.
By Mandy O'Brien and Dionna Ford
March 2014
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Lavender essential oil packs a powerful scent, but it is also well-known for its antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
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Commercial cleaners—the very products you buy to help make your home clean and healthy—are loaded with toxic chemicals. Eliminate these hazardous ingredients from your home by making your own cleaners. Homemade Cleaners (Ulysses Press, 2014) by Mandy O’Brien and Dionna Ford features more than 150 toxin-free and effective recipes for cleaners for the entire house. In this excerpt from “Getting Started,” learn how to choose the best essential oils for your cleaning purposes.

You can purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: Homemade Cleaners.

Essential oils are natural oils extracted from plants, including trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, and flowers, through steam distillation, expression, or solvent extraction. Unlike many artificial chemicals, which can accumulate in our bodies or in the environment, the plant nature of essential oils results in a product that breaks down readily. Research regarding essential oils has confirmed their various applications, including antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, depending on the essential oil.

Although essential oils are all natural, use them with caution. As most essential oils are very concentrated, they should be diluted using a carrier oil as a base. In this book, we discuss essential oils used topically or in cleaning solutions; please do your own research for using essential oils internally, as some can cause harm. Keep them out of reach of children or pets. Additionally, many essential oils are photosensitive and heat-sensitive and are best stored in a cool, dark place.

You do not need to purchase or use all of these oils. If you find a recipe you would like to try, check out any suggested essential oils and decide what will work for you. Some oils will appeal to some individuals more than others, and many have similar properties. Experiment. Go slow. Before long, you will enjoy using essential oils in many of your home applications.

To learn more about essential oils and how you might use them for other applications besides cleaning, check out Valerie Ann Worwood’s book The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. It is an excellent beginner’s book about essential oils.

Best Essential Oils for Cleaning

Bergamot Oil (Citrus bergamia): This essential oil, cold- pressed from bergamot orange fruit rind, has been used by the fragrance industry since the early 1700s. Earl Grey tea is a black tea containing bergamot oil. Analgesic, antibacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Catnip Oil (Nepeta cataria): Used primarily in natural insect repellents, catnip oil is most notable for its ability to excite cats; it also acts as a sedative for humans and is used in many blends, including many used to treat insect bites or to repel insects. It is related to mint and has a characteristic mintlike aroma. Anesthetic, anti-inflammatory.

Cedar Oil (Juniperus virginiana): Used in many body care products, cedar also has insect-repelling qualities. The woodsy scent blends well with many other wood-derived essential oils. Antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Chamomile Oil, German (Matricaria recutita): Used in many body care and health products, chamomile also has properties that make it well suited for cleaning, including its natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. Chamomile has a subtle scent and works well blended with many other essential oils. Analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic.

Chamomile Oil, Roman (Anthemis nobilis): Roman chamomile has a sweet scent with a hint of apples. It is used in many natural body care products and also works well in aromatherapy. Blends with Roman chamomile are an excellent choice for air diffusion. Analgesic,antibacterial,anti-inflammatory,antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Cinnamon Bark Oil (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): The smell of cinnamon may have your olfactory senses in overdrive, remembering falls and winters, but the oil from the trees’ bark has many beneficial properties. It is perfect for disinfecting surfaces and the air to help keep your family healthy, especially during those seasons when colds and other illnesses are at their peak. Analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, disinfectant.

Citronella Oil (Cymbopogon winterianus): Best known for its use in natural insect repellents, citronella can also be used to treat insect bites and is used in some home remedies. It blends wellwithwoodsyandcitrusessentialoils. Analgesic,antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Clove Bud Oil (Syzygium aromaticum): Clove oil has long been used in natural medicines. Due to its effect on small organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, clove bud oil used in blends works well to help rid your home of potential illness. The oil blends well with many other essential oils. Analgesic, antibacterial, anticlotting, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral.

Cypress Oil (Cupresus semperivens): This essential oil traditionally has been associated with religious cleansing rituals and has been used in burial processes to protect workers. Cypress oil makes an excellent substitute for pine essential oil when used in cleaning. Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Eucalyptus Oil (Eucalyptus globulus): Eucalyptus has been used in natural medicines for millennia and is one of the oldest medicines native to Australia. Many commercial products still use eucalyptus to combat viral and bacterial illness. Eucalyptus oil is excellent for use in disinfecting or in a diffuser to cleanse the air during times of potential illness. Analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, disinfectant.

Geranium (Rose) Oil (Pelargonium graveolons): Used in many natural medicines to help heal and prevent illness, geranium (rose) oil blends well with many other essential oils in homemade cleaning products, in body care products, and in diffusers to cleanse theair. Analgesic,antibacterial,anti-inflammatory,antiseptic.

Grapefruit Oil (Citrus paradise): Grapefruit has a lovely citrus scent that blends well with other essential oils. Antibacterial, antiseptic.

Jasmine Absolute Oil (Jasminum grandiflorum): Jasmine absolute oil has a long history in the perfume industry. It blends well with many other essential oils and has a pleasant floral scent. Analgesic, anti-inflammatory.

Juniper Oil (Juniperus communis): This essential oil works well in many earthy blends. Juniper oil is traditionally used to purify the air but is also used in some insect repellents. Analgesic, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Lavender Oil (Lavendula angustifolia): Lavender oil is one of the most versatile of essential oils for the home. Used as a natural antiseptic and pain reliever for minor burns, bites, and stings, it is also known for its ability to help aid in relaxation and anxiety reduction. Analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Lemon Balm Oil (Melissa officinalis): Lemon balm is known for its calming effects and ability to help repel insects. Also used in many natural medicines, the essential oil has cleaning properties that make it a welcome addition to any nontoxic home. Antibacterial, antihistaminic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral.

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil (Eucalyptus citriodora): Commercially, lemon eucalyptus has been used primarily in the fragrance industry, but new research has made it popular in natural bug repellents. Lemon eucalyptus essential oil has a light, lemony scent and blends well with other essential oils for cleaning. Antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral.

Lemon Oil (Citrus limon): Lemons have long been used for their medicinal contributions as well as their cleaning abilities. Lemon oil is a staple in many homes and makes a welcome addition to natural cleaning. Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Lemongrass Oil (Cymbopogon flexuosus): Lemongrass essential oil has received recent exposure for its use as a natural insect repellent. The lemony aroma, along with its other properties, makes it a valuable addition to natural cleaning supplies. Analgesic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antiviral.

Lime Oil (Citrus aurantifolia): Similar to lemon essential oil in its qualities, lime essential oil makes a nice variation to enliven your homemade cleaning supplies. Antibacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral.

Orange (Sweet) Oil (Citrus sinensis): Sweet orange essential oil contains approximately 90 percent limonene, which is a natural ingredient found in many commercial household cleaners. It makes an excellent addition to your homemade cleaning supplies. Antibacterial, anticoagulant, antifungal, anti- inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Oregano Oil (Origanum vulgare): While the plant itself is generally used for culinary purposes, oregano essential oil works effectively against microbes, fungi, bacteria, and parasites. It blends especiallywellwithwood-basedessentialoils. Analgesic,antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Peppermint Oil (Mentha piperita): Well known for its culinary and medical uses, peppermint essential oil also makes a great addition to the home cleaning basket due to its many beneficial properties. It blends well with a variety of other essential oils, adding a minty aroma. Analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti- inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Pine Oil (Pinus sylvestris): Pine essential oil is well known for its woodsy aroma. Many commercial products have mimicked the scent with artificial fragrance. Consider using this natural essential oil to boost your cleaning. Analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral.

Sage Oil (Salvia officinalis): Sage plants have long been used both for food and for their healing properties (Salvia means “health”). The species name, Salvia officinalis, is derived from the word officina, the traditional storeroom of a monastery where herbs and medicines were stored. Pregnant and lactating women should take care when handling or ingesting sage essential oil or sage herbs. Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Spearmint Oil (Mentha spicata): Well known for its use in cooking and medicine, spearmint essential oil’s other natural properties, along with its milder nature when compared with peppermint essential oil, make it an excellent alternative for cleaning. Analgesic, anesthetic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia): Tea tree oil is a staple in the home of most everyone cleaning with natural products. Its natural properties make it perfect for use in a wide variety of cleaning applications. It blends well with many other essential oils and works well on its own when diluted. If you are looking for one all-purpose essential oil to buy first and get you started with natural cleaning products, this is the one to use for disinfecting the home. Its distinctive scent is an acquired taste for some. Analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antiviral, disinfectant.

Thyme Oil (Thymus vulgaris): Medicinally, thyme essential oil is well known for its antiseptic and disinfectant properties. It blends well with a wide variety of other essential oils. Anagelsic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, disinfectant.

Ylang Ylang Oil (Cananga odorata): Ylang ylang essential oil is known for its pleasant floral scent and has often been used by the fragrance industry. It blends well with many other essential oils and makes a fragrant and calming addition to a natural cleaning basket. Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic.

Facts about Essential Oils

• Use the natural power of essential oils to clean and disinfect your home. Start with tea tree oil and lavender oil for their antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.

• Add a little natural scent to your cleaning with essential oils. Consider lemon oil for a fresh scent, ylang ylang oil for a floral scent, or pine oil for a woodsy scent.

• According to Valerie Ann Worwood in her book, The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, oregano essential oil is twenty-six times as powerful an antiseptic as phenols, which are found in many commercial cleaners.

• During World War II, the Australian military issued every soldier a bottle of tea tree essential oil to treat infections.


This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Homemade Cleaners by Mandy O’Brien and Dionna Ford and published by Ulysses Press, 2014. Buy the book from our store: Homemade Cleaners.


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