Mix up these plant-activated, natural kitchen cleaners to whip your kitchen into shape.
The pleasure of working in my garden is matched by the fulfillment I get using my herbs every day—for seasonings, teas, tonics and beautifully textured craft materials. I use many of the same herbs, along with essential oils and other common supplies, in my everyday chores around the house, from scouring the floors to cleaning the sink.
Making simple herbal cleaning products gives me a sense of harmony with my environment. I also feel a connection with all the women who first gathered plants in the wild and nurtured seedlings in their gardens, then harvested the plants and prepared them for a multitude of uses. I can imagine them hovering over their concoctions in stillrooms, experimenting with new combinations of herbs to improve their efficacy, and eventually using their products all around the cottage or castle. Many of these women, and not a few men, wrote down their “receipts” in books so that subsequent generations might benefit from their knowledge. So when it’s time to tackle kitchen cleanup, it feels right to reach for herbs.
The herbs and essential oils that you’ll find most useful for various household tasks include those that inhibit the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, and those that repel or kill insects. To learn more about essential oils, the concentrated, fragrant plant extracts that retain the plant’s useful properties, read The Essence of Essential Oils. Use the following lists of herbs as a guide to making your own formulas. For example, you can add several drops of the essential oils of any of these herbs to basic cleaning ingredients such as white vinegar and water to whip up quick, effective cleaning products. Try mixing 15 drops of eucalyptus and lemon balm essential oils with 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon washing soda in a bottle. Then fill the bottle with hot water, shake and use as an all-purpose cleaner.
Herbs that inhibit microorganisms: basil, bay, benzoin, bergamot, camphor, cardamom, chamomile, cinnamon, clary sage, clove, eucalyptus, fir, ginger, grapefruit, juniper, lavender, lemon, lemon balm, meadowsweet, myrrh, myrtle, nutmeg, orange, oregano, patchouli, peppermint, Peru balsam, pine, rose-scented geranium, rosemary, sage, sandalwood, savory, spearmint, spruce, tea tree, thyme.
Herbs that repel insects or kill insects: basil, benzoin, cajeput, white camphor, cardamom, eucalyptus, juniper, lavender, lemon, lemon balm, myrtle, orange, peppermint, rose-scented geranium, rosemary, sage, savory, southernwood, thyme, wormwood, yarrow.
Louise Gruenberg gardens as much as possible and cleans house as little as possible.
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