If you’re as into green crafting as I am, then I bet that you’re also into a lot of the other green activities that I like– cooking with whole foods, natural parenting, organic gardening, and chemical-free cleaning, to name a few.
Out of all of those, cleaning with solutions free of industrial chemicals does the most to better my family’s lives and our environment in the most tangible ways. We eat a few times a day, but we touch our houses and our possessions constantly. We wear our clothes nearly all the time. We soak in our bathtubs. We breathe.
A spray bottle of vinegar and water, another spray bottle of Murphy’s Wood Soap and water, and a steam cleaner suffice for the majority of my cleaning activities. However, the same essential oils that pervade many other natural activities– aromatherapy, bath products– also have properties that give them special powers in certain areas of cleaning. Here are my five favorite essential oils, and how I use them:
- Tea tree oil. This one’s a no-brainer, I know; tea tree oil, with its antifungal and antibacterial properties, is no longer anybody’s secret. I use it anytime that I need to disinfect– a capful in with my laundery detergent when I’m doing a load of cloth diapers or dishtowels; another capful in my spray bottle of vinegar and water for use in the kitchen and bathroom; a few drops in with the mop water when I’m scrubbing the basement floor.
- Vanilla essential oil. Vanilla essential oil has a very strong sweet smell, so I abandoned it long ago for use solely to scent my cleaning supplies– somehow, a kitchen thoroughly cleaned and yet reeking of vanilla still seemed…well, sticky. However, vanilla’s strong scent is what makes it able to remove other lingering strong smells. It works especially well to remove urine odors, so remember it when you’re potty-training little people or animals. It also works in the washing machine to help get rid of the smoke smell from your camping clothes, and in an atomizer sprayed in the air after you’ve cooked something strong-smelling.
- Pine essential oil. Pine, like tea tree oil, is also an excellent cleaning agent, with antifungal, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. We’ve been trained to think that wood cleaners should smell like wood, so I often use a capful of pine instead of tea tree oil in my spray bottle of Murphy’s Wood Soap and water.
- Citronella essential oil and cedarwood essential oil. Both citronella and cedarwood are insect repellants. They make a potent repellant when used in combination, but the scents will feel more familiar if you use cedarwood as an indoor repellant and citronella as an outdoor repellant.
- Your favorite scent. When you make your own cleaning supplies, you can make them smell however you want– that’s one of the funnest parts! Mix relaxing lavendar with the cornstarch that you sprinkle on your carpet and then vacuum up in your bedroom, or put invigorating peppermint in the vinegar and water that you use to clean in the bathroom. Patchouli in the living room? Orange in the kitchen? When you D.I.Y., it’s always your call.
If you want to try any of these essential oils, use your common sense: all must be diluted, many are potential allergens, and most are contra-indicated for use during pregnancy.