Most of us generally enjoy having a clean house. Even if you’re one of those who push the limits by only giving it a good once-a-month once over, it still needs doing at some point. Unfortunately, many of the cleaning products currently on the market contain synthetic ingredients and fragrances that can harm your and your family's health.
Many common cleaners are toxic to the environment, can cause dry skin and allergies, and can even wear down the surfaces or fabrics you are using them on. Thankfully, there is an alternative option! Essential oils are natural, affordable (as a little goes a long way), and much more eco-friendly.
This list of the best essential oils for cleaning offers a variety of oils you can choose from to help keep your home looking—and smelling—its best.
Furthermore, we’ve thrown in a few essential oil cleaning recipes to get you started!
Antimicrobial Properties of Essential Oils
Many essential oils contain constituents that have wonderfully antimicrobial properties. These are well researched by food companies looking to improve the longevity of their products. Many essential oil constituents have promising effects against pathogens such as e-coli and salmonella when tested under laboratory conditions.
Why Use Essential Oils to Clean?
Our planet is dying, filled with chemicals humans have created in the last hundred years. Our soil is full of heavy metals, and waterways are polluted. Every year temperatures rise, and water becomes harder to store. Essential oils are a promising technology for people who want to reuse their household water in the garden or clear their environment of harmful chemicals.
Many cleaning products smell so strongly of botanicals like lemon, orange, or pine because they already include them, and our minds subconsciously associate them with cleansing actions.
We should be clear that essential oils are not drugs. They do not carry licenses and have not been tested in clinical trials. As such, we wish to observe the FDA’s medicine controls laws and say that essential oils cannot “Cure or treat” anything. This applies just as much to cleaning microbes as it does to try to get rid of verrucae. Neither of our advice on this page is meant as a medical advice substitution.
That being said, antibiotics were invented by Alexander Fleming and Louis Pasteur in the nineteenth century. Before that, plants were the only bacterial and disinfectant agents. So much so that Lavender comes from the Latin word Laver meaning “to wash.” Two thousand years ago, lavender would have been your answer to washing anything.
Also Read: Best Smelling Essential Oil Blends
How to Select the Best Essential Oil for Cleaning
Let's be clear, we’re not clearing the house of chemicals; it’s synthetic ones we are avoiding. Essential oils are chock full of natural chemicals, each with its own set of skills. Work out what you want your oils to do and work from there. Orange is 97% limonene, which is fabulous for breaking down grease, but if you want something that has more antibacterial prowess, then tea tree will be better.
So while the smell is a factor here, be led more by what the chemicals are best researched for.
The Top 5 Best Essential Oils for Cleaning
1. Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil usually tops the list of the best essential oils for cleaning in most people’s eyes. This is partly due to its antibacterial properties, but we also have to shout out to lemon oil for its fresh, fragrant aroma! It is also excellent for removing dirt and grime, making it great for cleaning kitchens. Other uses for lemon oil include multipurpose sprays, citrus scrubs, wood polish, and even room freshening sprays.
For Sparkling Windows:
- 4oz White Vinegar
- 4-5 Drops of Lemon Essential Oil
- Combine in a spray bottle and shake before using.
DIY Citrus Scrub:
- 2tbsp Baking Soda
- 1.5tbsp Water
- 5 Drops of Lemon Essential Oil
- Create a paste and apply it to the stained area. Scrub, then rinse off.
2. Lavender Essential Oil
Despite being famous for its herbaceous, floral aroma, lavender is also great for disinfecting. It works as an effective antimicrobial agent, ridding surfaces of germs and bacteria while leaving behind its soothing fragrance. One of our favorite ways to use lavender is as a linen mist. It not only helps to maintain the cleanliness of your sheets in between washes but can also promote better sleeping patterns at night. Lavender is well-known for its ability to help reduce feelings of stress and help treat symptoms of insomnia.
Lavender Linen Mist:
- 2 cups of Water
- 2tbsp of Witch Hazel
- 15-20 Drops of Lavender Essential Oil
- Add to a spray bottle and shake well before generously misting linens.
3. Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea tree essential oil has all the properties to make it one of the best essential oils for cleaning. It has antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal, and insecticidal properties. These make using tea tree oil for cleaning the perfect choice in areas that tend to collect moisture, such as bathtubs and showers. Tea tree is also a standard air purifier, with many products on the market that are meant to go into air filtration systems. To make an all-purpose cleaner with tea tree essential oil, use the following recipe:
Tea Tree Oil Multi-Purpose Cleaner:
- 3 cups of Water
- 0.5 cup of Vinegar
- 10 Drops of Tea Tree Essential Oil
- Combine in a spray bottle and mist on the area you wish to clean. Remind thoroughly and keep tea tree oil away from pets and small children.
4. Peppermint Essential Oil
You are likely familiar with peppermint oil, especially as a herb or a flavoring. However, you might not know that peppermint essential oil can be a great addition to your natural cleaning arsenal! Not only does it contain antimicrobial constituents, but you can also use peppermint essential oil to repel insects and rodents. This includes wasps, spiders, mice, rats, and more. The scientific reasoning behind this is to do with scent. As much as we love the refreshing smell of peppermint, it’s too strong for other insects or creatures and messes up their sense of smell. As a result, they stay far away!
No More Unwanted Guests:
- 16oz Spray Bottle
- 5-10 Drops of Peppermint Essential Oil
- Dash of Dishwashing Liquid
- Fill with Water
- Spray the edges of windows, door cracks, or other areas you see unwanted guests congregating.
No More Soap Scum Shower Spray:
- ¼ cup of Rubbing Alcohol
- ¾ cup of Water
- 10 Drops of Peppermint Essential Oil
- Glass Spray Bottle (8oz)
- Combine in the spray bottle. Shake before use, and mist walls and basin after showering - no rinsing necessary!
Also Read: Does Peppermint Oil Repel Mice?
5. Sweet Orange Essential Oil
Similar to other citrus oils like lemon and grapefruit, sweet orange essential oil works as an antibacterial agent thanks to its high levels of limonene. However, its smell is on the sweeter side, and it is one of the best fragrances to use when you need a little something to lift your mood. You can use sweet orange oil to create all-purpose sprays, air fresheners, drawer sachets, and wood polishing oil.
Wood-n’t You Like to Know My Secret?
Virucidal VS Antiviral
Unsurprisingly, these days, people want cleaning products that can add killing viruses to their list of benefits. As it currently stands, there are only a handful of drugs out there that can kill viruses, and sadly many of these germs are evolving quickly to become resistant.
Virucidal means that germs are prevented from attacking the organism. Antiviral means that the embryo is prevented from multiplying and spreading when they do take hold.
Research indicates that many essential oils contain antiviral constituents that may be effective against viral infections such as herpes simplex (cold sores), influenza, and other viruses. Clove oil and oregano are notorious for their constituents with intense antiviral activity, as well as eucalyptus and tea tree oils. However, more human trials are needed to indicate better bioavailability and how to safely use oils to treat viruses.
While there are certainly more oils with antiviral properties than virucidal, some essential oils such as Melissa have been proven to protect the organism against some specific pathogens.
If you are unsure of the difference between a disinfectant and an antiseptic, you’re not alone! To sum it up, an antiseptic is simply a material or substance that helps to slow or stop microorganisms from growing. A disinfectant has the same job, but instead of being used on the body, it is used on inanimate surfaces such as those around the house!
Many essential oils contain antibacterial constituents capable of killing off certain bacteria, whereas oils with antiseptic properties can also destroy microbes such as fungi. Antiseptics are also usually astringent, which means they can cut down on grease while killing off the fungus that causes conditions like itchy scalp and dandruff. For this reason, many people use antiseptic essential oils to treat the skin and scalp. The most common antiseptic oil out there is likely tea tree oil, which you will see in many shampoos, conditioners, and ointments.
Top Cleaning Techniques Using Essential Oils
Remember that oils and water do not mix. What that means in real terms is that if you put three drops of pine essential oil into a bucket of water, all that will happen is they will float on the top. It’s not useless, but it’s not that great, either.
It’s always best to clean the surface first, then put your oils onto a cloth and smear them over.
Diluting them with alcohol will help them do their job much more effectively.
Pet-Friendly Essential Oils List
Dogs are pretty ok with essential oils as long as you leave a door open so they can leave the room if they have had enough of the smell. Try to be aware of how much more sensitive a dog's sense of smell is than humans. (Roughly a hundred times…) If it smells strong, it will be overpowering to them. Also, remember that just because you love a smell doesn’t mean everyone in the house will, including your pets. Essential oils often cause headaches in large amounts, so give those who cannot communicate their pain due consideration.
Cats require more care. Most of the best essential oils for cleaning are citrus oils, but cats lack a particular liver enzyme needed to metabolize citrus oils. That means if they eat it, it doesn’t get broken down and then reaches lethal hazardous doses in their liver.
But ensuring that the kitty doesn’t swig from the bottle may not be enough. Imagine you use a diffuser that projects essential oils into the air. The droplet falls on her fur; then she washes….we’re into potential poisoning problems.
Ensure all surfaces that cats can walk over are thoroughly dry before they step on them, and always be mindful that they are out of the room if you are spraying them about.
Using Essential Oils for Cleaning: Precautions
While essential oils are 100% pure, coming from the essence of plants, some care still needs to be taken when using them. Never ingest oils; keep them out of reach for curious pets or children. Even a tiny amount can be toxic. Always follow proper dilution rates, and avoid direct skin contact with oils. They are very potent and cannot be put directly on the skin.
Additionally, if you or anyone else notices any sensitivities or allergies, it is best to discontinue use.
We hope our list of the best essential oils for cleaning inspires you to switch to more natural products! Many toxins and chemicals in commercial cleaning supplies can worsen asthma, cause health issues, and even cause hormone imbalances. Using essential oils for disinfection and cleaning offers antibacterial benefits without having to worry about the presence of synthetic chemicals and fragrances.
Also Read: Best Essential Oils for Dryer Balls