June 25, 2021
As we’ve spent more and more time in our homes, keeping a clean space becomes important for our wellbeing. Not only does living in a clean space boost our mental health, it can also help us prevent illness. If you’re looking for more natural and environmentally friendly alternatives, essential oils could be the answer. Essential oils are biodegradable and all natural, with many containing antibacterial, anti-viral and antifungal properties that make them incredibly effective for cleaning the home.
Don’t forget you can always reach out to your neighbourhood Co-op Natural Choice Advisor for suggestions and tips on natural cleaning methods and products.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are plant and fruit essences that have been combined with neutral carrier oils. These oils are typically produced by either distillation or expression of organic materials. Distillation works in a similar manner to the production of alcohols; select plant material is steamed, which helps the plant release oils which are trapped in the steam droplets. The steam is piped through tubing and rapidly cooled, thus becoming water and oil. The oils are then easily separated from the water.
The expression method uses pressing to release oils. Fruits, like the peel of citrus fruits, are mechanically pressed at high pressure to release the oil. Both methods produce oils that are pure essence and free from chemicals. Essential oils are concentrated essences, and thus make great additions to cleaning solutions. While there are many, many essential oils available on the market, we will focus on a few oils that are best suited for cleaning purposes.
Tea Tree Oil for cleaning
Tea tree oil is antibacterial, antifungal, and great against viruses and germs. It is a great option for cleaning bathrooms and kitchens, as it is capable of disinfecting surfaces while also preventing mold and mildew.
For an easy multi-purpose cleaner for hard surfaces in these rooms, mix 1 cup of white vinegar, 1 cup of water, and 25 drops of tea tree oil. Spray onto surfaces, let sit briefly, and then rinse or wipe with warm water.
If poor weather or a new pet has your floors covered in grime, this natural floor cleaner can help: Mix 10 drops of tea tree oil, 10 drops of sweet orange essential oil, with 1 cup of rubbing alcohol, 1 cup of white vinegar, 1 teaspoon of dish soap, and 1 to 2 gallons of hot water.
Peppermint Oil for polishing
Peppermint oil is a very potent cleaning agent, which has antibacterial and antiseptic properties. The strong scent also works well as a pest repellent.
Mix 25 drops with 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water for a refreshing spray that can help deter insects, spray around the bottom of the toilet, under the sink, inside the garbage can, and around the shower and bathtub. Peppermint oil is also great for polishing faucets and cleaning mirrors, mix 1/2 cup distilled water, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 tablespoon clear grain vodka or rubbing alcohol, and 25 drops of peppermint oil.
Lemon Oil for cleaning: try this homemade scrub
Lemon oil is a very versatile oil for cleaning that has antibacterial and antifungal properties, while also imparting that classic citrus scent we associate with cleanliness.
For a homemade scrub to clean countertops, showers and tile floors, mix 1 cup baking soda, ¼ cup liquid castile soap, and 30 drops of lemon oil. This will remove any surface staining, brighten grout, and remove product buildup. Use this scrub with a natural bristle brush to activate, and wipe the surface with a damp towel after cleaning.
Orange Oil for cutting grease
Orange oil is also antifungal and antibacterial. It is a great option for breaking down product buildup and grease from counters, appliances and bathtubs.
For a powerful grease breaking spray mix 2 cups of water, 30 drops of orange oil and 20 drops of grapefruit oil. Shake to activate and let sit for one minute before scrubbing or wiping.
More Cleaning Tips
All essential oil cleaning solutions should be stored in glass containers, preferably amber or green glass, to prevent the breakdown of the oils. In many of the aforementioned solutions you can use lavender oil, which is somewhat less effective at removing dirt and buildup, but is still antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial, while being considered safer for kids. You can purchase natural scrub brushes, or brushes made from recycled materials, to reduce your environmental impact. You can also repurpose old clothing that is too soiled or too damaged for donation into rags for cleaning.
A Final Safety Tip
Essential oils can easily be absorbed into the body, either from surface absorption or ingestion. Therefore, essential oil use can be problematic for small children and animals, particularly pets with liver disease or elderly animals. Remember never use essential oils undiluted on the skin.
The American Kennel Club warns cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree, wintergreen and ylang ylang oils can be considered toxic for pets. While this doesn’t mean you can’t safely use these essential oils in your home, it does mean you need to be careful and mindful about how you use and store these products.
Always keep essential oils in glass containers and store in cabinets or rooms in which children and animals have no access. After using essential oil solutions to clean, always rinse or wipe down surfaces with warm water, to reduce the likelihood of irritation or ingestion.
Please Note: Health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health advice. This general information is not intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Any information, advice, or suggestions given by Calgary Co-op staff is not a replacement for medical advice from your Doctor, Dentist, or professional Practitioner. Consult with your healthcare professional with any questions you may have.
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