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The Cleaning Action of Essential Oils

written by: BStone•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 5/13/2010

Wouldn't a natural all-purpose cleaner be wonderful? One that was not only biodegradable and safe, but also effective. Using essential oils in cleaning products is a safe, nicely-smelling alternative to your everyday, chemical cleaners.

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    Conventional Cleaners and Chemicals

    spray bottle There is the assumption that conventional cleaning products found in stores are safe, that the chemicals found within will not pose a health risk. This is not the case. They can be dangerous if inhaled, irritating to the skin, and may pose long-term risks even at small levels of prolonged exposure.

    Cleaning products by law do not have to list chemicals that may cause long-term effects. As a result, hundreds of known carcinogens, from dichloroethane to nitroflourene are found in common household cleaning products. While many of these chemicals, such as toluene, which can cause cancer and nervous system damage, are relatively harmless in small amounts, even minor exposure can have a negative effect over time. Young children are particularly vulnerable. They tend to have underdeveloped immune systems which may have more trouble protecting the body from the toxins introduced when they play on the floor and put just about everything into their mouth.

    How do you protect your family from these toxins, while still maintaining a clean, bacteria-free environment? Learning to use essential oils for cleaning is an easy way to do this.

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    Why Clean Green?

    There are many advantages to using essential oils as cleaners. First, it is a way to eliminate the airborne toxins and dangerous residues of commercial cleaners. Second, green cleaning is much better for the environment, as essential oils will not add toxins to the water and soil, but rather organic, biodegradable materials. Third, they are inexpensive. Made in small or large batches, a homemade all-purpose cleaner will cost a fraction of a commercial one.

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    Cleaning Action

    All essential oils are antibacterial by nature, although some are more so than others. They are also highly concentrated, so only a small amount is necessary. Be sure to use therapeutic grade essential oils for the most powerful, antibacterial effect.

    • Tea tree oil is particularly effective for destroying bacteria and preventing the growth of fungus.
    • Eucalyptus oil is a great antiseptic and disinfectant; it also repels insects.
    • Pine oil is anti-viral and antiseptic.
    • Cedar wood oil is great for dealing with mold and mildew, and acts as an antiseptic.
    • Frankincense oil is an antiseptic with a purifying nature.
    • Lavender oil is antiseptic, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial.
    • Lemon oil, as well as all citrus oils, act to emulsify and disperse grease, while also inhibiting bacterial and fungus growth.
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    An All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe

    A simple solution of warm water and pure essential oil is all that is needed to make a natural all-purpose cleaner. Vinegar and baking soda can also be used to add a wider range of antibacterial properties and cleaning grit.

    • 32 ounces warm water
    • 1 tablespoon vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 10 drops of essential oil of choice (use one or a combination)

    Mix all ingredients in a 32 ounce plastic spray bottle and shake well. Take a cleaning rag and clean all surfaces just as you would use a commercial all-purpose cleaner. Enjoy the aroma of the essential oils and the security of a safe, environmentally-friendly cleaner. Then teach someone else how to clean green with essential oils.

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    Resources

    Balch, Phyllis A. " Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).

    Mesley, Wendy. "If you can't pronounce it, should you use it?" (Health Report) <health-report.co.uk/toxic_household_chemicals>

    photo credit: Horriblecherry CC/flickr <flickr.com/photos/horriblecherry/268726793/>

Cleaning With Essential Oils

In this series we learn the reasons to clean with essential oils, types of essential oils to use and recipes for cleaning with essential oils.
  1. The Cleaning Action of Essential Oils
  2. Clean Your Home with Essential Oils