With Spring now here, it’s time for that annual ritual (that I actually enjoy): spring cleaning! It’s time to let go of the musty odors of winter and make our homes ready to welcome fresh air and sunshine. Finally!
As many of us are discovering, by reading labels or simply noticing our bodies’ reactions, most of the cleaning products we can buy…. the sprays, polishes, scrubbing bubbles, plug-ins and even the so-called “natural” ones that have cute, homey labels— can be filled with toxic chemicals. Even the EPA has said that the indoor air that we breathe can be up to 70 times more toxic than the outdoor air due to VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that are found in cleaning products! Happily, you don’t have to choose between your health and a clean, fresh home. A few simple ingredients can create cleaning products that are healthy, effective and smell absolutely fabulous! You might even like cleaning a whole lot more when you clean the naturally green way:)
Most of the ingredients you’ll need to start making your own clean home kit can be found at your local grocery and hardware stores. Essential oils can be purchased at co-ops and other specialty shops and we carry a wonderful organic home soap in our online shop (scented with essential oils or left unscented for your oils) .
Ingredients You’ll Need:
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a mild alkali useful in many cleaning applications.
White vinegar, a slightly acidic liquid, is also useful in many cleaning formulas.
Real soap made from plant oils works as surfactant by helping to loosen and wash away dirt. Soap made with a high percentage of coconut oil is the best de-greaser with its high lauric acid composition.
Lemon, lime and grapefruit juices, fresh or in concentrate, do more than smell great — they’re acidic and antibacterial and make a wonderful addition to many cleaning formulas.
Borax (sodium bromate) is a mildly alkaline, water-soluble salt. It loosens dirt and stains while removing odors. Borax is usually available in the laundry aisle of the grocery store, but it’s available by mail, too.
Olive and jojoba oils are excellent in wood cleaners because they recondition and polish the surfaces.
Beeswax and Carnauba (vegan) are both waxes that turn oils into pastes for waxing and shining.
Lanolin, a natural oil extracted from wool, is used in wool washes and restores some of the fiber’s natural sheen and gives it more water repellancy.
Clay powder is a mild abrasive that absorbs essential oils and disperses them easily in powdered cleaning formulas.
Pumice is finely ground volcanic rock and used as an abrasive in scrubbing pastes for tough jobs.
Essential oils offer important cleaning and disinfecting benefits. Distilled from plant roots, rinds, flowers, seeds and resins, essential oils are highly concentrated and intensely scented. Essential oils are not the same as the synthetic scent oils that you can find at crafts stores or in most commercial cleaning products. Such chemically contrived oils don’t originate from plants and they cannot offer the cleaning or therapeutic benefits of essential oils. Essential oils are highly concentrated, and as a rule should not be applied directly to the skin or to household surfaces.
(An important FYI: Never ingest essential oils unless you know for sure that they are safe; should this happen by accident, do not induce vomiting — seek immediate medical help.)
A little goes a long way, so be conservative with their use.
Here are some of my favorite oils for home cleaning:
Clove (eugenia caryophyitata) is stimulating and penetrating. Its antiseptic properties and spicy scent makes it a favorite in the fall and winter months. Clove has antiseptic properties which make it useful to help prevent viral germs; it’s often used in “thieves” type blends. One of my favorite ways to use clove is in a spray with orange essential oil. It reminds me of clove pomanders at Christmas and refreshes the entire room and helps to lift my mood.
Eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus or radiata) a powerful, penetrating bactericidal and antiviral that disinfects while helping relieve respiratory congestion. It’s an excellent cleaning choice if you are fighting off a cold. Eucalyptus is stimulating and cleansing especially in the winter months. Use it to sanitize door handles, bathrooms, phones, basically any surface you want disinfected from germs. A few drops of eucalyptus in the washer helps kill off germs, and even dust mites.
Grapefruit (citrus paradisi) cuts grease and grime as well as being antiseptic and disinfects. Grapefruit is one of my all time favorites essential oils for its sweet aroma and uplifting nature. Used in a spray with vinegar, water and vodka, it is the best window cleaner around. Not only does it cut grease and grime, but it cuts a sour mood as well!
Lavender (lavendula officinalis) is one of the most versatile of all essential oils. With analgesic, antiseptic, antibacterial and calming properties, it can be used in many different ways. It is balancing for the body, mind and emotions. It aids sleep, soothes tired muscles, benefits the immune system and encourages tranquility. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be used directly on the skin without being diluted. (Make sure, though, that you use a therapeutic grade, true essential oil and not an “essence oil” or fragrance oil. ) Apply to pulse points to melt anxiety. You can also add it to a spray bottle of water and use as a linen spray to sanitize and freshen bedding. I like to spray my pillow and sheets before bedtime for an intentionally restful sleep. I also use it with my laundry soap and in the dryer for sweet lavender scented linens.
Lemon (Citrus limonum) refreshes and cools, brings clarity to mind and emotions. It benefits the immune system, the circulatory system, and counteracts acidity. Lemon is a natural brightener. Use a few drops in your load of whites. I like to use lemon in my unscented dish soap for its clean, fresh scent, and its ability to cut grease. A few drops added to a wet sponge is useful in wiping down stove tops, counters and refrigerators. It’s also good for removing anything sticky. Lemon has such a lighthearted, yummy scent that it’s easy to forget how well it performs as a degreaser and general cleanser. Mix a few drops of this oil with a couple of tablespoons of baking soda for a slightly abrasive kitchen scrub.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) is anti-infectious and antiseptic. Known as a natural deodorizer and odor neutralizer, lemongrass works well when added to a spray bottle of water. Use in the trash can, on pet beds, gym shoes, cat litter boxes, teenager’s rooms, and a few drops in your garbage disposal will make your kitchen smell great! Lemongrass is also a natural pain reliever, making it a good choice for headaches and muscle aches. Apply a few drops to a cool wash cloth as a head compress. It also makes a wonderful bath salt for sore muscles when combined with eucalyptus and peppermint, and added to Sacred Clay and/or Dead Sea salts.
Pine (pinus sylvestris) may take the prize in home cleaning with its antimicrobial, antiviral, bactericidal, antiseptic, disinfectant and degreasing properties. Use pine often in your cleaning products, but remember to use it sparingly as it can be a skin irritant. In a vaporizer, it helps clean the air and aids in relieving coughs caused by bronchitis and asthma. When you mix pine in a spray bottle with water and clove, it makes a lovely room freshener at holiday time. Its clean, outdoor scent stimulates alertness which may even encourage more cleaning… wouldn’t doubt it!
Rosemary (rosemarinus officinalis) is known for its strong, clear and penetrating scent. Rosemary is a great disinfectant and antibacterial and makes an excellent addition to your toilet bowl, floor and surface cleaners. Mix it with orange essential oil, water and vinegar for a great floor cleaner; it can make mopping the floors so much more pleasant!
Spearmint (mentha spicata) is stimulating and uplifting. It is a favorite oil for long car rides! It can alleviate travel sickness as well as keep you awake and refreshed! Spearmint is also wonderful in dish soap and when mixed with eucalyptus, it makes it a powerful disinfectant. Spearmint is also an insecticide, so use it in sprays for room fresheners and to clean counter tops.
Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) is distilled from the outer peel of the orange. It has excellent antiseptic properties and is often used as an antidepressant. Orange is commonly used in conjunction with oils such as rosemary and lavender. When combined, it makes a wonderful surface and floor cleaner. I also like to add a drop of orange to a damp sponge and wipe down baseboards. (That is when I’m really serious about cleaning!) Straight orange oil is fabulous for cleaning sticky messes off of floors and appliances. It is a natural degreaser, too, so add a couple drops to your dishwater.
There are so many more essential oils to play and clean with, but these are great place to start!
To make your herbal cleaning formulas, you’ll need measuring cups and spoons, and wide-mouth and narrow funnels. Use large stainless steel or glass bowls rather than ceramic or plastic ones that might absorb essential oil scents.
So now that you have your ingredients, gather up an assortment of spray bottles, squirt bottles and shakers with flip tops. Assorted jars are handy, too. Canning jars can be found at garage sales and thrift stores and great for storing cleaning products. For labeling the containers, you’ll need labels, markers and tape.
Antibacterial Countertop Spray.
Add 20 drops Rosemary Essential Oil and 15 drops Orange Essential Oil to 3 oz. distilled water and 1 oz. distilled white vinegar. Mix in a 4 oz bottle, spray and wipe surface.
Bathroom Floor Cleaner.
In a bucket of warm water, add about 5-10 drops Pine Essential Oil (highly disinfecting) and 10-12 drops Lavender Essential Oil (antibacterial), and 1 c distilled white vinegar. Mop!
Soft Scrubbing Aromatherapy Cleanser
Add 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil, 8 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil, and 5 drops Lemon Essential Oil to 1 C baking soda, 1/8 C biodegradable liquid soap and 2 T water. Mix well. Last, add 2 T distilled white vinegar. Mix and store in air tight container. Use on sinks, tubs and showers.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Add 20 drops Lemon Essential Oil and 10 drops Tea Tree (or Rosemary) Essential Oil to 3 c baking soda. Mix well and store in glass container. Keep in bathroom. When ready to scrub toilet, add 1/2 c mixture to bowl, 1/4 c distilled white vinegar, scrub and flush.
Window/Glass Cleaner (It’s not natural to be blue)
Add 30-40 drops Lemon Essential Oil or Pink Grapefruit Essential Oil to 2 oz. distilled water and 2 oz. distilled white vinegar. Adding a tablespoon of grain alcohol prevents streaking. Mix in a 4 oz bottle.
Add 1/2 c baking soda to the drain. Then add 5 drops Lemongrass Essential Oil (natural deodorizer) and 1/4 c distilled white vinegar. After fizzing stops, run hot water.
Biodegradable Laundry Detergent
In a large bowl, mix a box of washing soda and a box of Borax; Add 30 drops Lavender Essential Oil and 20 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil. Mix very well and store in a glass container. Use 1/4 cup per load.
Linen + Room Spray
Add 30 drops Orange Essential Oil and 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil plus a couple drops of peppermint to 4 oz distilled water in a heavy duty spray bottle. Shake gently and spray for fresh air!
Home Sweet Homekeeping Tips
• Place a drop of your favorite essential oil on a dampened washcloth or handkerchief. Toss it into the dryer with your clothes or sheets.
• Use a drop or two of orange oil on a paper coffee filter to remove glue or masking tape residue from windows.
• Scent the filter bag of your vacuum cleaner with a drop or two of a fresh-smelling essential oil.
• For a great fragrance whenever you sit down, scatter dried lavender rose petals, rose geranium, rosemary or other favorite herbs under the cushions of the couch and upholstered chairs. Just vacuum them up occasionally and replace with fresh ones.
I feel so lucky to have all these wonder-full essential oils and natural cleaners to use in my home. They seem to connect me a bit more to the plant and mineral world and in a deeper way to myself.
I hope this post encourages you to try them, too!