Green Cleaning with Essential Oils

by Zia Munshi

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I love cleaning supplies, pure and simple. The sight of all those spray bottles, prepackaged cleaning wipes in the supermarket, and most of all, the scented candles always gives me a little lift, thinking about a fragrant, sparkling house where all my worries have been magically scrubbed away. But, I never buy them.

I've been making my own green supplies for years. After a while, I started to miss that, well, clean smell. Who wants to smell vinegar? On the other end of the spectrum, baking soda sure cleans well, but it doesn't smell like anything at all. At the same time, I was starting to become interested in the benefits of essential oils. So why not use them to clean? And I was off to a roaring start.

These days, all my cleaning supplies use essential oils. All you need to do is purchase the oils (which may seem like a major investment, but they last a long, long time.) In addition to making your house smell wonderful, there are benefits to each. Here's a list of my favorites and how to use them:

  • Tea tree. Tea tree, which is a disinfectant, can be added to anything you use in the kitchen or bathroom for a sharp, medicinal scent that positively smacks of clean. Add a few drops to your general purpose vinegar/water spray, to your dishwashing liquid, or to a spray bottle with water to zap any offensive smells.
  • Eucalyptus. This is another disinfectant and the key ingredient in Vicks VapoRub. Eucalyptus is particularly good in the winter. Again, you can add it to any general purpose cleaning agent for a clean that packs a wallop. In addition, adding several drops to your washing machine kills dust mites in blankets, sheets and pillowcases and fills the house with a clean scent.
  • Lavender. My all-purpose favorite, lavender, is a gentle scent that has been used for centuries in linen closets because it keeps away moths. I use a couple of drops on a wet washcloth in the dryer, and several drops in each clothing drawer. I also use it in wood floor-washing water, since it smells so fantastic. And if you like scented linen water, simply put a little in a spray bottle filled with water and shake well before using.
  • Orange. There's a reason orange cleaning products sell so well. They work. Add a few drops to your laundry detergent and shake well. It smells sharp and helps get those stains out.
  • Lemon. Like orange oil, lemon oil is a natural cleaner and is great for furniture. Mix a little with olive oil, apply lightly to furniture, and buff with a clean cloth for a high shine.
  • Pine. So many commercial cleaners use pine oil, and no wonder! It is a great cleaner, it smells wonderful, and best of all, it's inexpensive. Put it in floor washing water for the bathroom or kitchen. Fill a Mason jar with baking soda and some pine oil to sprinkle on carpets and then vacuum to deodorize.

Most of all, experiment with what works for you. If you don't like tea tree (many don't), use eucalyptus. If you don't like lavender, try something else, like geranium or bergamot. But whatever you do, happy cleaning!

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