5 Best Essential Oils for Green Cleaning

Sanitize Your Home Without the Chemical Fumes

If the fumes from commercial cleaners containing synthetic chemicals make you feel a little queasy, consider mixing up your own "green" cleaning products using essential oils derived from plants. Essential oils are all natural and biodegradable and many contain powerful antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties that make them remarkably effective at household cleaning.

Essential oils are extracted from plants using some form of distillation or a mechanical method, such as cold pressing. Called "essential" because they contain the essence of a plant's scent or flavor, these oils are usually combined with some form of carrier oil before being sold for use in aromatherapy or for other purposes. To be called a genuine essential oil, it is important that the product is obtained through natural methods rather than through chemical processes. Commercial lemon-oil or orange cleaners, in other words, are usually not essential oil products.

Here are five great essential oils that make effective home-made cleaners.

  • 01 of 05

    Lemon

    Bowl of Lemons
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    Lemon essential oil is not only antiseptic, antimicrobial, and antibacterial but also great at cutting through grease and grime. This essential oil can be used in a number of ways: 

    • Removing sticky residue: Apply a few drops of lemon essential oil to the residue, rub it in, and use a sponge or paper towel to wipe the residue away. 
    • Deodorize the refrigerator: Mix 4 to 6 drops of oil with a cup of baking soda in a glass jar. Cover it with a small square of fabric and secure it over the top with a rubber jar ring, omitting the metal lid. 
    • Clean wood and leather: Mix 1 part olive oil to 1 part white vinegar and add 15 drops of lemon essential oil to spritz on wood or leather to make them shine.
  • 02 of 05

    Tea Tree

    Photograph of Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia)

    Karen Peltier

    Tea tree is the essential oil answer to an all-purpose cleaner—it can be used in all sorts of applications, and it's antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic, bactericidal, and insecticidal. Use it to:

    • Clean the shower: Combine 2 cups white vinegar, 2 teaspoons liquid non-castile dish soap, and 20 drops tea tree oil. Give the shower a spritz daily with the mixture. 
    • Wash your hands: Mix a squirt of castile soap with water in a reusable soap pump and add 12 drops of tea tree oil. 
    • Make an all-purpose cleaner: Combine 1/2 cup white vinegar, 3 cups water, and 10 drops of tea tree oil to use anywhere you would spritz all-purpose cleaner. 

    Don’t store your tea tree oil in clear bottles, in high heat locations, or in direct sunlight, as it can cause the chemical constituents of the essential oil to change, causing sensitivity in some individuals.

  • 03 of 05

    Lavender

    Lavender
    Ebelien photography/Moment Open/Getty Images

    Essential oil from lavender fights against viruses, bacteria, and fungus while imparting the loveliest of smells. The scent can help lull you to sleep, which is why combining water and lavender essential oil in a spray bottle makes for an excellent linen spray. Because lavender oil can also disinfect, this spray can also be used as a cleaner for questionable surfaces.

  • 04 of 05

    Peppermint

    Photograph of Peppermint

    Karen Peltier

    Need to perk up? Revitalizing and stimulating, peppermint essential oil is the way to go if you need to get some aggressive cleaning done. Peppermint's cleaning power is due to its antiseptic properties, and it happens to repel bugs such as ants, spiders, and cockroaches, too. Combine a cup of water with 10 to 15 drops of peppermint oil in a spray bottle and spritz it into any cracks, crevices, or crannies where critters have been spotted. You can also just spray it into the air for an invigorating air freshener. 

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Sweet Orange

    oranges

    Morey Milbradt/Getty Images

    Uplifting and refreshing, sweet orange essential oil, also simply called orange essential oil, is antiseptic, with demonstrated antifungal and antibacterial properties. It is also a great degreaser when combined with 1/4 cup of castile soap and water and used to spray down stovetops or countertops. 

    When combined with tea tree oil, white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and dish soap, orange essential oil makes an excellent all-natural floor cleaner. Add 10 drops of each type of oil to 1 cup each of alcohol and white vinegar, 1 teaspoon dish soap, and 1 to 2 gallons of very hot water.