Cleaning & Organizing
30 Genius Uses for Essential Oils In Your Home
Essential oils have been around for hundreds of centuries for a reason—because they’re powerful! Here’s how to put them to work in your home.
Use as a natural fragrance
With all the talk about the dangers of phthalates, which are found in many commercial air fresheners and have been shown to decrease thyroid function over time, it’s nice to know that essential oils can be used as an all-natural scent booster. And you don’t even need to own a diffuser. Place sweet orange, lavender, or lime essential oil on a cotton ball and tape it to the back of a flower pot or the bottom of a chair, advises Erin Stewart, certified aromatherapist, herbalist, and founder of AromaCulture. “It will release the aroma of the essential oil into the air and leave your house smelling fresh,” she says. She also recommends placing a drop or two of essential oil into a bowl of clay diffuser beads or pebbles in the bathroom. “The clay will act as a diffuser, slowly releasing the aroma of the essential oil into the room and acting as a natural air freshener.”
Disinfect your counters
Since many essential oils have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, they are well-suited for use in simple homemade cleaning products. Plus, think of all the cash you’ll save on overpriced (and overly processed) commercial varieties. Stewart recommends adding 2 to 3 drops of lemon, lavender, sweet orange, or tea tree essential oil to some diluted liquid castile soap in a small spray bottle. “You can use this combination to wipe down your kitchen and bathroom counters and other non-porous surfaces,” she says. Use this cheat sheet to get your kitchen clean in 5 minutes.
Clean your toilet
Jose Luis Stephens/Shutterstock
You can even use the same essential oils as for countertop cleaners—lemon, lavender, sweet orange, or tea tree—to keep your toilet spick and span. Stewart recommends DIYing your own “toilet tabs” by stirring a couple of drops of one of these essential oils into a bowl of baking soda, spraying the mixture lightly with water and then pressing the baking soda mixture into a silicon mold (like for ice cubes or brownies). “Let it sit overnight to dry and, the next morning, remove the tabs from the mold and store them in an airtight jar,” she says. “Toss one into the toilet before you shower each day and flush when you get out of the shower to keep your toilet fresh between deep cleanings.” Don’t miss the ways you’re probably cleaning your bathroom wrong.
Swap out grocery items
Instead of buying a heap of herbs that will go bad in a week, replace them with essential oils. “The rule is to use one drop of essential oil per tablespoon of herbs in your favorite recipe,” says Maat van Uitert, essential oil expert and founder of FrugalChicken. Essential oils can also be used in desserts. “If you love chocolate mint patties, you can make a homemade version using one drop of peppermint—and, if you’re trying to lose weight and don’t like the taste of water, you can add one drop of orange essential oil to 8 ounces of water to make it more palatable.” You can also add 1 to 2 drops of lemon essential oil to your water bottle to give it some zing. Here are other genius mix-ins to make water more interesting.
Wash fresh fruit and veggies
Just thinking about how many hands have touched the surfaces of the fruits and vegetables you buy at your local supermarket can give you a ballpark idea of the amount of germs that may be on them—and that’s not including any pesticides that may have been sprayed on them at the farm. The FDA recommends washing produce under running water and avoiding soap, detergent, or commercial produce washes. Instead, use essential oils. Sally Pansing Kravich, celebrity holistic nutritionist and author, recommends adding five drops of lemon essential oil to a large bowl of water to wash fruits and veggies. Here’s how to store fruits and veggies so they stay fresher longer.
Protect lawns and gardens
Most commercial products for pest control aren’t kid- or pet-safe (pesticides caused this one boy to be born without eyes), and contain chemicals harmful to your local ecosystem, notes van Uitert. His advice: If insects are destroying your lawn or garden, combine 10 drops of essential oil with 8 ounces of water and castile soap for organic pest control. Use a spray attachment with your hose and spray the insects away. If moles and gophers are the pests wreaking havoc on your garden, there’s an essential-oil solution for that too. Jackie Itzkowitz, holistic expert and co-founder of Floating Lotus suggests applying peppermint essential oil onto a cotton ball and placing it in their holes. “They are allergic to peppermint, and will leave your property ASAP.”
Keep flying bugs away
One of the few downsides to summer weather is the influx of relentless outdoor pests. With so many dangerous chemical combinations being used in commercial insect repellents, why not make your own more affordable and less harmful spray? For a great natural alternative to chemical bug sprays with DEET in them, Ed Foy, co-founder of Clear Scents, suggests trying this recipe: In a small spray bottle, combine 2 to 4 ounces of distilled water, 1.5 ounces witch hazel or vodka, and 30 to 50 drops of your favorite essential oil. You can add more or less essential oil depending how strong you want the fragrance to be. Use the spray around your outdoor seating areas. You can also ward off mosquitos with insect-repelling plants.
Deter crawling bugs
If ants are invading your home—or camping tent—cinnamon essential oil can help. “The cinnamon interacts with their nervous system and prevents them from communicating with other ants, forcing them to leave the area,” says van Uitert. “Even better, you won’t have to worry about your child or pet ingesting toxins.” Lemongrass is another great solution. Try diluting 10 to 20 drops of the stuff in 2 to 3 ounces of water. Shake it up and spray the area where you’re hoping to ward off bugs. One whiff of the stuff and they’ll head in another direction. Check out more ways to get rid of ants without having to call an exterminator.
Boost the scent of laundry
If your detergent isn’t leaving your clothes smelling quite as fresh as you’d like, it’s not that you’re making these common laundry mistakes. It’s that you haven’t been taking advantage of non-toxic scenting power of essential oils. Try adding essential oils to laundering or drying clothes to give them a clean, natural smell. “Whether you’re using a homemade or store-bought detergent or fabric softener, just add several drops of your favourite essential oil such as lavender, lemongrass, or peppermint, and launder as usual,” says Foy. “You can also condition your clothes in the dryer by adding essential oil to any wool dryer ball.” This hypoallergenic alternative is sure leave your clothes feeling soft and smelling great every time. (Consider adding essential oils that can help calm anxiety as a subtle stress-buster throughout the day.)
Neutralize pet odor
You’ll want to be careful when using essential oils on your pets, but if your vet gives you the green light, they can work wonders on killing any stench from being outdoors. “You can make an essential oil spray to spritz the room, their bedding, or even your hands before massaging your pets for them to benefit from the oil,” says Itzkowitz. For calming, he suggests opting for lavender and ylang ylang, and for uplifting, try jasmine or orange. Uitert recommends combining one drop of lavender essential oil with one tablespoon of organic coconut oil or combining one drop of tea tree essential oil with 8 ounces of water. Both make ideal organic and non-toxic food bowl cleaners. Do skip the lemon essential oil with pet bowls, however, as he warns that consistent exposure to citrus essential oils can interfere with your pet’s liver functions. Avoid these other dog dangers lurking in your own backyard.
Spray away sunburn
You probably already know that applying lemon essential oil to your hair while you’re out in the sun can create natural blonde highlights, but you might be surprised to know that essential oils can also take the sting away from a sunburn. “If you’ve been out in the sun too long, combine one-half cup witch hazel with 3 tablespoons of pure aloe vera gel and five drops of lavender essential oil in a spray bottle,” suggests van Uitert. Shake to mix and apply to your body as needed. “The aloe vera and lavender are soothing!”
Have a headache? Sure, you can pop an over-the-counter pain medication like aspirin or ibuprofen, but another option, and an all-natural one at that, is to treat pain with essential oils. “Combine almond oil with four drops peppermint essential oil, two drops rosemary essential oil, one drop lavender essential oil, one drop chamomile essential oil, and one drop frankincense essential oil,” suggests Peggy O’Kelly, essential oil expert and founder and CEO of Napa Valley Bath Company. “Shake up and apply to temples, pulse points, and back of neck.” Close your eyes and breathe deeply. You can also try these stretches for headache relief.
Make your own hand sanitizer
If you hate the alcoholic smell of store-bought sanitizers (and you already know that antibacterial formulas can be dangerous), you can create an all-natural one that smells way better using essential oils. “Infuse one ounce of aloe vera gel with 10 drops of tea tree essential oil and seven drops lavender essential oil,” suggests Andrea Butje, best-selling author and essential oils expert. “Combine the aloe and essential oils in a glass bottle (it will stay fresh longer than if you stored it in plastic), and use it as an on-the-go hand cleanser.” Great for cleaning your hands when you don’t have a sink!
Seasonal allergies can be downright debilitating. And, while there are countless store-bought medications and products that promise to provide relief, there are plenty of all-natural solutions for stopping seasonal allergies in their tracks. One is through the use of an aromatherapy inhaler (they look like a lip balm tube with a cotton ‘wick’ inside). “On the cotton wick, add four drops of cedarwood, four drops of sweet orange and seven drops of eucalyptus,” suggests Butje. “Close the inhaler up and use it as needed to calm sniffling and sneezing. It will last two months.”
Having a clean and fresh-smelling carpet can be a lot more affordable when you DIY your own cleanser. In fact, as long as you have baking soda and some divine essential oils, you’re good to go. “Baking soda is great for removing pet and food odors, and essential oils will leave your carpet and entire room smelling brand new,” says Kravich. She recommends vacuuming first to pick up any surface dirt or hair and then combining two cups of baking soda with one of the following combinations: 10 drops orange or lemon, five drops lemongrass and five drops tea tree, or 10 drops lavender essential oil, five drops clove and five drops cinnamon. “Sprinkle the mixture over the entire area of your carpet and use a sponge or dry brush to make sure it penetrates to the carpet bottom,” she adds. “Let stand for at least two hours or more and then vacuum thoroughly.” These are the things professional housecleaners do in their homes every day.
Get grime off floors
People have been cleaning their homes with water and vinegar for decades (check out these 95 household uses for vinegar), and the all-natural solution still stands the test of time. But, let’s be honest, no one really enjoys the lingering smell of vinegar. And if you use it on your floors, the scent is sure to make its way into the entire room. Instead, Priti Robyn Ross E-RYT, advanced yoga instructor and wellness advocate for dōTERRA essential oils, recommends adding five drops each of orange and lemon essential oils into a mixture of one bucket of warm water and one cup white vinegar. It kills the smell of the vinegar, and citrus essential oils add antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Ease aching muscles
There’s a good reason just about every massage therapist incorporates essential oils into his or her practice: They have incredibly powerful soothing effects when applied topically to the skin. One study found essential oils to be beneficial not only for relaxation, sleep, and pain relief, but also for a reduction of depressive symptoms in dementia patients. Foy recommends trying this soothing recipe on aching muscles: In a small bottle, combine a ½ ounce grapeseed oil and 8 to 10 drops each of lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus oil. Shake together and rub on areas for added comfort and relaxation. Use these tips to apply a rejuvenating self-massage.
Soften and grow your hair
Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, has been used for centuries to promote and maintain healthy, natural looking hair, according to Foy. “The strong antifungal and antiseptic properties of this oil make it extremely effective at combating common ailments such as dandruff, itchy scalp, and head lice,” he says. One study published in the Archives of Dermatology even linked essential oil use to hair growth in patients with alopecia. Foy recommends adding several drops of your favorite essential oil to your regular hair conditioner and use as normal, or massage it directly into the scalp after a bath or shower. This Japanese beauty trick could also make your hair grow faster.
Customize the scent of your lotion
Unscented lotion and essential oils are a match made in heaven. “There are endless options available for mixing your favorite scents with any unscented lotions,” says Foy. “Most lotions have already been formulated to restore moisture to your skin, but adding in your own essential oils will only bring additional benefits.” Lavender, lemongrass, and tea tree are some of the more popular oils that have been dermatologically tested and proven to help restore and maintain the natural properties of your skin. These are dermatologists’ rules for using moisturizer correctly.
Give yourself a facial
One of the easiest ways to incorporate essential oils into your skin care routine is to treat yourself to a weekly facial steam—they’re surprisingly easy to do! Stewart recommends boiling a cup or two of water and pouring it into a heat safe bowl. “Place the bowl on the table where you’re going to sit for your facial steam, and add the hot water.” Next, add one drop of a skin-nourishing essential oil like lavender or rose to the water of the bowl. Close your eyes and hold your clean, makeup-free face 8 to 12 inches above the bowl for 1 to 3 minutes. “Keep your eyes closed throughout the whole steam, and if it feels too hot or uncomfortable, give yourself a little more space between you and the bowl. These are the best essential oils for your beauty routine.
Make your own beard oil
Never heard of the stuff? You better believe it’s on the market, often sold at high-end men’s stores, but you can easily make your own variety at home using essential oils. “I’m married to a bearded man, so I always make him a beard oil starring essential oil scents of my choosing,” says Stewart. “To make one, add the following essential oils to one ounce of jojoba oil: five drops of sweet orange, six drops of cedarwood, two drops of vetiver, and three drops of lavender. Cap the bottle, give it a good shake, and have your man give it a try!” Word to the wise: A little bit goes a long way! Here are more grooming treatments every man should be getting.
Clean makeup brushes
Believe it or not, beauty experts recommend washing your makeup brushes once a week minimum to prevent bacteria from spreading and product from building up on your tools. (These are the gross things that can happen when you don’t wash your makeup tools.) But store-bought cleaners can be pricey, and if you break out easily you might be concerned about the ingredient list on manufactured varieties. Instead, make your own brush cleanser using essential oils. O’Kelly recommends combining two tablespoons witch hazel, ½ teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, two teaspoons of castile soap, and 20 drops of tea tree essential oil, which has antifungal properties. Shake it well and then pour it into a bowl. Gently swirl your brushes around in the mixture until clean. Rinse with water, squeeze out excess liquid, and set out to try.
Deodorize sports gear
If you have smelly athletes running around your home, essential oils can help get rid of that icky, sweaty smell. Ross recommends adding two drops each of tea tree and lemon essential oils in one quart of warm water along with four tablespoons of baking soda. Mix it together and use to clean everything from jerseys to cleats, sports accessories, and running shoes. Beyond exercise, these are the reasons you might have smelly feet.
Remove shower curtain scum
That dark, filmy, bacteria that builds up when water interacts with soap, dirt, and other substances during your shower is undoubtedly disgusting—not to mention that mold and mildew can literally make you sick. Rather than apply harsh, commercial products that contain a laundry list of dangerous chemicals, try this solution that Ross recommends. “Fill a 16-ounce spray bottle with warm water and add in four drops eucalyptus oil and four drops tea tree oil. Spray onto your shower for natural mold-killing action!”
Freshen your trash can
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
Even if you’re careful not to let any waste touch the rim of your trash can, it’s inevitable that the bag will start to smell. Instead of spraying store-bought freshener, Ross recommends a combination of purifying and odor-eliminating essential oils. “Add several drops of wild orange, lemon, and tea tree essential oils to a cotton ball,” she says. “You’ll be amazed at how well it detoxifies your whole bin!”
Make an all-natural deodorant
Especially during the warmer months of the year, you might find yourself reaching for your deodorant stick several times a day. To save money and feel better about the products you’re putting under your pits, Ross suggests making an all-natural deodorant using essential oils and some other household products you likely have hanging out in your kitchen cabinets. “Mix equal parts baking soda, coconut oil, and corn starch, and then add your choice of arborvitae or tea tree oil, which both contain anti-microbial properties.” Then, add in a few drops of your favorite scent. Check out these other recipes for homemade deodorant.
Ease digestive discomfort
Before you reach for that over-the-counter digestive remedy, try this all-natural, essential oil-infused solution. “Peppermint and ginger make an excellent digestive blend, so apply the oils all over your body, from your stomach to your feet,” suggests Ross. Studies have found both peppermint and ginger to be useful in soothing an upset stomach and aiding digestion, particularly in relieving irritable bowel syndrome.
Eliminate cigarette smoke
Whether someone living in your home is a smoker or a passerby outside finds your lawn a comfortable place to puff, rid your home of unwanted cigarette smoke with essential oils. Combine four drops rosemary, tea tree, and eucalyptus essential oils in a spray bottle and spritz around your home. Bonus: Essential oils may even help you or a loved one quit smoking. One study found that inhalation of black pepper essential oil was linked to reducing withdrawal symptoms in smokers.
If you’re afraid of leaving a candle burning, essential oils can leave a wonderful scent that won’t pose a risk of your home catching fire. The best part? You can decide what type of scent you’re feeling up to based upon your mood or the season. For example, if you’re hosting family and friends over for the holidays, you can diffuse a few drops of pine, sandalwood, or cedarwood oil. The scent will be just like your favorite brand of candle, without the safety hazard. This is the best home fragrance for every room, according to a perfume pro.
The main ingredient in most all-natural toothpastes is baking soda, so why not make your own variety using essential oils to provide the flavor and scent you’re looking for. Combine baking soda and some sea salt (for exfoliation), along with coconut oil, xylitol, and peppermint essential oils. Brush the plaque away and enjoy clean teeth and minty fresh breath. Now just make sure you’re avoiding these common toothbrushing mistakes.