Use as a natural fragrance
sudhirkalyan/ShutterstockWith 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
BaLL LunLa/ShutterstockSince 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/ShutterstockYou 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
Saigonese Photographer/ShutterstockInstead 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
YuliiaKas/ShutterstockJust 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
Pinkyone/ShutterstockMost 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
Maridav/ShutterstockOne 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
fizkes/ShutterstockIf 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
mama mia/ShutterstockIf 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
Stock Asso/ShutterstockYou'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.