Using essential oils IN CLEANING
Essential oils are widely used in aromatherapy, but they make an excellent addition to cleaning products and sanitisers too.
Essential oils are one of the best naturally antibacterial options for homemade cleaning products and can be used to sanitise your kitchen and bathroom. Studies have also shown that they can halt airborne microbes, which are easily spread by coughing, sneezing, even talking or turning the pages of books. A trial at Wythenshawe Hospital Burns Unit in the UK found that using a vaporiser to diffuse a blend of oils (clove, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus and rosemary) into the air combated certain bacteria, including MRSA, a contagious and antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria. In the nine-month study, in-air bacteria diminished by more than 90 per cent.
Another study looked at geranium and lemongrass oils, and their antibacterial activities against MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The oils were diffused in an office situation, and after 15 hours of use, these germs had been reduced by 89 per cent.
You can use diffusers at home, of course, but don’t confuse a diffuser with an oil burner. An oil burner heats the oil, which can damage or alter the oil’s properties. A diffuser is a special pump designed to dispense essential oils into the air without harming their properties. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions as to how much oil to place in your diffuser.
As well as halting airborne microbes, you might want to consider using essential oils in your laundry, for cleaning countertops and for sanitising floors. But remember that natural does not necessarily equal gentle. Even plant products can be toxic. Just one drop of peppermint oil is as potent as 30 cups of peppermint tea, and the citric acid in citrus oils can be highly allergenic. Undiluted essential oils that come in contact with the skin can cause irritation or allergic reactions. Take the same precautions you would for other herbal uses, such as skin products, when making any homemade herbal cleaning products.
Over time, essential oils break down plastic, so cleaning products that contain essential oils are best stored in glass containers unless it’s for short-term storage. Choose containers with dark glass to help protect the oils from exposure to light, which causes deterioration. Store your bottles in a dark, cool place.
In general, it’s not recommended to keep essential oils for more than three years, after which oxidation may occur, which can lead to the formation of allergens that cause adverse reactions. There are some exceptions to this: patchouli, sandalwood and vetiver actually improve with age.
Make sure you use 100 per cent pure essential oils rather than fragrant oils; the latter is synthetic and does not contain the same benefits as pure essential oil.
Simple DIY cleaner
For a super quick cleaner, mix 10 drops lemongrass, sweet orange, bergamot, peppermint, oregano, thyme or tea tree essential oil, or a mix of these, with 2 cups of warm water and use to clean sinks and bathroom surfaces. For extra cleaning oomph, add ¼ cup washing soda to the mix. You can also soak your cleaning cloths in this mix each day to disinfect them.