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Homekeeping 101~ A Primer On Using Essential Oils In Homekeeping


An Essential Oil (EO) is a liquid that is generally distilled (usually by steam or water) from the bark, roots, stems, leaves, flowers or other parts of a plant.

EOs contain water and the essential part of the the plant that contains medicinal and fragrance qualities. EOs are highly concentrated and a little goes a long way. Despite the name “oil”, EOs are not oily at all.  It is the plant essences that are distilled from the plant parts which are called “oils”.   EOs are watery and usually clear in color, though some of them are yellow or amber in color.

They differ from Fragrance Oils (FO) in that FOs are artificially created, contain artificial substances or carrier oils. FOs and EOs are not interchangeable. don’t try to use an FO in a recipe that calls for an EO.

When you purchase EOs, the oils will usually be in amber or other colored glass containers.  Keep the oil in its original container and store it in a cool, dark place. EOs will lose some of their therapeutic qualities and potency over time, so storing them correctly is, well, essential.

There are several EOs that have antibacterial, anti-mold and disinfectant qualities. Here is a list of oils that can be used to clean and disinfect your home. While there are many more EOs that have some disinfectant qualities these are, to my knowledge, the strongest and best to use in the household and the ones that I have personal experience using.

Why use essential oils instead of chemical cleaners?  There are numerous reasons but my personal reasons have to do with the massive amounts of chemicals in our environment, rampant allergies and chemical sensitivities and the desire to have a home that is less immersed in chemicals.  EOs allow  me to clean my home without using so many chemicals.

After many years of using EO cleaners, I’ve yet to find one EO that does it all.  There are some kinds of clean that I don’t feel you can achieve using EO, such as surgically clean or super-disinfected clean.  That kind of clean can probably only be achieved using chemicals such as bleach, detergents, alcohol or other chemical disinfectants. So I do periodically continue to clean particularly needy areas, such as around the toilet, with chemicals, but only periodically.

Remember to use caution when using EOs.  Some of them are strong and can burn the skin, eyes and mucous membranes.  Keep them out of the reach of children.

Citrus,such as lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

A very old and famous blend is the Thieves Blend which contains cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, eucalyptus and lemon oils.  These essential oils blended together can be used in all kinds of household cleaner preparations.  I’ll talk more about blends and give formulas later.

Some of the new household cleaners such as Clorox Greenworks contain EOs along with something known as a surfactant.  The surfactant is a chemical that helps the oils adhere to the surface that you are cleaning.  They are one of the few green cleaners that actually list all the ingredients on the label.  If you are unable to make your own cleaners from EOs, Greenworks is a good alternative.

However, making your own cleaners is much less expensive than buying a cleaner.  Its also easy to customize your cleaners for a scent that you love and can live with.  In addition to the EOs that you will use for disinfecting and cleaning, you can also choose to add a few EOs strictly for their fragrance. Once you find a blend that suits you, write it down so you can use it over and over.

Here are some recipes for disinfecting sprays and cleaners.  None of these recipes are copyrighted or private property. Feel free to copy them, use them and tweak them to suit yourself.

Basic Easy Disinfectant Spray

About 12 ounces pure water
5 drops each of any combination of three of the disinfecting essential oils
1 teaspoon clear, natural liquid soap
Shake gently. Use for all general cleaning.

Liquid Dish Soap
You can improve the fragrance and disinfectant quality of your dish soap by adding 5 drops of any of the disinfecting essential oils.

Dishwasher Help
To keep your dishwasher clean and fresh smelling, add 2-3 drops of pine, peppermint of any of the citrus oils to an empty machine and then run it through a wash and rinse cycle.

Two Floor Cleaners
This cleaner is great for hard, solid floors.
* 1/4 cup white vinegar to a bucket of water
* 5-10 drops of your favorite oil. Tea tree is good for this and so is spruce or pine but any will do.
* Dishwashing soap, about 2 teaspoons full, if floor is especially dirty

This cleaner is a wonderful bathroom floor cleaner.
* 1/4 cup white vinegar to a bucket of water
* 10 drops lemon oil
* 4 drops oregano oil

Here is a homemade linen spray that can be used to keep your sheets and towels fresh:

2 pint pure water
40 drops favorite essential oils – I like Lavender and Lemon used together.

Combine and shake well before each use.  Store in a spray bottle and give a generous spray to linens after laundering.

Essential oils can be used in many more ways.  You can put a few drops of an essential oil on a cloth and place the cloth in a vacuum bag or canister.  When you run the vacuum, the oil will impart an agreeable fragrance to the air.  You can also use essential oils mixed with water as a room deodorizing spray. This kind of spray is helpful in the nursery or in sick rooms especially, but can give a pleasant, clean scent to the whole house as well.


  1. Wardee

    Yes, that does help! Thank you!

  2. Jeannette Martinez

    Fascinating stuff! I have always wanted to incorporate EO’s, but had no idea how to do so safely. Thank you!

  3. Tammy

    I have to tell you thank you for posting these type things. I try to use things to clean my home that are not harmful to my family. Thank You!

    God Bless,

  4. Wardee

    Sylvia ~ Thank you for this wonderful information! I want to use more EOs in my household. Your list of useful EOs is extensive. If you were going to recommend a few – three to five, let’s say – of the most useful and versatile – which should I get?

    Love, Wardee

    • Sylvia

      I prefer these oils because the information I have read over the years indicates that these are the EOs that have the greatest effect against bacteria and viruses:
      Cinnamon Bark
      Tea Tree

      Interestingly, of all those oils, only Tea Tree oils will have any measurable effect on E. coli . Another oil that will kill E. coli is Coriander oil.

      These oils do have a moderate amount of effect on bacteria and viruses, but I like them for their scent, mostly

      Hope that helps!