How To Use Essential Oils At Home

From Adina Grigore, Founder of SW Basics and Author of Just The Essentials.

It’s easy to assume that DIY home care won’t live up to the industrial-grade commercial options you’re accustomed to using. Don’t be fooled! Not only is the stuff at the store filled with chemicals you don’t need or want in your life, I promise you it doesn’t work any better than the alternative version made from essential oils. In fact, most conventional cleaners have taken their cue from the properties of essential oils – from their antibacterial activity to their piney fragrances. Here are my favorite ways to use essential oils at home.

Air Freshener:

While you can easily add a couple of drops of your favorite EO (lemon, lavender) to some distilled water and spritz it around, I prefer making this “gel pack” to deodorize and freshen the air around me. This recipe is created using gelatin to mimic the plug-in gel packs you’d find in the home cleaning aisle, and while they won’t fill a full room with scent, they’re great for smaller spaces (including tucking into a drawer).

  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons fine-grain sea salt
  • BASE NOTE: 20 drops frankincense essential oil
  • BASE NOTE: 20 drops Peru balsam essential oil
  • MIDDLE NOTE: 10 drops neroli essential oil or juniper essential oil or petitgrain essential oil
  • TOP NOTE: 20 drops grapefruit essential oil or palmarosa essential oil

In three separate small glass jars, layer the essential oil blend according to base, middle, and top notes. (Note: The quantities above represent the total needed for three gel packs, so for each container, the split should roughly be 6–7 drops frankincense, 6–7 drops Peru balsam, 3–4 drops neroli or juniper or petitgrain, and 6–7 drops grapefruit or palmarosa in that order.) Boil the water and add the powdered gelatin, whisking until smooth. Next, whisk in the salt, stirring until dissolved. Pour the hot gelatin on top of each combination and allow it to cool. Place wherever you want some freshening up! Makes 3 gel “packs” that will last about 2 months. If not using one, make sure to tightly seal the jar until you want to use it!

All-Purpose Home Cleaner:

This is a classic, do-it-all home cleaner that everyone should have in his or her repertoire. It’s antibacterial, anti- microbial, antifungal, and antiseptic, plus it smells great.

  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1 teaspoon liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 10 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 10 drops tea tree essential oil

Combine all of the ingredients in a large spritz bottle. Shake well. Use as you would a normal cleaning spray. Will last up to 1 year and make at least 60 uses.

Gentle Dish Soap:

Lavender is a great base for dish soap because it is so gentle (you won’t have to worry about your hands drying out) yet still has antibacterial properties. The addition of eucalyptus makes it extra potent, but also has a bit of a camphor-esque aroma, which is why I add palmarosa to help cut the odor.

  • 1 cup unscented liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 1 tablespoon distilled water
    15–30 drops lavender essential oil
  • 7–14 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 5–10 drops palmarosa essential oil

Furniture Polish:

Using a carrier oil (such as avocado, jojoba or grapeseed) will give your furniture that coveted luminosity and sheen while the white wine vinegar is a potent disinfectant. Lemon and Scotch pine are both superior cleaners and, of course, give the entire solution a classic citrus-pine aroma.

  • 1/2 cup carrier oil (such as sesame, jojoba or grapseed oil)
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 10–20 drops lemon essential oil
  • 5–10 drops Scotch pine essential oil

Combine the carrier oil and white wine vinegar in the container of your choice. Shake well. Add in the essential oils and, again, shake vigorously. Apply to wood furniture using a rag or cloth. Use all at one time; the product will separate quickly and will not keep.

Grease Cleaner:

The blend of baking soda, castile soap and lemongrass essential oil in this DIY cleaner will gently but rigorously dissolve grime and grease on pots and pans. Baking soda is a potent bacterial killer while lemongrass essential oil is antifungal, anti- bacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, and deodorizing. Need I say more?

  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup unscented liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 4–7 drops lemongrass essential oil

Combine the baking soda and soap together in a glass container with a lid and shake well. Add the essential oil and, again, shake vigorously. Apply to tough cleaning projects using a sponge or towel. I also like to apply it to pots and pans, add warm water, and let it sit overnight. This recipe will separate and spoil quickly, so use it all at once or within one week of making it.

Dryer Sheets:

While aromatic dryer sheets sound nice in theory, in practice the artificial perfume makes my skin itch all over. These dryer sheets are perfect for anyone who wants to infuse laundry drudgery with a bit of fragrance, but can’t deal with the Tides of the world. Bergamot is a popular base for many fragrances due to its lovely citrus-floral aroma; it’s also safe for sensitive skin and can even help alleviate conditions like eczema. Ylang ylang and jasmine are fairly similar in odor—both are gorgeous, heady floral scents. Translation: You’ll smell really good.

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 20 drops bergamot essential oil
  • 10 drops ylang ylang essential oil
  • 10 drops jasmine essential oil
  • 5–10 scraps of old cloth cut into 4-by-6-inch pieces (I like anything that’s 100 percent cotton.)

Pest Spray:

Did you know that catnip has been found to be even more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes? So of course it’s a key component of this catchall pest spray. Paired with citronella and lemon eucalyptus (both notable insect repellents), as well as witch hazel, which is an antibacterial astringent, it’s an amazing treatment for windowsills, around the trash, or in other areas where creepy-crawlies might be lurking. While this is a much, much safer alternative to DEET, definitely keep it away from small children and pets.

  • 1/2 cup distilled water
  • 1/2 cup witch hazel
  • 30 drops catnip essential oil
  • 10 drops citronella essential oil
  • 10 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil

Combine the distilled water, witch hazel, and essential oils in an 8-ounce spritzer bottle. Shake well and use within 12 months. Will make at least 60 uses.

Countertop Spray:

I consider this to be my OG essential oil home recipe – it’s one that comes from my mother-in-law. I think using lemon essential oil is key here, as it give the whole combination a bright, energizing aroma, plus it’s a fantastic disinfectant.

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 20 drops lemon oil

Combine all of the ingredients in a spritzer and shake before use. Don’t use on granite or stone countertops. The lemon spray will last for 12 months, though you’ll use it up before then.

Check out these amazing DIY face mask recipes from Joanna Vargas or read how olive oil can be implemented in your beauty routine.

*Feature image by Steve Hiett for Harper’s Bazaar Germany. 

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