Their germ-fighting abilities make essential oils superb natural household cleansers. “The easiest way to mix them is to add essential oils to a spray bottle filled with water, shake it, and spray whatever needs cleaning,” says Jade Shutes, founder of the East West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies in Willow Springs, North Carolina, and author of the book Aromatherapy for Bodyworkers (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007). Or create a high concentration (about 40 to 60 drops per 4 ounces of water) and use as an air freshener. To clean dishes, floors, and counters, add a touch of unscented dish soap and 5 to 10 drops of the oil of your choosing to a sink filled with 1 to 3 gallons of hot water. Another good option for people who want that clean-house smell but don’t want to bombard their family with synthetic fragrance: Add oils to unscented dish soap and laundry detergent. For example, mix 3 to 5 drops of the essential oil of your choice with an unscented laundry detergent before each load.
Essentials: A drop of lavender or frankincense adds a light aromatic touch to clean laundry. But for cleaning purposes, Shutes prefers lemon or lemongrass, which are antimicrobial and have an uplifting, energizing effect. Always wear rubber gloves when cleaning with lemongrass, as it can cause dermatitis in sensitive skin. Tea tree, which was noted for its antimicrobial properties in a 2006 review from the American Society for Microbiology, is another effective option.