Before I discovered aromatherapy, I had a hard time keeping my house clean and smelling fresh. Lingering odors and chemical-based synthetic cleaning products were all I had. Just imagine relying on bleach for cleaning. Bleach is toxic and just smells nasty. And you definitely don’t want to get it on your clothes. Windex and other commercially-sold cleaners are also pretty harsh.
In the fall of 2013, thanks to Facebook, I started learning about creating my own natural cleaning products in the privacy and comfort of my own home. Within a few months, I began collecting a staple of simple and natural ingredients that were inexpensive, yet highly effective for cleaning and freshening kitchens, bathrooms, etc.
Have you heard of liquid Castile soap? It’s a soap that is made from olive oil. Yes, the same oil that is used in cooking can actually be used to make a concentrated, gentle and powerful soap. You can make it at home if you are so inclined, and here is a link to a YouTube video that teaches you how to make liquid soap from vegetable oils, although this version is not quite 100 percent pure Castile soap.
I’ve made several batches of liquid soap, and I decided that it’s just too much work. Besides, I have a flagship product that I’m very passionate about, and would rather invest my time and energy in marketing that. I buy my liquid Castile soap from Bulk Apothecary. Before I learned about Castile soap, I used to spend a lot more money on cleaning products. Castile soap, while more expensive than most store-bought liquid soaps, is concentrated, gentle and highly versatile. Your cleaning dollars will go further by using this type of soap. A little goes a long way.
Plain white vinegar is a highly effective cleaning fluid. It works well on most surfaces, although you don’t want to use it on granite or marble because the acidity of the vinegar can damage the surface. Since vinegar is acidic, it creates a hostile environment for germs and bacteria, and it also removes odors. Never mix vinegar with bleach. (1), (2)
Everclear or plain vodka are highly effective cleaning and disinfecting fluids, and smell far better than isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). After a few iterations, I created an all-purpose cleaning fluid that I call LLTTB. It comprises water, vodka or Everclear, liquid Castile soap, and essential oils of lemon, lime, tea tree and basil. It smells fresh and cleans most surfaces quite effectively. Alcohol is safe to use on surfaces such as granite or marble, unlike vinegar.
You’ve most likely heard that baking soda is a gentle abrasive cleaner. It’s effective on many different types of surfaces. The small particle size ensures that a surface such as glass won’t get scratched. Want an easy way to clean your bathtub? Pre-mix some baking soda with lemon and tea tree essential oils. Then sprinkle the baking soda on the bathtub floor. After spreading the baking soda around, add some vinegar and start scrubbing. Why did I specify lemon and tea tree oil? They are known for their antibacterial and antifungal properties, which make them ideal for cleaning. This technique will also work very well for bathroom and kitchen sinks and countertops, as long as they are not granite or marble.
Stinky toilets are a common problem for most folks like myself. Not everyone cleans his/her toilet everyday. Here is a quick and easy toilet cleaning technique. Pour some white vinegar into the toilet and scrub it with a toilet brush in the usual manner. You could use liquid Castile soap instead, if you wish. Spray the underside of the seat with LLTB cleaning fluid and wipe down. Flush the toilet when it is fully clean. After the toilet refills, add three to six drops of an essential oil. Lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit and pine are all great choices, as these are all associated with freshness and cleanliness.
Important: Don’t mix Castile soap with vinegar; doing so will reverse-saponify the soap. In other words, the soap will revert back to the original vegetable oils that were used to make the soap in the first place. (3)
Kitchen odors are a common problem that aromatherapy can readily solve. To freshen up your kitchen, boil a pot of water on the stove, and then add a few drops of an essential oil such as citrus. You can put a few drops of essential oil in your garbage disposal as well. I’ve heard that grinding up lemon rinds in the sink garbage disposal will clean it out and remove odors. Lemon is well known for its odor mitigating characteristics.
The nice thing about creating your own cleaning products is that you have the freedom to cherry-pick your raw ingredients to come up with something unique and inexpensive. Here is a list of ingredients you should always have on hand:
- Baking soda
- White vinegar
- Vodka (plain) or Everclear
- Liquid castile soap
- Lavender essential oil
- Lemon essential oil (lime is a good alternative)
- Pine essential oil (fir needle, spruce, Balsam fir are also good choices)
- Orange essential oil (mandarin, tangerine or grapefruit are good alternatives)
- Peppermint essential oil (spearmint is a good alternative)
- Spray bottles of different sizes (I recommend 2, 4 or 8-ounce glass bottles for essential oils because citrus oils degrade plastic)
You can also make a spray for refreshing linens such as bed sheets. Single guys, I’m talking to you specifically! I know you change your bed sheets on average once every month or two. If you’re too lazy to change your sheets more often, you can at least spray them down daily with this version of homemade Febreze.
Fill a two-ounce glass spray bottle with 1/2 water, 1/4 vodka or Everclear, and add about a total of 30 drops of essential oils of pine and orange for a nice and clean woodsy-citrus scent that won’t smell feminine. Top off the bottle with more vodka or water. Yes, you can drink the leftover vodka if you want. But please don’t put any essential oils in the vodka.
To recap, the raw ingredients I listed above are affordable and versatile. They will give you plenty of options for creating cleaning products for the home that are non-toxic, non-irritating (when diluted properly) and smell fresh and clean. If you’re a guy reading this, I promise you that your pad won’t smell girly. And the woman in your life will appreciate you all the more. Do you have any natural cleaning tips you’d like to share? Feel free to comment in the form below.
Essential Living – Aromatherapy Recipes for Health & Home by Andrea Butje.