Hands wringing rag into soapy bucket

3 Recipes For DIY Household Cleaners

The secret to effective—and great-smelling—home cleaners? Essential oils.

April 1, 2015

You might already clean with baking soda or vinegar instead of synthetic chemicals. (In which case, A-plus.) But for sparkling rooms that also deliver a little aromatherapy treatment, try making easy household cleaners from herb-based essential oils.

Essential oils, in short, are plants in their purest form. They can be up to a hundred times more concentrated than dry herbs, says Charlynn Avery, an aromatherapist with essential oil authority Aura Cacia.


The essences boost all-around wellbeing. “For most people, house cleaning isn’t exactly a spiritual exercise,” she says. “But adding the effects and properties of essential oils to your products can enhance the experience and the effectiveness of your task.”

Related: The Only 10 Things You Need To Buy To Make All Your Own Cleaning Products

And the oils have proven antibacterial and antifungal powers, so yes, you are actually killing germs in addition to getting your whiff on. In medicine, some essential oils are even used to treat respiratory tract infections and inflammation. Plus, with herbal products, you’ll dodge the potentially hazardous ingredients found in many cleaning-aisle options.

Some of the best oils for cleaning, says Avery, are lemon and tea tree. Each has different strengths: Lemon is a potent deodorizer, and like citrus overall, works great on surfaces like countertops. Tea tree is one of the best multipurpose oils for air sprays and works wonders on high-traffic floors (try adding 15 to 20 drops to your mop water). Refreshing peppermint, which acts as a mild pest repellant (in case you’re harboring a bug or mouse situation), and calming lavender are two more favorites.

Here’s how to use them, or any essential oil, of your choice:

Window Cleaner

Mix 4 tablespoons vinegar and 12 drops lemon essential oil in a 22- to 32-ounce spray bottle. Fill with water, and spray onto dirty windows. Wipe dry with well-crumpled newspapers for extra shine.

Tub Scrub

Thoroughly mix 1 cup baking soda, 24 drops tea tree essential oil, and 24 drops grapefruit essential oil. Rinse tub, sprinkle powder over the surface, and scrub with a brush. Rinse well.


Fabric Softener

Dissolve 2 tablespoons baking soda in ½ cup vinegar, stir in ½ teaspoon lavender, and add to rinse cycle water or fabric softener compartment.

Be sure to store your oils or oil-based concoctions in a cool, dark place. Because they smell familiar and pleasant, says Avery, they should be kept away from kids and pets. (“Natural doesn’t always mean gentle.”)

And if you’re making big batches to use for the long haul, store in glass or another non-leaching material without the potential to interact with the oils and botch your formula.