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Top 5 Essential Oils for Natural Cleaning

Updated on February 12, 2016

When I first got started using essential oils, I quickly became overwhelmed by the shear number of oils out there. I was excited to get started using oils in my household cleaning routines but I didn't know where to start. I knew about the importance of choosing quality oils if I wanted to be able to count on their antimicrobial properties, but I didn't want to break the bank trying to accumulate every oil I thought I would eventually need for my collection.

Thankfully, I soon discovered that 3-5 oils are enough to make antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, disinfecting cleaners for every area of your house.

While you can use just about any essential oil for your natural cleaning, these five oils are my top five favorites for green cleaning. They are inexpensive and pack a big antimicrobial punch, and will make your house smell great! Choose even one of the powerful disinfecting oils and one of the powerfully scented oils and you'll be in business.

Watch Dr. Mercola's Interview with a Scientist who has Studied Household Products

1. Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Oil)

I just can't say enough about this oil. Melaleuca oil, better know as tea tree oil, is extracted from the leaves of an Australian paper bark tree. It is known to be extremely effective against bacteria, viruses, and fungi (molds), and is anti-parasitic and insecticidal, making it an excellent alternative to bleach, and other chemical anti-microbials. In fact, it has 12 times the antiseptic (disinfectant) power of phenols (chemical disinfectants).**

Tea tree oil is of course, non toxic and perfectly safe to use around small children and babies. It blends well with citrus oils, rosemary, lavender and eucalyptus.

Use this oil to make:

  • All-natural sanitizing spray, as an alternative to Lysol.
  • Kitchen all-purpose cleaner
  • Bathroom cleaner
  • Dish Soap

**This information was taken from the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Tea Tree Oil is Effective Against

Microbe Type
1% or less
includes MRSA, ecoli and Streptococcus, and even bacteria resistant to antibiotics!
2% or less
effective against Aspergillus niger, knowm to be impervious to chemical agents, at 8% concentration
Known to reduce viruses by 93-98%
Information taken from the US Library of Medicine/ National Institutes of Health

Learn More about Citricidal, the GSE I Recommend.

2. Grapefruit Seed Extract

Okay, Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) is technically an extract made from the pulp, seeds and membranes of grapefruit, not an essential oil, but it made this list because of it's amazing antiseptic properties.

It has been extensively studied and found to be a non-toxic, environmentally safe and bio-degradable, broad spectrum antimicrobial, purifier, and disinfectant, effectively killing more than 800 viruses and bacteria and 100 types of fungi. Read the report here or the study abstract here.

Studies show it to be 10 to 100 times more effective than bleach, isopropyl alcohol and colloidal silver at killing viruses and bacteria, including influenza, herpes, e-coli, salmonella, strept and staph bacterias. You can learn more here.

It's also an effective anti-parasitic, killing a variety of parasites including pinworms.

To date, there is no evidence that bacteria can build up a tolerance to grapefruit seed extract, and when ingested sparingly, GSE kills bad bacteria, but leaves healthy gut bacteria alive and well.


  • Add 10-15 drops in the final rinse cycle washing machine to kill pathogens
  • Add 10-15 drops to carpet cleaner reservoir to kill pathogens in carpet.
  • Use 2-3 drops with water in a spray bottle to use as a produce spray (rinse afterwards! GSE is very bitter)
  • In a pinch, use 10-25 drops/ gallon of water to purify water (water will taste bitter)
  • use 5-10 drops to natural all-purpose spray to make it a disinfectant cleaner
  • Add 5 drops to disinfectant spray to boost disinfectant properties
  • use a few drops to make natural hand sanitizer or antibacterial hand wash
  • Use when cleaning up chicken and other raw meats.

Note: Some studies have indicated that the disinfectant properties of GSE are due to chemical contaminants such as Triclosan and Benzethonian Chloride, however, one explanation for this may be that naturally occurring chemicals in GSE are known to be very similar in molecular weight and structure (and mistaken for) to those known-to-be-toxic, man-made chemicals we are trying to avoid.

Additionally, maximum strength GSE, known as Citricidal, as well as other brands of GSE have been used for decades with no reports of side effects or toxicity. Citricidal tests each batch to ensure that those worrisome chemicals are not present in their GSE. You can read more about Citricidal here.

3. Essential Oil of Lemon

How many other scents scream, "clean!" like the scent of lemon? Of course, that lemon scent in commercial cleaners is actually a mixture of man-made chemicals formulated to smell like lemon. They may smell similar to real lemon, but they simply a blend of synthetic chemicals. They add no benefits to your cleaner and actually add to your toxic load. Get rid of "lemon scented," and switch to the real thing.

Real lemon essential oil is cold pressed from lemon rinds--thousands of lemon rinds. In fact, it takes 3000 lemons to produce one kilo of oil. That's a lot of lemons! Not only will lemon essential give your DIY cleaners that fresh, clean scent, but it is also known to be a natural de-greaser, anti-septic, anti-fungal and anti-viral. Plus, lemon oil, like all citrus oils are some of the most inexpensive oils out there.


  • Add Lemon EO to DIY floor cleaner, dish soap, bathroom cleaner and more to fight grease and grime.
  • Remove gum and sticky residues
  • Combine with baking soda for a natural refrigerator deodorizer
  • Combine with rubbing alcohol and water for a DIY odor eliminator spray.
  • Add a few drops to your carpet cleaner to brighten and freshen carpets
  • Combine with oil for a DIY wood cleaner
  • Add a fresh scent to your DIY cleaning recipes
  • Add a few drops to floor cleaner to shine floors
  • Add a few drops to laundry to brighten clothes, or to dryer balls for a fresh scent without the chemical dryer sheets.

4. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is actually produced right here in North America. It's distilled from the leaves, stems and flower buds of, you guessed it, the peppermint plant. Guess what else. It is also a natural disinfectant, and is anti-viral, and antibacterial.

Peppermint oil mixes well with the other oils on this list and has an invigorating scent profile.


  • Add to DIY disinfectant sprays and cleaners
  • Combine with baking soda for a natural sink, tub, tile and toilet cleaner
  • Freshen carpets

5. Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil is distilled from the Eucalyptus tree, a native of Australia and Brazil. It is known to have antibacterial, anti-infectious, antiseptic, and antiviral properties. It also repels insects. Studies show that this oil may be a promising alternative to chemical antibacterial agents to combat pathogenic microorganisms.

Eucalyptus oil combines beautifully with Lemon Oil as well as the other oils on this list and with its immense medicinal benefits (more on that in a later article), it really is one of the more versatile oils out there. It's another really cost effective oil to get you started.


  • combine with other oils to make a natural insect repellent
  • disinfectant sprays and cleaners
  • sanitizers and hand soaps

Other Popular Essential Oils for Cleaning Your Home

I chose these five oils because they are powerful, effective, blend well together, and are economical for natural cleaning newbies. Of course, these aren't the only essential oils that are great for cleaning your home, but I had to limit the list to just five.

Other fantastic essential oils for cleaning include lavender, grapefruit, sweet orange and cinnamon. I prefer the citrus and peppermint scents for cleaning because they are uplifting, energizing and are scents others associate with "clean."

Additional Natural Cleaning Supplies You'll Need to Get Started

Okay, you have ordered the oils, and that's great, but you are going to a few more things in your cleaning cabinet to get started.

You'll also need:

  • A few spray bottles, and soap bottles: You can purchase new bottles or clean out those containers from the cleaners you will no longer be using.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Oil and water do not mix, and that goes for essential oils as well. They will, however mix with rubbing alcohol, which will mix with water. Rubbing alcohol also evaporates quickly, making it a staple for window cleaners and laminate floor cleaner.
  • White Vinegar: What a powerhouse! This is one natural cleaner you cannot do without. It deodorizes, brightens, cleans and even disinfects. No wonder it's one of the three main components for most DIY cleaners.
  • Baking soda: a natural deodorizer, and is abrasive enough to use in your kitchen and bathroom cleaning.
  • Liquid Castile Soap: This natural soap is crucial for several DIY cleaners, including dish soaps, floor cleaners and cleaning sprays. Get the best quality you can; most recipes call for less than an ounce

Where to Buy Essential Oils

You may be wondering where you should be purchasing your oils. Unfortunately, due to unjust FDA regulations, I cannot recommend any particular company. I can give you some guidelines to follow; however. I hope to write another article that lists essential oil companies and their pros and cons, but for now, you'll have to spend a little more time doing your own research.

You can purchase oils from many natural health stores, through, MLM companies or an essential oil company's direct website. I have included links to oils on Amazon, however, I do not necessarily recommend the particular brands. You will need to use your own best judgement as to which brand is right for you.

So, what should you be looking for in an Essential Oil Company?

  • The company has full control over the distillation process (or at least one that tests every single batch to ensure the proper chemical makeup). If you want to use oils therapeutically (and being able to count on those antimicrobial properties), this is very important. Many cheaper brands buy already distilled oils and have no control over the quality of oil produced and cannot be relied upon to produce the desired results.
  • The company uses organic growing and harvesting and specifically states that they do not use solvents in the distillation process. Otherwise, toxic chemicals could be present in the oils.
  • The company should sell only therapeutic grade and should send out regular samples for testing through an independent lab to ensure quality. They should specifically state that they do not sell oils that do not meet that standard.
  • Watch out for cheap oils. It takes thousands of pounds of plant material to make 1 pound of essential oil. You may not need to go with the most expensive brand out there, but know that those cheap brands are likely diluted--so you are really getting maybe 20 drops of essential oil in that 30ML bottle of "essential oil." Many brands of oils are extracted using solvents or higher temperatures, or for the wrong amount of time, giving an impure and ineffective oil. At best, they are not good for anything other than making things smell nice; at worst, they contain VOCs that are adding to your toxic load.

Due to current FDA regulation, no Essential Oil company is allowed to make any type of medicinal claim about their oils, even when scientific studies back up those claims. They are not even allowed to repeat the findings of these studies.

This does NOT say anything about the medicinal and therapeutic qualities of essential oils. It does, however, say a heck of a lot about the FDA and it's current ties to big pharma and the chemical companies. I can only say that before you trust the FDA's position on Essential Oils, you must do your own research and look up these studies for yourself.

One More Important Note About Quality

Essential oils are made up of naturally occurring chemicals, called "chemical constitutes." These chemicals are what gives essential oils their various medicinal, therapeutic, and disinfectant abilities. In fact, scientists often recreate these chemicals in the lab to make medicines, and cleaners.

The amount of each chemical present in a batch of essential oils' can vary from distillery to distillery and even batch to batch, depending on growing, harvesting and distilling conditions. However, for an essential oil to be effective, it's chemical constituents must fall within certain ranges, which can be tested for.

Always purchase essential oils from a reputable company. That company should send samples from every batch to be tested to ensure the chemical constituents fall within acceptable ranges.

Know that companies who have their own standards for their own oils will usually sell off batches that do not meet their standards to companies who then sell the oils at cheaper prices. To keep their prices down, many of these more inexpensive brands dilute the pure oil with carrier oils. In fact, thanks to the FDA, companies can label a bottle 100% pure Essential Oil as long as the bottle contains 5% pure essential oil. That means a 30 ML bottle of 100% pure essential oil could contain 28.5MLs carrier oil and just 1.5MLs essential oils and they don't have to label it as such.

Pure, high quality essential oils may be more expensive up front, but they will perform as expected and will last a lot longer. Just remember, you get what you pay for.

It is important to note that "therapeutic grade" is NOT a term regulated by the FDA. Unfortunately, the FDA does not recognize the medicinal or therapeutic benefits of Essential Oils, even though the research supporting these benefits are numerous.

"Therapeutic grade" is, however, the term used to describe oils whose chemical constituents fall within the ranges known (through scientific studies) to give oils their medicinal and therapeutic properties.

Read more about the FDA and Essential Oils here.

I am working on a list of cleaning recipes. Please check back.

What household cleaners have you made and what are your favorite oils to use? Let us know in the comment section below!


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