Healthy Home

Thoughts and tips on fast, easy, natural ways to stop your home from becoming a festering pit (ok…except for the teen’s room. just shut that door and run away!)

Essential info about essential oils and home use

You see them everywhere. Sold at the grocery store, health food store, pharmacy, online, home goods stores, in candles, lotions, and various other potions. Essential oils.

You’ve all heard of them. Most of  you have probably purchased them. But what are they? How do we use them?

Think about the last time you ate an orange. When you pulled back the peel, you smelled that wonderful, distinctive ‘orange’ smell and probably saw a few drops of liquid spray out. Put simply, that liquid is the orange’s essential oil. Put more technically, essential oils are chemically complex mixes of various biochemical compounds that form the aromatic part of plants.

It’s the stuff that makes plants smell good.

Ok, back to the orange. That spray you saw when you peeled it? It probably wasn’t even a full drop. Now think about the little bottles of essential oil you can buy at the store. How many oranges do you think it took to fill one of those? Each drop of essential oil is the product of massive amounts of plant material. Just how massive depends on the plant type – some give off more than others – but in all cases it’s, well….it’s a LOT. Plant materials typically have around 1% essential oil, although some are as low as .015% and some are as high as 2% – so 1 oz of that delicious smelling orange essential oil is derived from around 100 pounds of oranges. That’s a lot of fruit.

All that to say…be careful. Essential oils are highly concentrated and very potent. They should never be taken internally (unless prescribed by a doctor specifically trained in their safe use) and they should never be applied to the skin undiluted. As they have become more popular, and more people are using and selling them, there has become a huge influx of misinformation, and injuries are occurring as a result.

If you want to use essential oils in your home – and I think you should! – then follow these simple guidelines:

  1. DO NOT INGEST!
  2. Always dilute – if you would like to use them topically, then always heavily dilute them – say 1-2 drops in a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil.
  3. If you want to use them in the bath, mix 3-5 drops with some milk or oil. Otherwise, they float on the surface of the water and can cause skin irritation.
  4. Inhalation is one of the best ways to use essential oils at home. Put a couple drops on a cotton ball or your sheet under your pillow, purchase a cool mist diffuser, or put a few drops in a pot of water on the stove. Keep an eye on the time, and only diffuse for about 30 minutes. Your whole house will smell wonderful!

I’ll share some of my personal favorite blends and ways to use them in a couple of weeks.

Do you use essential oils? How? Do you notice any differences since you switched? Tell me in the comments below!

A safe, natural (and cheap!) disinfectant

For those of you who know me, this is going to be old news. I’ve been preaching about the effectiveness of this particular disinfecting combo for years. So if you’ve heard me go on about this one too many times (yes, you, sister dear), feel free to look away. But, for those who are new to the natural life, or are taking the next step in converting your household to safer products, read on.

Let’s start by looking at the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Cleaning is simply removing any visible dust, dirt or other gunk that may be on your surfaces. This is what most of us do in our daily (ok, ok…weekly) housekeeping routine. Dusting, wiping down the counters, mopping…this is all cleaning. Sanitizing takes cleaning up a notch. It reduces most of the bacteria on the surface, but does not affect viruses or fungi. It also does not kill all of the bacteria – just most. This is good for most daily applications, but will not be helpful during flu season, or when the stomach bug is going through the house. For the ‘ultimate in clean’ you want to disinfect. Disinfecting kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi, so it will help prevent the spread of those dreaded winter diseases such as flu, and all those viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea.

When I’m cleaning, I don’t bother with sanitizing – I go straight for disinfecting. We entertain often, and I want to make sure that we A) aren’t making our guests sick, and B) aren’t getting sick from our guests. My husband also travels frequently for work, and I want to make sure that anything he brings home gets killed before it makes us ill. So I want a disinfectant solution that will kill most of the nasties out there, yet be gentle and safe enough to use around my kids. Bleach works well, but the fumes are nasty and it’s definitely not safe if the kids were to get hold of the container. There are many commercial products out there as well – both claiming to be natural and not, but they don’t have to list their ingredients and I worry about them reacting with other cleansers. Not to mention, many still aren’t safe if the kiddos were to get hold of the container. Fortunately, the web is full of information. A few years ago I came across a study (article about it here) that examined a combo of vinegar and peroxide. It was found that the two, sprayed one after the other on a surface and left to air dry, were extremely effective as a disinfectant. Not only effective, but safe. This combo is so gentle that it can be used on fruits and veggies as well as all your hard surfaces.

To use you will need a few things:

2 spray bottles (one opaque)

white vinegar (the basic bottle found at the grocery)

hydrogen peroxide (3%, found at any pharmacy, grocery, or Walmart/Target type store)

essential oils (optional)

In one bottle, pour straight white vinegar. Don’t dilute it. If you wish, you can add some essential oils. Tea tree, lemon, orange, thyme, or rosemary are all good choices. Add the spray cap and set aside.

In the opaque bottle, pour the hydrogen peroxide, add the spray cap, and set aside. Again, don’t dilute and you may add essential oils if you wish.

And that’s it! After you clean your surfaces just mist them with vinegar and follow immediately with a mist of peroxide. Let air dry and say goodbye to the nasties. I use this on doorknobs, light switches, sink and toilet handles, countertops, and anything else that I think needs something more than soap and water.

Some notes:

The hydrogen peroxide must be in an opaque bottle. Exposure to sunlight causes it to break down. I can often find it sold already in a spray bottle.

If you add the essential oils, I would not use this on food. Many are not safe to ingest.

Your surfaces must be clean (free from dust, dirt, and other organic matter) before you spray. Otherwise, the solution is blocked from reaching the microbes.