Herbs aren’t only useful as culinary ingredients. They’re powerful as medicinal cures, herbal teas, or homemade cleaners. I love to grow my own food and other ingredients I can use to make natural options for everyday necessities. In this article, I’ll show you how you can clean your home naturally using healthy, common garden herbs. You’ll also learn how to make your own essential oils to use and find recipes for my favorite homemade cleaners below. Read on!
Equipment You May Need
If you’ve never made your own essential oils from garden herbs, or created herbal cleaning solutions, you may need to pick up a few utensils.
Collect measuring spoons and cups, a narrow funnel, and either a glass or stainless-steel bowl to mix the ingredients. Otherwise, the oils could seep into the plastic or ceramic bowel you’re using before you can adequately combine the ingredients.
You’ll also need spray bottles, jars, and other containers to hold and store the solutions. Label the containers clearly using a marker and tape so you remember what’s in each. By making your own oils, you know exactly what’s in them and can always find the options you want.
How to Make Essential Oils from Garden Herbs
Before you can make many homemade cleaners, you may need to turn your garden herbs into essential oils (EO). Rather than buying expensive pre-made EO, you can make your own at home.
Most people use a steam distillation method to draw the oils from plants. This process involves simmering the plant, and the steam produced travels through a tube where it cools and condenses into a liquid oil compound. However, this option is much too expensive for many because it requires purchasing a pricey still.
An easier way to complete this process at home without sacrificing EO quality is to use your crockpot. Here’s what you need:
- Crockpot with a lid
- Distilled water
- 3-4 cups of chopped herbs
- Labels and markers
Start by filling the crockpot at least halfway full of the herb of your choice and cover with the distilled water. Fresh herbs work better than dried. Ensure the water doesn’t take over more than 3/4 of the crockpot. Next, put the lid on upside down. I know it sounds weird, but the concave structure allows the steam to return to the pot. If your crockpot doesn’t have an ideal lid, try using a plate instead.
Turn the crockpot on high until the water is hot. Next, lower the temperature setting to low and simmer for 3-4 hours. Once the plant material is fully cooked, turn off the crockpot and allow everything to cool.
After the crockpot is cool, place it in the fridge. If your pot won’t fit, you can move the liquid to a container first. Allow the liquid to chill overnight. The following day, take the crockpot out of the fridge. You’ll notice a thin film of oil on top that feels hard to the touch. Carefully lift this solidified oil from the water and move it into a container with a pour spout. Make sure to move quickly, as the mixture melts fast.
Storing Your Oils
Let this oil melt back into liquid form, then pour it into a bottle or jar, and label the contents clearly. A small amount of water in the container is fine, as you can always gently heat the oil to create steam once more and release the water from the mixture. If you heat the oil too long, however, it may lose potency.
I suggest you store the essential oil in an amber or cobalt glass container, which extends their longevity (and looks beautiful). Store them away from heat or bright light for the best results. Keep in mind that you may also need to use much more of the EO than you would with a store-bought option. DIY essential oils aren’t as strong, so make sure you use smell tests and trial and error when making homemade cleaners for the first time.
You’ll also need quite a large amount of herbs. As you can see, this recipe calls for 3-4 cups of fresh herbs and results in only around a few teaspoons of essential oils after quite a large chunk of time. Chopping or crushing the herbs before placing them in the crockpot helps increase the surface volume, allowing more oils to escape from the plant matter.
While this is my favorite way to make EO because it’s cheap and easy, there are many other techniques you can use.
DIY Healthy Homemade Cleaners with Popular Garden Herbs
Without further ado, here are my favorite healthy homemade cleaners you can make with popular garden herbs. Some of the recipes require you to first make an essential oil using the herb, others use dried herbs directly.
1. Rosemary: Natural All-Purpose Spray
Use the rosemary in your herb garden to create a natural all-purpose cleaning spray you can use around the house. The mixture takes around 2-4 weeks to cure, and you need to gather a few springs of rosemary along with some orange peels.
Steep these in a jar of white vinegar for a few weeks, then strain out the solution and mix with equal parts water. Place the mixture in a spray bottle for easy use as needed. Rosemary offers strong disinfecting properties, which keeps your home clean and smelling great.
2. Lemon Balm: All-Purpose Cleaner
Lemon is also a tough de-greaser, and it comes with fresh, clean scents perfect for cleaning the kitchen. The scent even relieves fatigue, tension, and depression. People use lemon balm to repel insects, clean the kitchen table, or disinfect any surface.
Collect a handful (approximately 1/2 cup) of lemon balm leaves from your herb garden, placing them in a jar with 1 1/2 cups of white vinegar. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 2 weeks, then strain the leaves out and pour the solution into a spray bottle.
Add in another 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 30 drops of another essential oil with an excellent (and complimentary) scent. Try lavender, eucalyptus, mint, rosemary, or tea tree oil. Then, use the spray the mixture as you would any normal all-purpose cleaner.
3. Oregano: Natural Bleach Alternative and Laundry Alternative
Oregano is an antimicrobial that’s powerful enough to kill a norovirus before it can attack your body. As a result, this herb is a perfect, non-toxic alternative to bleach. Its antimicrobial properties also provide many useful cleaning benefits. You can use it to clean surfaces you use to cook and even for handwashing.
Although oregano doesn’t work quite as well as the bleach, it doesn’t come with harmful chemicals and noxious fumes.
Next time you want to grab the bleach for your white laundry, try adding a few drops of oregano oil to your unscented laundry detergent instead. The amount you add depends on your needs, and you can use the oil in equal amounts as you would bleach. Shake well before using.
4. Eucalyptus: Bathroom Cleaner
With its antibacterial and antiviral properties, eucalyptus pairs nicely with tea tree oil to create homemade cleaners for the bathroom. Tea tree oil offers antibacterial properties as well, but the eucalyptus smells much nicer.
Studies show that tea tree oil is also effective against viruses and fungus, which makes the oil a go-to for cleaning after family members have been ill. Mix 5-6 drops of each oil with water in a spray bottle to easily clean the bathroom sink, shower, faucet handles, and counter surfaces daily.
5. Lavender – Carpet Cleaner
Lavender is a powerful herb with many uses, including being an excellent deodorizer and disinfectant. Make homemade natural carpet cleaner with a cup of baking soda and around 10 to 12 drops of lavender essential oil. Sprinkle the mixture on your carpet, and wait 30 minutes before vacuuming. Your home won’t just smell fresh: you’ll feel more relaxed and calm as well.
6. Clove: Tile Grout and Mold Prevention
Many people only know clove as an ingredient in spiced apple cider during autumn. However, the herb also offers antiseptic and antifungal properties, which make it perfect for combating household mold. Make sure you have 100% clove oil, and add 1/2 teaspoon to a spray bottle filled with water.
Spray the solution to sit on tile grout and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Then use a scrub brush to wipe away stubborn grime. You can also spray clove mixtures on an area and allow it to dry completely, to prevent mold from growing back.
7. Mint: Insect Repellent
Mint offers a clean, fresh aroma, and the oil derived from it also works as a natural pesticide. All you must do is mix 1/2 a teaspoon of peppermint oil and 1/2 a teaspoon of Dawn dish soap with water. If you put the mixture in a spray bottle, you can easily repel insects in and around your home, such as flies, ants, and spiders.
Spray around windows and doors to keep bugs out. Some people like to include 1/2 a teaspoon of lemon juice for additional scent.
8. Bay Leaves – Repel Insects
Normally used to add flavor to stews and soup, bay leaves can also help you repel any type of six-legged pests. Keep these critters from your food by placing a few dried bay leaves on pantry shelves. Alternatively, if you have a kitchen door, try hanging a spring to dry just inside the door.
A Few Other Housekeeping Tips
Other homemade cleaners may allow you to never buy purchase supermarket chemicals again. There’s something for every area of your home. You can also combine the above oils to make other homemade cleaners, such as the popular lemon and mint window wash. This alternative to Windex is simple to make in seconds.
Here are a few other housekeeping tips using natural herbs:
- Add a couple of drops of aromatic oil to your vacuum filter bag to make the entire house smell wonderful.
- Scatter dried herbs like rosemary, lavender, or rose petals under your upholstered chair and couch cushions for fresh scents each time you sit down.
- If you have smelly clothes no matter how often you do laundry, try adding a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil to a hand towel or a scrap of fabric. Then toss that in with your clothes when you put them in the dryer. They’ll come out smelling amazing!
- Kids make messes with craft glue all the time. Add a couple of drops of orange oil to a coffee filter to easily remove glue from a window, mirror, or glass surface.