Natural Cleaning Solutions
Numerous natural cleaning solution recipes call for the use of essential oils.What exactly are essential oils? You may ask. This document answers thatquestion and explores some specific oils.An oil is a hydrophobic liquid. Hydro relates to water. Phobic means a fear ordislike of. Thus, oils do not dissolve in water
hence the expression “oil andwater do not mix.” The “essential” part of “essential oils” mean that they are
derived directly from the plant and carry the scent of the plant.Many essential oils are extracted from plants by distillation, in a process notunlike how crude oil is separated into its various parts. Plant materials areheated, usually with steam. As the steam contacts the plant materials, it heatsthem so much that the oils in the plants turn into vapor and rise. This steam andgaseous oil mixture is then channeled through coils, where it cools. As the oilvapor cools, it returns to its liquid state and gets collected. This is the essentialoil. A miniscule amount of the oil remains in the steam; when the steamliquefies, the result is water that has tiny oil droplets suspended in it. This liquid
is called an “herbal distillate,” a hydrosol, or a plant water
essence. Rose waterand orange blossom water are 2 common herbal distillates that are commerciallyavailable.
Oil of thyme
, once extracted, if further processed to derive a chemicalcompound called Thymol. Because of its antiseptic properties, it is used as aningredient in some disinfectants, such as those made by Seventh Generation.Thymol was used by some Native American tribes to treat skin infections; it wasalso used by the Ancient Egyptians to preserve mummies.
Tea tree oil
is another essential oil with antiseptic properties. In a studyreported in the
Journal of Hospital Infection
J Hosp Infect.
2004 Apr;56(4):283-6.],tea tree oil was as effective as traditional drug therapies in treating MRSA(Methicillin-resistant
) infections. The essential oil alsotreats dandruff and head lice. Caution: If you choose to add tea tree oil tohomemade cleaners, you must take care not to ingest it, because it is toxic.
is also used as a disinfectant. Cleaning products made with pine oil arewidely available and relatively inexpensive.
Lavender and lemon oils
are used in natural cleaning solutions mainly for theirpleasant smell.