Do you ever stop to think about how much you spend on household cleaners, your skincare products, and your perfumes? And if all those chemicals are both necessary and good for you as well? As an essential oils advocate, I thought it would be interesting to compare the costs and benefits of commercial products against those made with more natural ingredients. So here’s how using just a few essential oils can save you money and deliver some powerful health benefits at the same time, PLUS be good for the environment. But first, a little introduction…
Why should I go Low Tox?
Did you know that the air inside our homes can be typically five times more toxic than the air outside and the average household can contain over 62 toxic and unsafe chemicals?
This is mainly due to the chemicals used in household cleaning products, air fresheners, fragrance sticks and incense, perfumes, fragranced candles, soaps, personal care products, skin care products and much more.
Many household cleaners and personal care products contain chemicals which can result in short and long term health problems. The vast majority of these chemicals have never been tested for long-term effects.
Many cleaners that are typically found under the kitchen sink give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which have been implicated in everything from asthma and other respiratory problems to cancer. Children are at greatest risk, since they’re both smaller than adults and are still growing.
Many of us tend to think anything sold in a supermarket must be safe, but often labels don’t contain complete and accurate information. Some common household cleaning products are actually classified as hazardous waste! Medical research studies have also shown that hormone (endocrine) disrupting chemicals can act together and have major cumulative effects on the body.
Some of the worst offenders are:
Often found in all-purpose cleaners. It’s a very effective degreaser and glass cleaner but its fumes are also highly irritating and it’s poisonous to aquatic life when poured down the drain. Plus, combining ammonia and bleach, for example, creates ammonia gas, which can be extremely dangerous breathed in.
Found in scouring powders, loo cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners, bleach and tap water. It is corrosive and caustic, which is why it’s used for drains but, again, is harmful for the environment. Its fumes alone can irritate or burn skin, eyes and lungs and if swallowed, it can cause vomiting or pulmonary edema – the filling of the lungs with fluid.
A known carcinogen that can also trigger asthma attacks, headaches, and skin and eye irritation. Often, it’s not actually listed as an ingredient, it may be part of another ingredient, like the sodium laureth sulfate commonly used in shampoos. And it’s also a preservative in many air fresheners.
Typically found in air fresheners, dish soap, perfume & even toilet paper. By Law, companies do not have to disclose what is in their scents and so you will not see phthalates on the label. If you see the word FRAGRANCE on a label, there is a good chance phthalates are present. Phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system.
Found in most liquid dishwashing detergents & hand soaps labelled “Antibacterial”. Triclosan is a known endocrine disruptor and a suspected carcinogen. It is also believed to have contributed to bacterial resistance.
Bisphenol A – BPA
Found in hard plastic water, drinks bottles & food storage containers. It is a hormone disruptor and High levels have been linked to infertility, heart disease and other health problems.
Found in window, kitchen & multipurpose cleaners. It can harm the eyes, skin, kidneys, and blood.
Found in oven and drain cleaners. Sodium hydroxide or Lye is extremely corrosive and can cause severe burns.
What can I use instead?
Don’t despair because making your own cleaning products is cost-effective, easy, good for you, and for the environment. The list below summarises an ingredient list for making your own DIY cleaners.
Shopping list for green cleaning recipes
• Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate), cleaning agent, removes odours.
• Washing Soda/Soda crystals (Sodium Carbonate), highly alkaline, removes dirt and odours, laundry detergent, cuts grease, disinfects, water softener.
• White Distilled Vinegar, an acid, cleaning agent, removes odours, water softener
• Liquid Castile Soap, (Olive, Coconut, and other vegetable oils)
• Organic Soap Flakes or granules (Organic Coconut and Soy or Palm)
• Organic Food Grade Vegetable Glycerine, natural component of fats and oils.
• Borax (Sodium Borate Decahydrate), sodium and boron – a natural mineral useful for cleaning, laundry brightening, stain removal, deodorising, and as an insecticide or pesticide
• Witch Hazel, acts as an emulsifier
• Epsom Salts, acts as an emulsifier
• Rock Salt, an abrasive
• Citric Acid, bitter acid found in fruits
• Essential Oils, for disinfecting and fragrance
• Glass Spray Bottles, Containers, Mixing Bowls
• Microfibre clothes for cleaning
All Purpose Cleaner
And, to show you how easy making your own products can be, here’s my favourite DIY recipe:
• 1 cup Water
• 1 cup Vinegar
• 2 tsp Liquid Castile Soap
• 15 drops Essential Oil of choice, eg, OnGuard, Lemon, Melaleuca, Eucalyptus
• Add all ingredients into a glass spray bottle. Soap will clump a little between uses. Shake well before spraying.
You can find a more comprehensive list of DIY cleaning recipes here. In the meantime, here’s something to think about: as well as smelling great, many essential oils have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and immunity boosting advantages too. Plus you can pick and choose your fragrance blend according to what health benefits and mood boosting effect you’re looking for.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are naturally occurring aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. And they protect the plants against environmental threats. When extracted or distilled, these same oils can provide beneficial health properties for us. Historically, people have used them for food preparation, beauty treatment, and multiple health-care practices too. doTERRAs oils undergo an extensive range of testing know as Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) Essential Oils so they are incredibly pure and potent. They are fabulous for using in a wide range of DIY household products:
Cost of commercial cleaner vs. cost of DIY green cleaner
Commercial cleaners range from £1.50 to £8.00 for 750ml (approx. cost £2/litre)
Or you can try:
Cost approx. £1.60 plus £1.99 for reusable glass bottle.
Why should I ditch my commercial air fresheners?
Did you realise that many synthetic air fresheners contain unlisted phthalates (pronounced thal-ates) (see Guardian article highlighting the health risks) as well as formaldehydes? And when phthalates release into the air they can be inhaled or land on the skin and absorbed into our bloodstreams? And phthalates are hazardous chemicals linked to hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, reproductive problems, allergies and asthma? That’s according to independent research carried out by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which independently tested 14 well-known commercial air fresheners.
I find that if I go into a room that has a synthetic air freshener, I often start to feel nauseous and get a headache. I know that whatever I’m breathing in isn’t good for my body.
So what can I use instead?
If you don’t want to release all these harmful toxins into the air but you still want your home or workplace to smell good then luckily, there’s a completely natural way to do this. With the added bonus that aromatherapy, or essential oils diffusion, can also support both your health and well-being at the same time.
Some essential oils induce uplifting or invigorating effects, while others are more calming. Because essential oils are quickly absorbed by the smell receptors, which have a direct link to the brain by way of the olfactory nerve, they can support a variety of functions including smell, emotions, behaviour, and memory.
One of my favourites to support our immune systems and clear the air is doTERRA’s OnGuard blend (a mix of Wild Orange, Clove, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary). You can find out more about which oils are good as mood enhancers and helpful for reducing stressful feelings here. And obviously, you can experiment to find out how each oil works best for you.
DIY air freshener recipe
In the meantime, if you want to try some quick, cheap, and easy DIY, here’s a fun way to make your own air freshener with only two ingredients — ¼ cup baking soda and 5–6 drops essential oils! Combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake. Tie a muslin over the top and top up when the scent starts to fade.
Cost of commercial air freshener vs. cost of DIY aromatherapy
Commercial plug ins cost around £8.00 to £50 with ongoing plug ins of around £5.00 each lasting 2-3 months.
Home made air freshener jar:
• One off jar 50p
• Bi-carb cost of £1 (can be replaced every 12-18 months)
• Essential oils 50p-£1 (lasts 1-2 months, oils can be topped up when smell starts to fade)
Home made reed diffuser:
• One off cost of jar 50p-£1,
• Reed sticks 50p (can be replaced every 12-18 months)
• Fractionated coconut oil £1.50 (can be replaced every 12-18 months),
• Essential oils 50p-£1 (lasts 1-2 months, oils can be topped up when smell starts to fade)
• One of cost £20-50
• Essential oils 10p-£1 per use (typically 4-8 hours)
Commercial hand lotions
Many hand creams and lotions feel silky and luxurious and can do a great job of making your hands feel soft and smooth. However, they may also contain a substance such as Cetearyl alcohol to keep the emulsion of oil and water together. And they sometimes contain a wide variety of other ingredients such as fragrances, glycerol, petroleum jelly, dyes, preservatives, and even proteins too. Suddenly, the pursuit of nourished and moisturised hands seems a lot more complicated, doesn’t it?
What can I try instead?
How much fun does making your own lotion bars sound? Here’s a recipe for some easy DIY ones made with just beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter, Lavender and Eucalyptus essential oils to leave your skin feeling soft and moisturised all day long (plus they’d make fabulous gifts as well, provided you can bear to give them away). Of course you can choose your own fragrance blends if you’d prefer a citrus, menthol, or spicy fragrance. This is the beauty of making your own skincare products: not only do you know exactly what’s in them, you can also choose whatever scents you love best.
Cost of commercial hand lotions vs. cost of DIY products
Commercial hand lotions typically cost from £5 to £40.
You can easily make your own for around £4-5 plus reusable container for around £1. Ingredients include:
• 1 x 60ml glass jar (approx. £1)
• 60ml doTERRA Hand & Body Lotion (£3)
• 10-15 drops doTERRA essential oils (£1-2)
Similarly, mouthwash can be a great addition to our oral hygiene routines. But not all mouthwashes are created equal, and some use more questionable ingredients than others. For instance, many commercial mouthwashes contain a high percentage of alcohol, sometimes up to 27%. Alcohol acts as a carrier agent for essential active ingredients such as menthol, eucalyptol and thymol which help to penetrate plaque. But alcohol is also a drying agent which encourages bacterial activity and can lead to bad breath!
What can I try instead?
One way to freshen your mouth without the worry is to create your own mouthwash using cleansing and essential oils instead. The simplest and easiest recipe I know uses 10 drops of essential oil (eg, Peppermint, Myrrh, Cinnamon, or On Guard) with 2 cups water, mixed in a bottle and shaken well before each use. Delicious, healthy, and effective, we love it.
Cost of commercial mouthwashes vs. cost of DIY products
Commercial mouthwash brands are around £3-6 for a 500ml bottle.
You can easily make your own for less than £1 using doTERRA Peppermint oil plus reusable container for around £2.
Commercial perfumes and fragrances
Companies that manufacture personal care products are required by law to list the ingredients they use, but fragrances and trade-secret formulas are exempt. There are over 500 potential chemicals that can be used under the single name “fragrance” such as phthalates, parabens and synthetic musks. And none of them legally need to be disclosed. Other chemicals can cause irritability, mental vagueness, muscle pain, asthma, bloating, joint aches, sinus pain, fatigue, sore throat, eye irritation, gastrointestinal problems, laryngitis, headaches, dizziness, swollen lymph nodes, spikes in blood pressure, coughing, and burning or itching skin irritations.
The skin is our largest organ, absorbing 80% of what we put on it, whether that be perfume or personal care products. Leaving aside the high cost of most perfumes, you wouldn’t swallow toxic, synthetic formulations or chemicals, would you? Why put them on your skin and breathe them in?
Avoiding toxic fragrances doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a signature scent. Why not make your own instead, using organic essential oils? After all, they’ve been used for fragrances and beauty practices throughout the centuries. And how much more special would it be to make your very own natural, vegetarian, organic, cruelty-free, and personal fragrance – or set of fragrances – unique to you and no-one else?
If you’d like to create your own perfume blend, you need to determine what categories of scent you like based on your own preferences. At good tip is to remember that oils from the same scent family usually blend well together.
Here are some examples that go well together:
• Citrus with floral, mint, and spice
• Spice with floral, wood, and citrus
• Herb with wood and mint
• Tree/Wood with floral, herb, mint, spice, and citrus
• Floral with spice, wood, and citrus
Simply choose your oils, blend, and top up with a carrier oil to prolong the life of your personalised fragrance. Then store in a cool dark dry place so your unique essential oil perfume lasts longer. Or, if this DIY seems a bit much to start with, why not try doTERRA’s Jasmine Touch, Neroli Touch, or Rose Touch first? All three come in a rollerball applicator and can be used neat topically. And they’re not just lovely fragrances, they can help with any skin imperfections too – win, win!
Cost of commercial fragrance vs. cost of DIY perfume
Commercial brands typically range from £8-10 per 10ml. You can make your own for around £2 plus reusable 10ml roller or spray bottle of around 60p.
Cost and health benefits of essential oils
As you can see, there are so many reasons why essential oils can save you money, benefit your health AND help the environment at the same time. Here are my top favourites, they:
• provide health-conscious individuals with safe and natural healthcare
• can be used for a wide range of emotional and physical wellness applications
• can have a powerful effect with just one or two drops
• cost pennies rather than pounds
• reducing plastic wastage thus help the environment
• put you in charge of what you want to use according to what you need.
Unlike modern synthetic additives, essential oils have minimal side effects and are far safer to use. Essential oils contain hundreds of different compounds that can support our physical and emotional wellbeing. As I hope I’ve demonstrated, natural solutions are very cost effective too. You can use them in comfort of own home and you only need to use a very small amount as a little goes a very long way.
So what do you think? Will you be switching up some of your commercial products in favour of a greener solution? Do you use essential oils already? I’d love to hear from you either way. And if you’d like to learn more about how I use essential oils for my family, why not pop over to my GreenLifeOrganics Facebook Page or our online community GreenLifeOils? Or, in the meantime, you can request some free samples to get you started. To your health and happiness!