adventures in domesticity, natural living for normal people

Essential Oils: The Basics

Did you know that Down–to–Earthy was originally supposed to be a niche blog about leading a natural lifestyle?

Of course you didn’t. How could you have known that? Why am I asking such dumb rhetorical questions?

I dreamed up the idea for this blog a few years ago, when I was first getting into blog–reading and when I was first getting into researching and making more natural, earth–friendly choices. I quickly realized that many of the resources out there were what I considered extreme: never driving anywhere, only eating stuff you’ve grown / raised / fermented yourself, not having electricity (which always made me wonder how these people blogged, but whatever).

I saw a need for resources for regular, everyday people who had kids and jobs and preferred daily hot showers and actual deodorant but wanted to make some conscious choices that aided the health of the planet and themselves. My tagline was going to be “Natural living for normal people,” and I was only going to blog about making your own dishwashing detergent and how electric cars work and that kind of thing.

Obviously, that’s not how this blog ended up. I’d far rather regale you with boring tales of what I’m eating for lunch and how I’m only wearing 33 pieces of clothing each season and what I’m planning to embroider next. You’re welcome.

But I’m thinking about making “natural living for normal people” at least a little part of this blog, and I hope you’ll join me in making some cheap, easy changes that do a lot for you and the environment.

Without further ado . . . drum roll, please . . . ESSENTIAL OILS 

Essential oils are easy to use, serve multiple purposes in your home, and are actually inexpensive when you consider how much they do and how long they last.

I ordered this little set a few years ago, and I still have a few drops left in each bottle. NB: That set was much less expensive then. I’m not sure why it’s so much now.

It was time to make some more germ–killing spray—details to come, scout’s honor—so I decided to expand my collection and order these.


No, they don’t come alphabetized. That’s the little bit of crazy I offer that keeps you coming back for more. Wink.

This particular set also comes with a product guide booklet and a list of 101 uses. You better believe I’m reading those word–for–word.


I ordered this set because it included all of the oils I use the most. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve split them into the three categories of my main uses of essential oils.

oils cleaning

For cleaning:

  • Eucalyptus—During cold & flu season, I mix a few drops of this with witch hazel in a little spray bottle and spray it all over the place. It fights germs big time and makes your house smell like a craft fair, so . . . win–win? or something like that?
  • Grapefruit—You’ll notice pretty quickly that I equate all things citrus with cleaning. I like to add a few drops of this to a cup of baking soda, spread it on the rug and let it sit for a bit, then vacuum it up.
  • Lemon—Whenever I get home from the grocery / farmers market / CSA with fresh fruits and veggies, I put two or three drops of this in a huge bowl of water, then soak the produce. It keeps everything fresh a day or two longer than without the soak.
  • Lime—This + baking soda + vinegar makes a great kitchen sink scrub. I also like to put a few drops at the bottom of the trash can. Warning: It might make you crave margaritas. ; )
  • Rosemary—Always reminds me of Ophelia. (Get it? Reminds? English majors unite!) Around Christmastime, I like to put a few drops of this on cotton balls and hide them around the house. Or we could be like normal people and get a real tree. Or we could just set up our fake one and keep doing this. I’m going with the latter.
  • Sweet Orange—Again, citrus equals cleaning. I’m boring, but I’m consistently boring. I use this + tea tree + witch hazel in a little spray bottle to clean my yoga mat.
  • Tea Tree—Two words: Kills mold. Bam.

oils fragrance

For fragrance:

Okay, technically ALL of these essential oils have fragrance–related purposes, but you know what I mean, right?

  • Bergamot—This is what gives Earl Grey tea its delightful Earl Grey–ness, so I like to diffuse it in my desk / office area. It makes me feel British and caffeinated, which are two important requirements to getting my thesis done (class of 2015, here I come).
  • Cinnamon Leaf—This is great for when you’ve cooked something with onions or garlic or curry or a combination of those ingredients and you just need your kitchen to stop clinging to the memory of that dish. Put a few drops in a pot of simmering water and let it neutralize all that.
  • Clary Sage—This is one of my favorite fragrances. I like to add it to unscented liquid hand soap. I’ve read that it can induce labor, which is something I know nothing about, so please do whatever you need to do with that information.
  • Patchouli—This always smells like hippies to me, which is interesting because I’ve never really hung out with hippies—not because I don’t want to but because I’ve never had the opportunity—so it’s not one that I use all the time. I do find that it is the best thing for a closet that’s sort of musty and funky. I put a few drops in the back corners of the closet every few months.

oils health

For health & beauty:

  • Lavender—This is my very favorite scent of all time. I love it. I wear lavender perfume every day, and almost all of my toiletries are lavender–scented. I use the essential oil to make sachets, and I put a few drops on an old rag and toss it in the dryer with freshly–washed sheets.
  • Peppermint—This is great for when you have a headache. Put a drop or two on your hands, rub them together, and cup them over your nose / mouth. Inhale deeply a few times. I also do this when I’m congested, which this allergy season has been . . . oh, that’s right, constantly.
  • Spearmint—Add a few drops to a full bath if you have muscle or joint pain. This helps congestion, too. I’ve read that if you add about 10 drops to a gallon of paint, it will help dispel the fumes, but I’ve never tried that myself.

So there you have my favorite essential oils! I’ll be talking more about other uses for them in future posts, so let me know if you have any questions or favorite uses to share.

PS: The 101 uses guide has uses for oils that weren’t in this set, including frankincense and myrrh. It seems frankincense + myrrh + a carrier oil helps reduce stretch marks . . . hmmm . . . ; )

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