Essential Oils in the Home

You may recall that some time ago, I banished all chemical cleaners from our house in favour of natural formulations containing essential plant oils. I love the difference it has made to our home, with no more dangerous toxins or synthethic fragrances polluting our living spaces. I am also happy to report that, unlike previous eco brands I tried, the products I now use are just as effective as the nasty chemical version. And they are made right here in Ireland!

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So I recently decided to take this a step further and to explore the use of essential oils in their own right. This was prompted by a few things that were happening in our home:

  1. Hubby was feeling absoultely miserable during a particularly difficult summer for hayfever sufferers.
  2. I hadn't been sleeping well for quite some time.
  3. An all-natural scented candle destroyed our bathroom.

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This is the area above where I had lit that candle. As you can see, the walls and ceiling are completely coated in what is known in the industry as BSD: Black Soot Deposit. Just because a product is natural does not guarantee its cleanliness, as some oils are not suitable for combustion/burning. I tested a patch of our wall and it looks like the BSD will come off, but it does mean that every inch of the walls, ceilings, floors, and all other surfaces in the room need to be scrubbed.This experience was enough to make me search for a cleaner alternative to scented candles.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are volatile (easily evaporated) liquids that are distilled from any part of a plant, including the leaves, stems, roots, flowers, fruit, seeds, bark. The most common extraction method is steam distillation, whereby steam is passed through the plant material and then the resulting liquid separated into water and oils. Oils can also be obtained by cold expressing (or cold pressing), which is the preferred method for citrus fruits.

Therapeutic-Grade Essential Oils

If, like me, you remember the craze in the 1980s-90s where oils were placed in a burner above a tealight, then you too may have developed an aversion to what you thought were "essential oils". Unfortunately, not only were these oils often poor quality, but they may also have been adulterated with synthetic fragrances and diluted with alcohol. Not all essential oils are created equal!

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Even if you buy pure essential oils, the properties of the oil can be affected by the quality of the crop, the soil conditions in which the plant was grown, the region from which it was harvested, including climate and altitude, the season and conditions under which the plants were harvested, the parts of the plant from which the oil was produced, and the distillation process used.

Storage conditions are also a factor, with clear bottles allowing the contents to degrade. Essential oils can also be contaminated by plastic bottles or rubber droppers. For these reasons, dark glass bottles are preferred. 

Therapeutic-grade essential oils are the best quality and actually contain the beneficial properties of the plants from which they are extracted. However, a note of caution: the use of the term "therapeutic grade" is not governed by any regulating body. Therefore, you really need to apply your own standards of what you deem acceptable for your own use. The oils I have chosen are produced by doTERRA.

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How to Use Essential Oils


Essential oils can be applied to the skin. However, some essential oils are so potent that they need to be diluted to prevent skin irritation. Fractionated coconut oil (liquid coconut oil) is commonly used for this purpose.


Here again we need to eliminate from our minds the notion of burning oils over a tealight, as heat can damage the therapeutic properites of the oil. These days, diffusion is the most common method used to disperse a fine vapour of oils around a room. This can be achieved using either a nebulizer or an ultrasonic diffuser. A nebulizer uses essential oil only, whereas an ultrasonic diffuser uses oil suspended in water. 

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I opted for an ultrasonic diffuser as they are quiter and less expensive than a nebuliser. This Ultrasonic Aroma Diffuser and Humidifier(affiliate link) is the one I purchased. It does have an automatic shut-off when the water runs out, eventhough that is not indicated in the product details. Most of these diffusers have coloured LED light options, though I always use mine with the lights off. I like the simple design of this one, and I can even imagine it sitting amongst a group of pillar candles as part of a decorative arrangement.

Essential Oils in the Home

Essential oils are not cheap, and this is not surprising given the huge amount of plant material required to produce a small amount of oil. The cost of individual oils vary widely depending on availability of the plant and the method of extraction. Citrus oils, like lemon and orange, are among the cheapest at about €13 for 15ml, and one of the most expensive is Melissa at about €180 for just 5ml. An average price per oil is about €25-40 for 15ml, so  you could start with one favourite and build your collection over time. 

Another good way to get started with essential oils is to buy a kit. I chose the doTERRA Family Essentials Kit (affiliate link) as it contains a great selection of starter oils to address the most common household requirements, and it represents good value for money. 

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The doTERRA Family Essentials Kit contains 5ml bottles of each of the following ten oils:

  • Lavender - known for its ability to calm anxiety, ensure restful sleep, and to soothe skin.
  • Melaleuca (Tea Tree) - supports immunity and purifies skin.
  • Frankincense - supports cellular health.
  • Lemon - purifies the air, cleanses surfaces, and elevates mood.
  • Peppermint - promotes clear breathing and alleviates stomach upset.
  • Oregano - supports immunity and respiratory functions.
  • "Breathe" blend - a blend of essential oils including laurel leaf, peppermint, eucalyptus, melaleuca, lemon, cardamom, ravintsara (ho leaf), and ravensara (ho wood). It is used to clear airways and can also be applied topically to the chest, back, or bottom of feet, or diffused at nighttime to promote a restful sleep.
  • "Deep Blue" blend - contains wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, ylang ylang, helichrysum, blue tansy, German chamomile, and osmanthus. It is used to soothe muscles.  
  • "On Guard" blend - includes wild orange, clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary. It is used to maintain healthy immune function and support cardiovascular function, as well as to protect against seasonal and environmental threats. It can also be used on surfaces throughout the home as a non-toxic cleaner., and diffused it can be energizing and uplifting.
  • "Digestzen" blend - contains ginger, fennel, coriander, peppermint, tarragon, anise, and caraway. It is used to aid digestion and soothe stomach upset, including motion sickness and indigestion.

As I mentioned above, there is no regulatory body governing the use of essential oils or which verifies their effectiveness, and you should always seek medical advice for serious or prolonged ailments. 

My Favourites So Far

Breathe Blend

The thing that really prompted me to go out and spend some euros on nice smelly oils was Hubby's hayfever. It has been particularly bad this summer. The first night, he reluctantly induldged my diffusing of the Breathe blend in the bedroom. On the second night, he didn't object at all. By the third night, he actually asked me to set up the diffuser. He had noticed that he was sleeping much better since we started using the oils, as he was less congested during the night and therefore his sleep was less disturbed. 

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As I mentioned, I had also been experiencing restless sleep. I put a drop of lavender oil onto a cotton make-up remover pad and stuffed it into my pillowcase. I had tried fresh lavender in the past to no avail, so I was quite skeptical, but the oil actually worked. Now I enjoy a deep sleep every night and have much more energy throughout the day as a result.

I have also used a couple of drops of lavender oil mixed with coconut oil to soothe a little patch of sunburn, and I do think it healed faster than usual as a result. Even Hubby noticed! 

Lemon, Peppermint, Frankincense

I enjoy diffusing a drop of each of these just for the gorgoeous aroma that fills the room. I had tried the individual oils, but the fragrance was a bit flat. Then I tried a combination of the lemon and peppermint, but I just thought it was missing something. Obviously I'm no expert in blending fragrances (although that is something I would love to try), but I found that adding a drop of frankincense provides a base note that seems to ground the fragrance. I have been diffusing this mixture in the evenings and even Hubby has commented how much he likes it too.

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It is a long-established and well-known fact that our memories are easily triggered by familiar smells. That is because our olfactory system (related to our sense of smell) connects directly with the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions and memory. It is no surprise then that fragrances can have a very powerful influence on us.

As homemakers and interior design fanatics, if we are willing to accept that different colours can impact our mood and sense of wellbeing, then it is definitely also worth exploring the power of fragrance in our homes. If nothing else, I can say that I really appreciate having a clean way of enjoying fragrances that isn't going to turn my walls and ceilings black!


Related Posts:

Spring Cleaning

My Favourite Scented Candles

Wool Bedding