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8 Best Essential Oils for Disinfecting and Cleaning

Avatar for Jodie Weston Jodie Weston  |  Updated: February 16, 2021
8 Best Essential Oils for Disinfecting and Cleaning

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Essential oils offer more than just a pleasant smell. You are probably used to using them for relaxing massages, but, did you know that they can be used as a natural substitute for chemical cleaners and disinfectants as well? Yes, their potent chemical makeup makes them great for disinfecting not only cuts and wounds but also for us in a homemade disinfectant spray for kitchen floors, sinks, tiles, and whole bathrooms.

Essential oils are considered to be much safer for cleaning than chemical cleaners found in most department stores. Strong synthetic chemicals and fragrances added to those cleaning products can be highly irritable especially to people with asthma and allergies. On top of that, according to the Poison Control Center, 11.1% of poison exposure cases are caused by cleaning substances.

woman cleaning mopping floors

Essential oils are overall a natural and much safer alternative to the conventional cleaning agents and disinfectant spray you use regularly. Essential oils are great at disinfecting due to their strong antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Every essential oil has antiseptic qualities but some are better at inhibiting bacteria and fungi than the others. In this article, you will find a list of essential oils that are particularly great at making homes sparkling clean.

Chemical Makeup of Essential Oils

Chemical makeup determines the antiseptic value of essential oils. Those that are high in phenol (phenolic acid) are known for their powerful antimicrobial and antioxidant qualities. Some of the most common phenols found in essential oils include thymol and carvacrol; both are found in oregano and thyme essential oils, and eugenol, found in clove essential oil. 90% of oregano essential oil consists of mentioned compounds.

essential oils

Another important functional group found in different essential oils is alcohol group (hydroxyl group). Natural alcohols kill bacteria by breaking down their membrane. The most common alcohols found in essential oils are linalool, menthol, geraniol, and santalol. Sandalwood essential oil, for instance, contains 90% of santalol.

Essential Oils Comparison Table

Cinnamon Essential Oil

Power antibacterial
100% pure and natural

Thyme Essential Oil

Anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties
100% pure and undiluted

Tea Tree Oil

Cleanses the skin and purifies the air
Strong anti-bacterial and anti-viral qualities

The common knowledge of people who lived before us has been proven to be true. Modern science keeps discovering new healing value of essential oils. For instance, a 1996 study examined the antibacterial and antifungal activity of ten different essential oils on 22 strains of bacteria and 12 fungi. All ten essential oils showed great results at inhibiting microbes, some were better than the others. The following list will introduce you to some of those oils.

Best Essential Oils for Disinfecting and Cleaning

Cinnamon Essential Oil

Cinnamon essential oil has beautiful sweet and spicy aroma that can be used for deodorizing and purifying air at home. Natural cinnamon essence is a better alternative to the scented candles that have been a topic of concern for quite some time now.

Cinnamon essential oil is not only known for its pleasing scent but for its powerful antibacterial mechanisms as well. The rise of drug-resistant bacteria has forced the medicine to start exploring and embracing the antibacterial activity of cinnamon essential oil.

According to the recent 2018 study published in the Microbial Pathogenesis, cinnamon essential oil and its two constituents called cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid successfully inhibit bacteria by damaging their cell membrane.

Once the membrane is destroyed, all cell processes and motility of given microbe are altered. Using cinnamon essential oil in your daily cleaning routine will help you kill those stubborn, disease-causing germs.

Tips for Use

  1. Diffuse cinnamon essential oil into the air. Dispersed particles of essence will help you deodorize the air and help you fight the common cold and flu.
  2. Mix 3-4 drops of cinnamon essential oil in 1 gallon of water. Use this solution to clean the hard surfaces of your kitchen and bathroom (tiles, floors, sinks etc.)
  3. Cinnamon essential oil mixes well with ylang-ylang, sweet orange, and peppermint essential oils.

Thyme Essential Oil

Thyme essential oil is rich in thymol, carvacrol, and linalool. All these constituents will help you stay protected from bacteria and other environmental threats, even those found in food. Salmonella, for instance, is a bacteria genus that often contaminates eggs, poultry, and other raw meats. According to the International Journal of Food Microbiology, thyme essential oil is potent enough to inhibit the salmonella.

In addition, a recent study published in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis determined that thyme essential oil can be used as a natural food preservative due to its high anti-fungal and antibacterial activities. If thyme essential oil is safe enough for food, then it surely is safe enough to be used as a non-toxic cleaner for your home.

Tips for Use

  1. Thyme essential oil blends well with lavender, oregano grapefruit, and rosemary essential oils.
  2. Clean your kitchen utensils, dishes, and chopping boards with homemade thyme essential oil dish soap after they have been in contact with poultry or any other raw meat.

Thyme Essential Oil Dish Soap


  • ¼ cup castile soap
  • ¼ cup soap flakes
  • 2 teaspoons super washing soda
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
  • 2 cups of water
  • 30 drops of thyme essential oil


  • Dissolve soap flakes in boiling water.
  • Add other ingredients to the mix.
  • Stir well and make sure everything is dissolved and well combined.
  • Pour the liquid into a pump bottle.
  • Leave 24 hours to set.
  • If the soap is too thick, add a little bit more water to it, and if it is too runny, heat it up once again and add more washing soda to it.

Tea Tree Essential Oil

Tea tree essential oil is a staple cleaning product in many households. Due to its purifying properties, melaleuca oil can be found as an ingredient in many skincare products and shampoos. It cleanses the skin and purifies the air.

Research published in the Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics showed that tea tree oil in combination with eucalyptus essential oil was successful at fighting staph infection and E. coli. Both essential oils caused the microbes to leak their vital fluids.

A number of medical studies point to the powerful antibacterial and antiviral qualities of tea tree oil. This essential oil can be used as a household cleaner and as a treatment for various infections, from athlete’s foot to cold sores and warts.

Tips for Use

  1. Add 1-2 drops of tea tree oil to a teaspoon of coconut oil or raw honey. Use this balm to disinfect and treat the affected areas on your skin.
  2. Diffuse few drops of tea tree oil to purify and sanitize the air in your home.
  3. Tea tree oil blends well with lemon, lavender, and ylang-ylang essential oils.
  4. Clean any hard surfaces in your home with this all-purpose tea tree oil cleaner.

All-Purpose Tea Tree Oil Cleaner


  • 3 cups of water
  • ½ cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 10 drops of tea tree essential oil


  • Add all ingredients to a spray bottle and shake well.
  • Use this cleaner on floors, sinks, and countertops.

Try disinfecting your toilet with a homemade toilet bowel scrub.

Toilet Bowel Scrub


  • 1 cup vinegar
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon tea tree essential oil


  • Mix vinegar and essential oil in a glass spray bottle.
  • Spray the inside and the outside of your toilet with the solution. Let it sit for a couple of minutes.
  • Evenly distribute baking soda on the surface and start scrubbing it with a toilet brush.
  • Use a dry or damp cloth to wipe down the toilet seat.

Oregano Essential Oil

Oregano essential oil is packed with bactericidal phenols that can help you improve your cleaning routine. You can feel free to substitute your store-bought bathroom chemical cleaners with oregano essential oil. The potent essence of oregano is strong enough to inhibit E. coli and bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This germ is mostly found in hot tubs, pools and other standing water as well as on the objects that are regularly exposed to moisture.

Oregano essential oil can disinfect and refresh the nooks and crannies of your bathroom and your kitchen. Antiseptic nature of oregano will help you keep harmful E. coli out of the kitchen.

Tips for Use

  1. Diffuse oregano essential oil into the air. Dispersed oregano essence will help you refresh your home and fight the symptoms of seasonal respiratory illnesses.
  2. Oregano mixes well with other antiseptic essential oils especially tea tree, rosemary, and lavender essential oils.
  3. Disinfect your bathroom and kitchen with this all-purpose oregano oil cleaner.

All-Purpose Oregano Essential Oil Cleaner


  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of castile soap
  • 20-30 drops of oregano essential oil


  • Mix all ingredients in a glass spray bottle.
  • Feel free to substitute oregano essential oil with a mix of different essential oils.
  • Use this solution to clean your shower, kitchen countertop, and trash cans.
  • Keep the cleaner in cool, dark place.

Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint essential oil is an amazing natural cleaning agent. Its impressive antiseptic properties can be attributed to the constituent called menthol. Menthol is an active ingredient covering up to 60% of the oil’s chemical composition.

Such potent antibacterial formula can be used for disinfecting surfaces and repelling insects, such as spiders, ants, mosquitoes, and cockroaches. Fresh minty aroma of peppermint will help you purify your home and keep it free of creepy crawlies.

We recommend you use peppermint oil cleaner for sanitizing your bathroom. According to the 2017 study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, peppermint oil showed the best antibacterial activity against C. difficile out of all tested processed products. C. difficile is a bacterium that thrives in toilets, bathing tubs, and other objects that may be in contact with feces. Healthcare providers are often transmitters of this germ.

Tips for Use

  1. Diffuse peppermint essential oil into the air. Microscopic peppermint particles will purify the air and repel mosquitoes.
  2. In a spray bottle, mix 10 drops of peppermint essential oil with a cup of water. Use this spray to wipe down hard surfaces in your home.
  3. Peppermint essential oil mixes well with lemongrass, tea tree, lavender, and eucalyptus essential oils.
  4. Use this all-purpose peppermint spray for deep cleaning.

All-Purpose Peppermint Spray


  • ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 15 drops of peppermint essential oil
  • 15 drops of lemon essential oil
  • Water


  • Mix vinegar and essential oil in a 16 oz. glass spray bottle.
  • Fill the rest of the bottle with water.
  • Shake well to combine all ingredients.
  • Use the spray to sanitize your countertops, tiles, floors, and sinks.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Eucalyptus essential oil is a widely used natural remedy. Diffusing just a few drops into the air can help you kill germs, relieve a cough and clear sinuses. Using eucalyptus during flu seasons is especially recommended.

The antiseptic value of eucalyptus oil can be attributed to the component called eucalyptol also known as 1,8-cineole. This major constituent showed antimicrobial effects on bacteria that cause tuberculosis, drug-resistant bacteria causing staph infections, different viruses, and fungi, including Candida. Eucalyptus essential oil without a doubt one of the most versatile natural agents you can get your hands on.

Tips for Use

  1. According to The Scientific World Journal, a strong minty, almost medicinal smell of eucalyptus repels house rats. To get rid of your rat problem, dilute 20 drops of eucalyptus oil in some water and spray the solution around your pantry and around small openings of your house. Keep in mind that eucalyptus essence may irritate your cat.
  2. Add a couple of drops of eucalyptus essential oil to a cup of hot water. Use this solution to wipe down the corners where mold is prone to thrive.
  3. Add 10-20 drops of eucalyptus oil to the washing cycle to eradicate dust mites from your linen, towels, and pillows.
  4. Eucalyptus essential oil mixes well with peppermint, lavender, and lemon essential oils.

Clove Essential Oil

Clove essential oil is a natural antiseptic agent known for its spicy aroma. Its antibacterial and antifungal activity can be attributed to the compound called eugenol. Clove bud oil contains about 80 to 90% of eugenol. The research shows that E. coli, acne-causing Staph aureus, and pneumonia-causing Pseudomonas aeruginosa are especially sensitive to clove essence.

These antibacterial and antiviral properties of clove essential oil can help you disinfect your home, especially during cold and flu season. Airborne particles of essence will help you boost your immune system and give you a better chance at fighting bacteria and viruses.

Tips for Use

  1. Diffuse clove essential oil into the air. Feel free to mix clove oil with other essential oils such as cinnamon bark, bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, lavender, and rosemary.
  2. Use clove essential oil to kill mold in your bathroom. Dilute a ¼ teaspoon of clove oil in 1 liter of water. This solution can be sprayed on surfaces where mold tends to grow e.g. sinks, showers, outdoors and indoors walls etc. Let the spray sit on the area for at least an hour before removing it with a wet cloth or a brush. Make sure you use protective gloves when cleaning with clove. It is also recommended to do a test patch on the surface to make sure it does not get damaged.

Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon essential oil is a widely used natural remedy known for its disinfectant attributes. Limonene and b-pinene are two main components that give this volatile oil its antimicrobial properties. Feel free to use lemon essential oil around your home to get rid of harmful pathogens. The citrus lemon smell will enrich your kitchen and bathroom with a hint of freshness as well.

According to the scientific research, lemon essential oil is strong enough to inhibit bacteria Listeria monocytogenes inoculated in minced beef. The study suggests that lemon oil could be used as a natural agent for preventing food contamination.

Harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, E. coli, and Staph aureus can cause serious illnesses. Regular use of homemade lemon oil cleaners around the house will help you lower the chances of bacterial infections.

Tips for Use

  1. Lemon essential oil can be used on stained clothes. Add few drops of lemon oil on the stain. Immediately put the stained clothes in the washing machine.
  2. If your hands are greasy from working on your car or bike, few drops of lemon oil added to your soap can help you get rid of any greasy residue.
  3. Lemon essential oil mixes well with eucalyptus, peppermint, geranium, and sandalwood.
  4. Clean your windows and other glass surfaces with this lemon oil spray.

Lemon Oil Glass Cleaner


  • 1 ½ cup of vinegar
  • ½ cup distilled water
  • 8 drops of lemon essential oil


  • Mix all ingredients in a 16 oz. glass spray bottle.
  • Wipe down your windows, mirrors, and shower doors with the solution.

Disinfect and polish your wooden floor and furniture with this natural lemon wood polish.

Lemon Wood Polish


  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 10 drops of lemon essential oil


  • Combine all ingredients in a glass spray bottle.
  • Using a microfiber cloth, wipe down wooden surfaces to give them shine.
  • Use this natural polish every 3 months. Shake the bottle before each usage.

Natural DIY Hand Sanitizer The Easy Way

Ingredients for 1 ounce
1/2 ounce Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1/2 ounce Organic Aloe Vera Gel
30 drops (total) Essential Oils

Ingredients for 1 cup/8 ounces
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Organic Aloe Vera Gel
120 drops (total) Essential Oils

Blend everything together then put them in a squeeze bottle to carry around with you or a pump bottle to keep on the counter.  Personally, I prefer small plastic squeeze bottles that I can keep in my pack, desk drawer or handbag but this is my own personal preference.

Be aware that if your home is on the cool side, your coconut oil will be semi-solid. To easily mix things, I warmed the coconut oil ever-so-slightly before adding the other ingredients. I found it easiest to mix everything in a large Pyrex cup.


Essential oils are a great natural alternative to the conventional chemical cleaner that we have grown so used to. They are much safer for our health and the environment.

Extensive medical research shows that essential oils packed with antiseptic compounds successfully remove some of the most resistant bacteria found in our homes. Just like any other cleaning agent, essential oils have to be used with caution as well. Here are some last tips that will help you improve your daily cleaning routine:

  1. Store all your homemade essential oil cleaning agents in cool, dark place, out of reach and sight of children.
  2. It is always recommended to wear rubber gloves when cleaning.
  3. Bacteria and viruses can grow resistance to antimicrobial agents. It is recommended to use a mix of different essential oils for cleaning purposes to prevent this immunity. Instead of sticking to one essential oil try using multiple.
  4. Other disinfecting essential oils worth mentioning are rosemary, wild orange, lavender, lemongrass, and geranium essential oil.

If you need to use a chemical disinfectant spray or find that you are out of essential oil spray, consider using a hydrogen peroxide or oxygen cleaner based spray that breaks down quickly. Of course, this will not work on some surfaces since hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizer and may discolor some surfaces. Rubbing alcohol can also be used as a disinfectant but it leaves behind an odor that is particularly unpleasant.

As with any DIY disinfectant, test it out before you use it everywhere in your home especially if you or someone else in the home have a tendency towards allergic reactions.

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17 Responses to “8 Best Essential Oils for Disinfecting and Cleaning”

  1. Thank you for these tips! I knew E. O. are best for cleaning & so much cheaper than chemicals….!! AND Healthier for you & the environment! I keep forgetting to order a few more that I need for my bottles. Thank you, Thank you!!

  2. Wanted to know if all the oils need to be mixed with vinegar to disinfect. I see most of the solutions receipts call for Apple Cider Vinegar or White Vinegar along with the oil. You can’t use vinegar on granite, so I wanted to know if the solution of oil and water will disinfect as well.

  3. I have been searching for a cleaning product for years that doesn’t leave a smell of chemicals, but is potent enough to battle the bacteria in the house and fight house whole oder. Thank you for this article. It has answered my questions.

  4. I am looking for an essential oil that can be used on furniture for mites and disinfecting. Can you help?

  5. This was the most helpful article I found in my search for essential oils for disinfecting. Thank you so much for this information. I’m very grateful and impressed by the format it was presented in.

  6. I would love to use essential oils for cleaning, so that I can get away from chemical cleaners, but I have cats and oils are toxic to them. I wish there was an healthy cleaning alternative for those of us who have feline fur babies.

    • I use my homemade all purpose cleaner with essential oils that I have been using for at least a few years, and I have had a cat for over a year.
      I use it on tables, countertops, toilets, vanity tops, sinks, stovetop.

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