Cleaning with Herbs & Spices

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Mar 03, 2011 | Jordan Laio


By Jordan Laio, Networx Garden & Landscape Expert

Spices and herbs have a long history of use for their aromas and as disinfectants. For instance, herbs like marjoram, rosemary, and thyme were scattered on the floor for festive occasions like weddings. As the revelers would walk or dance over them, they would release their fragrance into the air—a little more romantic than a Glade PlugIn.

Herbs like hyssop and rue, considered disinfectants, were scattered around jails to keep disease in check. Today, while it is much more common to use toxic cleaners, many people are questioning the wisdom of using toxic chemicals around their homes. Some are even making their own “green” cleaners using ingredients like essential oils and spices which clean well and leave a more natural scent.

Penny, a busy ecologically-conscious mother and the author of the blog Penniless Parenting makes many of her own non-toxic cleaning agents at home, including laundry detergent, soap, and all-purpose cleaner. Of course, for cleaning like that you can't just throw some rosemary on the floor and call it a day.

According to Penny, one of the important aspects of making her own cleansers is knowing the ingredients. “I know exactly what's going in my cleaners. I can ensure that no one in my family is being subjected to toxic chemicals on a regular basis,” she says. And it's not as daunting as it might seem—Penny assures that it's not very difficult or time consuming, and the results really work.

It can even be economical. "The reason I got into making homemade cleaners is because of the cost. The health benefits were the secondary reasons. I can occasionally find really cheap toxic cleaners in the store, but for the most part they're more expensive than what I make at home." Finances aside, herbs, spices, and essential oils add a clean fragrance and some also convey antimicrobial properties.

DIY Herbal Cleanser Recipes

  • Aromatic sink scrub: Mix in a blender: a quarter cup mint leaves; one cup baking soda; and one tablespoon salt. Sprinkle it into your sink, add a little water, and scrub.
  • Herbal window cleaner: Mix together in a spray bottle: two cups strained lemon balm decoction and half a cup vinegar. Spray windows then wipe dry with old newspaper or a soft cloth. 
  • Spicy room deodorizer: My mother is fond of simmering a mixture of cinnamon sticks and orange peels over the stove. While it does not clean anything, it is a natural way to fill the house with a delightful smell and would come in handy in place of a chemical deodorizer.
  • Herbal DIY dryer sheets: You can add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil to a cloth and then throw it in the dryer with your clothes—it will make your laundry smell amazing and is much more Earth-friendly than scented dryer sheets.
  • Fresh and non-toxic all purpose cleaner: There is a whole world of herbal cleaners to explore. As one more treat, here is Penny's special recipe for homemade all-purpose cleaner, which you can find along with her other natural cleaners on her blog:


Citrus peels




1.      Fill a quart- to half-gallon-size glass jar with citrus peels. This doesn't need to be done all at once. Just whenever you eat a citrus, put the peel in the jar.

2.      When the jar is sufficiently full, pour vinegar over the peels to cover. Optional: Compress the peels first so less vinegar is used.

3.      Let the mixture sit for at least two and half weeks. The vinegar will take on an orange/golden hue and smell powerfully of citrus.

4.      Fill half a spray bottle with citrus-vinegar, straining as your pour. Fill the rest with water.

5.      Use with a rag to clean, well, anything! It works well on sinks, mirrors, windows, floors, wooden chairs, and counters. Best of all, this is made with the citrus peels you'd otherwise be throwing out!

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