11 Ways Essential Oils Can Help Around the Home

Essential oils aren't just for yoga studios or acupuncturists. Learn how these natural products can freshen your interior spaces, keep bugs away, and keep your home clean.
a woman's hand holding a small bottle of essential oils and dropping a few drops into a wooden bowl of water
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While there are plenty of products on the market that promise a fresher-smelling home, just looking at the long list of unpronounceable ingredients is enough to make you wary about spraying them where you eat and sleep—yikes! Instead, try a natural alternative: essential oils. Found online or at natural supermarkets, these oils are distilled from a number of natural, glorious-smelling flora, each with its own appealing properties. If you’re not sure what scents you might enjoy, get an essential oil starter set. It will help you learn how to use essential oils by offering a number of scents to sample, as well as scent-mixing suggestions. You’ll quickly find ways to dab the oils everywhere, giving yet another meaning to the term “essential.”

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are natural extracts derived from plants. They are widely used in holistic practices like aromatherapy and massage. Research shows that using essential oils can promote relaxation and increase sleep time. These are some of our favorite ways to use them.

1. Repel Pests

woman's hand holding spray bottle with anti-insect label with bottles of essential oils on the table
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Repel household pests like mice, spiders, and other bugs using a minty alternative to scary poisons or traps. Just place a few drops of peppermint essential oil on a cotton ball and place them wherever you see bugs or signs of mice. While it sounds too good to be true, these unwanted critters can’t stand minty scents and should stay away.

2. Promote Sound Sleep

overhead view of lavendar plant laid out on pink silk with sleep mask and lavender tea and a lit lavendar candle
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There’s nothing like crawling into a lovely smelling bed at the end of a long day. To bring a spa-like calm to your own bed, fill a clean, empty spray bottle with a cup of water and add a few drops of essential oil. Lavender is a proven soother. One study found that participants who wore a lavender essential oil patch had a better sleep quality than the group that didn’t have the patch. Be wary of citrusy scents, however; they are invigorating and might keep you up!

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Home Fragrances for Inviting Spaces

3. Freshen the Bathroom

woman's hand unrolling a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom
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While it can be one of the harder areas of the home to keep smelling good at all times, there’s a simple trick to freshen the bathroom with very little effort: Squeeze a few drops of essential oils onto the inside of your toilet paper roll, and get a scent boost every time someone tears a few squares.

4. Combat Mold and Mildew

spray bottle and small bottle of essential oils on bathroom counter next to rolled up hand towels with decorative plant vines in front of mirror
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An essential oil that packs a punch? You’ll find tea tree oil in a lot of green cleaners for a reason. Mix 1 teaspoon of the essential oil with a cup of water in a spray bottle, spritz over the tile in your shower, and let it dry. Don’t rinse and it will help fight mold and mildew.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Essential Oils for Cleaning the Home

5. Kill Kitchen Odors

woman in the kitchen dropping essential oil into large pot to boil
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Have guests on the way? Make your cooking space smell amazing by adding some of your favorite essential oils to a simmering pot of water on the stove. It will help banish those less-than-welcoming odors like fish or intense spices left over from your last meal.

6. Scent Laundry

woman smelling a freshly cleaned towel
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Everyone loves the smell of clothing fresh from the dryer. Personalize your scent even further by adding a few drops of essential oil to a piece of old (but clean) towel, and toss it in with your wet clothes before you start your dryer. It will add a subtle scent, without harsh chemicals, to your favorite outfits.

RELATED: How to Air Dry Clothes and Linens: Dos and Don’ts

7. Revive Carpets

floor level view of a woman vacuuming a carpet in the living room
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Vacuuming can be a pain, but doing it with a vacuum that smells old and musty is even worse. To give your machine a refresh, place several drops of lemon essential oil on a small piece of tissue and suck it up. It will give off a refreshing scent every time you vacuum your carpet and rugs.

8. Keep Bugs From Biting

woman's hands rubbing essential oils into palms
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Bug bite season is in full swing, and we know how much you enjoy dousing yourself with stinky, chemical-laden bug spray. For a less-offensive alternative, you can rub certain essential oils— lavender, citronella, or clove, to name a few—on pulse points and on your ankles to keep mosquitoes away.

RELATED: How to Make Homemade Mosquito Repellent

9. Clear the Air in Closets and Drawers

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Our clothes can absorb the woody smell that comes from inside a chest of drawers. Here’s a simple trick: Grab some cotton balls and dab them with a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Tuck them into the drawer among your clothes for an instant freshness boost.

10. Customize Cool Air

overhead view of woman's hands crafting air fresheners with candles clothespins and lavender
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Looking for a sneaky yet natural way to keep your home smelling fresh? Grab a wooden clothespin (it has to be the wood kind!) and your go-to essential oil and dab a few drops on the clothes pin. Clip it to your air conditioner vent. Every time your AC or heat kicks on, a subtle scent will waft through your space.

RELATED: 11 Super Simple Ways to Make Your House Smell Fresh

11. Spruce Up Your Mattress

overhead view of mattress with cup of baking soda and other cleaning supplies
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If your mattress smells like pets, sweat, or the snacks you sometimes eat in bed, baking soda and essential oils can help. Mix in a few drops of your preferred essential oil into a cup of baking soda. Sprinkle the mixture over your mattress and let it sit for up to 30 minutes. Vacuum the mattress to reveal your new subtly scented sleeping environment.