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Kitchen Basics – Using Herbs Around the House

By July 15, 2015Kitchen Basics

I had jury duty the other week, so I did a lot of my work ahead of time. I was selected to serve on a three week trial five or six years ago, so I was planning for the worst. Since my weekends are usually reserved for picnics, naps, binging on our favorite shows, book reading, laundry, and cleaning, I didn’t want to have to add work to that list. Plus, no matter how busy the work week is, I like to have two full days off. I’ve even been trying to take a day or two off from social media each week.

As much as I’d rather not include laundry and cleaning in my weekend’s plans, they need to be done. I have my chores and Tim has his, leaving the house reasonably tidy, but usually covered with dog fur no matter how often we vacuum (we have a dog who sheds year round). Over the past few months I’ve tried to avoid using the dryer. It’s been hot enough that the clothes usually dry faster outside anyways. I love the way they smell, plus it’s free. When I do dry clothes in the dryer I love to add a little sachet of lavender. I don’t use fabric softeners or dryer sheets, and if at all possible our detergent is unscented. This is my only trick for nice smelling clothes.

Another thing I’ve used lavender for is to sprinkle on the floor before vacuuming. This was especially helpful when we lived in a carpeted apartment with a dog. The smell of lavender refreshed the room. I’ve read that you can sprinkle it with a bit of baking soda and cornstarch and leave it overnight, then vacuum it up in the morning. (1) I’ve never tried this though. Our indoor dog would have just laid in it and made a mess.

Lavender is a soothing herb and is said to help with relaxation and anxiety. It’s supposed to help you sleep. So you can make another sachet to keep by the bedside to sniff before taking a snooze.

If you’re looking to add a nice scent to your homemade cleaning products, there are many herbs that would be great, just for the smell of it. Mint, basil, thyme, and rosemary, for example. But, many herbs bring cleansing and disinfecting properties too, “like myrrh, peppermint, thyme, rosemary, lavender, mint, cloves, and eucalyptus.” (1) “Basil, bay, cardamom, clove, coriander, eucalyptus, ginger, hyssop, lavender, lemongrass, oregano, peppermint, rose geranium, rosemary, sage, spearmint, and thyme are cleaning powerhouses. All contain a multitude of plant chemicals that possess antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antiviral actions.” (2) And “chamomile, when made into a tea and cooled, works quite well as a fungicide.” (3)

Another great way to use herbs is as an air freshener. Basil leaves and flowers can be crushed and left out (and the seeds from the flowers can be saved to plant in your garden the following year). Mint would freshen nicely too. Citrus peels (lemon, orange, grapefruit) can be grated or shredded and left out or added to a garbage disposal.

Many years ago we had a problem with ants. I didn’t want to use chemicals, so I was thrilled to find a spray that was made mostly of mint. Yes, mint is said to be a pest deterrent. Ants don’t like it, and supposedly neither do mosquitos or rodents (I haven’t tested these last two, just read about it). (3)

In addition to these beneficial herbs, there are some other things that I like to make sure I have in the cleaning cabinet:

“Distilled white vinegar (which contains acetic acid) has antifungal and antimicrobial properties and can eliminate mineral deposits from sink and bathtub fixtures, as well as cookware.” (2)

Lemon juice “kills germs on countertops, cutting boards, and more.” (2) A halved lemon (that’s already been juiced) works great with some baking soda to scrub the sink. I like to pour a bit of baking soda and then some vinegar down the drain to clean it and kill any fruit flies that may be living there.

“Baking soda deodorizes and dissolves grease and dirt. Mixed with other ingredients, it makes a gentle but effective scrub.” (2)

I use tea tree oil (which has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties (2)) for cuts and blemishes, and I’ve got some in a spray bottle for cleaning.

You can also make your own essential oils (I found these two recipes) and teas, which can be added to water and used as cleaners or room fresheners. I might try making some Herbal Vinegar Cleanser (using lavender and thyme). There are many sites with tips and recipes for homemade cleaners (like this one), so I’m going to take some of the tricks that I’m learning and make some sprays with water, vinegar, and herbs.

It can be a little bit overwhelming, so starting with a couple things and expanding from there sounds like a good plan for me. Do you have any tips and tricks for natural cleaning around the home? Do share!

Happy Cleaning!

(1) http://www.frontiercoop.com/learn/hs_cleaningwithherbs.php#
(2) http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/wellbeing/herbs-cleaning
(3) http://www.organicauthority.com/organic-gardening/using-home-grown-plants-for-cleaning.html

Author Rachel Oberg

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