6 Things You Should Never Do with Essential Oils at Home

published Feb 23, 2019
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Essential oils, which are essentially (see what we did there?) concentrated plant parts used for aromatherapy, are ultra-trendy for a reason. Not only do they smell good; essential oils can be used around the house to clean, soothe, and set the mood. Having a hard time sleeping at night? Studies show lavender might help. Tummy problems? Grab your peppermint oil. Looking for a non-toxic way to de-germ your countertops? Try cinnamon bark oil, which has been extensively studied for its antiviral and anti-bacterial properties.

In short, essential oils can be powerful, so you should be mindful of how you’re using them. Here are a few things to avoid when using essential oils at home.

Don’t use them undiluted, or directly on your skin

Essential oils are, by definition, super concentrated, which means a little goes a long way. And some oils are so powerful they aren’t even safe to use directly on skin or other surfaces. Whether you’re hoping to apply the benefits of essential oils to your kitchen floors or your skin, it’s always best to dilute them. When applying oil to your body, try mixing essential oils with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba.

Don’t confuse pure oils with synthetic ones

Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, says not all oils are created equal. If you’re planning to whip up a DIY moisturizer, or even diffuse an oil in your home, there are benefits to choosing one without synthetic ingredients. “There is a misconception that all essential oils are the same quality, but this is not the case,” Backe says. Pure essential oils are distilled, expressed, or extracted from plants and other natural sources, while synthetic fragrance oils are just that—fragrance—without many or any natural benefits.

Don’t put certain oils on your skin

While oils can be used for skin conditions like burns or dermatitis, Esthetician Melissa Picoli Philips says citrus oils are among the most commonly misused essential oils. “Citrus oils are one of the worst oils to use on your skin,” Picoli Philips says. “They are highly phototoxic, meaning they cause your skin to absorb even more damaging UV, leading to cellular disturbances, hyper-pigmentation, and potentially even skin cancers.”

Use the same caution with tea tree oil, which is often touted for its powers against acne. This oil is too often used directly on skin for breakouts and rashes without regard for its strength. “While tea tree oil may help a pimple go away immediately, it may also cause long-term damage to your skin’s healing because it disrupts the natural biome at a deeper level,” says Picoli Philips.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Don’t mask odors that may need to be dealt with professionally

Essential oils can be powerful tools for treating odors in your home, especially in the kitchen or bathroom. But if you’re experiencing recurrent odors coming from your plumbing, it’s important to address the problem with a pro.

“Though essential oils can help mask any bad odors coming from your drains, if the smell continues, you may have a larger plumbing issue on your hands,” says Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly Company. “For example, if you notice an unpleasant smell coming from the shower drain, it could be a biofilm or p-trap problem. If this occurs, it’s best to contact your local plumber for an inspection to get to the root of the problem.”

The same goes for stinky refrigerators. As a general rule, if your fridge still stinks after you wipe it down or throw away spoiled food, have someone come check it out, suggests Doug Rogers, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly Company.

Don’t forget to clean your appliances

A few drops of lemon essential oil in your dishwasher can contribute to spot-free dishes, but don’t let the fresh smell keep you from regularly cleaning the appliance. “Even if you’re getting clean dishes, every three to six months you should still run an empty cycle with a dishwasher cleaner to remove calcium deposits. This prevents the sprayer arm from becoming clogged, so you don’t have to worry about repairing it prematurely,” says Rogers.

Same goes for the laundry machines. Essential oils are a great way to impart your clean laundry with a fresh scent, but don’t assume they’re doing anything to help clean your appliances. “Don’t try to get fancy and use oils to clean out your dryer’s lint filter,” Rogers says, adding that regularly using essential oils in your dryer can clog the lint filter, which makes your clothes dry more slowly and forces the appliance to work harder. “If you want to make your clothes smell fresher naturally, stick to adding oils to your washer, but avoid skipping traditional maintenance when it comes to cleaning your dryer.”

Don’t neglect your diffuser

Diffusers are a great way to create a cozy, aromatic atmosphere. But to reap the benefits of your diffuser, you’ll want to clean it regularly. “Regularly cleaning will prolong the lifespan of your diffuser and prevent oils from mixing to produce unexpected results. This is especially important for diffusers utilizing water, which can harbor bacteria that can affect indoor air quality, making you sick,” says Richard Ciresi, franchise owner of Aire Serv, a Neighborly company.