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Tea Tree Oil: A Natural Home Disinfectant for the Flu Season
Thursday, 01 November 2012 00:00  |  Written by Maggie Baxter | Article

Bath Towel photo by Mike InnocenziA few days ago, I was reminded of the strength of tea tree oil when I accidentally spilled a few drops on a freshly painted dresser. Within moments, it ate through the paint. Whoever says that natural products aren’t as potent as their artificial counterparts has yet to encounter the powerhouse that is tea tree oil. Just one whiff of this essential oil’s harsh medicinal smell is enough to clue you in to its might.

Derived from a plant native to New South Wales, tea tree oil has tremendous antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties. Yes, it may be a small component of the anti-acne astringent you put on your face each morning, but did you know that when used at just 5-10% concentration it’s strong enough to kill the bacteria responsible for causing staph infections, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)? How’s that for powerful protection this flu season?

And although bacteria can develop resistance to most antibiotics used to combat staph, they remain vulnerable to the essential oil. In fact, tea tree oil is so mighty that it’s almost always used in a diluted form, no matter the intended purpose.

Gladly, it’s no longer necessary to limit the power of tea tree oil to your cosmetics bag; it can enhance your ability to safely clean and disinfect your entire home. Many homemade household cleanser recipes incorporating tea tree oil are found online and in books such as the Australian Tea Tree Oil Handbook: 101 Plus Ways To Use Tea Tree, but you can also experiment on your own.

The bathroom is the best place to start. Goodbye bleach, hello tea tree oil. Along with a squirt of liquid soap, put a few drops of the oil in a spray bottle filled with water and use it to wipe down anything and everything, paying close attention to handles, faucets, doorknobs, etc. Don’t stop there. According to the above handbook, tea tree oil can make its way into the dishwasher, washing machine, humidifier and more. In fact, the possibilities are endless.

The cold and flu season is a perfect time to incorporate these germ-killing practices into your household cleaning routine. Then year-round, it helps lessen your dependency on harsh household cleaners, which pose risks to the environment and to your family’s health.
If you’ve got kids in diapers, tea tree oil is great to have on hand, especially if you use cloth diapers. To deodorize and sanitize your diaper pail, drizzle in a few drops. For cloth diapering on the go, to achieve the same affect, apply a tiny amount to a small cloth and toss it in your wet bag.

Lastly, if your baby’s skin isn’t too sensitive, do away with store-bought diaper wipes, which are wasteful and often full of unnatural ingredients, and try homemade diaper spray and cloth wipes instead. To make your own diaper spray, simply fill a spray bottle with water, squirt in a bit of liquid baby soap, and add a drop or two of tea tree oil.

Take measures to be cautious though; considering its potency, it should come as no surprise that tea tree oil is toxic if swallowed. Even topical exposure to undiluted or lightly diluted amounts may cause skin irritation. Therefore, like all household cleansers, always keep tea tree oil away from children and pets.

Don’t underestimate the power of tea tree oil and the many ways it can be used in the home—especially during the cold and flu season. It may not make cleaning and sanitizing more fun, but it can definitely make your efforts greener and more effective. So take some time to discover the methods that work best for you and your household. Start with a tiny bottle; a little goes a long way. You’ll be glad you did. Just make sure not to spill it on your dresser.

Additional resources:
The Wonders of Tea Tree Oil: A Far Cry from Windex
More on Tea Tree Oil

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Comments (3)add
Written by Marianne Zammit , April 08, 2012
I came across this page whilst looking for a homemade natural alternative for cleaning my kitchen benchtops. If I use tea tree oil, what dilution would I need to use in order not to mark the benchtops like it did the paint on the dresser? Thanks :)

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Written by K-Waz , March 12, 2010
As an severe allergy sufferer, I am a big fan of tea tree oil. I have a blend with eucalyptus that I use in my humidifier. I also put some in my wash with my sheets for those pesky dust mites. And, while the sheets are off the bed, I mist the bed with a solution of tea tree oil and water. I usually hit the curtains, too.

Just remember to keep this out of the hands of little ones! As little as 5 ml can be toxic to a small child (and animal).
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Written by Joan McGrane , March 10, 2010
How interesting, thank you for this. I just started washing with Dr. Bronner's tea tree castile liquid soap, diluted with water. I find the scent refreshing. I also use it as shampoo for my 84 yo mother's itchy scalp problem, it works better than anything for her. I will give it a try as a disinfectant in the kitchen. I have a feeling the ants that come with the warm weather will not care for the taste of it on the countertops!
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Eco Tip

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Away, away, from men and towns, / To the wild wood and the downs, — / To the silent wilderness, / Where the soul need not repress / Its music. - Percy Bysshe Shelley, (1792-1822), "To Jane, The Invitation," c.1820  More quotes...