About 15 years ago, fragrant little bottles and diffusers full of essential oils started making their way into our homes. If you’re like me, you may have bought one of the “essential oil starter packs” with 20+ trial-size oils, then immediately felt overwhelmed by all the options. Unless you’re an essential oil die-hard, you probably don’t have a need for all 20 of those oils, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on including them in your domestic routines. Oils can be a helpful tool for families if you know how to use them. Here is a refresher guide to the top five most popular oils available, and how you can put them to use around your home.


  1. Lavender

Lavender oil has a light, fresh, floral scent that may smell familiar as it is not only one of the most popular essential oils but also a popular scent in home and body products. When diffused it can create a sense of calm and peace. Use it to refresh a musty kid’s room or diffuse it in your bathroom for a spa-like atmosphere. Spray it on clean laundry for a pleasant, floral scent.


  1. Peppermint

The unmistakable scent of peppermint oil creates an atmosphere of attentiveness and energy. While you may want to skip diffusing peppermint oil at bedtime, many parents find it useful for children with mild coughs. It can be diffused or mixed with another oil (coconut or olive) for a DIY chest rub.


  1. Tea Tree

Tea Tree oil is a common ingredient in many cosmetics and has some antibacterial properties. You will find this oil as the main ingredient in a lot of shampoos and soaps to address a wide range of issues, from dry scalp to acne to athlete’s foot. If you have tea tree oil in your home, however, make sure you keep it out of reach of your children as it can be toxic if swallowed.


  1. Lemon

Lemon oil does more than smell like summer fun. The citrus scent can freshen stale air around your home or be used in natural cleaning products. If you buy food-safe oil, you can add a drop to your hot tea or use it to make lemonade. Just make sure you have the right kind of oil and always dilute it.


  1. Chamomile

If you are a fan of chamomile tea you will love chamomile essential oil. Just like the bedtime-friendly tea, chamomile oil has a calming effect and can help relieve anxiety. It can also help soothe skin irritation like eczema when used with a carrier oil as a lotion.


While each of these oils is great on its own, they can be even more powerful when combined. Try adding a few drops each of lavender, lemon, and peppermint oils to a diffuser and enjoy the refreshing and revitalizing scent that can help relieve congestion. Or mix 3-5 drops of each oil into the bath. The warm moist air and oils can help with cold symptoms while your child plays in the water. Mix lavender and chamomile at bedtime for a relaxing atmosphere or diffuse peppermint and lemon during homework time to help with focus.


Essential oils are used frequently in cosmetics, which you can make at home. Recipes for homemade lotion, shampoo, soap and even deodorant can be found on the internet. Simply use your favorite essential oil for the scent and you have a customizable, inexpensive and natural cosmetic alternative.


DIY cleaning products using essential oils are also popular. For an inexpensive all-purpose cleaner combine equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Add a few drops of lemon oil and the vinegar smell will be gone. If you’re looking to replace dryer sheets, try investing in wool dryer balls. Add a drop or two of your favorite oil to one of the dryer balls and your clothes will come out smelling wonderful.


Today you can find essential oil diffusers to match every decor style, and they have become a mainstay in many homes, classrooms and offices. Diffusing is one of the easiest ways to put your essential oils to use, but many people also mix them with a carrier oil and rub them on their skin. Except for lemon oil (as mentioned above), we don’t recommend ingesting oils, as some oils can be toxic. If you are pregnant or nursing, it is a good idea to check with your doctor before using any essential oils. And always keep your oils out of reach of your kids.

Catherine Michalk is a native Austinite, writer and mom of three. You can follow her family’s adventures at www.catherinemichalk.com

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