Top 10 Essential Oils to Whiten & Brighten Your Laundry +Recipes

The most common way most of us use for cleaning our clothes, linens and other household items is to use wet cleaning action that uses water and some type of soap.

Not that long ago this meant using washing boards, or beating our clothing against stones by riverbeds. In many instances, performing the weekly washing was done in the company of other women, perhaps family members, and was an important part of our social life. Women gathered together at the local riverbed or stream to share stories and enjoy each other’s company while toiling away at their weekly washing chore. In some third world countries this custom is still practiced.

It wasn't until the mid 19th century that this social custom was abandoned when the first hand operated washing machine was invented. 

These new fangled washing machines were often outdoors on the back porch of one’s home. The long tradition of gathering socially to share company of other women while doing the family’s weekly washing became history.  

The hand operated washing machine gave way to the first electric washing machines around the 1920s, but these were still partially operated by hand as only the rotating washer drum was electric.  

Finally, in the 1930s, washing machines became entirely automatic.

The idea behind wet washing is to loosen dirt from clothes and other items you were cleaning with soap and water, then rinse and squeeze out as much water as possible.

Mineral Deposits aka Hard Water

The use of water which contains an abundance of minerals can itself cause your freshly washed clothes to look dirty after washing them. This is the case if you have hard water, which contains mineral deposits. Minerals in the water can combine with soap to form a scum, which causes laundry to appear dingy and unclean, especially overtime with repeated washing.

Hard water is a common problem in many households, and can often leave surface areas, i.e. shower doors, bathtubs, sinks, and faucets, looking stained, dull and dingy even after cleaning. A variety of cleaning ‘chemicals’ designed to remove hard water residue and stains are available on the market. However, products containing these harsh chemicals can pollute your environment and jeopardize your health and well-being.

As an alternative you can choose to use all-natural essential oils to remove mineral laden hard water film from your clothes and other household items.

The best essential oils to use for removing mineral deposits from water are the naturally high acidic and astringent oils like lemon, grapefruit and sweet orange.

Another tremendous plus to using essential oils for your laundry care is their uplifting scent. Studies show that essential oils have a positive effect on your psychological well-being.

Studies also show essential oils can be used as cleansing, detoxifying and protective agents to support your immune and respiratory systems.

Top 10 Essential Oils

Here are the top 10 essential oils to use to help remove  stubborn hard water deposits and scum, uplift your senses and to support immune and respiratory health.

Let’s start with the citrus oils. These oil's naturally acidic and astringent action, not only will help remove minerals from your water, but also impart a fresh clean scent that’s like a burst of uplifting summer sunshine.

LEMON (Citrus limon)
Scent: Fresh, sweet, lemony, citrus and fruity
Chemical Family: Monoterpene, Aldehyde

SWEET ORANGE (Citrus sinensis)
Scent: Fresh, sweet, floral and herbaceous
Chemical Family: Monoterpene alcohol (Monoterpenol), Ester

GRAPEFRUIT (Citrus paradisi)
Scent: Sweet, fresh, bright, fruity and crisp
Chemical Family: Monoterpene

All citrus oils contain Monoterpene constituents. Limonene and Pinene are the two most common monoterpenes.

Limonene has antibacterial, antifungal, and antidepressant effects and used for weight loss. Research reports suggest that limonene also has anti-carcinogenic properties.

Pinene has a powerful energizing effect on the brain and can aid attention and focus. It can be used as a topical antiseptic, a natural expectorant (mucous remover) and bronchodilator for respiratory health. 

Antimicrobial Research 5 EOs

Check out a study conducted showing antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects of essentials oils. 

CINNAMON (Cinnamomum zeylanican)
Scent: Sweet, warm, spicy and radiant
Chemical Family: Phenolic ether (Phenol and Ether actions), Cinnamic aldehyde

The phenol chemical constituents found in essential oils are primarily thymol, eugenol and carvacrol. These properties are strongly antiseptic, anti-bacterial, disinfectant and stimulating.

Aldehyde chemical components found in essential oils are primarily citral, neral, geranial and citronellas. Essential oils containing primarily aldehydes have the highest antibacterial activity, 
along with phenols.

EUCALYPTUS (Eucalyptus globulus)
Scent: Fresh, sweet and camphoraceous
Chemical Family: Oxide, Monoterpene

Oxide properties found in Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Rosemary make these oils beneficial for the respiratory and digestive systems and memory.

ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Scent: Clean, fresh woody and herbal scent with tenacious dry out notes
Chemical Family: Monoterpene, Ketone, Oxide, Ester

Pinene (a Monoterpene) found in Rosemary oil gives it a powerfully energizing effect on the brain. Rosemary can aid attention and focus. It can be used as a topical antiseptic, a natural expectorant (removes mucous) and bronchodilator for respiratory health.

Ketone constituents make Rosemary oil especially valuable for respiratory infections and are effective as mucolytic and expectorant agents for the removal of mucous. Peppermint oil also contains significant amounts of ketones.

TEA TREE (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Scent: Fresh, camphoraceous, penetrating, warm, spicy and herbaceous
Chemical Family: Monoterpenol

As a monoterpene alcohol (monoterpenol) Tea Tree lends a synergistic effect when combined with other essential oils which helps enhance their effects.

Check out a study showing the antimicrobial action of Tea Tree oil. 

PEPPERMINT (Mentha x piperita)
Scent: Fresh, minty and sweet
Chemical Family: Monoterpenol, Oxide, Ketone

In studies peppermint oil was shown to inhibit the production of the Staphloccocus aureus bacteria.

Neuroprotective & Anti-aging Research EOs

A broad review of several EOs showed that several EOs possess anxiolytic (anxiety reducing), neuroprotective (protect nervous system) and anti-aging (memory and dementia) effects, including lavender, rose geranium, peppermint, rosemary and sweet orange (among other EOs studied).

LAVENDER (Lavandula angustifolia)
Scent: Fresh, sweet, floral and herbaceous
Chemical Family: Monoterpenol, Ester

Ester chemical properties found in both Lavender and Rose Geranium give these oils very fragrant notes and therapeutic actions and effects that are characteristically sedating and antispasmodic. Ester constituents also give these oils a broad spectrum of anti-microbial action.

ROSE GERANIUM (Pelargonium roseum)
Scent: Sweet, fresh, rosy, floral, herbaceous, exotic and sensual
Chemical Family: Monoterpene, Ester

Another study on, The Influence of Fragrances on Human Psychophysiological Activity: With Special Reference to Human Electroencephalographic (EEG) Response, showed a significant role for olfactory stimulation in the alteration of cognition, mood, and social behavior.  Among the aromatic oils most studied for these effects are lavender, peppermint, rosemary, lemon and geranium.

Whiten & Brighten Your Laundry

What you will need:

  • 1/8 cup (1 ounce) - Liquid laundry detergent, natural and unscented
  • 15 drops (2.5% dilution) - Essential oils (single or blend of oils)
  • 1/4 teaspoon - Vinegar (distilled white) - to boost acidity and cleaning action, as well as to help disinfect (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) - helps deodorize and soften your clothes. (Optional)

Laundry EO Recipes
Choose from these blends to make your own unique scent and cleaning experience.

EO Recipe #1

  • Lemon - 40 drops
  • Lavender - 30 drops
  • Peppermint - 15 drops
  • Eucalyptus - 15 drops

EO Recipe #2

  • Sweet Orange - 50 drops
  • Tea Tree - 30 drops
  • Cinnamon - 10 drops
  • Rosemary - 10 dops

EO Recipe #3

  • Grapefruit - 50 drops
  • Rose Geranium - 20 drops
  • Lavender - 20 drops
  • Tea Tree - 10 drop

Dispense your essential oils into a 5ml (100 drops) colored glass euro-dropper bottle. Cap bottle tightly and shake vigorously to mix EOs thoroughly. Allow to synergize for 8-12 hours or longer before using.


  • Pour 1/8 cup (1 ounce) liquid laundry detergent in a glass measuring cup
  • Add 15 drops essential oils, or blend of oils, into the cup and mix ingredients thoroughly together
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon vinegar (white distilled) Optional
  • Mix ingredients thoroughly together
  • Follow your manufacturer’s guidelines for when to add detergent and cleaners to your washing machine.

Dryer Sheets

To make your own scented dryer sheets dispense 15 drops of your essential oil, or blend, onto a cotton cloth and add to your dryer’s cool down cycle.

READ next article in series, Top 10 Antimicrobial Oils by Chemistry +EO Hand Cleaner Recipes.

READ first article in series, 4 Potent Essential Oil Surface Cleaners +Easy to Use Recipes.

†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All statements on this website are intended for informational purposes only.

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