lifestyle

Easy ways to make the family home more toxin-free.

Thursday Plantation
Thanks to our brand partner, Thursday Plantation

It all started seven months ago when I moved interstate and into a house infested with cockroaches, rats and MORE BUGS THAN I’D EVER SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

We, of course, didn’t realise the house was bug-ridden until we’d signed the lease and moved all our furniture in. I know what you’re thinking: rookies.

Usually, I’d buy the most lethal-looking, cockroach-killing aerosol can to bomb the joint, but with a mobile six-month-old baby in tow, I wanted to keep my home as toxin-free as possible. Here’s how I ditched the chemicals and turned my bug-ridden life around with the help of natural essential oils.

toxin-free home
“Here’s how I ditched the chemicals and turned my bug-ridden life around with the help of natural essential oils.” Image via iStock.

PROBLEM: Cockroaches occupying the joint.

FIX: Natural repellent.

I’m often up in the wee hours of the morning (see above: baby) and nothing makes me feel sicker than seeing cockroaches scuttling across the kitchen bench when I’m making bottles for the baby.  But you know what smell cockroaches hate? Tea tree oil. Do you know what smell I now love? Tea tree oil.

I found the best way to deter cockroaches is to pour a small amount of tea tree oil directly onto a damp sponge and wipe around doorframes, windows, cupboards, and warm spots like behind the kettle where those little bastards like to hang out.

You can also add 20 drops of tea tree oil to 1 cup of water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray every day if you have an infestation and then on a weekly basis once you’ve interrupted the breeding cycle. Buh-bye bugs.

PROBLEM: My kids often eat food off the floor.

FIX: Germ-killing eucalyptus oil.

My now 11-month-old baby likes to think of mealtimes as a sport. Everything I try to feed him ends up on the floor. As soon as I unstrap him from the high chair, it’s a race to clean up the mess before he eats whatever food has been mashed into the floorboards.

Enter: eucalyptus oil. As it kills 99.9% of household germs, it’s an excellent, natural all-purpose cleaner to clean floors, kitchen and bathroom surfaces without the use of nasty chemicals. I use a eucalyptus and warm water solution to wipe down the highchair, kitchen bench and floor after every mealtime. And if you have a steam mop you can also add two capfuls of eucalyptus oil to help remove tough stains and deodorise.

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toxin-free home
“My now 11-month-old baby likes to think of mealtimes as a sport. Everything I try to feed him ends up on the floor.” Image via iStock.

PROBLEM: Trouble falling asleep.

FIX: Lavender oil room spray.

You’d think that being a sleep deprived mum would mean that by the time our weary heads hit the pillow, we’d fall into a delicious coma-like sleep. The reality is we’re more likely lying awake recalling the day’s minutiae and mentally going through everything on our to-do lists.

To feel better about sleeping in a bug-infested house, I began spraying lavender oil on my pillow and bed. Imagine an overenthusiastic Feng Shui Practitioner wielding smudging sticks during a negative energy cleansing ceremony and you’ll get an idea of how I looked. Time passed, we got the bug situation sorted, but my spraying soon turned into a nightly ritual. Now I can’t go to sleep without the calming and relaxing smell of lavender oil.

I’ve even resorted to spraying my kid’s beds and pillows in the hope of all of us getting a good night’s sleep. I don’t really want to jinx the situation by actually revealing how well it’s going, so all I’ll say is so far, so good.

PROBLEM: Kids are disgusting creatures.

FIX: DIY hand sanitiser.

My kids seem to have no problem touching the toilet bowl and then going right ahead and shoving food into their mouths. For reasons I will never understand, public toilets seem to be particularly attractive to them. I’ve now ditched the chemical and alcohol-laden hand sanitiser for an all-natural one.

Using tea tree oil  (the germicidal active, terpinen-4-ol, kills bacteria and fungi and 99.9% of household germs) mixed with lavender oil, a natural antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic, clove oil and aloe vera gel – all which you can find in your local chemist or health food shop.

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I’ve adjusted a recipe I found on Everyday Roots: I mix 30 drops of tea tree oil with 10 drops of lavender oil and 10 drops of clove oil to 16 tablespoons aloe vera gel and stir until combined. Next, I fill an empty commercial hand sanitiser bottle and keep the rest in a sealed jam jar in the fridge until I need more.

toxin-free home
If only it didn’t get grottier than paint… Image via iStock.

PROBLEM: My family smells.

FIX: Homemade bin deodoriser/room spray.

I’m going to be frank here, with children comes smells. Dirty nappies, toilet training, food spills, soiled laundry… you get the idea.

Even one day after our bins are emptied, it’s a smelly maggot haven. That was until I began dousing (okay, spraying) the wheelie bin with a watered down mixture of eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil and peppermint oil. Flies must hate it because even though they hover around the bins, we are yet to have another maggot infestation.

Handy hint: this is also an excellent room spray if say, for instance, your baby has just filled their nappy moments before you have guests arriving.

PROBLEM: Mould sucks.

FIX: DIY mould and mildew spray.

Not only did we have to contest with bugs when we moved in, but our belongings, which had been in storage for two months in a humid climate, also came to us covered in mould.

Rather than reaching for bleach – which doesn’t work anyway – mix a solution of clove oil (20 drops) and tea tree oil (10 drops) to 250ml water. For hard surfaces, spray on, wait a few minutes then wipe clean. For soft furnishing or say, shoes, spray on, let dry, then brush off.

Every parent wants to create a healthy environment for their family, but we’ve become too used to equating ‘hygiene’ to ‘chemical-clean.’ And it just doesn’t have to be this way.

What’s your best all-natural solution?