I really enjoyed your March 2010 Ask the Aromatherapist about using natural ingredients and quality essential oils for a naturally clean and healthy home. Do you have suggestions that I could use for my children’s bedrooms and playroom?
My children are full-grown thirty-something year olds but as Nana to a very busy five-year old grandson and a quickly growing infant granddaughter I deeply share your desire to provide a safe, chemical-free, naturally clean and healthy home environment for your children. You can use all of the recipes from the March 2010 Ask the Aromatherapist article with child-safe essential oils. In this article I provide a list of essential oils that are commonly recommended for use with children six months and older, and I have included some back-to-nature aromatic suggestions I think you will like!
Before we get started, I would like to share a couple of finds with you. The Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia Guide to a Less Toxic Environment is truly one of the most interesting, up-to-date, comprehensive resources I have come across in my research on this subject. I encourage you to check it out.
Under the Baby Care section in the Guide they educate; ‘It is very important to try to limit a baby’s exposure to harmful chemicals. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals than adults. Their immune systems and central nervous system are immature and still developing, which means their bodies are generally less capable of eliminating toxins. As well, children have roughly double the skin surface of adults per unit of body weight, so a child can absorb proportionally more chemicals. Babies and children breathe more air per body weight than adults do, which increases their exposure by inhalation. Decreasing a child’s exposure to chemicals from day one, and even in the womb, could mean a lower risk of allergies and chemical sensitivities, and lower risk of cancers and other illnesses.’
On March 1st of 2010 the Government of Canada released a guide called Hazardcheck as part of its four-year public education campaign on environmental health. Hazardcheck provides information for parents to help make and keep their homes safer and healthier.
If I may add, a number of studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicate that the rates of childhood chronic health problems including environmental sensitivity, asthma, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders are on the rise each year. I am convinced that aromatherapy and the regular use of natural, non-toxic cleaning products and practices will go a long way to benefiting our children while creating and maintaining a healthy home and environment.
In the case that your child has special health considerations like asthma, epilepsy or is seriously ill always seek the advice of a certified aromatherapy practitioner and talk to your child’s health care provider if you have any concerns at all about using aromatherapy as part of your natural home cleaning routine.
We are reminded that all essential oils are very potent, concentrated, plant-derived semi-solids or liquids demanding the same respect one uses with medicine. Be aware that unless otherwise stated, the majority of available essential oil based or ‘boosted’ recipes, products and remedies are for use by the average-sized, healthy adult population. The Guide to a Less Toxic Environment observes that babies and children are like little sponges. The ‘less is more’ rule applies when using essential oils around children. If one drop will do the trick, do not use two!
Use only those essential oils that are considered safe for children when treating or cleaning their immediate atmosphere and the objects of which they come into close and regular contact. Always use quality, genuine and authentic essential oils. Yes, even in cleaning recipes! And since each essential oil has its own specific therapeutic properties and safety precautions, ensure that an essential oil is identified by its botanical name as well as its common name to avoid using the wrong type. You will find the common and botanical names of the recommended essential oils at the end of this article.
Even though this article is about cleaning your children’s living and play spaces and not about applying essential oils onto them, I do not know their ages nor their state of health so have erred on the side of caution when determining which essential oils to use. The most commonly recommended essential oils for general use with children six months of age and older that also work well to maximize the power of natural, non-toxic cleaning products include; eucalyptus radiata and eucalyptus smithii (the mildest of the eucalyptus family), geranium, roman chamomile, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, mandarine, neroli, rose, tangerine and tea tree.
It is time to safely aromatize your children’s living and play spaces …
Pumping a few sprays of quality essential oil hydrosol into the air of a room is one of the simplest ways to aromatize and cleanse your children’s bedrooms and playroom. Lavender, neroli and rose hydrosols are particularly nice. Buyer beware! Hydrosols are typically produced at high temperatures and are somewhat acidic, which inhibits bacterial growth but they are not sterile. They are a fresh product like milk, and should therefore be refrigerated. Purchase hydrosols that indicate the date they were bottled, include an expiry date and if possible determine that both the producer and bottler used every precaution to prevent bacterial contamination.
Making your own aromatic spray is not quite the same as using a quality hydrosol but it is a nice alternative. In a small clean spray bottle add 1 cup (240 ml) of fresh distilled water, 1 oz (30ml) of grain-based vodka which acts as an emulsifier for the essential oil and water (also aids spray evaporation) and 10 drops of a quality essential oil. Use only 5 drops if choose lemongrass or roman chamomile as their aromas are especially powerful and longlasting. Shake well and pump a couple of sprays upward into the air with due care to avoid droplets falling onto objects that may be marked by water and, of course, not on your children! Clearly label the bottle and store in a safe place.
For a wonderful bedtime room spray use the recipe above substituting the choice of one essential oil for a blend of 1 drop roman chamomile, 5 drops lavender and 4 drops mandarine. For a real treat try 3 drops of rose with 7 drops of mandarine. Ahhh … good for mom and dad too! These recipes double as linen and mattress sprays. Check fabric in an inconspicuous spot first and allow the area to dry before letting little bodies snuggle into their beds.
On the subject of sprays, a handy cleaner for school bags, back packs, plastic toys and even highchairs can be made with 2 cups (480 ml) water, 1/4 cup (60 ml) vinegar and 10 drops of lemon or lavender, or 5 drops tea tree essential oil mixed in a clean spray bottle. Shake well, spray and wipe dry.
Simple aromatic solutions include adding two drops of lemongrass onto a dampened cleaning cloth for use to wipe the inside of waste baskets. Place one drop of eucalyptus radiata or eucalyptus smithii on a cotton ball and place into smelly footwear – sneakers, rubber boots, winter boots. Place 2 drops of your child’s favourite essential oil on a cotton ball and place into their pajama drawer or closet. Alternatively place 5 drops of their favourite essential oil or 4 drops mandarine and 1 drop roman chamomile on a tissue or paper towel and place between their sheets, removing it when they go to bed.
Apply 5 drops of any of the child-friendly essential oils to a clean microfibre floor duster but use it to dust walls and ceilings! Allow your vacuum cleaner to suck up half a tissue with 3 to 5 drops of an essential oil on it. It will aromatize the air while you clean. A dampened facecloth with 10 drops of lavender, lemon, or mandarine added to clothes in the dryer will not prevent the build up of static but it will give your children’s clothes a wonderful natural fragrance as long as the dryer is not too hot.
Have you ever considered aromatizing your children’s favorite books? In a large ziploc bag place books to be treated along with a paper towel scented with five drops of your child’s favourite essential oil. Seal the bag and leave for 12 to 24 hours. This is a wonderful way to treat much loved books that are soiled and musty. Lemon essential oil imparts an aroma like liquid sunshine each time your child turns a page!
To help keep dust mites at bay, a common allergen, vacuum and dust your children’s rooms regularly and wash your children’s sheets in as hot water as the fabric will allow. Every other wash, add up to 25 drops of eucalyptus radiata essential oil to your laundry soap or to this fabulous recipe from natural-healthy-home-cleaning-tips.com: 1 ounce (30 ml) liquid castile soap,1 cup (240 ml) washing soda,1 cup (240 ml) baking soda and 1 cup white vinegar (240 ml). Studies show that eucalyptus essential oil helps to kill dust mites and the acid of the vinegar neutralizes the allergens they produce.
Why not take advantage of the natural cleaning gifts Mother Nature has given us?Regularly open the windows in your children’s rooms for ten to fifteen minutes to allow for an exchange of room air, even in cold weather. Open their clothes closets and storage cabinets too. There is no aromatic substitute for fresh air!
Access the healthy benefits of the sun. Ultraviolet light is the primary reason bacteria do not survive well in sunlight and molds grow in dark and moist environments. Use a clothesline or folding clothes drying rack to dry or refresh children’s clothes. And dust mites do not like the sun so hang your children’s bedding, scatter mats, curtains and treasured stuffed animals out of doors to give those beasties a blast!
Crayon creations on the table, floor or wall? Rub markings with a damp cloth and a dot of toothpaste. Okay, so toothpaste has little to do with aromatherapy but its a neat way to remove unwanted Picassos! (Don’t use toothpaste on wallpaper or porous surfaces.)
I hope that the content of this article coupled with that of the March 2010 Ask the Aromatherapist provides the foundational information you need to safely achieve a naturally clean and healthy playroom and bedrooms boosted by the extraordinary antimicrobial, antiviral and aromatic properties of quality essential oils.
It goes without saying that no matter the products used to clean your children’s environment, safeguards should always be in place: do not use spray cleaners while your child is in the room; use only the amount of cleaner needed for the job at hand; ensure freshly cleaned surfaces are thoroughly dry before use; do not leave buckets containing fluid unattended; clearly label cleaners and store them along with cleaning cloths and other cleaning supplies in a secure, childproof place. If you would like to learn more about the use of aromatherapy with children you may find Valerie Ann Worwood’s Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child (2000) of interest. Ms. Worwood offers an array of aromatherapy remedies to promote health, prevent illness and treat minor ailments for children of all ages, temperaments and states of health.
Recommended essential oils with their common and botanical names:
Eucalyptus- Eucalyptus radiata and Eucalyptus smithii; Geranium – Pelargonium graveolens; Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia; Lemon – Citrus limon; Lemongrass – Cymbopogon flexuosus; Mandarin – Citrus reticulata; Neroli – Citrus aurantium var. amana distilled from flowers; Roman Chamomile – Anthemis nobilis; Rose – Rosa damascena; Tangerine – Citrus reticulata blanco var. tangerine; and Tea Tree -Melaleuca alternifolia.