A big part of caring for the environment is keeping chemicals out of it and opting for greener alternatives instead. Thankfully, many substitute household products can be created from ingredients found in nature. Primarily, essential oils. These oils are the concentrated extracts from flowers, trees and other plants and often contain numerous benefits. Whether you need to sanitize your kitchen countertop, lower your stress levels or wash your face, essential oils could be the answer. We’ve outlined some of the top — and most surprising! — uses for these oils below.

Make a non-toxic all-purpose cleaner for your home

If you have little ones or pets, using non-toxic cleaning products is a must. Not only will you have peace of mind knowing harmful chemicals won’t linger on your countertops or floors and transfer to tiny hands or paws, but all-natural cleaners containing essential oils will leave your home smelling fresh. To make an all-purpose cleaner, fill a spray bottle with filtered water and several drops — roughly 10 drops for every 8 ounces of water — of lemon and orange essential oils, which are natural de-greasers. Or, if you want to make an anti-bacterial cleaning spray, use cinnamon essential oil instead. Cinnamon is the strongest antimicrobial found in nature and has been known to kill bacteria such as E. coli and staph.

Keep the air in your abode germ-free

Many essential oils, such as peppermint, eucalyptus, clove, patchouli and lemongrass, have strong antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. While they can't promise to keep the doctor away, certain essential oils can help attack bacteria and contribute to keeping you and your family well. By diffusing these oils into the air you breathe, you can combat germs connected with the common cold and flu. Breathing in essential oil-infused vapors can build your body's immune system before you get sick and help you get over a cold more quickly if you do catch one. If you don't own a diffuser, the DIY method works just as well: Leave a pot of water containing a few drops of essential oil to simmer on the stove. Don't forget to keep an eye on it and never leave it unattended, though!

Save face with all-natural, homemade skincare products

We've all heard the phrase "You are what you eat." The same principle applies to our skin and what we put on it. Did you know that your body absorbs roughly 5 pounds of beauty products each year? And if the products contain harmful ingredients – such as parabens or synthetic fragrances – those chemicals enter your bloodstream within a matter of minutes and can eventually cause health problems. Instead, make your own skincare products using essential oils. To make an all-natural toner, combine witch hazel with a few drops of essential oil – tea tree oil is great for oily or acne-prone skin while lavender is perfect for sensitive or mature skin. For a gentle, non-toxic face scrub, combine a few teaspoons baking soda, several drops of water and a drop or two of essential oil until it forms a paste.

Keep pesky bugs at bay

It’s nearly spring, which means bugs will soon be coming out of hiding. If you experience a pest problem in your home — such as a colony of ants claiming your kitchen space — reach for a natural alternative to traditional bug spray. Combine water with essential oils in a spray bottle, just as you would for your all-purpose cleaner. To take control over ants, use peppermint, citronella or cedarwood. If spiders are sneaking into your home, arm yourself with lavender, peppermint or lime oil.

Stay stress-free through aromatherapy

Have trouble sleeping at night? Can't focus at work? Essential oils may be the answer. To combat insomnia, rub a few drops of lavender or vetiver essential oil behind your ears and on the soles of your feet before hitting the hay. On the other hand, if the midday slump is leaving you drowsy and unproductive at work, rub a drop of orange or peppermint essential oil on your temples and breathe in deeply — both of these aromas are known to be energizing and revitalizing.

Keep fruits and veggies squeaky clean

As soon as you bring home fresh fruits and vegetables from the grocery store or farmers market, give them a good bath to remove any pesticides, wax or bacteria. Lemon has incredible anti-fungal properties which can kill slight traces of mold and mildew, so add a few drops of its essential oil to a full sink of water before dunking your produce. Rinse your fruits and vegetables and dry thoroughly before storing them so they stay fresher, longer.

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