Tea Tree Oil: 10 Germ-Killing, Super-Cleansing Uses


Do you ever pass those big, expensive bottles of essential oils at the natural foods store and wonder who needs that much? Most of us are used to using just a few drops at a time; after all, they’re super-concentrated. But next time, you won’t blink an eye at the thirty dollar price tag on that 4-ounce bottle of tea tree oil. Why? Because it’s possibly the most powerful essential oil there is, with dozens of medicinal, beauty and domestic uses. Seriously: you need tea tree oil. Lots of it. Here are just 10 examples of what you can do with it.

Mold Killer

I recently had a knock-down, drag-out fight with mold. Things got ugly fast when a leak in the basement wasn’t fixed quickly enough, and before long, mold was all over everything that was stored down there. While I had to throw a lot of things away, I saved a lot thanks to a really easy and natural solution that kills virtually all strains of fungus – plain white vinegar with about a teaspoon of tea tree oil added to it, in a spray bottle. Spray liberally and vigorously wipe all affected surfaces, but don’t rinse.

Laundry Scent and Booster

Anyone who’s ever dealt with dirty cloth diapers, cloth menstrual pads or a post-illness load of laundry knows that sometimes, your clothes and linens need a little something more than just plain old laundry detergent. But don’t break out the bleach. A teaspoon of tea tree oil in your wash water will kill any germs and other gross stuff – just hang them out in the sun to dry and stains will disappear, too.

Insect Repellent and Bite Soother

When all else fails – even trusty old citronella – tea tree oil keeps annoying mosquitoes, gnats and other buzzing and biting bugs far away. Pour about an ounce of tea tree oil and four ounces of witch hazel into a spray bottle, and shake it up before applying. Both ingredients are soothing to existing bites. You can add some cedar, lemongrass, or lavender to make it even more powerful and prettier-smelling, too.

All-Purpose Cleaner

Sometimes referred to as ‘Mother Nature’s most powerful antiseptic’, tea tree oil is a great addition to just about any homemade all-purpose cleaner recipe. Here’s my favorite: add 2 cups of hot water to 2 tablespoons of 20 Mule Team Borax, ½ teaspoon of liquid dish soap and ½ teaspoon of tea tree oil in a spray bottle; shake it and spray it anywhere germs lurk, like doorknobs and toilets.

Relief from Chest Colds

Put 2-3 drops of tea tree oil in a basin of hot, steaming water, then cover your head with a towel and inhale the steam for up to 10 minutes. Since tea tree oil has antiviral properties, it can help keep that cold from getting out of hand, especially if you catch it early enough.

Cold Sores

Nothing says “kiss me” like a hideous, contagious eruption right next to your mouth. Tea tree oil can help make it go away fast, since its antiviral effect subdues the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores. Apply a few drops to the sore with a cotton swab once a day until it’s gone, and don’t forget to pop some lysine, an amino acid that has been proven to stop the herpes virus from replicating.

Gum and Sticker Remover

Whether it’s a wad of gum someone stuck under your dining table or a stubborn label on a gift, tea tree oil is so astringent that it cuts through sticky substances with ease. Just pour on a few drops on a cotton ball and rub away.

Acne Buster

The active ingredient in tea tree oil, terpinen-4-ol, is thought to kill the the bacteria that colonizes our pores and throws the disgusting, unsightly parties that result in acne. Just a drop added to a paste of baking soda and castile soap makes a super-effective natural face and body scrub that will also buff away the dead skin cells that make breakouts even worse. Some people can be sensitive to high concentrations of this powerful oil, so if you get a rash, discontinue use.

Athlete’s Foot and Other Fungal Issues

As gross as it sounds, the same properties that make tea tree oil such a potent mold-killer make it great for the fungus that causes athlete’s foot, too. The same goes for any other fungal infection, like ringworm, dandruff and nail infections. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil in a base oil like sweet almond, olive or coconut and apply it to the affected area, add it to your shampoo or add it to hot water for a foot soak.

Head Lice Zapper

What do you do when your kid’s got a head full of creepy-crawly, blood-sucking lice? Blast those suckers into oblivion as soon as possible. But many parents inadvertently expose their children to even worse health problems when they resort to noxious chemicals. Try tea tree oil first – research shows that it can dislodge mature lice. Mix a teaspoon of tea tree with 4 teaspoons of either olive or coconut oil, rub it into the scalp and leave it on for 15 minutes; then use a nit comb before washing the mixture out.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Stephanie Rogers

Stephanie Rogers currently resides in North Carolina where she covers a variety of green topics, from sustainability to food.