Do You REALLY Know What’s in That Store-Bought Product? Easy DIY Essential Oil Alternatives

harmful ingredients in store-bought products to avoid

One of the biggest motivations I have for using essential oils is that they can be used to make alternatives to store-bought products, such as cleaners, air fresheners, lotions, soaps, laundry products, deodorizers, and so much more. One of the biggest motivations I have for using essential oils is that they can be used to make alternatives to store-bought products, such as cleaners, air fresheners, lotions, soaps, laundry products, deodorizers, and so much more.

The DIY essential oil scene is huge. DIYing with essential oils is a topic we cover frequently here on the Aroma Outfitters blog—there’s just so much that you can do with oils that once you start living a more natural (and often more affordable) lifestyle, you’ll never want to go back to the store-bought stuff.

But why use alternatives in the first place, you ask? Because many store-bought products like the ones I just mentioned are brimming with chemicals. Sure, some are benign, but some are definitely bad for you. A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t pronounce the name of an ingredient, you might not want to use it until you learn more about it.

In this post, I want to go over a few common household products that usually contain nasty ingredients (no doubt some of them will surprise you). I’ll then tell you about more natural essential oil based alternatives that you can DIY yourself.

Your body will thank you for it, but so will your wallet. More often than not DIYing these things ends up being a ton cheaper than the store-bought product—for example, I’m going to teach you how to never pay for dryer sheets again, how to make a dirt cheap all-purpose cleaner, and more.

Let’s begin by examining a couple of things you should avoid. After that, we’ll dig into great, all-natural alternatives.

Phthalates Explained: Why You Should Avoid Products With “Fragrance” as an Ingredient

natural alternatives with essential oils

Did you know that in the United States companies aren’t legally bound to disclose what’s in their product scents? This means that whatever makes something smell “good” in a cleaning product (commonly lemon or pine scents) could be just about anything… and let’s be honest, it’s probably not from a real lemon or pine tree. These scents are often simply listed in the ingredients as “fragrance” or even “natural fragrance.”

Unfortunately, in a lot of these scents, a type of chemical called a phthalate is present. Technically they’re synthetic chemical esters of phthalic acid, but that’s not particularly important—what is important is that phthalates are well documented to be endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) like phthalates interfere with the normal healthy functioning of the body’s endocrine system, which can cause a whole host of problems including but not limited to adverse neurological, immune, and reproductive problems. Worryingly, the effects seem to be pronounced on children especially, with research showing that EDCs can cause developmental delays and abnormal growth patterns.

Needless to say, it would be wise to keep yourself and your family away from phthalates as much as possible. Therefore, if a product’s ingredients include “fragrance” and you can’t confirm in any other way that the product doesn’t contain phthalates, you should probably avoid it and use an all-natural alternative.

Most of the DIY recipes we’ll be looking at today will serve as replacements for products that can potentially contain phthalates, such as home cleaning products or scented lotions. But before that, let’s look at two more common store-bought product ingredients that you should consider avoiding: parabens and triclosan.

Have You Heard of Parabens? Here’s Why You Should Avoid Them, Especially if You’re a Woman

If you’ve noticed a trend in recent years for cosmetics and skincare products to market themselves as “paraben free,” that’s because awareness of this particular ingredient has slowly been rising. That’s a very good thing indeed, because parabens—while not as bad as some of the other things we’ll be talking about today—probably aren’t great for you or the environment.

Parabens have been shown since at least 2004 to be an endocrine and estrogen disruptor, which could contribute to major health concerns like breast cancer. Considering that parabens are found in products most commonly used by women, it’s great that people are starting to become aware of these potential dangers and turning to more natural alternatives.

It’s important to know the different names that parabens might appear as in the ingredients list of a store-bought product. These include:

  • Methylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Polyparaben
  • Buylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Propylparaben

As you can see, each of these variants ends with “paraben,” making them easy enough to spot.

Now, let’s move on to the final common ingredient we’ll be examining today:

Everyone Knows Aluminum in Deodorant is Bad For You – But Have You Heard of Triclosan?

It’s fairly old news that aluminum in deodorant is something that should probably be avoided, as concerns about it contributing to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease have been discussed for years. The good news is that some of those concerns aren’t entirely founded by mainstream research. The bad news is that it is true that deodorants often use aluminum chlorohydrate, which has been shown to be at least “moderately” hazardous to humans.

However, the most potentially harmful ingredient found in most antiperspirant deodorant that you probably haven’t heard of is called triclosan, an antimicrobial agent. The purpose of this particular chemical is to kill bacteria under your arms, thereby reducing odor.

The problem is that it, like phthalates, is a scientifically confirmed endocrine disruptor. In fact, triclosan is so bad that the FDA banned it from soap products in 2016. Unfortunately, it’s still present in many other products, such as deodorant, mouthwash, hand sanitizer, and others. In addition to being an endocrine disruptor, triclosan may also cause antibiotic resistance and cause general irritation in some people.

Needless to say, that, for me, is enough to avoid most store-bought deodorant—but trust me, even after a summer day of chasing my kids around the house you’d never be able to guess!

With that in mind, let’s go ahead and dive into our DIY essential oil alternatives by learning how to make all natural (and really effective) homemade deodorant:

All Natural Homemade Antiperspirant Deodorant With Essential Oil

natural alternatives to store-bought products

If you want to avoid aluminum chlorohydrate, phthalates, and triclosan, this is a super-easy way to make your own deodorant at home. It works just as well as the store-bought stuff and ends up being quite a bit cheaper in the long run. And, you know, you also won’t be plugging your pores with a ton of questionable chemicals.

In addition to essential oils, you’ll need three additional ingredients for this homemade deodorant:

I’ve discussed shea butter before on the blog—I love the stuff. I used it in my autumn-themed essential oil hand cream recipe because it’s great for nourishing your skin and acts as a lovely base for many DIY essential oil recipes (you’ll see it again in this post).

What you might not have heard of before is arrowroot powder. This is a common natural ingredient in food, often as a thickener thanks to its gluten-free yet starchy makeup. However, it also works wonderfully for our purposes: when mixed with the shea butter and coconut oil, it helps to create a thick but smooth paste.

Take your 2 oz of your shea butter and 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil and heat them in a pan on medium heat. Stir them together as they melt—it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. Take them off the heat and add a further 2 tablespoons of the arrowroot powder.

At this point, you’re free to add whatever essential oils you want, but a mixture that I’ve found works really well is tea tree oil, lavender oil, and lemon oil. Tea tree and lavender are both great for your skin, and all three of these oils have odor-neutralizing properties. I’ve found this to be the most potent combination of oils for smelling good all day long.

As for how much of each essential oil, that’s also up to you, but I prefer the following amounts:

  • 15 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 15 drops lavender essential oil
  • 10 drops lemon essential oil


You’ll want a 3-4 ounce jar to keep your new deodorant in. Apply about a quarter sized amount to each of your underarms. It feels a little strange not using a “deodorant stick” applicator the first few times you do it, but it’s well worth it once you realize that this recipe works just as well and you’re avoiding all the bad stuff.

DIY Essential Oil Lotion Recipes

The main thing to know before you make your own DIY body butter or essential oil lotion is to avoid citrus-based essential oils, like lemon or bergamot. The main reason is that citrus has powerful photosynthesizing properties, which is great if you’re a fruit, but not so much if you’re a person—for us, it can cause photosensitivity, leading to much easier sunburns. Take caution whenever you apply a citrus oil topically (or just don’t).

Having said that, I have an amazing lotion recipe in my post Amazing DIY Essential Oil Holiday Gifts You Can Make at Home. It features coconut oil and peppermint essential oil to provide a delightful cooling sensation which I like to use year-round, but especially in the summertime (despite that being a holiday season post!). If you’re not a fan of peppermint, you can swap it out for lavender or sandalwood.

Natural DIY Essential Oil Alternatives for Cleaners (All Purpose, & Tile Cleaner)

Some of the most common products that contain “fragrance” as an ingredient are household cleaning products, like all purpose cleaner and tile cleaner. As we learned above, “fragrance” can include substances like phthalates and should be avoided if at all possible. Furthermore, tile cleaner often includes a series of harsh chemicals and yet tends to be used in enclosed, poorly ventilated areas (like the bathroom). That’s definitely something you want to avoid.

Fortunately, normal household cleaners like these are easy to replace with natural alternatives. As you’ll discover when making cleaners and soaps and such, organic castile soap is your best friend (we’ll mention it again in the laundry section).

For an easy, all purpose cleaner, just check out my post 7 Ultra-Powerful Essential Oil Recipes To Boost Your Immune System This Fall. Part of boosting your immune system is making sure your home is nice and clean, so I included a detailed guide on how to make an all purpose cleaner using lavender, eucalyptus, and lemon essential oil along with castile soap and a few other ingredients. In that post you’ll also learn how to make a great immune support rollerball blend for kids, your own DIY disinfectant wipes, and a bacteria-fighting spin on “thieves oil,” so it’s not a post you want to miss anyway!

As for a DIY tile cleaning solution, that’s a fairly easy homemade recipe as well—all you need is 1.5 gallons of hot water with 1 cup of white vinegar mixed in. Add a tablespoon or so of castile soap and 20 drops of lemon and rosemary essential oil. Once you’re done mopping or scrubbing the tiles, you don’t even have to rinse it off like you usually would. Just let it dry naturally, because none of the ingredients are harmful.

Easy All Natural Alternatives in the Laundry Room

Remember how I said I’d teach you a way to never have to pay for dryer sheets again? Make sure to read my post Essential Oil Laundry Room Hacks: Why You Never Need to Use Another Dryer Sheet Again.

doing laundry with essential oils

I go into full detail in that post, but the gist of it is to start using wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. Dryer balls are exactly what they sound like: dense little balls of wool that get rid of wrinkles in a flash. You can add essential oils to them to give your clothes a fresh, clean scent—I like lemon.

In that post I’ll also tell you how to make DIY laundry detergent with organic castile soap, washing soda, and lavender essential oil.

Out With the Old, In With the New – What Store-Bought Products Will You Replace With Natural Alternatives?

If you’re trying to live a healthier, more natural lifestyle, my advice would be to start slow. Don’t drive yourself crazy worrying about every little thing. But be conscious of the things you buy at the store and what’s in those products, and then slowly start replacing the more questionable things with natural alternatives.

Essential oils can make this process easy and fun, and the long term benefits are wonderful—a healthier lifestyle and less money spent on your next trip to the store.

What changes for the better are you going to make?

About the Author

Charity

Charity is a mom, wife and avid essential oil user. She teaches classes on essential oil usage and describes herself as a “forever student” of the oils. Charity resides in Colorado and is active in volunteering in her community.  

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