Essential oils are very popular these days. They are believed to do everything from boosting the immune system to reducing anxiety to getting rid of acne. In fact, there is an oil for just about anything you want to do with the possible exception of creating world peace. But how much scientific evidence is there to support these claims? I decided to do some experiments myself. I cannot do experiments to determine whether or not essential oils really cure the flu or improve blood pressure. However, I can tell you whether or not they really kill bacteria. (I cannot test for viruses.)
If you would like to be alerted when new experimental results are posted, please like the Dr. Annie's Experiments facebook page that I made. I'll post on there anytime I put new results up here.
If you are new to my website, let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Annie Pryor. I have a Ph.D. in biochemistry from The Ohio State University. After a few years working in a research lab, I "retired" to be a stay-at-home mom. When my first baby got a terrible stomach virus that required a trip to the ER, I decided to research the subject and created this website dedicated to reducing the prevalence of the stomach "flu" in the world. My 3 little kids keep me busy, but I still get a hankering to do experiments now and then. I've tested cleaning products, hand sanitizers, produce washing techniques, essential oils, Norwex Cloths, SteriPens, laundry, lunch box coldness, the Phone Soap, sponges, and even sunlight. I also happen to be the inventor of a really useful drying rack. I invented it because I needed a convenient place next to the kitchen sink to hang baby bibs up to dry between meals. It is also perfect for drying sports water bottles, dish cloths, food-storage bags, cleaning cloths and many other items. I have a shorter drying rack (12.75 inches tall) which is available here on Amazon. I also have a taller 15 inch rack available here on Amazon. If you would like to be informed when new experimental results are posted, please like my Facebook page.
I am also very proud of my daughter, Katie Scarlett. At age 8, she has written, illustrated, and published the first 3 books in a delightful series! Princess Katie and the Fairy Tea Party , Princess Katie and the Mermaid Lagoon , and Princess Katie and the Kitty Club are available on amazon. The stories are so sweet and teach about kindness, forgiveness, including others, and doing the right thing. I think every little girl would love them! Please consider buying them for a little girl that you love. Katie gets about a $2 royalty from amazon for each book sold that is getting deposited into her college savings account.
My research is not supported or affiliated with ANY of the essential oil companies. In fact, they are all pretty mad that I am doing it. The FDA would like you to all know that Essential Oils are not allowed to claim that they treat or cure any diseases or conditions. I am in no way implying that essential oils "Stop the Stomach Flu" because that is the name of my website. I do not use or sell essential oils. I am not a medical doctor and nothing I say should be taken as medical advice. Always follow the manufacturers directions when using essential oils, cleaners, hand sanitizers, and any other product in the world. And don't let children play with plastic bags or get near the hot stove. Got it?
Many people are confused and think that I want to kill all the germs in the world. This is not true. There is good bacteria in our bodies and our environment that is extremely important. I consider myself a "norophobe" and not a "germaphobe". I mainly detest stomach viruses and anything that will kill you. I also detest toxic chemicals. So, I don't want to waste my time using a toxic cleaning product that isn't really doing anything or isn't necessary. That is why I wanted to test these products and figure out what is best. So, I don't think you need to sterilize your entire house. It would be impossible anyway. Our bodies, produce, carpet, floors, clothing, and environment are full of germs. Most of them are harmless or even helpful. My kids come inside covered in dirt every day and snuggle with our dog. Everyone gets PLENTY of germ exposure. If you have ever taken a toddler outside to play, you know that they get dirt in their mouths, and it is pretty much impossible to keep them "too clean". However, from my schooling and research I have learned that most nasty illnesses are spread through poop. So, I see no harm in having a clean toilet and washing hands before eating. Washing your hands before eating, keeping a relatively sterile toilet and food preparation surfaces is not going to make a dent in the total number of germs that you are exposed to every day. It will just reduce the likelihood of you coming in contact with a terrible germ.
Most of these are simple experiments and you can repeat them yourself if your child needs a great science fair project. In fact, there are even child sized disposable latex-free gloves called Glovies that you can buy so your kids can do most of the work with their science fair project. Those glovies are also super useful for crafts and other messy kid projects as well. You can also buy the same ready-to-use agar plates that I use on amazon. I describe my homemade incubator on the page about hand sanitizer experiments.
The first essential oil that I have tested is Thieves Oil made by Young Living. Thieves oil is a blend of clove flower bud oil, lemon rind oil, cinnamon bark oil, eucalyptus radiata leaf oil, and rosemary leaf oil. I purchased the oil from http://www.striveforhealthy.com/. (Do not buy any Young Living Oils on amazon. Young living sellers are not allowed to sell on amazon so most of the Young Living oils on there are counterfeit.) Thieves oil is said to boost the immune system and kill germs. It smells heavenly, like a Christmas potpourri.
The first thing I did was determine whether or not there was any bacteria in the thieves oil or olive oil that I was using. To do this I put some of the oil on a sterile swab and rubbed it all over an agar plate. I purchase all my agar plates from amazon. I let the plates incubate overnight in my 98 degree F incubator. As you can see, nothing grew on the oil plates so there is no bacteria in the oils. In case you don't have experience growing bacteria on agar plates, the agar is like jello that bacteria like to grow on. The tiny whitish spots are piles of millions of bacteria.
For the big experiment, I tested thieves oil with other oils and cleaners to compare. I tested olive oil, coconut oil, smart balance oil, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and chlorine bleach. Since thieves is recommended to be used in a 1:4 dilution with a carrier oil, I also tested the mixture of thieves and olive oil. (I put 1 teaspoon of thieves oil in a bottle with 4 teaspoons of olive oil.) First, I thoroughly cleaned my kitchen countertop. Then, I used masking tape to section off squares of my kitchen island. I labeled the squares according to what I would put in each square. (Dirty +control, Clean-control, olive oil, thieves oil, smart balance oil, coconut oil, olive oil and thieves oil mixture, 10% chlorine bleach, 25% white vinegar, pure white vinegar, apple cider vinegar)
Next, I made "germ water". To do this I got a scoop of dirt from outside and put it in a small cup of water. I poured the mixture through paper towel to get rid of chunks. Then I scrapped off some bacteria from the previous days dirty control agar plate and mixed that into the brown water. Here is the picture of the germ water. It is full of dirt and bacteria. I don't know what kind of bacteria is in there. It is most likely a mixture of harmless and a few harmful bacteria. Only a small percentage of bacteria in the world will grow on this type of agar plate and many of the really dangerous bugs won't grow on them. I don't feel comfortable working with anything too dangerous at home anyway. However, most harmful bacteria and viruses are much more difficult to kill than this common bacteria. So, if a product does not even kill this easy-to-kill bacteria, it probably isn't going to kill the dangerous bacteria.
I put 1.25 milliliters of "germ water" onto each square and spread it around to cover the entire square using my gloved hand. Then I let the squares dry for about 2 hours.
Once the squares were dry, I put 1/4 teaspoon of each test product onto its respective square and used a clean gloved finger to spread them around to completely cover the square. Of course, I put on a new glove for each test product.
I intended to let each "cleaner" sit for 5 minutes on its square. However, I did so many different ones at once that it took too long. Each cleaner sat for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, I used sterile swabs to collect bacteria from each square and rubbed the swabs all around on the appropriately labeled agar plate. I let the plates incubate for 36 hours in my warm incubator (about 98 degrees F).
In case you are new to looking at agar plates, let me explain. The whitish or yellowish dots you see are colonies (or piles) of millions of bacteria. Not every kind of bacteria can grow on these agar plates and viruses do not grow on these plates. So, just because a plate looks clean, doesn't necessarily mean that no germs whatsoever were present. I will never say that a product killed all of the germs. All we can do from these experiments is to compare products. I usually compare everything to 3% hydrogen peroxide or 10% bleach which always works really well. Most cleaning products do not do well in these experiments because they can't handle so much dirt and germs. It is surprising how many products are supposed to be used on already clean surfaces. Some products that don't do well in these experiments, might still do a good enough job on your only slightly germy countertop.
This picture shows tons of bacteria growing on the dirty control plate. You also see the clean control plate which should have no bacteria. The 10% bleach plate should also have no bacteria. The apple cider vinegar, 25% white vinegar, and pure white vinegar did not have as much bacteria as the dirty control plate but still have too much bacteria for me to think they are an adequate germ-killing cleaning product. (I do always use white vinegar to clean my fake wood floors, though. It is certainly good enough for that.)
Since the Apple Cider Vinegar contains the "mother", I wanted to make sure that the apple cider vinegar itself did not contain a lot of bacteria that grew on the agar plate. So, I just tested some apple cider vinegar by itself. There was only one colony on the plate, so no significant amounts of bacteria came from the apple cider vinegar.
This picture shows that the smart balance oil, olive oil, and coconut oil all have less bacteria than the dirty control plate and probably have some bacteria killing ability. Look at the Thieves oil plate! Not one colony of bacteria!
This picture shows the Thieves oil compared to the Thieves oil/ olive oil 1:4 mixture. The diluted thieves oil is not as good at killing bacteria as the pure thieves but it does some killing.
At first I wondered if the oils were really KILLING the bacteria. What if they were just coating the bacteria so that they couldn't multiply on an agar plate? What if when you swallowed one, your stomach acid would free the bacteria from its oily prison and it could still make you sick? How do I know that it is really dead? I know that the bacteria on the hydrogen peroxide plate are really dead because the hydrogen peroxide turns into oxygen and water and is really GONE. However, since the Thieves seems to do significantly better than the olive oil, coconut oil, and Smart Balance oil, I really think it is actually KILLING the bacteria. I wouldn't be surprised if Olive Oil was killing some bacteria too. Here is an article about olive oil killing cancer cells. Here is a link to the hydrogen peroxide that I use for these experiments (and I also do my cleaning with it).
Next I wanted to compare other similar Essential Oils from different companies. I tested Thieves by Young Living, On Guard by doTERRA, Proshield by Ameo, Germ Fighter by Plant Therapy, and Kidsafe Germ Destroyer by Plant Therapy.
These experiments are very similar to the previous experiments, so I did not take pictures of every step. I sectioned off squares on my kitchen countertop using masking tape. I made “germ water” using a scoop of dirt from outside, and I filtered it through paper towel to remove chunks. Then I scraped off bacteria from a “dirty hand control” from the day before and added all that bacteria to the germ water. I don't know what kinds of bacteria are in the germ water. It is most likely a mixture of harmless and a few harmful bacteria. (Only a small percentage of bacteria in the world will grow on this type of agar plate and many of the really dangerous bugs won't grow on them. I don't feel comfortable working with anything too dangerous at home anyway. However, most harmful bacteria and viruses are much more difficult to kill than this common bacteria. So, if a product does not even kill this easy-to-kill bacteria, it probably isn't going to kill the dangerous bacteria. That is my reasoning for doing these experiments.) I added 1mL of germ water onto each square and spread it around with my clean gloved hand. I let the germ water dry completely which took about 2 hours. When it was dry, I added .5mL of each Essential Oil to its respective square and spread it around with my clean gloved hand. I let the oils sit on the square for 5 minutes. Then I used a sterile swab to take samples from each square. I “scribbled” all over the agar plates with the swab. The plates incubated in my warm incubator for 24-36 hours.
I repeated these experiment several times and as you can see, all of the Essential Oils performed admirably.
From my results, all of these Essential Oils appear to kill bacteria. I tested On Guard, Proshield, and Thieves many times. If one of those is better than the rest, my experiments are not sensitive enough to detect the difference. I only tested the Plant Therapy Oils twice (because I got them later than the rest). Both times, the Kidsafe Germ Destroyer left a few colonies of bacteria. I think it absolutely kills bacteria, it just might not be quite as strong as the others. I can’t tell you if these Essential Oils would kill every single kind of bacteria, and I can’t tell you if they would kill viruses. As I mentioned before, it is possible that the oils are just coating the bacteria and preventing them from multiplying but not actually killing them. However, since the Essential Oils do even better than olive oil, I think they are really killing bacteria. I also can't tell you if the oils will cure all of the assorted ailments that they are recommended for. I do believe that these Essential Oils really kill bacteria, though.
Most of these oils were donated to me for testing. Here are links to the companies who donated them along with a list of the particular oils in each product so you can compare. If you have questions about these oils or would like to purchase some, please contact these companies. (I am still not an oil expert. I don't sell oils. I do not receive any kickbacks from these companies. All I got was the donated product.)
Clove Flower Bud Oil
Lemon Rind Oil
Cinnamon Bark OIl
Eucalyptus Radiata leaf oil
Rosemary Leaf Oil
OnGuard by doTERRA
Wild Orange Peel
Rosemary LeafEucalyptus Radiata leaf/twig
Many website viewers have asked me to test oregano oil and clove oils for antibacterial activity. Oregano Oil has been shown to kill norovirus so I was immediately interested. Clove oil is a component of the Thieves oil so I had high hopes for that too. I did the experiment the same way that I always do. I sectioned off squares of my countertop with masking tape. I put 1mL of "germ juice" on each square, rubbed the dirty water around to completely cover the square, and let it completely dry. Once dry, I put .5mL of each oil onto its respective square and gently spread the oil around using my clean gloved finger to completely cover the square. I let the oil sit on the square for 5 minutes and then used a sterile swab to collect germs. I rubbed the swabs onto the agar plates and incubated them for 24 hours in my warm incubator. I did this experiment 3 times and tested Young Living Oregano oil, doTerra Oregano oil, Young Living Thieves oil, Young Living Clove oil, and 3% hydrogen peroxide. Here is a link to the 3% hydrogen peroxide that I used in these experiments. (I use it to spray off my countertops, sinks, and toilets every day since it kills bacteria so well in my experiments. The brown spray bottles can be hard to find in stores but it needs to be kept in its own brown bottle. I refill the brown spray bottles with the 88 cent refill bottles readily available in any pharmacy aisle. )
My results show that Thieves and clove oil did an excellent job killing bacteria. The oregano did not do quite as well which I am very surprised about.
Next I decided to test some other essential oils. I tested Young Living brand peppermint, lemon, cinnamon bark, and tea tree oil (Melaleuca Alternifolia). I also tested doTERRA brand Arborvitae.
I used the same procedure that I have been using. I used masking tape to section off squares on my countertop. I put 1mL of dirty germ water onto each square. In the photo, you just see the dirty water in one drop, but I spread it all around the square with my gloved hand. I let the germ water dry completely. Then I put .5mL of each oil on its respective square and rub it all around with my clean gloved finger. I let the oil sit for 5 minutes, swab the square, and rub the swab all over an agar plate. The plates are incubated for 24 hours. I also tested regular 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (which I always use and love for cleaning), olive oil, coconut oil, Thieves oil, and fresh lemon juice. I actually squeezed a lemon to get the lemon juice. I used .5mL of each test product.
As you can see, the lemon oil and lemon juice were a bit disappointing but still seemed to kill some bacteria. The cinnamon oil, tea tree, and arborvitae did great killing the bacteria. The peppermint oil certainly killed some bacteria but not as well as others. As I have said before, I can't say that these oils will kill EVERY kind of bacteria. I can't make any statements regarding viruses. However, some of the oils clearly stop some bacteria from growing (most likely by killing it). Also, these experiments have a lot of actual DIRT present. Some of these oils might do better killing bacteria if there isn't DIRT present. For example, alcohol can't penetrate dirt and does not do well killing bacteria in these experiments. (Those results will be posted soon.) It is just hard for me to get a bunch of bacteria present on the countertop to test WITHOUT having dirt involved. As always, if you want something non-toxic to kill germs in your kitchen sink, I recommend using regular 3% Hydrogen Peroxide that comes in the brown spray bottle. It is technically a "first aid antiseptic" and is not SUPPOSED to be used for cleaning (so I'm not sure if it will harm your fancy kitchen countertops) but I use it anyway.
After testing all of these oils, my favorite single oil is cinnamon. Sometimes, I leave old plates sitting around for a few days before I get around to properly disposing of them. Often colonies of bacteria pop up on plates that were originally clean. However, nothing ever grows on that cinnamon plate. That is potent stuff and it smells great. If you are interested in ordering some Young Living Oils, please visit www.striveforhealthy.com and support them because they kindly donated the oils for these experiments.
As a side note, I think I know why my Ava Anderson deodorant works so well. It contains coconut oil, tea tree oil, and peppermint oil. It is most likely impeding bacterial grown under my arm pits. I am not a stinky person. However, I have been using Secret deodorant for the past 20 years and there is almost ALWAYS a hint of BO deep in my arm pits. (It is very embarrassing to admit that). I've tried natural deodorants like Tom's and they don't work at all for me. However, I've been using the Ava Anderson deodorant for a few months, and I can't believe that I don't smell at all (except like a peppermint patty). It is amazing! So, if you are looking for a natural deodorant without the aluminum (implicated in breast cancer), give Ava Anderson deodorant a try.
I've received many requests to test lavender essential oil to see if it kills bacteria. I borrowed some Young Living Lavender oil from a friend (which is why it is in a tiny bottle in this photo). I compared it to olive oil, Plant Therapy coconut oil, and Young Living Thieves oil.
I made germ water containing dirt from the back yard and extra bacteria from an agar plate where my daughter rubbed her dirty hand after school.
I put 1mL of germ water onto each square on my countertop and rubbed it around with my gloved finger. I let the germ water completely dry which took about 2 hours.
Then I did the experiment like I always do. I added .5mL of each product onto the square and spread it around with a gloved finger to fully cover the square. I let it sit for 5 minutes and then swabbed the area and rubbed it on an agar plate. The plates were incubated for 24 hours in my warm incubator.
As you can see, the plate with the lavender oil had no bacterial growth. As usual, the Thieves and hydrogen peroxide did a good job inhibiting bacterial growth.
I did the experiment another day and it also showed no bacterial growth on the lavender plate. I also happened to be testing Purell advanced, Zylast hand sanitizer, and Scrubbing bubbles that day. Zylast kicks butt for a hand sanitizer. If you would like to try Zylast antiseptic, go to http://www.zylastdirect.com/catalog.php and use the code "StopNorovirus" to get 10% off your order. Or you can order Zylast Antiseptic on Amazon. Scrubbing bubbles appears to kill a significant amount of germs but not quite all.
A lot of people are diluting thieves oil and are using it as a hand sanitizer. The suggested dilution is 1 drop of thieves oil and 4 drops of a carrier oil. So, I used my thieves oil/olive oil mixture that is in a spray bottle, and I used my 10 year old son's hands. I used these amber spray bottles from amazon. I was so surprised that they could spray thick oil nicely without clogging. I did the experiments after school before my son washed hands. It would have been nice if he had 4 hands because I wanted to test 4 things. Since he didn't, I divided up the fingers. I rubbed his thumbs on the dirty control plate. I put olive oil on the first 3 fingers of his right hand. I put the thieves/olive oil combo on the first 3 fingers of his left hand. I put Clorox Hand Sanitizer on both pinkie fingers. I let the sanitizer/oil sit on his fingers for 1 minute, and then rubbed those fingers on the appropriate agar plate. A hand sanitizer needs to work fast because you don't have much time between putting it on your hands and picking up your sandwich. As you can see, the oils do really seem to kill some germs. However, it doesn't compare in bacteria killing to the Clorox Hand Sanitizer. I like Clorox Hand Sanitizer because it is one of the few hand sanitizers that actually kill norovirus. (For a list of all my favorite hand sanitizers that kill norovirus, please read this page of my website.) If you aren't going to kill stomach viruses, I see no reason to use a hand sanitizer at all. Clorox hand sanitizer is not available in stores but is available here on amazon.
I have repeated this experiment several times and am very confident in the results. Here are the results from another day. This time, I just put the thieves/olive oil combo on the left hand and the Clorox Hand Sanitizer on the right. There were only 2 colonies of bacteria on the Clorox hand and significantly more on the thieves/olive oil hand. Clorox Hand Sanitizer does not contain chlorine bleach, by the way.
Comparing Young Living Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier to Zylast antiseptic hand sanitizer
Let me first say that a good thorough hand washing with soap and water is ideal. However, there are times when me must eat but can't get to a sink to wash hands. For example, my children are not permitted to wash hands before lunch at school. Some teachers claim that hand washing takes too much time. I think that is ridiculous, of course. However, there are times when you need a good hand sanitizer and I've been trying to find the best ones. I have already tested many hand sanitizers on this page.
For this experiment, I wanted to determine if the Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier really killed bacteria. I got the Thieves Waterless Hand Sanitizer here. For this experiment, I used my children's hands and some of their friend's hands. First they rubbed their thumbs all over the dirty control plate. Using a disposable 1mL syringe, I put .5mL of Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier onto their left fingers and rubbed it in with my clean gloved hand. I let the fingers dry for 1 minute, and then they rubbed their fingers all over the agar plate. Finally, I put .5mL of Zylast antiseptic hand sanitizer onto their right fingers. I rubbed it in with my clean gloved hand. I let it dry for 1 minute and then they rubbed those fingers all around an agar plate. I put the plates in my warm incubator for 24 hours to let the bacteria grow.
As you can see, the Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier did a very good job! It is important to note that these hands did not have ACTUAL DIRT on them. As you will see when you keep reading, most hand sanitizers ( except Zylast) don't work well on hands with actual dirt. So, if you or your child's hands are actually dirty, you need to wipe them off with a wipe before using the Thieves Hand Purifier.
Comparing Homemade Thieves/Witch Hazel Spray with Clorox Hand Sanitizer Spray
For this experiment, I made my own Thieves hand sanitizer. I used 15 drops of Young Living Thieves oil, 1 teaspoon Witch Hazel, and 5 teaspoons of distilled water. I put it in this amber glass spray bottle. Since it is a spray, I compared it to the Clorox Hand Sanitizer Spray that I purchased from Amazon. (The Clorox Hand Sanitizer Spray is primarily ethanol and does not contain chlorine bleach.) For this experiment, I had the kids rub their thumbs all over the dirty control plate. Next, I sprayed 8 sprays of the homemade thieves spray all on their left fingers, and I rubbed it in with my clean gloved hand. I let it sit for 1 minute, and then the kids rubbed those fingers all over the agar plate. Finally, I sprayed 5 sprays of the Clorox hand sanitizer all over the right fingers. I only used 5 sprays because that seemed to make the fingers wet enough. I rubbed it in with my clean gloved hands and let it sit for 1 minute. Then I had the kids rub their right fingers all over another plate. I incubated the plates for 24 hours in my warm incubator to let bacteria grow.
As you can see, the homemade thieves spray killed some germs but I don't think it does enough to be actually used as a hand sanitizer. I wouldn't trust it. It is also important to note, that these hands all looked clean. They did not have actual dirt on them. As you will see when you keep reading, most hand sanitizers (except Zylast) don't work well on hands covered in actual dirt.
How does the Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier and the Homemade Thieves spray do in the presence of dirt?
I have done many hand sanitizer experiments in the past (which you can see here) that show that most alcohol based hand sanitizers don't do well on hands with actual dirt on them. The alcohol just can't seem to penetrate the dirt. I wanted to know how the Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier and the homemade Thieves Spray do when actual dirt is present. Normally, I would send my children outside to play and then they would come in with dirty hands. However, since there is 6 inches of snow on the ground and the temperature is below zero, this is not an option. So, I tested the hand sanitizers on the dirty countertop, just like I did for the first experiments on this page. I put 1.25 mL of dirty "germ water" on each square, rubbed it all around and let it dry. Then using disposable 1mL syringes, I added .5mL of each hand sanitizer to the appropriate square. I rubbed them all around with a clean gloved hand. I timed them each for 1 minute and then took swabs of the squares. I rubbed the swabs all around the appropriately labeled agar plate. The plates incubated for 24 hours.
As I expected, only the Zylast Antispetic hand sanitizer was able to cut through the dirt. Don't feel too bad, Thieves lovers. Purell Advanced and the Clorox Hand Sanitizer do not do well in this test either. My advice is that if you use any hand sanitizer besides Zylast antiseptic, wipe dirt off your hands with a wipe before using your hand sanitizer.
Clorox Hand Sanitizer Spray has always been a favorite of mine because it is one of the few tested to kill norovirus. It is primarily ethanol and does not contain any chlorine bleach. It dries nicely leaving your hands feeling clean. It is important to wipe off your hands with a wipe before using this hand sanitizer if they are visibly dirty. Clorox Hand Sanitizer is available from a reputable seller on amazon. Of course, I LOVE the "Norophobe Zone" magnet that this pack of hand sanitizer comes with.
Thieves spray smells wonderful and is supposed to kill germs. It's primary ingredient is ethanol (like most hand sanitizers), and it also contains a little bit of the thieves oils (clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary). According to its label, it can be used on surfaces such as countertops. It does not specifically say to use on hands. It does say "Do not use on SENSITIVE areas of the body". So, I'm not even sure if it is supposed to be used on hands at all. I tested it on the countertop. I received the thieves spray from a Young Living salesperson at www.striveforhealthy.com.
I test the Thieves spray while I was doing bunches of other oil experiments on the countertop. I used the same procedure that I always do. First I sectioned off squares on the countertop using masking tape. Then I put 1mL of dirty germ-water onto each square. I rubbed the dirty water all around the square with my gloved finger. Then I let the germ-water dry completely. After it was dry, I put .5mL of Thieves spray onto the square. I rubbed the Thieves spray completely around to cover the entire square with my clean gloved hand. I let the Thieves spray sit for 5 minutes. Then I swabbed the square and rubbed the swab onto an agar plate. The plate was incubated for 24 hours. I also tested Thieves oil, regular 3% hydrogen peroxide, and Zylast antiseptic hand sanitizer to compare.
These first 2 experiments used dirty water where I added EXTRA bacteria from a previous days plate. So, there was a lot of bacteria in these experiments.
This next experiment used dirty water with NO ADDITIONAL bacteria added. So, this is equivalent to someone tracking dirty water onto your floor and you spraying Thieves Spray onto it and waiting 5 minutes.
Look at the 70% isopropyl alcohol results. 70% isopropyl alcohol does not appear to be killing much either. Most alcohol based cleaners/disinfectants do NOT do well in the presence of dirt. In previous experiments, I have already shown that most ethanol based hand sanitizers do not do well on dirty hands. So, this does not mean that the Thieves Spray doesn't kill germs. It just doesn't kill a significant amount of germs if DIRT is present. It may kill germs in an experiment with less dirt and less bacteria present. I tested the Thieves Spray in an experiment with just bacteria and no dirt is present. Those results are on the page where I test cleaning products.
In the meantime, I'm sticking with cleaning my countertops with regular inexpensive 3% hydrogen peroxide, and I'll be using Zylast hand sanitizer (I recommend the Zylast antiseptic and NOT the Zylast lotion). You can order Zylast from http://www.zylastdirect.com/catalog.php. If you use the coupon code "StopNorovirus" you will get 10% off your order. 3% hydrogen peroxide is available in the bandage aisle at the grocery store. The brown spray bottles that I use can be hard to find and are on amazon if you can't find them in a store. The brown spray bottles can be refilled with the easier to find 16 ounce bottles. Another disclaimer: 3% hydrogen peroxide is an "First Aid Antiseptic" product and is not SUPPOSED to be used for cleaning. It is hard on your skin and would sting your eyes. Wear gloves. It must be kept in the brown spray bottle that it comes in because it is sensitive to light. It will not bleach clothes or carpet, but I have no idea if it is safe for your fancy countertop. I do NOT recommend putting it on cuts and scrapes.
To test the Thieves and doTerra On Guard cleaners, I did the same countertop experiments that I usually do. I sectioned off squares on my countertop using masking tape. I made "germ water" using dirt from the backyard and water. I filtered it through a paper towel to remove chunks. Then I scraped colonies of bacteria from a previous days agar plate and mixed that in. The previous days plate was a "dirty sink" plate. So, there was lots of dirt and lots of bacteria in these experiments. I put 1mL of germ water onto each square. I tested several products on this day which is why you see other products in the picture. The rest of the results are on my Clean Product Experiments page.
I used a gloved finger to spread the germ water around the square. Then I let the squares dry completely which took about 2 hours. If you would like to see pictures of every step in this process, please scroll to the top of this mile-long page. I go into greater detail about my experimental procedure up there.
I diluted the Thieves 1:15 like the bottle recommends. I put 1 tablespoon of the doTerra cleaner in 8 ounces of water like the bottle says. After the squares were dry, I put .5mL of each product onto its respective square. I spread the product completely around the square using a clean gloved finger. For the dirty positive control, I just put water on the square. For the clean negative control (which didn't have any germ water on it), I just put sterile water onto the square. I set timers and let the product sit on the square for 5 minutes.
The plates were incubated for 48 hours in my warm incubator (about 90 degrees F).
I diluted the Thieves 1:15 like the bottle recommends. I put 1 tablespoon of the doTerra cleaner in 8 ounces of water like the bottle says.
I'm not impressed with the diluted Thieves cleaner or diluted doTerra cleaner in these experiments. Please remember that most cleaners don't do well in these experiments. I will test them on a real kitchen sink without artificial contamination to see how they do. Lots of products that don't do well in this experiment, still do okay on the kitchen sink.
For the above experiment, I did not dilute the Thieves cleaner or the doTerra cleaner. As you can see, the full strength concentrated products do much better.
Many cleaning products are not strong enough to do well in my countertop experiments with dirt and lots of germs. So, I also like to test everything in a real life situation, the kitchen sink. Any cleaner that we expect to kill germs, should be able to kill germs in my kitchen sink experiments. To do these experiments, I use my neighbors' kitchen sinks. They don't disinfect their sinks very often so they are usually germy enough for me to do a good experiment. Although, the sinks are always visibly clean with no debris when I do the experiments. I can only do one experiment per week per kitchen sink because there needs to be time for plenty of bacteria to grow again. So, these experiments take some time.
doTerra On Guard cleaner in the sink
For these sink experiments, I used my neighbor's sinks. Their sinks had not been disinfected for about 1 week. The sinks looked visibly clean. I rinsed the sinks off with water to remove any food debris before I started. Then I swabbed each side of the sink and rubbed the swabs on agar plates for the dirty controls. I diluted the ON Guard cleaner concentrate by adding 1 tablespoon of the cleaner concentrate into slightly less than 8 ounces of water. The final volume was 1 cup of diluted On Guard cleaner. I put it in a spray bottle and sprayed one side of the sink with 30 sprays of the diluted ON Guard cleaner and let it sit for 5 minutes. I sprayed 30 sprays of 3% hydrogen peroxide to the other side of the sink and let that sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, I swabbed both sides of the sink again, and rubbed the swabs onto agar plates. The plates were incubated in my warm incubator for 48 hours.
As you can see from the results, I did not detect any significant bacteria killing ability from the diluted On Guard cleaner. It smells wonderful, though, and does a good job removing grease and grime from the countertops. I wouldn't depend on it for disinfecting. The bottle does not say anything about germ-killing either.
Thieves Cleaner in the sink
Just like for the On Guard experiments, I used my neighbor's sinks. Their sinks had not been disinfected for about 1 week. The sinks looked visibly clean. I rinsed the sinks off with water to remove any food debris before I started. Then I swabbed each side of the sink and rubbed the swabs on agar plates for the dirty controls. I diluted the Thieves cleaner concentrate by adding 1 tablespoon of the cleaner concentrate into slightly less than 8 ounces of water. The final volume was 1 cup of diluted Thieves cleaner. I put it in a spray bottle and sprayed one side of the sink with 30 sprays of the diluted Thieves cleaner and let it sit for 5 minutes. I sprayed 30 sprays of 3% hydrogen peroxide to the other side of the sink and let that sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, I swabbed both sides of the sink again, and rubbed the swabs onto agar plates. The plates were incubated in my warm incubator for 48 hours.
For these experiments, I made germ water with water, a tiny bit of dirt from outside, raw chicken juice, and come colonies scraped off a previous days "dirty sink" agar plate. I put 1mL of this germ water onto each countertop square. I rubbed the germ water around and let it dry. Then I put .5mL of product onto each square, spread it around with my clean gloved hand, and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then I swabbed the squares and rubbed them onto clean agar plates. The plates were incubated for 24 hours in my warm incubator. I tested pure concentrated, Thieves and On Guard oils. I tested Thieves and On Guard oils diluted with water or Coconut oil Plant Therapy Coconut Oil to 25%. I also tested the pure coconut oil.
As you can see, diluting the oils in water really ruins their germ-killing ability. I mixed the oil/water combo immediately before I sucked it into the syringe to make sure I didn't get all water. The oils mixed with coconut did much better killing germs, but not as well as the pure oils. Keep reading to see how the oil/water combo did killing germs in the kitchen sink.
Can I mix OnGuard oil with water to clean the kitchen sink?
I am certain that Thieves oil would generate the same results mixed with water and used to clean the sink. I am almost out of Thieves oil so I did not repeat this sink experiment with Thieves. From this result and the countertop results, I conclude there seems like it is not a good idea to mix essential oils with plain water for cleaning. I also noticed that Thieves and ON Guard do NOT mix with vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. They do dissolve in alcohol. I know that there are many other cleaning combinations people are using with essential oils. I would be happy to test more. So, email me you suggestions. email@example.com
I have many more experiments to do! I would love to find a homemade mixture using essential oils that really does clean and kill germs. So, send me your recipes to test. If you would like to suggest a product or experiment, please e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to be informed when new results are posted, please like my facebook page. I always post on there when new results are up. If you would like to help support my work, please use my Amazon links when you shop on amazon. I have an Amazon affiliate account. If you use any of my Amazon links when you shop on Amazon, I get a small percentage of the sale. For example, you can click to Amazon using the link for my daughter's book and buy something. It doesn't matter what you buy, but I will get a small percentage of the sale. I use that Amazon money to buy agar plates and all the supplies that I need to do these experiments. If you don't want to bother using amazon links, you are welcome to send me a small donation through paypal. If you really want to brighten my day, please buy one of my daughter's books. They are excellent! If you don't have a little girl to give them to, buy a copy for your local elementary school library or children's hospital.
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--Annie Pryor, Ph.D
phd.annie at gmail.com