The Best Terpenes for Cleaning Products

Posted by Jack O'Leary on

Terpenes are the chemicals found in cannabis which create notes of fragrances and flavor while also cause the different physiological effects of the different strains. If you've ever wondered why some cannabis strains like Zkittles and Fruity Pebbles have a tropical aroma and others, like Skunk #1 and Bubba Kush have an earthier, more pungent, skunky aroma? It's terpenes!

From peppery to oaky, and floral and fresh, a terpene profile can have just about any scent, making them great for scented products like a shampoo or hand sanitizer!

Many plants produce limonene to help protect them against harmful microbes, which is where the citrus-smelling terpene’s antioxidant and antibacterial effects also come from, which has been well-documented. Plants that produce terpenes like limonene, use its bitter smelling compound to deter predators and continue breeding and evolving. This defense mechanism is known as an anti-predator adaptation, defined as a mechanism developed through evolution which assists prey organisms in their constant struggle against predators

The best part about these magical natural odor agents is that they're largely biological utility doesn't only serve the plants they are found in, but also can be used by us for our benefit as well! Many terpenes are anti-bacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-fungal, which makes them effective, all-natural household cleaners.

RELATED: Terpenes For Skincare Products and Skin Health!


Did you know... Of the over 70,000 chemicals being used commercially today, the ones that are of high concern are phthalates (pronounced thalate). Found in cosmetics, fragrances, food packaging, nail polish, pesticides, plastics, cleaning supplies, clothing, among other commercial products, phthalates are members of a longer list of man-made molecules called Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, or EDC’s.

Almost all household cleaning supplies have some sort of ‘fragrance’ in them and most store-bought products can and often do cause serious health problems. One way to ensure you, your family, and anyone you invite within the home or workplace are not breathing and ingesting formaldehyde or other toxic chemicals is by making your own cleaning products. It’s actually rather simple and easy, and even cost-effective. Many terpenes have antimicrobial qualities making them great for cleaning, as they can kill bacteria, fungus, and viruses. A terpene isolate like like limonene can provide antimicrobial properties, effectively break down grease and grime, and provide a natural and flavorful aromatic citrus scent. If you see-use a spray bottle, you'd cut back on single-use plastic, as all you would need to continue buying would be the terpenes (since they mix in with water). 

I’ve had discussions with maids and people who clean for a living and are exposed to these chemical products frequently. It is common for their chest to hurt and their airways to feel congested after they’ve been using these products on a daily basis. Also, the skin on their fingers peels and flakes and the chemicals damage their nails, sometimes permanently.

You can make your own granite cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, even laundry detergent with essential oils like ylang-ylang for relatively little investment. When you’re thinking of your family, your kids, and your animals as well, it’s important to choose the right products when you’re cleaning. We know how sensitive we are to chemicals, but imagine cats and dogs walking across the floor. They’re so much smaller and much closer to the source. They breathe in and absorb everything that is used on the floor.

All-Purpose Oils

Essential oils are blends of terpenes, often with other components in them. Convenient and deliciously smelling, here are some viable options for oils that are effective cleaners. 

Tea Tree Oil - terpinolene, 1,8 cineole ...

Also known as Melaleuca, this essential oil is a cleaning powerhouse. It may take some getting used to the scent, but you will come to love it over time. Tea tree oil contains pinene and terpinene making it antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. It is great to use this for an all-purpose kitchen spray and in the bathroom to fight mildew in the bathtub or toilet. It mixes wonderfully with bergamot, clary sage, clove bud, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, and rosemary.

Lavender Oil - Linalool, Limonene ...

What can’t lavender do? Many people associate lavender with tranquility and sleep, but it is also perfect for laundry and other home products. Lavender oil contains terpineol, linalool, and borneol, which make it anti-bacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-septic. Just add 5 drops to unscented (or scented) laundry detergent after it’s been portioned out. The lavender helps keep musty odors from building up in the washing machine. Lavender also helps prevent mold and mildew from building up. It’s a great essential oil to use for bedroom and linen sprays and it mixes well with many other oils including peppermint, cedarwood, lemongrass, grapefruit, lime, orange, peppermint, rosemary, and ylang-ylang.

Thyme Oil - Thymol, Geraniol ...

Known for its antibacterial properties, thyme is used in many natural cleaners for its powerful properties. Many antiseptic and bactericidal terpenes are found in thyme oil, such as menthol, humulene, cymene, and borneol. It’s properties and scent make thyme great for a kitchen or bathroom cleaner and should be used in a higher concentration. It blends well with bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, lavender, and rosemary.

When it comes to adding multiple scents to your recipes, you can play around with what you love and start creating mixtures which please your nose and olfactory receptors. This is a very satisfying part of using essential oils for cleaning because it’s fun to see how different terpenes and different oils affect the mix. Want something uplifting? Use peppermint or grapefruit. Want something cooling and calming? Use geranium or eucalyptus. There are endless possibilities and infinite scent combinations.


Terpene Isolates for Cleaning Products

The following terpene isolates can be added to cleaning products for their antibacterial effects and inviting smell:

    • Linalool - Linalool has a calming lavender smell and is commonly found in cleaning and healthcare products. If you like the serene smell of lavender then this is the isolate for you. Linalool is prevalent in today’s society and the average person who does not smoke cannabis consumes two grams of it annually. 
    • Humulene - Humulene has an oaky, woody scent that would blend right into a cabin or forest environment. Its antimicrobial function will ensure 
    • Limonene - If you love citrus, then you love limonene. This lime, lemon isolate is used as a common cleaner and as a solvent in the removal of oil and rust from machine parts. It is a primary ingredient in water-free hand cleansers and a must-add to your homemade cleaning supply list.
    • Terpinolene - This isolate has a spicier, woody scent that is an excellent undertone in a blend of isolates. A more masculine, tougher smell, great for cleaning wooden cabinets while giving them an authentically woody, charred oak scent. 

If you're at all interested in making your own cleaning products to cut back on plastic use or to rid your home of potentially toxic chemicals, try experimenting with the isolates to find a scent that you love! There are plenty of other pleasant smelling blends you can use with rubbing alcohol for an effective and aromatic homemade cleaning product. Here is a list of pages we've written with formulas to make on your own! Try them out! 

  1. Produce Wash
  2. All-Purpose Cleaner
  3. Toilet Bowl Cleaner & Spray
  4. Hand Soap
  5. Hand Sanitizer
  6. Screen Cleaner
  7. Linen & Fabric Spray
  8. Disinfectant
  9. Detergent
  10. Makeup Brush Cleanser
  11. Pet Stain Carpet Cleaner
  12. Rust Remover
  13. Floor & Countertop Cleaner
  14. Glass Cleaner
  15. Shower & Bathtub Cleaner
  16. Adhesive Remover
  17. Shoe Scrub

For more information on specific cleaning products and how to blend them, check out our other instruction pages on or read them in our forthcoming book The Terpene Book - a guidebook for all things terpenes!

NEXT: Terpenes Are The Future Of Cannabis

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