Most people think aromatherapy when talking essential oils. But did you know these oils have antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties that make them perfect for housecleaning? Not only that, but your home smells divine.

The aroma of essential oils is known to have physiological and psychological benefits, yet many people now are looking to use them for natural approaches to cleaning.

Essential oils are certainly safer than bleach, although not as powerful, says Katherine E. Anderson, chief of Cancer Treatment Centers of America's division of naturopathic support.

“They are good for everyday household cleaning,” she says. “They’re not going to work as fast and you’ll have to scrub harder, but that’s a pretty good compromise for reducing exposure to environmental toxins.”

Essential oils are extracted from the roots, stems, flowers, seeds, bark or leaves of plants. Each has different therapeutic properties.

Mixed with vinegar, baking soda or other natural bases, essential oils become powerful cleaning agents.

Clove, thyme, lemon and tea tree oils are particularly useful for removing viruses, fungi and bacteria. In fact, clove oil has been found to be most efficacious, with eucalyptus and lavender oils showing some antifungal potential.

In tests, all essentials oils have performed better than traditional cleaning compounds, such as vinegar. Finding a high-quality oil that is 100% pure is the key to good results.

“You can tell the difference because they have a stronger aroma that lasts longer,” Anderson says.

Some essential oils can cause allergic reactions, particularly if undiluted. But they are still much safer than chemicals.

Blend essential oils with unscented clothing detergent for use in the wash for an aromatic result. Or take wool dryer balls, put 10 drops of lavender or any other type of essential oil on them and dry with your clothing for wonderfully scented laundry.

Mix with distilled water or vinegar in proper proportions and you have an all-purpose cleaner.

But if you’re dealing with bodily fluids or heavy-duty cleaning jobs, bleach is best.

“I always use the lightest approach possible. You don’t need a hammer to hit a small nail,” Anderson says. “If you have the option to use something safe and effective, essential oils work well.”

You can find essential oils in dozens of places — from Target to your neighbor who sells Young Living or doTERRA.

“We actually have a lot of customers that come to us from cancer treatment centers ... some are in remission, and they tell me that because of their condition, the doctors are telling them to use natural skin products.” says Stephanie Roudabush of Theraganics at The Farm Shopping Center. “So what happens is they start to overhaul their whole routines, from eating to bathing, cleaning, etc.”

Some of her customers’ favorites are the natural soaps and a cleaning blend called Four Thieves.

“It’s excellent for any DIY project, as well as room diffusing,” Roudabush says. “It’s considered to be an effective antimicrobial blend. It has eucalyptus and clove, lemon, rosemary, etc. Plus, it smells really good.”

Some breast cancer survivors with concerns about their lymph nodes are searching for deodorant alternatives. Theraganics makes one with no aluminum or parabens. There’s also no baking soda, which can cause irritation, she says.

“For the home use, my best advice would be to order from reputable companies,” Roudabush says. “Ones that can provide information as to how the oil was distilled, what part of the plant was used (flower, stems, etc), country/region of origin and perhaps a purity guarantee. Price doesn’t always equal quality.”