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What Are the Dangers of Tea Tree Oil for Cleaning?

Verity Jones

The Aborigines of Australia have used tea tree oil for thousands of years. The oil is useful for warding off infection, sore throats and acne, and is an effective cleaner, removing and preventing mold and mildew.

Pure tea tree oil could cause an itchy rash.

Although tea tree oil is generally safe, be aware there are some dangers associated with improper use while cleaning.


Using tea tree oil correctly for cleaning will prevent exposing yourself or others to its dangers. Dilute 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil in 2 cups of water, and pour the solution into an empty spray bottle. It can be sprayed onto grout to prevent mold from growing, or on surfaces to cut through oil and mildew. For mold-resistant laundry, add half a teaspoon to wash.

Beware Fakes

Tea tree oil originated from Australia where there are more than 150 types of the tea tree oil tree, melaleuca. However, not all tea tree oil brands contain the active ingredients of terpinen 4-ol or cineole. Avoid being duped by checking the product label, before purchasing. For effectiveness and cleaning, tea tree oil should contain at least 30 percent terpinen 4-ol, and no more than 15 percent cineole.

Skin Problems

If while you are cleaning tea tree oil splashes onto your skin, it could cause an allergic reaction to the active ingredients. The European Union's Scientific Committee on Consumer Products has expressed concerns that pure tea oil can cause severe skin irritation. It suggests the reaction can be made worse if the oil is left in direct sunlight. Although not common, tea tree oil can cause an itchy rash to users, or dizziness if swallowed. To prevent this, always wear gloves when using the oil for cleaning and dilute with water.

Oil Stains

Although tea tree oil can be added to a wash, it should not be applied directly to clothing to remove stains. Since it is an oil, it could leave a nasty mark especially if it is not diluted. If you do have a tea tree oil stain on clothing, remove it using an oxygen bleach immediately. Mix the bleach with warm water, and let clothing soak. After 15 minutes, wring out and dab the stain off with an old towel.