Overnight guests? Making linen smell fresh and fragrant

With a few of your favorite flowers, herbs or any aromatic plants, you can make your own unique linen water or essential oils to make your home smell delicious as only you and your garden can.  Since every flower has a unique scent based not only on species, but also on soil composition, which other plants share its space and maturity, your linen water will be yours alone, no one can really duplicate it.  Today I’ll be using some leftover pine branches from our trellis project to make a pine scented linen oil but you can use any plant with a strong scent that you enjoy.    You will need about two good cups of your chosen plant.  Remember to use the plant part that holds the most scent.  For flowers, this is mostly petals, but for things like rosemary, the leaves and branch both contain heavy scent  or in citrus, most of the scent is in the peel rather than the flesh of the fruit.  For delicate petals or fruit, you will not need to do much in preparation other than gathering your products.  For woody or tough plants like the pine I will be doing or rosemary for example, you will want to bruise the plant to help it get started releasing their oils.  Delicate plants will easily release their oils when boiled, but woody plants need a little help to start.

My fresh pine needles, you'll need about two cups

To bruise them you can crush the plants between your fingers, chop them with a knife or do a very quick burst in the blender.  I just crushed them with my fingers as I pulled the needles from the branch.  You will need a large soup or stock pot, a clean rock or brick, a glass bowl and some kind of cover for the pot (a steel bowl works best, but as a pie pan fits best over my pot, that is what I am using today).  Place the brick in the center of your stockpot and fill the pot with water just until it is almost level with the brick.  Seat the bowl on top of the brick (the brick is so your bowl doesn’t float around the pot.

although you can't see it, there is a brick under the bowl to keep it from floating around

Next, pour your petals, leaves, peels or needles around the bowl into the water.  This is basically a makeshift distillery.  Next we need to make a collection surface.

You will need a sort of cap for your pot that will seal fairly tight (it doesn’t have to be jammed in there, but you want to catch most of the steam rather than letting it go.  If the cap to your pot is not perfectly flat, it will work pretty well.  Simply invert it so that the pointiest part is hanging directly over your empty bowl.  If your pot lid is flat like mine, the next best thing is a curved metal bowl.  Glass is ok but won’t let your distilled waters and oils condense as fast as metal.  As I said, my metal bowl won’t fit, but I found a pan that will work pretty well. 

No peeking after this point!

Put your makeshift still on medium high heat, and when you hear the pot begin to boil you are going to cool down the cap by filling it with ice or cold water.  If your cap is shallow, you may want to place another bowl on top or put the ice in a bag so you can easily exchange it when it is all gone.   Otherwise, you will have to lift the lid and will lose some of your oils and linen water.  As long as the lid is cold, the steam from your petals and water will condense onto it and drip back into the empty bowl, leaving you with distilled water and essential oils.The plants should boil about an hour, but make sure that if the water level is getting low, you take the pot off the heat.  Burnt plant material will make the whole product smell bad (not to mention it can damage your pot) and you will have to start over.  If the plants are boiled too long, they will start to lose their fragrance and though the water will still condense into your pot, it will carry no more oil or scent, making your product more diluted.

When you are through, the liquid in your collection bowl will look like plain water, but it will smell great!  If you want to separate the oil from the linen water, cool your collection bowl and the oil should rise.  If you cool it enough, the oil should become solid, making it easy to skim off.  The linen water is ready to use as soon as it is cool.  Pour it into a spritzer and spray on curtains, sheets, and towels for a pleasant scent (just make sure your guests aren’t allergic to the particular flower you used!). 

If you would like to make hand cream with the oils you’ve collected, Mama Cheap’s Blog has a great recipe, but you may have to repeat this process a few times to get enough oil.  But that’s okay, the whole time this batch was cooking my whole house smelled like Christmas!

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