Friday, August 3, 2012

Seven Natural Air Freshener Ideas That Heal, Not Hurt

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes commercial air freshener as a source of indoor air pollution. Without good ventilation, chemicals from air fresheners, cleaners, and other substances build up in our houses with no where to go. Many air fresheners contain phthalates, hazardous chemicals known to cause cancer, hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems. I've ditched Bath & Body Works Wallflowers and Febreze and replaced it with these seven natural alternatives.

1. Simmer Fragrant Fruit and Spices

Cut up fruit and place in boiling water, along with desired spices. My favorites are oranges, lemons, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and pieces of vanilla bean or vanilla extract. I add more water when it gets low. I simmer on and off for a day or two and then throw it out. The fruit looks pretty worn out by the time I'm done with it.

2. Simmer Essential Oils

Essential oils are totally natural compounds extracted from parts of plants, flowers, and trees. They have been used throughout history for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Most essential oils have anti-microbial properties so they help purify the air while I'm enjoying their nice aroma. They can be found at health food stores, Amazon, and Mountain Rose Herbs. Don't mistake them for fragrance oils, which most likely contain narly chemicals.

To simmer essential oils, I add a few drops to a pot of boiling water. They are very concentrated so a little goes a long way. My favorite essential oil scents are orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, vanilla absolute, cinnamon, and peppermint. Use one essential oil by itself or blend them to create a unique scent!

3. Refill Plug-In Air Freshener with Essential Oils

After I saw this tutorial, I had to try it. It's not as simple as it looks. It was so hard to get the plastic thingie off that holds the wick (the cigarette looking thing that soaks up the oil). I had to pry it with a tiny little screw driver. Finally it popped off, spraying chemical-laden fragrance oil all over the place. The whole process left my kitchen smelling exactly like what I was trying to avoid. It's a week later and I can still smell whiffs of Bath & Body Works Eucalyptus Mint Oil. Boo.

I filled the bulb with 1/3 essential oil and 2/3 distilled water like the website recommended. The scent was hardly noticeable and the water evaporated so quickly, it was gone in a couple of days. With all the work involved and having to deal with the nasty fragrance oil, this is my least favorite idea of the bunch.

4. Warm Essential Oils or Extracts on an Oil Burner

Usually, I put a few drops of my favorite essential oils onto the plate and dilute it with water. It works well, but you have to replace the tea light candles every so often and be careful of the open flame. (A commenter suggested using unscented wax with the essential oils instead of water, since water evaporates so quickly. Genius!)

One time I squeezed juice from a lemon and an orange onto the warming plate to see what would happen, but I could hardly smell anything. Then I tried vanilla extract, with happy results!

5. Use an Electric Diffuser

I've been wanting an electric diffuser for awhile, so when I saw this one on Mountain Rose Herb's website for $20, I just had to try it out. You know, for blog research. It's super simple. I apply 6-8 drops of essential oil on a pad that goes inside the diffuser. After I plug it in and turn it on, I can smell the essential oils after about 5 minutes. It recommends applying fresh essential oil every 2-3 hours, or as needed.

This diffuser is meant for a small room so the scent isn't terribly strong in my open living room/kitchen/dining room. But that's perfect because I can't stand when the smell is too strong. And I can always add more essential oil to the pad if I want the scent to be stronger. It's small and doesn't make any noise. The downside is having to buy replaceable pads. It only comes with five and the directions recommend using a new pad for each different oil or blend of oils. Of course they say that so you'll buy more pads.

6. Make Your Own Essential Oil Air Freshener Spray

I found this idea here. I fill my spray bottle half-full with filtered water. Then I add 8-10 drops of my favorite essential oils. The website warns against spraying near polished wood. Label and store in a dark cupboard.

7. Make a Homemade Reed Diffuser

Check out my super simple and inexpensive DIY reed diffuser tutorial. All you need is a vase, reed diffuser sticks, water, and essential oil. It cost me less than $2 compared to the $15-40 reed diffusers I saw at the store last weekend.

Do you know of any other ways to naturally freshen the air without harmful chemicals? What are your favorite essential oil scents?

Lists of Essential Oils that Help Improve Mood:

Aromatherapy Mood Blends
Oils That Can Ease Unpleasant Emotions

More Info on the Dangers of Commercial Air Freshener:
How "Fresh" is Air Freshener?
The Toxicity of Plug-In Air Fresheners
Toxipedia: Air Fresheners
Air Fresheners, Are They Really Freshening Your Air?
Many Cleaners, Air Fresheners May Pose Health Risks When Used Indoors
Wikipedia: Air Freshener

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New Nostalgia
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  1. These are all great ideas! I especially like the idea of using fresh fruits and spices.

  2. When I was little my mother would simmer an orange and a small sack of cloves on the stove before we had company. I miss that. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Hi Heather, When I was doing research about the dangers of air freshener, I came across this website discussing Scentsy.
    It says that Scentsy doesn't contain phthalates, but the company keeps the ingredient list a secret, which is a warning sign. On Scentsy's website, it says they use essential oils, absolute oils, and synthetic oils. [] Synthetic oils are made with chemicals. They also advertise that each fragrance formula contains 2000-5000 different ingredients (aka chemicals). I would use the Scentsy burner how your friend uses it, with water and essential oils. Then you know exactly what you are breathing in.

  4. I use baking soda in a small mason jar with a few drops of essential oils in the closet. I just shake it once in a while when I'm in there!

  5. I put unscented wax in my burner instead of water along with my essential oils. Water evaporates where the wax does not so you are not in danger of your burner breaking. My FAVORITE combo....Lavender, Pathouli and Vanilla!! Yum! Thank you for all of your great ideas! Pat B

    1. The water evaporates pretty quickly so thank you so much for the great idea!

  6. How long does can you smell the fragrance from your electric diffuser? I just got a wall plugin for essential oils, and I was really disappointed because I could only smell the fragrance for about 5-10 minutes after plugging it in. Even when I left the room, or stuck my nose right up to the pad, I couldn't smell it.

    Which of the methods you use provides the longest lasting fragrance?


    1. Hi Sarah, I could hardly smell anything with my DIY essential oil plug-in either. I would say the diffuser provides the longest lasting fragrance. I can keep the diffuser on all day, but I can't keep the oil burner candle lit all day or simmer essential oils or fruit all day. I have to be in the kitchen keeping an eye on it to make sure all the water hasn't evaporated. I reapply essential oils to the diffuser after 3-4 hours, or when I can't smell them anymore. Heavier oils like sandalwood or vetiver are going to take longer to evaporate than thinner oils like citrus. Hope this helps!

    2. Thank you, Kendra.

      Do you think an electric oil burner would work better or worse than the diffuser? I've been thinking about buying one of them, but if you think the diffuser works better I'll look into that.

    3. Sarah, I haven't used an electric burner, but I think it could be as good an option as a diffuser, if not better. The electric burner and the diffuser are both nice because you can add more essential oils if the scent isn't strong enough. If you get the diffuser, you'll have to buy those replacement pads which is annoying. I guess it all depends on how well the electric oil burner works. If you use undiluted essential oils in it, the scent would probably be too strong. If you dilute it with water, you still have to worry about the water evaporating, but maybe it doesn't evaporate very fast. If you dilute the essential oils with unscented wax, then you wouldn't have to worry about the water level. Good luck deciding!

  7. Great list, Kendra! And thanks for the pros and cons of each one. That was really helpful :) Right now, I just do the water and oils in a spray bottle one, or simmering some fruit peels on the stove, and the diffuser also. Never thought to just simmer the oils on the stove! Will have to try that out :)

    Thanks for sharing at Tiny Tip Tuesday! I'm sharing this on FB :)

  8. Good ideas. I haven't ever used essential oils for anything, but I've been reading a lot about them in other blogs. Maybe I need to do some more research and put them to use!

  9. Thank you so much for promoting natural air fresheners! I have a friend who has a terrible allergy to certain fragrance compounds, mostly used in colognes and aftershaves, but sometimes an air freshener will "zap" her too--and then she gets a terrible migraine that can last for days. It's so sad that people's attempts to make their homes or selves smell good cause her such torment. Fragrances are not well regulated and can contain lots of dangerous chemicals.

    My home has forced-air heat. I put essential oil on a bit of tissue and wipe it along the slats of the heat vent. Then when the heat comes on, it blows the scent through the house. In summer I do this by putting the oil on a small piece of stiff paper (not tissue) and placing it on the back of a fan so that suction holds it against the grate and the scent is pushed forward with the breeze.

    1. Hi Becca, I'm sorry about your friend's allergy to fragrance compounds. That would be so tough! Thanks for sharing your great ideas!

  10. These are great ideas. My husband goes out a buys air fresheners sometimes much to my chagrin. I'll have to make the effort to make some. The spray bottle looks like the handiest to keep around.

  11. Great ideas!!! I have been working on some natural air fresheners myself and this is a great list! Thanks so much for linking up!! xoxo

  12. Great post. I have to try some of these. I no longer buy candles and just use Scentsy but I would like to use up what I have and go to something more natural. Thanks for linking up!

  13. never thought of cooking fresh fruits and spices, going to try that. I posted about your reusable paper towels on my blog

  14. What about the diffusers with sticks? Could you use an essential oil mixture in one of those?

    1. What a great idea! I'm sure it would work. I'll have to try it out and let you know.

  15. These are great ideas. My husband loves using those aweful store-bought plug-ins and sprays for our house, but I hate the chemicals. Now we will have some safer alternatives!

    Bonny @

  16. I have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, which is probably what Becca's friend has. Perfumes, colognes, air fresheners, etc, can put me right in the floor. I like things to smell good, too. Also, they try to sneak it in at work sometimes, thinking I won't know. I can't always smell it, but, I can feel it. I have tried many of these suggestions and most only last a few minutes. I have found one commercial air freshener that doesn't make me sick. Pure Citrus made by Blue Magic, Inc. WalMart use to carry it, but, I can't find it there, now. Use a tiny spritz! It's very strong. Too much is overpowering. But, it lasts a pretty long time.

  17. This is a great post. I love all of the different ideas. I am allergic to perfumes, so this is a great alternative to what is out there commercially. I have a link party on Wednesdays, and I would love it if you would link this post. It is called Wednesdays Adorned From Above Link Party. It is opened until Sunday night.
    I hope to see you there. Have a great Day.
    Debi Bolocofsky
    Adorned From Above

  18. I use Scented Soy Wax Melts in my oil burner, works a treat! These are all fabulous suggestions, I just love essential mother always had some burning around the house as I grew up so it naturally reminds me of home.


  19. An old trick - get a small natural sponge. put a few drops of essential oil on it and place it in a pretty dish. When you boil the kettle for a cup of tea, just pour a few drops of boiling water onto the sponge. It releases just a hint of fragrance, doesn't use any energy and lasts a long time.

  20. These are great ideas. I love have fresh smells without the chemicals.

  21. I've simmered fruit and cinnamon. Used baking soda and lavendar essential oil.

  22. Simmering is nice but you have to be home. I had an electric diffuser once but it was cheap and broke.

  23. I love the idea of a natural air freshener, fragrance. We don't like to use the chemical sprays and things. YUCK!
    These are some great ideas.
    Thank you.

  24. I have also used the fruit, vanilla, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks on the stove as well. I also use water and vinager on my floors when they start to get a musty smell. I have been reusing my febreeze bottle and making my own air freshner. I get the big bottle of liquid potpourrie and just put a tiny bit in the bottle and the rest water. I just shake it up to mix it up. Then I just do a light spritz around the house when needed. I also do the baking soda with a frangrance in my closets, carpet, shoes lol really just about anywhere

  25. I've been slowly but surely trying to switch to natural alternatives. I'm so glad I stumbled onto your blog. I cannot wait to try the fruit and oil simmers... and just about everything else you've posted. Thanks for all the great ideas and tips!

  26. Great ideas. I love your honesty about the effectiveness, too.

    I'm pretty much synthetic fragrance-free, but I still have a few items around the home that I am gradually getting rid of. It is sad because a few perfumes I love (with natural oil bases but with fragrance oils) I may have to give away or throw out. I have realized, after years of loving all things scented, that I often feel sick or headachey when I use them. I've used essential oils for years but now I think I'll use them exclusively.

    I'm going to try the diffuser reed thing. I have a diffuser that I bought, which has essential oils (but also had other oils). It was so overpowering that I ended up throwing it out (the smell still lingers!) and I am going to save the glass container to diffuse essential oils (with new, unused sticks). I hope it works. If not, the spray method and 100% essential oil candles works when you are home.

    When I was in the process of selling our house this spring I used different essential oil blends before house showings. I wanted the house to smell fresh and pleasant without making the potential buyers gag. My two favorite blends were: rose and cinnamon (lighter on the cinnamon because it's a strong scent), and lemon myrtle+vanilla. Both were amazing and very nice. They also lasted a decent while and they do seem to 'clean' the air.

    Presently I also add a few drops of various essential oils to the humidifiers in my daughter's bedroom and our master bedroom. It diffuses a very light essential oil scent. I need to get more lavender oil for that purpose--it would be especially relaxing.

    Have a nice one!


    1. I'm planning on making a reed diffuser too! I just have to find the right container. That's great you already have one. Thanks for sharing the essential oil blends that you love. I always wonder what scents go well together. Thanks for stopping by!

  27. This is an awesome idea.I had a flameless wax I tried it with the unscented wax and with just using water, I actually found water to work better. Now my house smells faintly like rose and jasmine at all times!

  28. Hi came across this while searching for ideas on how to scent and clean my home naturally and i love this so much. I have asthma and my son is showing signs of it too, so i have decided to ditch the chemical products in favour of as you say "simpler living" we have an electric air purifier to try and zap pollen and dust but i love the smell of spices and citrus fruits. I love this thank you.
    regards Jem

  29. Hi there, love the fruit and spices idea - I freeze juiced lemon and orange halves to use later in cooking, now I have another use for them. Thanks. Fiona

  30. Hi! I just came across your blog and I've spent the whole morning learning from it!
    Thanks for so many useful tips and recipes. :)

    I like to use the Muji diffuser. It's pricey but you only use water and an essential oil of your choice. Plus it has a nice light. :)
    I have the smaller version but I saw they started selling a bigger version at the department store in my city (Malmö, Sweden).

  31. Essential oils are fine for humans, but do NOT use them if you have a cat in the house. These oils are toxic for cats, their livers simply cannot process them in the way humans and other animals can. Diffusion is just as bad, if not worse, than putting oil on a cat's skin, so please use something other than essential oils if you own a cat.


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