Humans have had the urge to make their homes smell pleasing for thousands of years. Our ancient ancestors burned incense to cover up offending odors. Today many folks use sprays, plug in air fresheners and candles.
And from cinnamon apple to fresh laundry scent, there’s no denying air fresheners can smell terrific. The trouble is those commercial air fresheners are often a swamp of toxic chemicals. And every time you spray one you, your family and your pets are breathing that chemical soup in.
In fact, manufacturers are counting on it because that’s how they do their job. Most air fresheners mask unpleasant odors by covering them up with chemically produced scents that coat our nasal passages. Many also contain chemicals designed to dull your scent receptors.
Your air freshener could be full of toxic chemicals
And although commercial air fresheners are typically teeming with chemicals, many of those never find their way onto the label. Because, according to the Environmental Working Group, companies aren’t required to disclose them.
So when you see the word “fragrance,” on a label it could be hiding an endless number of creepy chemicals. In fact, when University of Washington researchers tested eight commercial air fresheners they found they had an average of 18 chemicals in them. And, on average, one in five of those were potentially hazardous.1
A later study echoed those findings with UW researchers finding that of the 133 different chemicals they uncovered in 25 scented products, nearly one quarter were toxic or hazardous according to federal law.2
These creepy chemical can include…
- Phthalates: Hormone disruptors linked to weight gain, allergies, asthma and other diseases. Experts say phthalates can interfere with the development of the male reproductive tract.3
- 1,4-dichlorobenzene: I,4-DCB can reduce lung function and trigger asthma in humans. And in animals, studies show, it can cause cancer.4,5
- Synthetic musks: These chemically created scents may cause hormone disruptions or trigger allergies.
- Acetaldehyde: according to the EPA acetaldehyde—a chemical used to synthesize other chemicals—is a likely human carcinogen.6
If you love the clean, fresh scent of an air freshener, but don’t like the idea of filling your home, and lungs, with a bunch of toxic chemicals I have good news. You can make natural air fresheners at home, so you know exactly what’s in them.
And we’ll show you how.
Natural air fresheners smell great with safer ingredients
Reduce your exposure to unknown toxic chemicals by using one of these three homemade air fresheners.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to make the whole house smell terrific (besides baking a batch of cookies, of course) is to make a stovetop simmer. Best of all you can throw these natural air fresheners together with ingredients you already have on hand.
Start with several cups of water in a large saucepan. Then grab whatever citrus fruit you have around, lemon and lime work well. Cut the citrus fruit into thin slices and toss them into the pot.
Next, add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a sprig or two of your favorite fresh spice such as rosemary. Bring the mix to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Before you know it, your whole house will smell delicious enough to eat. But keep in mind you should NEVER leave the pot unattended. And be sure to add more water as the brew starts to evaporate.
Essential oil room spray:
If you’d prefer to spritz a bit of scent throughout the house these natural air fresheners fit the bill. To make an essential oil room spray you’ll need a small spray bottle with a mist setting, vodka, water and a bottle of essential oil.
Add one half a cup of water and one half a cup vodka to the bottle (for a larger batch simply stick to the same 50/50 ratio). Add 12 to 15 drops of your favorite essential oil to the bottle: lavender, orange or vanilla work well. If you want a deeper scent, feel free to add a few more drops of the oil.
Carpet and room freshener:
This baking-soda based mix will freshen your carpets and leave the whole room smelling sweet. Grab the dried rosemary off your spice rack, baking soda and your favorite essential oil.
Chop up two teaspoons of the rosemary very finely (a food processer is great for this). In a large freezer bag, mix the rosemary, one half a cup of baking soda and up to 10 drops of your favorite essential oil. Seal the bag tightly and shake to mix everything well.
Sprinkle the mix onto your carpet. Allow it to sit for a least 15 minutes before you vacuum it back up. And be sure to keep kids and pets out of the room.
Keep in mind if someone in your home has allergies or asthma even natural air fresheners could be a trigger. In those cases throwing open the windows for some clean fresh air, and using air filters in your home, may be better options.
1. “Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients,” Environmental Impact Assessment Review, Volume 29, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 32-38
2. “Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted,” Environmental Impact Assessment Review, Volume 31, Issue 3, April 2011, Pages 328-333
3. “Aggregate Exposures to Phthalates in Humans,” Health Care Without Harm, July 2002, fda.gov
4. “Chemical in Many Air Fresheners May Reduce Lung Function,” National Institutes of Health, News Release, July 27, 2006
5. “IARC MONOGRAPHS ON THE EVALUATION OF CARCINOGENIC RISKS TO HUMANS: Volume 73” World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer
6. “Acetaldehyde CASRN 75-07-0,” EPA Integrated Risk Information System
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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