In this article:
Air fresheners have become a household item over the past several years. They are domestic essentials that are commonly found in your grocery list. This is understandable because who doesn’t want to live and breathe in a sweet-smelling environment?
Your olfactory senses have a direct bearing on your brain and general mood. Walking into fragrant space can instantly brighten up your mood and make your immediate surroundings feel clean and comfy, making a pleasant smell one of the top hallmarks of hospitality.
A quick spritz of your favorite fragrance in your room can make you feel happy and relaxed. However, what a lot of people do not realize is that air fresheners are basically a cocktail of chemicals. They may be a quick fix for your off-smelling interiors, but they may do so at the expense of your health.
The aroma of the spray comes from certain toxins that replicate the smells of flowers and fruits. To make these fragrances last longer, a heavy amount of phthalates are added to the liquid mix.
Phthalates are a class of several chemical compounds that lock down the fragrances and retain them for longer periods. These compounds are also widely used in cosmetic items, plastic products, packaging material, etc.
Several studies have highlighted the detrimental effects of phthalates on health. Evidence-based research suggests that these chemicals can stay in the environment for long by circulating in the same space rather than escaping outside.
This stubborn chemical presence can pollute the confines of your home. Breathing in this polluted air for extended stretches can gravely damage your health.
The term air freshener may be a bit misleading because these products are simply used to mask disagreeable odors rather than actually purify the air. Thus, not only are they useless in terms of improving air quality, but they just might make it worse by adding styrene, chloroform, and formaldehyde in your immediate vicinity.
When using air fresheners, the in-house levels of such harmful gases can exceed the outdoor levels by almost 50%. Moreover, the chemicals in aerosol sprays combine with the existing air pollutants to form a potentially carcinogenic mix, which can have ill effects if you remain exposed to them for too long.
Exposure to high concentrations of fragrant aerosols can cause immediate discomforts, such as shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and skin allergies.
Prolonged exposure may adversely affect your reproductive health and hormonal functions. In some cases, excessive contact with air fresheners during pregnancy may lead to congenital disorders in the child. (1)(2)
Commercially available air fresheners do more harm than good, both to your health and the environment. Therefore, one must look for eco-friendly options, which can often be hard to find in grocery stores and pharmacies.
What you can do is allow natural ventilation to keep your home fresh and breezy. You can whip up your own non-toxic air freshener by using some aromatic essential oils and other easily available household ingredients.
Know Your Ingredients
1. Baking soda to help neutralize odors
Food that is past its prime releases rancid odors due to the microbial action. Foods that are full of fats and proteins, such as milk, fish, and butter, give off a putrid smell when they start to go bad.
The rotting process involves the decomposition of these foods into volatile acids and bases whose molecules combine with the air particles and turn into strong-smelling compounds. In these situations, sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, can be used in place of conventional air fresheners to eliminate the offensive smells.
Because baking soda is a weak base and also amphoteric in nature, it can act either as an acid or a base depending on the type of compound it reacts with, neutralizing it and reducing its potency to a large extent.
For instance, if butter gets spoiled, the bacterial action on it produces butyric acid, which is extremely off-smelling. If baking soda is added to the spoiled butter, it combines with butyric acid to form sodium butyrate, which is practically odorless.
Baking soda does quash the stench instead of simply covering it up.
2. Essential oils for added freshness
Organic living is incomplete without using essential oils in some way or another. A whole range of essential oils are used in food, beauty, and health industries. Nowadays, they are also used as a healthier alternative to synthetic air fresheners.
Using essential oils, or the oils obtained from the plants, are a natural way to aromatize your homes. These oils are replete with phytochemicals that are extracted from the flowers, leaves, wood, roots, etc., of different plants through distillation and mechanical pressing.
The oil obtained from a given plant carries its characteristic essence, both in terms of smell and properties.
Essential oils not only serve as a safer substitute to chemical-laden air fresheners, but their healing virtues can also be optimized through aromatherapy. This technique involves breathing in the therapeutic vapors released by these essential oils to relax and rejuvenate the mind and body.
Aromatherapy has become quite popular over the years as a non-medicinal intervention to aid full-body recuperation and stress management.
Essential oils such as lavender and citrus essential oils have been found to act as a relaxant when orally administered to patients with anxiety.
Also, their therapeutic value in treating anxiety comes without any kind of psychological reliance or withdrawal symptoms. Thus, they may be used as a supplement to the prescribed medications, but speak with your doctor about supplementing with essential oils first before using them.
In addition to their mood-lifting benefits, essential oils are also known for being rich in antioxidants, preventing inflammation, suppressing bacterial action, and reducing fits or convulsions. (3)(4)(5)(6)(7)
As essential oils are volatile and evaporate rather quickly, you should combine them with dense carrier oils to retain their aroma and make them last longer when using them as room fresheners.
Safety concerns regarding the essential oils
Essential oils are highly concentrated and may not agree with everyone’s physiology. Children and the elderly are relatively more likely to suffer side effects after using essential oils, such as skin rashes, acne breakouts, allergic reactions, and other immune responses.
These effects may be because infants, young children, and older people do not have the optimal dermal integrity or a strong immune system that can mitigate the undesirable effects of essential oils.
In the same vein, essential oils that are citrusy may render your skin photosensitive after application. This means that if you go out in the sun soon after using these oils, your skin can get irritated, inflamed, red, and easily sunburnt.
Thus, one must use these oils only after diluting them to reduce their potency and follow the necessary precautions as advised by the healthcare provider or aromatherapist.
One must also keep essential oils out of the reach of children, who may accidentally ingest them in unsuitable amounts. While ingestion of essential oils can lead to health problems in adults as well, children are especially vulnerable as their livers are not fully developed to neutralize its toxicity.
DIY Air Freshener Recipes
Here are a couple of DIY methods to make your own air freshener at home with minimal chemical content.
1. Homemade Air Freshener Spray with Essential Oils
- A clean 2-4 oz bottle fitted with a spray nozzle
- Lavender essential oil
- Sweet orange essential oil
- Lemon essential oil
- Measuring spoons
- Fill the bottle with water up to three-fourths full.
- Add 10 drops of lavender oil to the water.
- Add 1 teaspoon of sweet orange essential oil to the solution.
- Add 5 drops of lemon essential oil to the mix.
- Shake the bottle thoroughly so that all the components are mixed well.
Your homemade air freshener with essential oils is ready to use. You can use it as a regular air freshener anywhere in your home.
Note: Remember to always shake the bottle before spraying as water and oil tend to separate into layers.
2. Homemade Air Freshener with Baking Soda
- Baking soda
- Mason jar
- Lavender essential oil
- A sheet of paper
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Toothpick or pin
- Glue stick (optional)
- Take the wrapping paper and trace a circle on it using the mason jar cap and cut along the outline.
- Stick this paper circle on the mason jar cap in place of its metal ring.
- Measure out ½ cup of baking soda and add it to the jar.
- Add in 15 drops of lavender essential oil.
- Use a fork to mix the contents of the jar.
- With a toothpick or pin, puncture some holes on the paper cover of the cap and screw the cap on the jar.
Your room diffuser is ready to use. You can place it in any corner of the house to diffuse a sweet-smelling aroma.
Follow these tips to maintain a clean, fresh, and healthy air quality in your home:
- Allow cross-ventilation in your home that can prevent the buildup of funky odors so you can limit your use of air fresheners.
- You can store some baking soda in a box and keep it wherever you want. This can absorb foul smells from the air.
- Essential oils can be directly added to the humidifier to mask unpleasant smells.
- To address indoor pollution, keep some indoor plants such as peace lily, anthurium, and ferns to detoxify the air.
- Air purifiers can help in getting rid of allergy triggers and also reduce malodors.
- To make a car air freshener, add 15 drops of essential oil of choice to a clothespin and clip it to the vent in the car.
- Using essential oils as aromatherapy and as fresheners is generally safe, but any oral supplementation should be under advisement from your doctor. Please contact your primary care physician to make sure that the essential oil you use is appropriate and does not interfere with your other medications.
- Do not leave chemical air fresheners around children.