We want our homes to smell great, but that should never come at the cost of our safety. The first step to having fresher and healthier air in your home is knowing all the risks and effects of using those harmful air fresheners.
Even if you decide to stop using many of the air fresheners you thought were safe, you don’t have to worry about having a stinky home. There are lots of inexpensive, effective, and natural ways to combat unwanted odors.
The chemicals found in air fresheners—whether you use aerosols, sprays, solids, candles, or plug-ins affect allergies, lung and heart function.
Many air fresheners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like:
In particular, 1,4 DCB reduces lung function and its presence can make respiratory diseases worse.
Allergic reactions to air fresheners can be very severe and cause:
Between allergic reactions, the health risks, and the types of chemicals that are used, air fresheners are starting to sound much less appealing!
If you’ve been relying on air fresheners to cover up the smell of mold in your home, it’s actually better for your health to address the mold problem instead of covering it up. Having mold in your home can definitely make you sick, and using air fresheners will make things worse.
It’s always to your benefit to check labels on the products you buy, but unfortunately, companies that sell air fresheners are not required by law to list the ingredients used. If they do list ingredients, you might only be seeing a fraction of what is used and are probably only seeing what they want you to see.
It’s a red flag when a company isn’t comfortable listing all the ingredients of their products for their customers, or just plain doesn’t think that customers would be interested and benefit from that knowledge.
Also, labels like natural, all-natural, organic, green, or even unscented options are not automatically safe choices. In the case of products labeled as unscented, chemicals can be added to mask the actual scent of the product so that it doesn’t appear to have a fragrance.
There aren’t many regulations in place that police how companies can use phrases like natural or organic, so just like with some “unscented” products, it can be a marketing gimmick. When you do check the label, a product that lists mostly plant ingredients will probably be safer for you.
The main warnings that air fresheners do list are about flammability, and that they should be kept away from children. If you’re not comfortable using a product around a child, then it’s probably not safe to use it at all.
Fresh air from opening windows or using your screen door is a healthy and effective way to remove odors from your home. The effectiveness of this method increases when you use fans to further circulate the air and/or have plenty of plant life outside.
Mold thrives in enclosed spaces that don’t get enough air circulation, so keeping doors open (especially the ones inside the home), opening windows, and using fans are ways to reduce the mold smell.
Doing these things will also help make your home a less attractive environment for mold to grow in the first place. If you live in a very warm, humid location and can’t fight the mold through air circulation or regular cleaning, you may need to find a certified mold inspector.
Is opening windows not an option? Then bring the outdoors inside. We know that plants give us oxygen and that we give them the carbon dioxide they need, so it’s a great idea to have them in your home. Fragrant flowers and plants like eucalyptus, jasmine or roses, are just a few possible choices.
Want to be even more efficient? Consider starting a vegetable or spice garden. Basil, mint, rosemary, lavender, tomato plants, and parsley all smell wonderful. They’re also powerful, just brush your fingers on their leaves and see how long their oils stay on your hands. These plants are easy to grow and maintain and are used in many recipes and drinks.
In addition to plant life helping clean up your air, studies show that people who spend more time around plants and in green spaces are less stressed and that they help fight depression.
Household items like lemons, vinegar, and baking soda can also combat odors in your home.
Putting a slice of lemon in your garbage disposal or your trash is a great way to get a little natural aromatherapy.
Vinegar (and often vinegar combined with lemon slices, oranges, or limes) is a wonderful cleaning and deodorizing product. Rather than masking odors, vinegar tends to reduce smells entirely. All you have to do is put out a small bowl or cup of vinegar. Have a fruit fly problem? Do double duty and add a little dish soap to the vinegar. Your home will smell nice, the vinegar will attract the flies, and the soap will kill them.
An open box of baking soda works similarly to vinegar. It absorbs odors instead of masking or covering them up. Baking soda is used best in enclosed spaces like your fridge, pantry or anywhere that has a buildup of odors because the space doesn’t get much air circulation.
This might be a no-brainer, but it’s important to clean and wash things regularly. Make sure to take the trash out often, clean pet areas, and wash and dry items or areas that are damp.
Using essential oils is also an option, but it’s important to check the labels just like with regular air fresheners. Products labeled as organic, natural, all-natural or green are not always what they are seem. Research what you want to buy first, look for plant based ingredients and listen to your gut when it seems like a company is not being as transparent about their products as they could be. If you do find an essential oil you like, a drop or so on a cotton ball or a small piece of washable fabric will be surprisingly powerful. A few drops mixed with water in a spray bottle is also effective.
Even though there are lots of natural ways to freshen your home, buying an air purifier can also be a step in the right direction. Air purifiers can reduce unwanted smells in your home, as well as fight pollen, mold, dust, and VOCs in your indoor air. Our Air Purifier Guide puts together all the information you need to know about selecting the air purifier that is right for you, and we have lots of options available to fit your needs if you decide to purchase one.