The best natural air fresheners don’t cost anything at all, as there is nothing to buy. Things like fresh air! Look at what is causing odours, in the first place. Eat spicy food in the kitchen (!), and if you smoke, do so outside. Ensure pets are let out regularly for walks and pee breaks, and don’t let dirty clothes stack up in the bedroom. And if your bathroom is a source of frequent smells, look at what you are eating.
Most commercial air fresheners are packed with toxic chemicals, linked to asthma, hormone-disruptors and even cancer. Dump the lot of them (including those toxic plug-ins and tree car fresheners). Go for the simple common sense and unscented natural air fresheners.
If you do use scents, know that essential oils can harm pets (especially cats, ferrets, birds and reptiles) and are not good for allergies. Houseplants don’t ‘clean the air’ (this is based a 30-year old NASA study, since updated). But if you use them, see toxic plants to avoid near pets (just brushing a tail against a lily or sago palm can harm).
Tips for Naturally Freshen the Air
- Begin by taking everything out of the room and donating/selling/recycling anything you don’t need. Often stagnant air gets trapped, also get rid of unwanted furniture. Give what’s left a wash with hot soapy water (not electrics) or non-toxic cleaning products. If safe to do so, open the windows ajar for least 10 minutes morning and evening, and give everything a good floor wash/dry or vacuum thoroughly.
- Groom pets outdoors if possible (use a Kong Zoom Groom rubber brush that is comfortable and effective, sold for dogs, cats and horses). Regularly wash bedding and toys (not with essential oils, especially not for cats) and change cat litter regularly (again, free from essential oils).
- Buy bulk boxes of baking soda and white vinegar from Dri-Pak. Both are non-toxic (but keep them away from pets and young children.). You can add a cup of either to the laundry. Sprinkle baking soda on upholstery, mattresses or carpets and leave for 30 minutes before vacuuming (or keep an open box in your fridge). Or pour boiling water down the sink or drain, following by a cup of baking soda and a cup of mixed water/white vinegar. Wait 10 minutes, then pour down more boiling water (or grind citrus peel into a garbage disposal). Or make your own air freshener in a bottle (1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water).
- Charcoal can absorb most odours, over a large surface area. After using bamboo charcoal water filters, place spent pieces in drawers, in the fridge or even in your smelly trainers.
- If you don’t have pets or young children, make your own pot pourri (a blend of dried petals and spices) with a nice recipe at Steenbergs (this does require lots of ingredients).
The Best Commercial Air Fresheners
- PURGGO (US) has to be ordered from abroad, but one purchase lasts a year. Just pop it in your car (or anywhere else) and it will absorb all odours including stinky nappies, cigarette smoke, pet accidents etc. Like all charcoal products, air it in the sunshine every few weeks, to keep it working well. In the UK, Moso Bags are also good, and can be used in any room, or the car.
- You can buy stainless steel bars of soap to keep near the sink. You then ‘wash your hands’ with them after normal washing, and they claim to remove smells (they have mixed reviews). Or try vegan palm-oil free coffee soap, to get rid of smells on your hands from onion or garlic.
Natural Car Air Fresheners
- Again, PURGGO (US) or Moso Bags can be used in the car. They have no essential oils, so are ideal for cars with pets, young children or people with allergies. They can absorb all odours including stinky nappies, cigarette smoke or pet accidents. Air in the sunshine for a few weeks, to refresh.
- If you travel without pets and children (and don’t have allergies) you can support Scent. This is a new crowd-funding invention, which houses real essential oil blends in a wooden tube, which attaches to the air vent. Each refill is made from cotton, lasts for around 3 weeks, and then biodegrades.
Should You Use Scented Candles?
These are safer than biodegradable plant wax candles, which still have to be taken care when using, to avoid fire hazards. Scented candles don’t really scent much, and obviously can be hazardous.
If used, choose ones made from plant biodegradable wax and real essential oils, and avoid near flammable paper and furnishings and ensure they are never left unattended, and properly put out with a candle snuffer.
A safer option (not near pets or young children) is London company Elm Pure Organics. Founded by a mother/doctor, it offers truly natural air reed diffusers or air freshener sprays, packed in cardboard and metal.
ELM RD makes biodegradable reed diffusers in cardboard boxes. Choose from versions made with essential oils including Chalet (juniper, cedar), Petals or Secret (whisky, tobacco) Or Lavender Vanilla Camomile. The soy diffuser base contains natural fibre reeds and a stainless steel lid. Their room mists are made with essential oils and coconut emulsifier and water (alcohol-free). Don’t use on skin and avoid contact with eyes.
Bottega Smelly Bags are made from leftover soap. This is put into little sachets, which you can hang in your wardrobe. Add 5 drops of your favourite essential oil, and put into drawers or on a hanger. The scent lasts for a couple of months, then just add more essential oil to lasts for around a year.