Nobody likes stale, unpleasant odors, but if you're still using traditional air freshener sprays or plug-ins, you're getting more than you bargained for with every whiff. Most of the perfumed sprays, cartridges and candles that line supermarket shelves fill your home with toxic chemicals. Fighting odors with earth-friendly and organic air fresheners is safer for people and pets, and it's healthier for the planet, too.
Why Traditional Air Fresheners Stink
Toxic air fresheners rarely do the job they're supposed to do. Instead of breaking down or neutralizing odors, they simply mask them. Worse still, many air fresheners contain nerve-deadening chemicals that coat your nasal passages and temporarily block your sense of smell. (See References 2) Exposure to these chemicals can cause headaches and nausea or aggravate asthma (see References 3), but one type of chemical found in air-freshening products --- phthalates --- also causes hormonal and reproductive issues, birth defects and developmental disorders. Other toxic ingredients, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), benzene and formaldehyde, cause neurological damage and cancer. (See References 1 and 2)
Shopping for Eco-Friendly Options
Finding plant-based air fresheners these days is fairly easy, and they offer a variety of earth-friendly benefits. Forget about wasting energy with plug-in scented cartridges; greener options come in nonaerosol sprays and are biodegradable. Most eco-friendly odor-eliminating products also shun animal testing and utilize recyclable packaging. Pesticide-free lavender and citrus essential oils are most often used in organic air fresheners. Read the label carefully; just because an air freshener is unscented or claims to be natural doesn't mean it's 100 percent chemical-free.
Making Natural Air Fresheners
Another way to avoid introducing toxins into your home is to make your own air freshener. Fill a spray bottle with purified or distilled water and add several drops of an organic essential oil. Lemon, orange and lavender are popular scents for freshening the home, but you can experiment with your own favorites to create a custom air spray. (See References 4)
More Ways to Clear the Air
The simplest, most effective way to freshen the air inside your home is to open the windows, but you might also set small dishes of baking soda or vinegar throughout the house to absorb offensive odors. Simmering spices such as clove and cinnamon in a saucepan filled with water knocks out cooking odors and adds a delicious aroma to the air. Burning pure soy and beeswax candles with cotton wicks helps to clear the air. Tucking organic herb sachets throughout the house leaves a subtle fragrance. Another natural way to freshen your space is to nurture your green thumb; houseplants significantly improve indoor air quality by removing carbon dioxide and other toxins. (See References 3 and 4)
- NRDC; Common Air Fresheners Contain Chemicals That May Affect Human Reproductive Development; September 2007
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Environmental Awareness: Let's Clear the Air About Air Fresheners and Plug-Ins
- Environmental News Network; Hidden Hazards of Air Fresheners; Paul Schaefer; September 2007
- "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Organic Living"; Eliza Saransohn; 2009
Melissa Lewis has worked as a freelance writer since 2004, gaining much of her experience by working in the marketing/PR field. She writes for various websites, specializing in the areas of marketing, home improvement, cooking and pets. Lewis studied English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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