Five Alternatives to Air Fresheners


By Rachel McLaughlin

You can find air fresheners in hundreds of thousands of grocery stores, vehicles and convenience stores all across the country. Air fresheners advertise a tantalizing service: spend around $1, and you can make your home, office or car smell like a far-away place: a pine forest, a beach, even a vineyard.

And it’s true: they do keep your room and car smelling pleasant.

But here’s what the labels won’t say: air fresheners can be hazardous to your health and seriously erode your home’s air quality.

In 2007, a team of scientists at the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) found hormone-disrupting chemicals in 12 of the most common air fresheners on the market – including those labeled “all natural”. Alas, the labels said nothing about the harmful phthalates emitted by the fresheners.

The findings were serious – and people took notice. Within two years, many air fresheners had been banned from the shelves of Walgreens, and manufacturing giant SC Johnson overhauled its labeling policy to disclose ingredient information.

What, specifically, is the issue with air fresheners? In short, they contain phthalates, a chemical that interferes with the human body’s regular functioning.

Phthalates can cause birth defects, reproductive harm, and interfere with hormone and testosterone production, especially in children and babies who have weaker immune systems. Of course these chemicals are found in other places as well such as used to soften plastic (such as in children’s toys), in nail polish, and perfume.

These issues can be avoided. Starting now, throw your air fresheners in the trash – and opt for a healthier alternative. Here are a few:

  • Soy Candles

   Use natural beeswax or soy wax candles instead of paraffin to avoid petroleum byproducts. They come in a variety of scents and as a bonus they add to the decoration of any room.

  • Spices
    Boil some water on a stovetop and simmer your favorite spice(s). Cinnamon, clove, orange, ginger, and nutmeg are just a few spices that will keep your whole house filled with a sweet aroma! Make sure to keep enough water in the pot to keep them from burning.


  • Essential Oils
    Essential oils are plant-based and are said to contain emotionally uplifting and spiritual properties. These oils come in many flavors mostly related to plants and flowers such as lavender, jasmine, and even peppermint. Add a few drops to a spray bottle of water to freshen your home.


  • Non-Toxic Air Fresheners
    Ok so maybe you don’t have time to simmer spices, nor can you light a candle in your car, but you can buy safe air fresheners at the store such as Eco Breeze which helps rejuvenate fabrics on your furniture or even clothes. Make sure to research your product before purchasing in order to avoid harm from incomplete product label ingredients.


  • Natural Household Products
    You probably already have baking soda or white vinegar in your pantry but did you know you can use them for more than cooking and baking? You can sprinkle baking soda over your carpet for a fresh scent or even in your trashcan and running shoes to neutralize odor instead of covering it up. Try putting small amounts of white vinegar in small containers around your home or car to absorb foul smells. Vinegar can even be used in your laundry for an extra boost of freshness!
  • Coal
    That’s right: coal. The Kuro Cube by Sort of Coal is an air purifier and deodorizer made from white charcoal powder. For up to a year you can use it in drawers, your car, refrigerator, and even in a bowl of fruit to keep fruit (or other foods) fresh. And when you’re done, you can use it as mulch in your garden. You can also try a Moso Bag. A Moso Bag is a bamboo charcoal air purifier and freshener that naturally removes odor, pollutants, and bacteria that can come from household cleaners, carpets, furniture, etc. Moso Bags will also help reduce airborne mold spores in your home while deodorizing. Each bag lasts for at least two years so you won’t have to worry about a replacement for a looooooong time.

And of course the best thing you can do to not only freshen the smell of your house or car but to also purify the air is to open a window. Houses can actually pollute the air from the inside and even if you’re using any of the methods previously mentioned, opening a window is the best surefire way to freshen and clean your air.


Photo by With Associates via Flickr CC License

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