I used to love everything that smells nice – scented candles, scented laundry detergent, scented air fresheners… basically, I like my house to smell like beautiful lavender fields (or sometimes, pumpkin spice), no matter what.
But there’s a problem with most of these products.
Air Fresheners and Phthalates
Many commercially available air fresheners contain lots of hazardous chemicals, including the infamous phthalates. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) describes phthalates found in air fresheners as follows:
Many [air fresheners] contain phthalates(pronounced thal-ates)—hazardous chemicals known to cause hormonalabnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems.
The negative effects of phthalates are increased when there is poor ventilation in your rooms, such as during the winter months, because they accumulate in the air and cause chronic damage to your body.
Despite their loud promises, air fresheners do nothing to “clean” or actually “freshen” your air. They do quite the opposite – they pollute it with hazardous chemicals that just happen to smell “good”.
In addition to phthalates, most air fresheners contain butane, acetone, propane, and other known toxic chemicals.
Due to loopholes and favoritism regarding the chemical perfume industry, companies pushing these products aren’t even required to list the ingredients of these products, and simply list them as “fragrance”.
Candles Are No Better
Candles – the cozy aromatic staples in homes all across America – are not any better. Candles are a huge source of indoor pollution because they are typically made with paraffin wax, which creates highly toxic benzene and toluene when burned (both are known carcinogens).
Of course, like air fresheners, scented candles also contain all those dangerous “fragrance” chemicals, and diffuse them into the air that you breathe.
So What Can You Do?
If you’d rather avoid breathing all those chemicals – especially given how polluted our air already is – you can try one of the solutions below. We’ve stopped using chemical air fresheners entirely, and our house smells great!
Make Your Own Candles
One easy and fun solution is to make your own candles. Use essential oils to add any scent you want. With essential oils, you know that what you’re inhaling isn’t toxic (of course, always make sure they are properly diluted to ensure the right concentration).
For the base, you can use soy or beeswax base. These are not only safe, but beeswax is the only type of candle that emits negative ions to purify, cleanse, and improve air quality.
Melt that stuff with some essential oils (or don’t – beeswax smells like sweet honey on its own), pour them into a jar with a wick, and enjoy a great-smelling home without the worries!
Diffuse Oils Over Natural Candles
If you want to add scent to your candle, I found the easiest solution to be oil warmers. They are cheap and allow you to diffuse essential oils of your choice right over your candles. We’ve been using this a lot during cold and flu season to boost our immune systems and kill the bugs. I’ve diffused my favorite calming blend this way, too.
Get an Oil Diffuser
Of course, you could step it up a notch here and get an essential oil diffuser. These things are great. They work by evaporating water mixed with essential oils into the air. This cleans and humidifies the air, and depending on which oils you use, can help improve your health and mood. Needless to say, this is a perfectly safe* way to add a pleasant scent to any room.
* Always exercise caution with certain oils – some are not recommended for pets or pregnant women, so do your research before you diffuse!
I love decorating, and potpourri serves a double-purpose by smelling nice and creating a nice visual in your home. You can make your own potpourri by collecting some flowers, herbs, pieces of wood or bark, and other fixatives (think: pine cones, cinnamon sticks, dry fruits/vegetables, leaves, etc.) and rubbing them with spices and/or essential oils.
Place them in a nice container/bowl/vase and enjoy their rustic appeal as they fill your home with a pleasant scent.
You can even just keep a bunch of dried lavender flowers around and it’ll make your whole room smell incredible. I did it in my bedroom and haven’t had a sleepless night since.
Boil Something Yummy
Another great (and cheap!) way to quickly add a great smell to your house is by boiling your fixatives in water. I prefer this method in the fall and winter, because it’s great for warm smells like orange and cinnamon.
You can boil spices, fruits, essential oils and herbs. As the liquid boils, it will evaporate and spread a warm smell all throughout your house. It’s very similar to diffusing oils, since spices and fruits contain essential oils, and that’s what you’re smelling when you boil them.
When the warmer months roll in, a great way to freshen your house is to just open all the windows and let your house breathe. Sometimes we forget just how good it smells out there and just how stale your air can get indoors.
I noticed that oftentimes the easiest way for me to get rid of a headache is by opening the windows and letting some fresh air into the room. When I’m at the office, opening up some windows noticeably improves everyone’s mood and productivity. There’s definitely something there.
Do you know other great ways to freshen your home using natural techniques? Let me know in the comments!