Room Air Fresheners – Why Not Try These Easy Green Recipes?
Wouldn’t it be great if our indoor air smelled as good as the great outdoors?
Room fresheners, air deodorizers, scents and fragrances are very hot these days. I see lots of pricy commercials about fragrances and scents. OMG, the stuff they say in these commercials is very bizarre. How can spraying synthetic chemicals, which is what most are made of, into your air freshen the air in your room? That’s like saying polluted air is clean air. That makes no sense.
Perhaps this new obsession over fragrances is a response to the popularity of Aromatherapy, or maybe it’s a reaction to a lot of heavy-handed marketing by the Fragrance industry. There is a lot of time and money being spent trying to convince you that you need special fragrances on your body, on your clothes, and in your air. I like fragrances, natural ones though.
I’m here to tell you, remind you, that these petroleum derived chemicals that are used as fragrances and scents in so many products (especially commercial air fresheners) are created in labs by chemists. There is nothing green or natural about them. Just because one particular company (who will go unnamed–I don’t want to be sued, these people are seriously into their products and profits) has teamed up with the National Park Service to market their new line of scented air fresheners, doesn’t mean that actual plants or plant essential oils were used in the making of any of those “air fresheners”. The company’s commercials don’t really say that, they say they were “inspired” by these lovely plants found in our national parks.
TIP The best, greenest way to freshen your air is to open a window for gosh sakes!
Room air fresheners and other household products commonly found on the shelves of your typical grocery store or drugstore chain usually contain deadly chemicals such as dichlorobenzene, a Phthalate compound, which is totally banned in California because it has been proven to cause cancer. Annie Berthold-Bond writes in her book Green Housekeeping that dichlorobenzene is “extremely toxic, a central nervous system depressant, a kidney and liver poison, and one of the chlorinated hydrocarbons that is long-lasting in the environment and is stored in body fat.” p. 44
Aside from toxic chemicals in the product, the other problem about commercial air fresheners and is that they don’t neutralize odors; they mask them by affecting your nose, not the odor. And what they are using to mask the offending odor are more chemicals. Fragrances they are called and have been outed by the Silent Spring institute as being some of the most toxic chemicals we find in household products. Renee Loux, who reports exhaustively on dangerous chemicals found in everyday household products in her book Easy Green Living, writes that
“ . . . on the product label, fragrance can mean just about anything, because a fragrance can contain as few as 10 chemicals or as many as hundreds. Ninety-five percent of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic petrochemicals. They include benzene derivatives, aldehydes, and other well-known toxins and sensitizers that have been linked to cancer, central nervous system damage, birth defects, and allergic reactions. Phthalate compounds [like dichlorobenzene] are among the favored chemicals for fragrances because of their ability to make a scent stick around. They stick around all right. Phthalates are neurotoxins that accumulate in the tissues of humans and wildlife and are linked to endocrine disruptions, developmental and reproductive disorders, and cancer. Yikes! All in the name of fresh air?”
Air Quality is something everybody is concerned with. Statistics show that our indoor air is often much more polluted than our outside air, even in cities with air pollution problems. The problem is caused by toxic VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) emitting building materials and home furnishings.
Don’t be too alarmed though; there are things you can do about it. Naturally Bubbly is here to help you clean up your inside air, so look for posts about non-toxic and environmentally friendly home furnishings and home improvement materials.
In the mean time, because you can’t completely renovate your home overnight, look for some easier mitigating solutions to indoor air pollution such as obtaining some houseplants with large green leaves like Dracaena, peace lily, Pothos, philodendron, and Sanseveria (Mother-in-law’s Tongue, or Snake Plant) just to name a few. They are all super hardy indoors, can take light shade and dry conditions. Most importantly they have large leaves that manufacture plenty of oxygen, remove carbon dioxide, and reduce airborne chemicals and VOC’s emitted by benzene, formaldehyde, and ammonia. Avoid troublesome houseplants like spider plants, English ivy, and palms because they very often become infested with aphids, spider mites, and scale.
Green Room Air Fresheners
To truly deodorize and freshen your indoor air, there are easy, green ways to go about it. First way is to eliminate the source of the odor. I guess that is a no brainer, but it’s not always easy to remove the source. Sometimes though not easy it may be essential that you remove something like smelly moldy carpet or damp drywall before it incubates a mess of mold! Don’t be foolish and try to mask an odor that you really need to address. Just some advice!
Tip Air sanitizer is an oxymoron. It’s impossible to sanitize air. Only non-porous surfaces can be truly sanitized and disinfected.
Another super green way to freshen your air is to open a window! Yes, very simple unless it is the dead of winter and freezing outside, or the heat of summer and broiling outside.
Some of my sources suggest boiling herbs on the stove to freshen or deodorize the air inside your house. This to me does not seem all that practical unless you are going to be home for a while and can tend the pot on the stove.
There is potpourri. If made in a natural way without added “fragrance” sprayed on it, it can mask smells for a little while, but doesn’t deodorize.
Essential oils. True aromatherapy uses pure essential oils, preferably organic, to infuse the air with a healthy and healing natural fragrance or scent. Aromatherapy cannot be achieved using petrochemical fragrance and oils.
Homemade Room Fresheners and Fabric Deodorizers
Here’s a basic lesson about how our beloved green cleaning ingredients can help you fight bad smells and stale air. Just learning the simple chemistry will help you figure out how to eliminate bad or unwanted odors yourself using the same cleaning kit we use for all of our green cleaning projects.
Bad odors can be either acid in nature, or alkaline, or a combination of both. Most odors produced by humans and animals are a mix of the two. Therefore, any good deodorizer will contain both vinegar and baking soda to be completely effective.
Not to get too descriptive or graphic but you can generalize some odors as essentially acid or alkaline. Take human and animal solid waste odors. Those are alkaline and can be neutralized with acetic acid aka vinegar. But other eliminated bodily fluids such as urine and vomit are acid and can be neutralized with a base substance such as baking soda. Baking soda is our preferred basic deodorizer and white distilled vinegar is our preferred acid deodorizer.
Here are two formulas that will cover most of your room freshener and air deodorizing needs. I just mixed up this recipe last week and I’m already out, I love it so much. Adapted from Berthold-Bonds Better Basics for the Home
Deodorizing Spray [Air Freshener]
8 drops lavender essential oil
4 drops bergamot essential oil
½ cup vodka
½ cup distilled water
Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well. Spritz into the air four or five times in areas you feel need freshening, being careful to avoid your eyes when spraying.
My note is that green air fresheners work best in a misting spray bottle or atomizer rather than a typical spray bottle.
the following Fabric, Upholstery, and Carpet Deodorizers brought to you by Annie Berthold-Bond
For Alkaline Odors
2 tables white vinegar at least
2 cups water
Add the vinegar and water to a spray bottle. Shake to blend. Spray stains or problem Ares generously. Don’t’ rinse for 15 minutes or so. If the odor persists, add another 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the bottle and spray again.
For Acid Odors
2 tablespoons baking soda or borax
2 cups water
Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and pour into a spray bottle. Shake to blend. Spray problem areas generously. Don’t rinse unless there is a residue.
Julie’s Closet Freshener
I moved into a wooden house that had a lot of dry rot. The closets smelled just awful and impregnated all of my clothes with the same awful smell. I asked my sister-in-law if she had any ideas. She absolutely did. First of all she told me that if I tried to just paint over the smell, it would not go away.
Then she told me to first wash the entire closet with water and bleach. Rinse off the bleach and water thoroughly. Let the surfaces dry. Then wash the entire closet with water and vinegar. Let that dry. It worked famously; the closet became as sweet as a daisy. I used chlorine bleach (it was before my green cleaning journey began; D). No doubt 3 percent hydrogen peroxide or liquid oxygen bleach would achieve the same result.
And, to tell the whole story, another closet with the same problem I decided to try and paint over the smell. It really did not work! You would think a coat of paint would have to do it, but it didn’t. That’s anecdotal proof enough for me.
A few common sense preventative approaches to keeping bad smells away are to keep your kitchen sink drain clean, refrigerator up to date by throwing out old food, and for small rooms like the bathrooms or closets, an open box of baking soda works much the way it does in a refrigerator. Keeping your kitchen sink sponges sanitized, replacing every 2 weeks. Kitchen garbage often tends to smell more when you use plastic bags to collect it. I use paper shopping bags and throw it away almost every day in the summer.
Check out future posts about electronic room air cleaners and see what’s healthy and what’s not so much.Julia Houriet