Horrific discoveries: oh, so THAT'S what's in air freshener

April 13 |

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Photo by jquiz. Used under Creative Commons license.
You ever find yourself completely surprised about the ingredients of a household product? Like maybe you're watching one of those really weird Febreeze commercials in which women are apparently having a flameless candle-centric party and you think, "Well THAT's weird." And then your mind wanders over to, "What's IN all that stuff, anyway?"

We should all know more about the ingredients in these products so we can make educated purchases, so when this thought struck me I dug around a little. I'd a hunch that air fresheners weren't all sunshine and daisies, but I was genuinely disturbed at some of the ingredients.

The basic gist is that there are real nasties in most of the products used to mask or eliminate odors — we're talking aerosol sprays, those cone-shaped jobbies, or some of the Glade Plug-in types. Via Wikipedia, emphasis mine:

Many air fresheners employ carcinogens, volatile organic compounds and known toxins such as phthalate esters in their formulas. A Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study of 13 common household air fresheners found that most of the surveyed products contain chemicals that can aggravate asthma and affect reproductive development.

The study assessed scented sprays, gels, and plug-in air fresheners. Independent lab testing confirmed the presence of phthalates, or hormone-disrupting chemicals that may pose a particular health risk to babies and young children, in 12 of the 14 products—including those marked 'all natural.' None of the products had these chemicals listed on their labels.

There isn't anything illegal about this, but those pretty, flower-encrusted idyllic meadows on the cans definitely don't give you the same warning as, say, the packaging of (probably more dangerous) industrial cleaners.

I'm sure you moms know that many doctors don't recommend exposing baby to aerosol sprays, but that was news to me. These products have also been documented to douse us with carcinogens.

Hyacinths are pretty, cheap, and will lend a better fragrance to a just-not-fresh room. Photo by geishaboy500. Used under Creative Commons license.

I don't really use air fresheners, but my husband does. My mom does. Given the number of air freshener and room sprays available in the grocery aisles, they're clearly popular. What can we use to refresh a room that's more natural, less icky, and way less sinus-grating?

There were good starter alternatives suggested in Ariel's post on making your bathroom smell less like poop. Dale taught us how to make a natural lavender mint linen spray, too. But what else you got?

Personally, I'm not terribly practiced at handling smells. I'm more apt to let a room STANK until someone else thinks, "Hey, I can probably fix that!" But when I do want to clear up a smell — kitty litter, especially — I'm a sucker for straight baking soda or charcoal.

Responses from the comments so far

RC said:

A clean house will smell clean. If something smells then it's probably time for me to empty out the compost or garbage or clean the floors or do some laundry or open the windows. I don't need my house to smell of something else to smell fresh – no smell is the "smell" I go for in my home.

Audrey said:

Opening the windows often never hurts, even if it's only 10 minutes a day.

Melissa T. said:

Here's what you do: Get a crock pot. Buy a cooking extract of a scent you like such as coconut extract. Buy the biggest cheap extract you can find. Fill crock pot up with water. Pour extract in crock pot- enough so that you can smell the extract in the water about four inches away. Put crock pot lid on. Turn it on high until the lid gets really steamy (or you lift the lid and steam comes rising out.) Tilt lid. Keep it on high or turn it on low. It's up to you, really.

Littleteacup said:

I add a few drops of lavender oil to the water when I mop the floor or wash the surfaces in my house. It's a nice, completely natural way to make the house smell clean and fresh.

Lex said:

If you have carpet or area rugs, is to sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon or other spice on the carpet just before you vacuum.


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  1. A clean house will smell clean. If something smells then it's probably time for me to empty out the compost or garbage or clean the floors or do some laundry or open the windows. I don't need my house to smell of something else to smell fresh – no smell is the "smell" I go for in my home.

    I think of air fresheners for general living space (not bathroom related) are like perfume was to the French aristocrats who wouldn't shower – you need something to cover a bad smell from not showering so you wear perfume. If you shower then you won't smell bad – thus you won't need any perfume.

    26 agree
    • True fax, though a little scent of something fresh doesn't hurt.

      I open windows if it's warm enough–sometimes the best air freshener is fresh air. If it's too cold out to open a window, I either light incense (though my roommate complains that it makes it smell like a "hippie" lives here. It's not bad smelling, honest!) or a candle.

      5 agree
      • Absolutely: opening the windows often never hurts, even if it's only 10 minutes a day. Plus, if you never ever open your windows, the air inside your house might become much more unhealthy than the air outside.
        I also second RC's comment, as keeping my flat clean has always done the trick for me when it comes to scent!

        4 agree
      • I can't do incense or anything that has a super strong scent. Super smelly stuff gives me NASTY headaches. Frankly, slightly smelly stuff that lingers too long gives me headaches too. I can only do "fresh" scents (like soap or citrus) in small doses. And if I'm dosing my pad in a scent its probably overdue for me to run the swiffer/vacuum/clean the cat box.

    • I wish that it was that simple for me, but I live in an apartment building that doesn't always smell nice. I can clean the crap out of my place, but when the people down the hall make some kind of nasty fish, my place smells like it. And since I live on the first floor of the building, all the people who go outside to smoke are right outside my window, so spring freshness isn't so fresh. Sometimes you need a little something extra.

      3 agree
      • Here's what you do: Get a crock pot. Buy a cooking extract of a scent you like such as coconut extract. Buy the biggest cheap extract you can find. Fill crock pot up with water. Pour extract in crock pot- enough so that you can smell the extract in the water about four inches away. Put crock pot lid on. Turn it on high until the lid gets really steamy (or you lift the lid and steam comes rising out.) Tilt lid. Keep it on high or turn it on low. It's up to you, really.

        I swear, this makes my house smell awesome. I've used very cheap powdered cinnamon in the fall and that's very powerful. Just keep an eye on it and when the water gets low, just add more water. After about the third water refill, you might have to add more of the extract and since it's just of mixture of water and stuff you eat, you won't be breathing in junk from the aerosol cans.

        5 agree
        • I was going to suggest something like this, but it's less involved:

          I used to just throw a cup or two of water into a saucepan with a teaspoon or so of vanilla extract. Boil it for 20 minutes, then ditch it. Makes it smell like you just baked some cookies.

          • I just do it this way because I can cook the mixture all day in the crock pot without fuss instead of reheating it when I want it to smell better.

            1 agrees
        • what a great idea!!! I'm totally going to do that when I get home!!

          1 agrees
  2. I get migraines from chemical-based air fresheners and perfumes, so generally no smell is generally best for me. My favorite thing to make a house smell particularly good is cookies, and popcorn will cover up the smell of anything else. A vase of fresh flowers is also good, as is the scent of a bathroom right after someone showers (as long as it's not with Axe or something).

    10 agree
  3. I add a few drops of lavender oil to the water when I mop the floor or wash the surfaces in my house. It's a nice, completely natural way to make the house smell clean and fresh.

    12 agree
    • Another trick, if you have carpet or area rugs, is to sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon or other spice on the carpet just before you vacuum. Bonus: your vacuum will still release the yummy scent the next couple of times you use it!

      5 agree
      • You should definetly not do this if you have pets. Not sure about dogs, but cinnamon is highly toxic for cats, and so are many other herbs and spices.

    • I'm going to try this next time I mop, too. Thanks for the idea!

      1 agrees
    • That sounds like a great idea 😛 too bad I'm deathly allergic to lavender. Maybe I can get it to work with something else. hmmmmm…

      • You could probably use essential orange oil instead if you want to go citrus-y, or eucalyptus for a more cool, neutral scent. I think I'll have to try this too! :-)

  4. I seriously need a better solution to my kitty litter smell battle. Does anyone have suggestions?

    1 agrees
    • Ah, the ongoing battle. Covered litter box, Feline Pine litter (no clay, no perfume, and doesn't track), and scoop the poops every day. Right after they poop, it still smells like poop, not much you can do about that. :)

      6 agree
      • Seconded here. We use World's Best Cat Litter, but same deal. Scoop every single day. Also I mix in a little baking soda from time to time.

        • When I lived with a guy who had cats, we got a Cat Genie, and it did wonders for that cat stank, because it washes the granules and flushes the waste every time it's used. Seems like the common factor here is 'get rid of the poo every single day.'

      • In regard to the Pine cat litter, a lot of cats won't go on this litter. I found out the hard way. My vet said it's because the pine shavings stay wet and some cats don't like climbing on into a box that gets their little feet wet. Makes sense, no one likes wet feet. So – just a warning. If you do change your cat's litter, do it a little at a time – mixed with the clay stuff – so they can get used to it.
        For our cat litter smell we use a small hot-oil burner and use lavender oil. Lavender is a clean, astringent smell that's very good for overpowering cat litter. And all you need is a tea candle and something ceramic to put the oil on.

        • I am teaching my cats to use the toilet. They are doing well so far but have not finished the process because we have a 18 year old cat that is a little slow. Google potty train your cat.

    • I use Yesterday's News kitty litter… it's made by Purina (which, in and of itself completely shocks me), but it's made out of compressed newspaper pellets– so it's basically just paper, and absorbs quite efficiently.

      I've never had any issues with litter smells, and I buy YN in "unscented". Also, make sure that you're scooping the litter out every day.

      2 agree
      • I use that too but I use baking soda underneath it and it usually doesn't stink too badly.

    • If cat-poop smell is a problem, give a different food a try. I buy super expensive Cat food because when we got a cat we were in a very enclosed space. I needed the best way to control smell and learned that high-quality foods make less smelly poop. So I bought one without corn and with chicken as a top ingredient. It has an overall better ratio of better-for-cats ingredients than others. Cats are often allergic to corn and it's not easy for them to digest. Beef isn't as good for cats as chicken — think about what your housecat would catch: birds or cows?

      Nelly's poop still smells. But I've smelled other cats' poop. Hers is like lilacs in comparison. Plus: shiny coat

      13 agree
      • Cat, I totally agree. I feed my cats a mix of raw chicken and grain-free canned food (Wellness brand). It really does it keep the smell of their feces to a minimum: my other cat-owning friends (while cat-sitting my cats) have commented on how healthy my cats' litter-box leavings seem, compared to their cats'.

        3 agree
    • I used to have more problems with odor before I changed my cat's box — previously, I used a Booda dome, one with a built-in charcoal filter, but my kitty actually stopped using it and started using the bathtub instead (I think she started disliking going into a dome).
      As a replacement, I bought a plastic bin, about half the size of those under-bed ones they sell at stores like Target or Bed Bath & Beyond. It's quite a bit larger than the average litter box, but it seems to deal better with odor. And the cat uses it, which is excellent. For litter, I use unscented Arm & Hammer Super Scoop, and sometimes supplement that with more baking soda.
      Now, the only time it smells like a cat box is immediately after she poops in it.

      1 agrees
    • Toilet-train your cat. May sound crazy but it is way healthier for your cat (litter contains all sorts of dangerous chemicals and it's bad for them to be inhaling and ingesting all that dust from it) and for you (no tracking of germs and litter/litter dust). Way easier to clean up, too! Google it, you'd be surprised at the different techniques. :)

      1 agrees
      • Note though that this doesn't work for all cats. We tried with ours, but one of them decided that he'd rather poop on the bathmat than in the potty. :/

    • We got a five dollar activated charcoal air filtery thing that clips on the box off of amazon and that little thing is hands down amazing.

    • Feed your cat raw! http://www.rawfedcats.org

      I have 4 cats and 4 litter boxes in a 2bdrm apt, we clean the litter boxes 1-2/ week and rarely is there any oder. Covered litter boxes help, but remember that your cat still has to deal with the smell each time they "go." Also, using a natural smelling litter made from corn, wheat, or pine should help.

      1 agrees
      • I'm lucky to have an extra closet so we turned it into sammy's room. It has a little stool where we put his food and a crawl space in back for his poop box. He's got an obsessive need to cover his poop so we toss junk mail in his room and he shreds it to cover his poo with later. Don't know if this will help anyone. I guess I just wanted to brag.

    • Vanilla extract works wonders and little goes a long ways. I have a bunch of cute candle holders scattered through out the house with cotton balls in them, and every few weeks I either add some more vanilla extract or wash them out real good and start all over. This covers up most stuff. And a huge perk is the house wont smell very strongly of vanilla. You can smell it some but it just really elmiantes oders of all kinds (cat litter, ciagrettes, stinky shoes, musty house, burnt food,)

      One more thing to help is to boil some fresh rosemary sprigs, a tbsp or 2 of vanilla extract, and a fresh lemon in a pot of water this can act a whole house deodorizer.

    • Get a big litter box and use lots of litter to fill it (20-30cm). Cats are rather cleanly and they will dig and cover their droppings, if they can and if they have the space to do so. When the Tribbles first moved in we just filled the litter box a little so that the floor was covered (5cm maybe), and we had a stink problem that magically disappeared ever since we use more litter.

      Oh, and use good litter. We love bentonite clay litter like Golden Grey (can't use pine due to an allergy) and we scoop at least once a day.

    • Unless you cook it too long and it burns! Learn from my fail… The smell of wasted bacon is just depressing.

      5 agree
    • If you bake it in the oven then you get all the good smell and grease won't find its way into places you can't clean or find, so no rancid meat smell after 2 days!

      1 agrees
      • Even better yet – put the bacon on a cooling rack and then in a sheet pan with sides. Results in nicely crisp evenly cooked bacon that hasn't been sitting in a pool of grease.

        4 agree
        • I just use my broiler pan. Grease goes down the little holes into the lower pan, bacon stays on top. Then I can save the grease in a jar for cooking at a later date (and yes, I know that's bad for you, but some things just NEED bacon grease)

  5. Thank you for writing this! Honestly, Febreeze and plug-ins are, in my books, what we'll look back on and wonder "what were we thinking??" or "that explains a lot."

    We use the open window technique for our house. With two young boys, I just don't feel comfortable with artificial air fresheners or anything extra in the air.

    3 agree
    • Heh, like when my grandmother tells stories of the DEET truck driving down the street spraying pesticides and all the kids running out to play in the spray 😛

      6 agree
      • DDT, not DEET. I'm sorry for being overly nit-picky, and they ARE very easy to mix up. To be fair to the substances in question, DEET is an insect repellent with a surprisingly good track record of not causing medical problems, and DDT is a pesticide that is very effective at killing bugs, lingering in the fat cells of animals (including humans), weakening the shells of birds' eggs, raising rates of breast cancer, lowering sperm counts, and impairing neurological development in humans and other animals.

        3 agree
  6. I'm apparently easily agitated by ANY smell. Flowers even drive my nose nuts after a minute or two. I can make do with a few scents, but I never know what will irritate my norsticles and what won't.
    Do those super converts-carbon-dioxide-into-oxygen houseplants help convert-smells-into-not-smells? I've always wondered.

    1 agrees
    • I doubt it.

      Plants convert CO2 by a specific chemical reaction (called photosynthesis) which is kind of like breathing. If they do take in other chemicals at all they probably release them straight back into the air like you do with most of the gases you breathe in.

    • Have you tried an air sponge? A few years back, there was a fire in the parking garage in my apartment building. My car was fine, as the fire was on another floor, but it smelt of burning car, afterwards.


      An Air Sponge worked wonders on that. Also got rid of the "new car smell" when I got a new car.

  7. What's really bugging me these days are dog farts. Our dog is getting older, and like most aging creatures, his system isn't as efficient as it used to be…so, working from home, I'm subjected to frequent daily bursts of dog fart. Incense covers it up but it's still there, lurking beneath the surface; occasionally I resort to Febreeze when it just gets overwhelming.
    I'm not the decision maker on what he eats (he came with my husband, who had worked out over years what he can eat that won't give him the runs etc) so that might not be an option to change.
    Any help on this (superstinky) front would be appreciated :)

    3 agree
    • Sometimes lighting a match is really the best option. A match, not a lighter–the matchhead igniting will suck up some of the smell. :)

      3 agree
    • We have the same problem, except my dog cannot claim age – she's only 3 and has the worst smelling bum ever. Not only that, as a female, she releases a "musk" once every month or so (yes, she is spayed) which permeates the whole room. I've tried Febreze (I know, I know, nasty chemicals) but it just smells like a Febreze dog fart. I would also appreciate any advice on nasty dog bums!

      • Oh, that's the worst! That's caused by their anal glands, which are located to either side of the rectum under the skin. I don't know the reasons for the sudden stank dumping, but both our male dog and our female do it occasionally. It does happen when they are badly startled or upset–our male excreted his in my car once when we left him inside it (in the winter) to go into a museum. I don't think the odor ever really left.

        A vet or a groomer will "express" the glands manually, which will help for weeks. Good luck.

        • It probably is the anal glands. He's farting to try to release some…"intestinal pressure". Any groomer or vet can professionally release the pressure so he won't fart so much, and when he does, it won't be as stinky.

          My dog REEKED when we first got him. After the vet dispelled the anal gland, it made a HUGE difference!

          • As a former vet tech… yes anal glands produce the stinkiest animals in the world… they stop stinking some time after they create the stinkiest vet tech in the world 8(

            4 agree
          • Can I get someone to do this with my hubby?:)

            8 agree
        • Expressing anal glands is actually really easy to learn to do yourself, too (if icky). One of our dogs needed it at least once a month, so my mom just had the vet teach her.

          Also, Amasea, I see that you're not in charge of the food, but I would say try to get your husband to change the dog's food. If you change the food in increments so he gets used to the new food slowly, it's unlikely to give him intestinal problems. He may do better on a food formulated for senior dogs. Also, most dogs foods contain corn, and most dogs are allergic to corn. Our current dog had horrible gas and skin problems until we switched to corn free food, so that may help.

    • Gee, and my comment was going to be "don't feed table scraps" but it sounds like the poor guy has a sensitive system if some stuff gives him the runs! Have you talked to your vet to see if there's something you can give him to help his digestion?

      As far as dealing with the smell, lighting a match and blowing it out can help. :) Good luck!

  8. 100% soy candles don't bother me at all.

    Perfumes, aerosol sprays, and all air fresheners do.

    1 agrees
  9. I'm like many others who've responded – I will get a headache with a lot of smells, especially artificially-induced ones. But I have to be careful of essential oils too, because I'm allergic to so many flowers. I'd rather a house smell like nothing than a pleasant smell that has me running for the door in 5 minutes.

    2 agree
  10. my solution probably wont work for many but i chop garlic and onion and put little bowls of it around the house.

    2 agree
    • ooooh, this would work for me! i LOVE the smell of raw garlic. recently one of my friends decided to teach herself to cook, and called me to ask how to get the smell of chopped garlic off her hands. she said she'd tried everything she could think of, and it had been hours, and they still smelled. and my reaction was "why would you want to get RID of the smell of garlic!" it had never occurred to me to try, lol :) (i realize this is probably very odd…)

      • For the record, rubbing your hands on stainless steel gets rid of garlic smell. I saw a little round object at HomeGoods made just for this purpose. I should have bought it, but rubbing my hands around my stainless saucepan seems to work okay. I had issues with garlic hands even after washing with soap and water because I had to rub my eye and it didn't feel very pleasant.

        1 agrees
        • You can also rub your hands on the chrome faucet – this works particularly well.

  11. We use Mrs. Meyers Clean Day products. The prices are reasonable and they seem to have at least some ethics. I love the basil and lavender.

    1 agrees
    • This is funny because my sweetie brought home the Meyers basil scented dish soap once and the fragrance in it made me gag, repeatedly and hard. I had to actually take it out of the house because even when the cap was closed, I could smell it. A few days ago I went into a bathroom where they had the basil scented hand soap and I had to plug my nose the whole time I was in there. It's the weirdest thing!

      1 agrees
      • I use the basil counter spray. It comes concentrated in a big bottle. You can add as much water as you like. I use 1/4 c of cleaner to a spray bottle of water. One of the concentrate bottles lasts me 4 months or so.

  12. Nag Champa all the way here, I live with 4 boys and an old black lab who love to fart….

    Otherwise, essential oils in all cleaning water and frequent cleaning. Said boys takes daily turns cleaning the bathroom to keep pee spray stink down :)

    4 agree
  13. I can't open windows (due to severe asthma – lets in too many pollens and dust) and am allergic to houseplants. I've found that simmering cinnamon on the stovetop really helps. I buy the huge canisters of cinnamon at Costco and simmer away. Just have to remember not to let the pot boil down because burnt, crusty cinnamon is a nasty smell!

    1 agrees
    • YES!!! Thanks for reminding me! Mmmmmmm- I love the smell of cinnamon; brings me back to my childhood. The use of cinnamon is strong in Mexican food culture. When I was growing up, I would spend many weekends with my great-grandmother and she would make Te de Canela (cinnamon tea) ALL the time; such a comforting smell to me. So not only does it smell good but it also tastes delicious. Double win!

      • I was just going to suggest, if you're working with cinnamon anyway then you should make Canela tea! nom nom! It's just water and cinnamon sticks! then you add some milk and sugar when you drink it! So yummy! Or you could make arroz con leche! that's just boiled rice, add some milk, sugar, and cinnamon sticks. Such a yummy breakfast! Both of these will make your house smell delicious, and they taste delicious!

    • I do this as well, but I also cut up an orange and put the slices in the pot with a cinnamon stick.

  14. I agree with what was said above that fragrance is only there to cover up bad smells, and you really just need to deal with bad smells in the first place – then ADD scent as necessary to get the smell to where you want it.

    I keep a spritzer bottle of vinegar under the sink and spritz it on EVERYTHING- to wipe off bathroom surfaces, spray down the bathtub/shower curtain, into the toilet bowl, to clean food spills off the kitchen counters, spritz it into the cat box when I do the occasional totally empty it out and rinse, and pretty much everything else.

    It smells- well- like vinegar at first, but the odor goes away quickly and it actually acts as a DEODORIZER once the vinegar smell dissipates. And more importantly, it kills 99% of bacteria, and 80% of mold and viruses, and mold and mildew and bacteria are what makes things smell bad.
    They are also right about matches being the #1 deodorizer for recently-used-bathroom scent. I let it burn down all the way.

    Then to add fragrance that I like, I either burn scented candles, bring in fresh flowers, and/or spritz with a homemade essential oil spray – water + vodka (acts as emulsifier for water + oil) + a teaspoon or two of essential oils you like. There are tons of recipes on the interwebs.

    3 agree
  15. Before I vacuum I take an old salt shaker, fill it with baking soda, and use a chopstick to mash/mix in 8-10 drops of essential oil. Lately I've used sweet orange oil and also added a pinch of ground cloves. Then I use the mixture as a carpet freshener, shaking it all over the house and letting it sit on the carpet for 10-15 minutes before vacuuming it up. It doesn't last toooo too long, but long enough to give the room a pleasant scent for a couple hours (handy if guests are coming over and I want to impress). It also makes the vacuum smells less like, well, a vacuum.

    4 agree
  16. I'm a big fan of essential oils; I change them out according to the mood I'm in, or want to be in. I do agree with everyone else, though, that the best solution is to keep things clean; the other best bet is to open windows across from each other to create a cross-room draft, and get some fresh air in!

    1 agrees
    • I'm a huge fan of this. A few drops of lavender oil and/or vanilla, and your house smells "Designer" (or if you're me, comforting and de-stressing), and you can be pretty sure you aren't getting cancer, which is nice.

      Even if your house is clean, a little aromatherapy now and then is still nice!

      1 agrees
  17. I've had many battles with the people who keep putting in plug in, spray, or other air "fresheners" in the ladies' room at the office. As soon as I walk in and the chemicals hit me, I have trouble breathing. I had to resort to throwing them in the garbage at times, because they refuse to listen to me.

  18. I really like using those clay ceramic rings and just a few drops of essential oils suspended in a base oil (like from the body shop) to help my office smell less "ferrety". Opening the windows and getting a good cross ventilation going + potted daffodils are my favorite spring "freshener". In most rooms though – keeping things clean and unmoldy is the best bet for no smells, good or otherwise :)

    1 agrees
  19. We have an air purifier that was given to us by a friend. You can set the square footage of the house on it and just let it run. We use this more to combat my husbands allergies then battle smells, but it may help with those, too. It does have a smell of it's own, however. Normally, it's the kind of thing where you just smell it when you walk into the house after being gone a while and then you adjust and forget about it. But when I first got pregnant I had to turn it off because I could smell it all the time and it was making me sick.

    So … more of an anti allergy tool than an anti smell tool, but it still seemed like a good thread to mention it in. It's made a huge difference for the husband (he has cat allergies and we have a long haired cat :-/)

    • This is brilliant, thank you! :) I have both a short and a long haired cat and am allergic to cats as well; my housemate has a dog, too, that I'm allergic to, and I have 5 birds….

  20. I am very, very sensitive to perfume smells so I'm very picky about what I can use to neutralize smells. I find lighting a match works very well. I also use http://www.orangemate.com/ this stuff work great but just use a tiny bit, most people use too much. No dog here, I have cats and am a big fan of "World's Best" scoopable cat litter. It's made out of corn. The multi cat version is the best for no dust/longest lasting. It has a pleasant corn flake smell not irritating (to my nose) clay dust, crazy expensive but worth it. Thanks for all of the ideas,I'm going to try cleaning with a spritzer bottle of vinegar.

  21. I open the windows to freshen the room, take out the trash, that kind of thing, but if it gets really bad then I use one of these tricks. 1)obtain some essential oil and put a dab of it on the lightbulbs in your lamps. As they heat up it will disperse the scent through your home.

    2)Bake something or stick half an onion, brushed with olive oil) in the oven at a low-ish temperature for some I-Just-cooked-something-tasty smells.

    • Great trick, but I just wanted to add that you should be sure that the bulb is cool to the touch before putting liquid on it or the cold liquid could cause it to shatter (esp. incandescent bulbs).

      1 agrees
    • Does this work with compact fluorescents? They don't heat up very much, and have the pigtail shape instead of that wide globe that the old incandescents had…

  22. my go-to is definitely open the windows!

    i have also found kitty litter to be an essential old-house staple, despite not having cats.

    old ash in the broken fireplace smelling like pee when the rain leaks past the flue cover? kitty litter in the fireplace.
    windows leaking and worried about mold from what the towels can't get? kitty litter now, sweep up tomorrow.
    disgusting stain in beautiful hardwood from previous owner's dog of 45 years? kitty litter under the rug to *fully* dry every smidge up so that the stain will take next time around.

    so, that's all gross old house stuff, and maybe not every-day problems for most folks, but it's been awesome for me. turns out, kitty litter's job is to suck up liquid and cover up nasty smells. it's pretty cheap, too.

    1 agrees
  23. My grandmother boils sliced lemons in plain water whenever she wants a better smelling kitchen. I like it too, it doesn't stay around long, but for someone like me with perfume allergies, it's great to do before company comes. (Or after)

  24. right before company comes, I like to drop slices of limes or ornages in the garbage disposal and flick it on for a minute. It makes it smell not like old moldy food!

  25. For the bathroom, we use a match and then flush that down the toilet. Best thing ever.

    Since I've been pregnant, my super power became to be the Super Sniffer, which is the lamest power in the world. I started noticing a nasty random odor coming from our heater (we live in an apartment that shares a heater with the conjoining one next to ours, well two heaters butted to one another so we smell what they smell). Well we thought their dog peed on it and no Lysol or fabreeze would take it away. Plus, being Super Sniffer now, those sorts of sprays really bother me (even perfume does, but not body splashes because those are lighter).

    Anyways, I cleaned it. The matienance man cleaned our side and theirs. Nothing seemed to work. Then I decided to try something new and we put some coffee beans in a little bag near my computer and up in the kitchen. I'm going to get some more to put near the heater. So far we haven't had a problem.

    Why coffee beans? When I used to work at Bath & Body Works, we used to smell coffee beans to neutralize ours and the customer's noses so they could smell other fragrances and not get a headache. Plus coffee smells so good and we are not coffee drinkers, so I get to smell what I love and not random odors.

    For the kitchen, I do use lemons, limes and oranges down the drain to get rid of that the nastiness too. I haven't tried boiling them though. But it always leaves that fresh smell and it's so much cheeper (especially when you have a lime in the fridge that isn't good anymore to eat, but still smells good).

    I also hear that baking soda is a good deoterizor and gets rid of those unwanted bugs that come in from the windows. I bought some to sprinkle on our carpets and since we have a great vacuum, going to vacuum it up and see if that helps a bit. (In the future, when we get our a bigger place, where ever it may be, we will have hard floors).

    4 agree
    • I am surprised it took THIS long for somebody to mention the odor-neutralizing powers of the coffee bean! We LOVE coffee, and my loved ones already think I'm bat-shit insane about the stuff, so keeping little flower pots/ trinket boxes full of coffee beans really isn't out of the ordinary. I just take care to buy new stuff every so often.

  26. We've avoided using anything with chemicals or fragrance ever since I came across some information suggesting it was unhealthy for babies… that was 5+ years ago, and if I told people about fragrance/phthalates, they looked at me like I was wearing a tin foil helmet. I'm glad it has come around to be talked about more; hopefully consumer choices will drive the market to make more stuff that is less toxic but still effective.

    We use the following things for practically everything:

    1. Vinegar for laundry smells. My husband brings home a sweat soaked, stinky gi from jujitsu and we cloth diaper, so we have a LOT of smelly laundry. There isn't much vinegar and sun-drying won't take care of.

    2. Eucalyptus oil diluted in a sprayer of water. We use this for general spritzing where the house just has a funk to it.

    3. Baking soda and vinegar for really hard to clean stuff.

    Then I use dish soap for things like mopping the floor and getting rings out of the tub. There are a lot of supposedly green/healthy choices for dish soap. I get frustrated in general, though, with feeling like things are either hidden in labels or left off the label. So I do all this planning and choosing but who knows what sneaks in here and there…

    2 agree
    • I use vinegar for everything and never thought about using it for Gi smell!! That's genius. Thank you!

  27. Just remember the furry members in your family! Hyacinths are toxic to pets.

    2 agree
  28. 1. Keep your windows open as much as possible.
    2. Make your own scented sprays – mix some clear alcohol (like vodka – you could use medical alcohol, not sure which way the alcohol scent evaporates faster) with a few drops of your favorite essential oil and put it into a spray bottle. Some people suggesting doing the same with water and shaking the bottle every time before you spray, which might be an even better solution, health-wise…

    1 agrees
  29. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (BPAL)! Their trading post sells room scents, or you can use their perfume oils to scent a room.

    With the exception of their honey scents, everything that comes from BPAL is vegan (per their FAQ page, which also lists their safety process, common ingredients, etc.). These are essential oils.

    Plus, who *doesn't* want someone to say ohh, your room smells great, what IS that and you can reply "Oh, that's Saloon #10!"

    Regular site for oils: http://www.blackphoenixalchemylab.com

    Room sprays: http://www.blackphoenixtradingpost.com/atmosphere.html

    Their shop description in general: Welcome to the Lab! We specialize in formulating body and household blends with a dark, romantic Gothic tone. Our scents run the aesthetic gamut of magickal, pagan and mythological blends, Renaissance, Medieval and Victorian formulas, and horror / Gothic-themed scents. By utilizing our knowledge of homeopathy and aromatherapy, the conceptual theories of hermetic alchemy, and the aesthetic artistry of perfumery, we have mastered the art of encapsulating allegorical ideas into singular olfactory experiences. We are the first of our kind, and have over fifteen years of practical experience in the field. Our expertise shows.

    *I am not affiliated with BPAL. I just love their stuff!

  30. Okay, so here's my awkward scent problem I would love some advice on:
    I just started roller derby, and the only thing I ever use those sprays on is to Febreeze my skate-bag/everything in my skate-bag with Sports Strength stuff. I know I can wash my pads after practices and that will help, but they can take a long time to dry and you can't just toss them in the dryer, so I can't do that after EVERY practice. Honestly the febreeze just makes it smell like sweat AND febreeze anyway. Any suggestions?

    • For me, water, baking soda and a few drops of lavender oil in a spray bottle. Shake it up, apply liberally. I also use this a "Fabric Freshener", sometimes (though you may want to use less baking soda for that purpose).

      • This probably works, but dryer sheets are SO bad for you. Even if they don't make your lungs immediately stop working, like they do mine.

        Don't store sports gear packed away. Take them out of your gear bag as soon as you get home, and let them air dry and air out. Preferably not in the house.

    • The only thing that has ever worked for my volleyball pads and such has been putting them in a plastic bag first once they're hot and sweaty to keep my bag from reeking.

      As far as cleaning, I just rinsed all the plastic things in the hottest water I could stand and then wiped with anti-bacterial wipes.

      • I keep unopened nice smelling soap in my tap dance bag, it works great!

  31. I use Swan Creek Candle Co's Candles and Diffusers. You can order them online(http://www.swancreekcandle.com/), but I live right by one of their stores so I'm constantly there. I've quizzed them about what's in their candles and they've checked out clean.
    I also have a cat in a small space, and the woman who works at the store advised me that lemon grass is a great odor eliminating scent. I bought the essential oil for my reed diffuser and Wha-La! No more cat smell.
    I work at a bulk foods store so I'll also buy smell good foods/herbs and ect like dried whole clove and lavender and leave it in bowls around the house. It's smells good and looks pretty too!

  32. I actually found Wildroot when I was looking for natural lavender water to take care of my (insanely sensitive and allergic) skin, but I've found that a lot of their other hydrosols make great room fresheners (especially the white sage).
    Best of all, all of the herbs sourced are either organically-grown, or ethically wildcrafted.

  33. use something natural . . . like an orange with cloves stuck into the skin, or mint leaves and cucumber, and when your done with it, eat it!

  34. My favorite quick fix? Peel an orange! The release of orange oil into the air smells HEAVENLY and always perks me up.

    I have a sensitive sniffer too. I find that apple-scented and citrus-scented products, "natural" or mainstream generally tend to be okay, as I think it is more expensive to make an artificial citrus or apple scent than it is to extract it from the real thing.

    Opening windows, washing with distilled white vinegar, baking soda, etc. all help. Ditto cooking anything with a heavenly smell, like baking bread or making hot apple cider.

    Whenever something stinks in our house it is usually the trash (take it out!) something slowly decaying in the fridge (throw it out!) or stinky bath towels (wash them!). We do not have any pets, so I can offer no advice on that front.

  35. I tend to burn pure essential oils in an oil diffuser [normally diluted with water or a carrier oil] to clear a room of a stink or two.

  36. I generally think that if there's a nasty smell around, there's a source to it, and I can get rid of said source. Luckily our bathroom has an amazing fan, so any proof of pooping is gone before you can say "Hey, what's that smell?".

    I get massive headaches from most perfumes and prefer to keep them out of my life, but not so with products from Lush. I keep one of their soaps in the kitchen and one (okay, several) in the bathroom and they just keep surprising me with their lovely smell. There are so many great things about Lush: they minimize packaging, use only natural and safe synthetic ingredients and many of their products are vegan. And, no, I don't work for them, this is just how Lush fans are ^^

    1 agrees
    • People ask me if I work for them all the time :) It's just hard not to gush for hours! I've posted about them before on the "make your own laundry soap" post, but basically I suffered for years from awful eczema-like dry spots all over my body which no dermatologist could treat or cure, and which completely and totally disappeared when I cut out all chemical cosmetic products and switched strictly to Lush. They're magic. I carry my own soap in one of their travel tins everywhere I go. And their newest product is… candles! Although it would be rather expensive to scent your house that way (they're $25 a pop). But I am interested to see if they'll expand that line to warming oils, etc…

      1 agrees
  37. I'm not sure what is in incense either, but that is my air freshener of choice. You can make your own, although I have never tried. It works great and it super cheap!

  38. I use incense from Jumiper Ridge. Their stuff is all natural and smells heavenly – like a campfire with resinous woods in it, not like a truck stop bathroom. And they gather the stuff sustainably from the plants in the wild. If you've ever been camping in the desserts or mountains than this is very much a comfort smell.


  39. a few halved lemons left around the house gets rid of new paint smell, I'm sure it would work for other smells too. also, a small dish of bi-carb soda left in the fridge will keep that smelling fresh, and again, I'm sure it works in other parts of the house.

    lemon essence (next to the vanilla essence, usually in the cake decorating aisle at your local supermarket) is great for getting stains out of counter-tops and goop from the backs of sticky labels off of anything, and leaves a very fresh smell when you're done…

    also another trick i read somewhere is to keep a cloth dampened with lemon essence, eucalyptus oil, or lavender oil (or whatever you like i guess) near your front door, and to wipe that around the door frame before you open the door to a guest, so the first thing they smell when they enter the house is a lovely fresh scent of whatever.

  40. For those with air purifiers, be careful because many release ozone into the air. If you recall, ozone is the crap experts are trying to REMOVE from the air outside, so why would we want it inside?

    I'm a big nut when it comes to cleaning, and so after all is said and done and I want my apartment to smell like a little bit something extra and don't plan on baking, I fire up my Scentsy wax melter thing that my husband gave me for Yule. I usually stick to scents like pumpkin pie, scents that make me crave goodies. I even use Yankee Candle wafers in it, and absolutely love the one that smells like maple pancakes.

    I also am a fan of taking my wet laundry and hanging it all over my living room to dry with the windows open. It dries over night, but for days my apartment will smell like fresh laundry, and it saves me $1.75 for a load in the dryer! 😀

  41. Air fresheners are truly hideous. Then again, so it 99% of all scented things in stores.

    One of my mommies is very, VERY allergic to nearly all artificial scents, including incenses (plus tobacco and marijuana smoke…). As in, if she can't get away from it, she will have a life-threatening asthma attack. I had something similar for several years (though mine was much milder) too. So we got very used to no scents. Fragrances will still give me a headache.

    The only incense she or I use is Nippon Kodo, and I use that only when I want the scent.

    Honestly? We just open the windows. And/or clean up the source of the smell. :)

  42. Open windows, lots of baking soda in the fridge, freezer, and laundry hampers…
    I live in a really dry climate; on the driest days, I'll heat a pot of water on low and add some of my favorite smell-good herbs and spices: mint and sage, or cinnamon sticks and cloves, or lavender… just let it simmer on low low heat for as long as you are in the kitchen!
    In the bathroom, I still love my Indian soapstone candle diffuser – essential oils are expensive, but they last FOREVER. I also have Aura Cacia air freshening spritzes : http://www.auracacia.com/dspCatPct.php?ct=anpcairfresh&p=p&i=y – a light spray on the bedroom sheets is a nice touch too.
    I avoid incense, I'm suspicious about breathing in the smoke.

  43. I clean with white vinegar diluted with hot water, and maybe add a few drops of lavender or eucalyptus oil to it. But the vinegar is the important part: yeah, it smells like vinegar while you're cleaning, but as it dries, it neutralizes any odors around the house and leaves the place smelling like…nothing! It's awesome.

  44. A handy hint for allergy sufferers (and pet owners…hell..everyone actually!) is to suck a damp, used tea bag or two up into your vacuum! The properties in black tea kill dust mites both in the bag and when they are shot into the air. Really helps reduce that snuffly nose feeling you get when vacuuming. Plus not only do you get to start the horrid task of cleaning with a nice hot cuppa but the smell of tea is wonderful!

  45. always an open window and some incense–burning or not!
    ALSO I like 'green' products for cleaning, as chemical smells hurt my lungs and sinuses….and I know we are not supposed to advertise/promote products, etc….BUT I don't work for them, and am only interested in sharing because I FINALLY FOUND A 'GREEN' CLEANING PRODUCT THAT WORKS!!!! It's called Basic H and it's from a company that's bee around since your grandma was raising babies! It's called Shaklee and most of their products are actually surprisingly very awesome. ;)best thing of all…you can drink the concentrate and you'll be fine….though it doesn't taste too great by any means! BUT that means you can leave the cleaner under the sink and if the dogs/kids/drunk neighbor get into it NO PROBLEM! check it out 😉

  46. Beeswax candles are where it's at for me. When lit, they emit negative ions which act as little weights for anything floating in the air; once attached to pollutants or allergens, they drop to the floor. I find this works to get rid of smells too, and it's a nice alternative to opening a window when it's -10C or worse out (yes, I'm Canadian). Added bonus is the actual smell of the melting beeswax: yum!

    Just the other day, I confess to yelling at my tv screen during a Febreeze commercial, because they were selling the whole 'open a window' concept as ludicrous. Apparently opening a window to dispell an odour leads to a windstorm in your kitchen and bad hair before guests arrive.

  47. I'm allergic to all kinds of fresheners and whenever I go to a friend's house and they're on I get sneezing fits until I remember to ask them to turn them off. Also allergic to scented oils for burning. I usually burn incense but my hubby complains a residual smoke smell stays in the cloths.
    The cinnamon / vanilla / coconut ideas by Melissa T. and Brittney are great: since they're food products, they probably won't set out allergies. Thanks, girls!

  48. Here's my go to….get your vacuum cleaner out. Get a small handful of coffee beans, or cloves, or cinnamon sticks. Open vacuum cleaner bag housing. Throw stuff in. Or just suck the stuff up with the vacuum. Run vacuum! Viola, house smells awesome! Also you can use essential oils on cotton balls in the same way (but I have trouble with essential oils…allergies, lots of them set me off. Orange, lime or lemon peels can also be used.

    And folks, remember to change your vacuum bag regularly, it gets funky in there when it's full, and adds to the problem instead of making it better.

  49. Especially during the winter, I love using citrus peels with whole spices. I put the peel and spice in saucepan with a couple cups of water on the stove top set to low, checking the water periodically to refresh. During the summer, fresh, bruised herbs are a nice addition!

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