5 Nontoxic Air Fresheners You Can Make Yourself

Those chemical-laden room sprays and candles can seriously mess with your health—try these instead!

December 16, 2016
orange peel on a wooden table
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A daily squirt of air freshener or a few hours around a burning scented candle every day could be doing irreparable damage to your heart, according to a study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. 

"The strongest associations we found were observed with air-freshening sprays," says Amar J. Mehta, ScD, MPH, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. He says that women who used spray air fresheners frequently and over a long period of time were the most likely to show reduced heart rate variability, which is often a sign of heart problems. The changes were seen in women who used them as little as one day a week.

Related: 12 Everyday Places Toxic Fragrances Lurk

Mehta thinks this might be because air freshener ingredients react with ozone—a common indoor air pollutant—and form other compounds that harm your heart. For instance, one common class of air freshener ingredients called terpenes, which give pine products their piney smell and citrus products their orange kick, have been found to react with ozone and form aldehydes—toxic pollutants linked to heart disease and diabetes. (All the more reason to get one of these 7 plants that purify indoor air.)

Given the number of simple nontoxic air fresheners you can make, synthetically scented products aren’t worth the risk. So swap that nasty can of aerosol spray and those plug-in air fresheners for these 5 natural alternatives:

(Find seasonal recipes, inspiring imagery, and gardening tips every day inside the Rodale’s Organic Life 2017 Calendar!)

coffee grounds on a wooden table
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Coffee grounds

Weird but true: Coffee grounds (even the leftovers from your morning pot) work wonders at absorbing odors. Put dried grounds in a clean old sock and hang them in your closet or pantry to remove bad odors.

Related: 6 Essential Things Every Coffee Lover Should Know

boiling citrus peels
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Boiling citrus peels

Rather than a synthetically scented spritz of lemon sunshine, get the real thing. Toss a few lemon peels or orange peels, or the peels of any other fruit you like, into a pot on the stove and let them simmer for 30 minutes to wash away the odors from your dinner. Add some spices if you like. Cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom all make pleasant natural air fresheners. (For more inspiration, try one of these other 4 stovetop scents that will make your home smell amazing.)

vodka bottle illustration
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Ethyl alcohol, found in vodka and other spirits, is a main ingredient in most commercial air fresheners. It won't have an odor when it dries, so you can spray it straight into your air as is or add 20 to 30 drops of your favorite essential oil or oils for a pleasant scent. (Experiencing holiday stress? Try one of these 5 essential oils for anxiety.)

beeswax candle sticks
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Beeswax candles

These actually clean your air, instead of polluting it, by producing negative ions. They smell sweet and fragrant on their own, but you can also find beeswax candles scented with essential oils, such as those from Big Dipper Wax Works.

Related: Stinky Kitchen? How To Naturally Clear The Air Before Guests Arrive

bowl of activated charcoal chips
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Activated charcoal

Activated carbon charcoal is great for really stubborn odors, like those from smelly garbage cans, cat litter boxes, and even lingering cigarette smoke. It can be hard to find, but you can find small activated carbon filters designed to place around garbage cans, refrigerators, or in other small (smelly) spaces.

Related: 5 Charcoal Detox Products You Need In Your Beauty Routine