The EPA notes that indoor air pollution levels can be as much as 100 times worse than outdoor air pollution due mainly to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that evaporate from home decorating and cleaning supplies. Air fresheners also count as a cleaning supply item – which is sad really since marketing companies practically beg you to spray them all over your house.
The dangers of air fresheners:
EWG has a brand new cleaning database coming your way in the fall, and air fresheners have made their way onto the EWG Hall of Shame list (pdf), which includes the most toxic products folks bring into their home. For example, EWG points out that Glade air freshener sprays warn that “intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating and inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal,” and Air Wick automatic air fresheners have the very same warning. Not good news for you since you’re supposed to spray these all over your home, thus deliberately concentrating the contents in a single space.
One Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study found hormone-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates in 12 air freshener products; some marketed as “all-natural” and “unscented” and none said that they contained phthalates. Additionally conventional air fresheners are a household source of VOCs. Not cool.
Almost all commercial spray, plug-in and other types of conventional air fresheners contain numerous toxic ingredients, such as aerosols, ammonia and synthetic fragrances. Plus most come with weird plastic plug-in holders that are unlikely to get recycled. Many air fresheners are also massively over-packaged.
Freshen your home without the chemicals:
You can have a great smelling home, without all the gross chemicals. Try the following ideas…
Clean up: A clean home (and by clean, I mean you tidy up regularly) won’t smell bad. Bad smell prevention goes a long way.
Open windows: Airing your home out is a sure way to keep it fresh. Obviously don’t leave your window open all day in the dead of winter or blaze of summer because you’ll lose energy, but at least once daily, if possible, open your windows for a bit.
Natural incense: Incense is not for every home. Kids (and adults) with allergies may not handle incense well, but for some families it’s fine. Only buy natural incense derived from natural resins, gums, essential oils, flowers, woods, powders and other botanicals.
Burn organic soy candles: Candles, like incense can enrage allergies, so burn carefully. Also, be sure to buy safe candles, not waxy, chemically scented candles.
Use fruit: Make homemade apple air freshener or boil orange or lemon peels in a pot of water on the stove. In fact, you can jazz up a pot of water with citrus peels, cinnamon sticks, cloves and even a dash of essential oil, then simmer it for a while, for an awesome smelling house.
Go plant happy: Cedar blocks or dried lavender can easily be placed in your closets and drawers and will freshen them nicely.
Later I’ll post a couple homemade air freshener ideas you can make with essential oils, but for now this should get you going.