Many people turn to commercial air freshener sprays, reed diffusers, plug in fragrances, scented candles, and perfumes with the goal of creating a pleasant scent and atmosphere for their house. This is a huge money making industry and if you are concerned about how “green” your body products and home cleaning products are you really need to check your cabinets, wall sockets, and candles to see what you are releasing into your home environment.
Obviously, these products are fragrant so you and yours are breathing in what they are putting off and just what that is is not so clear. Because air fresheners and candles are not considered food, drug, or cosmetic they are not required to list their ingredients. If they do list what is in them often times there is the ever illusive label of “fragrance.” What does that mean? Technically a company can list “fragrance” in place of a slew of chemicals so you never really know what you are getting. I have seen people make quite the stink over lead in candle wicks, this is a huge deal, but what they do not seem to recognize is that it is not just the wick that is releasing fumes, it is the candle itself, the wax and whatever is used to scent it.
- Allergies: Have you ever walked by the perfume counter at your local department store and been overwhelmed and not felt well? That is “fragrance” at work. While most people are not aware of their allergies to the chemicals in the products there is a good chance that they give you a baseline irritation and make the symptoms of your allergies worsen. Headaches, sneezing, and itching or burning eyes can result.
- Asthma: These products are some of the main triggers for asthma attacks so in homes with any asthmatics they should be eliminated or reduced. Try natural alternatives when possible.
- Poison: The base for the reed diffusers that are all the rage right now is dipropylene glycol. This is the same ingredient that is considered the “less toxic” ingredient in antifreeze. While it is less toxic than its predecessors of methanol and ethylene glycol it is the sweet tasting component that is irresistible to critters and what kills your local cats and dogs when crazy people leave out anti-freeze. With their open tops these reed diffusers are a recipe for disaster if one of your pets or kids knocks this off the table. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving an open container of antifreeze in your house please reconsider using these.
A better alternative – natural aromatherapy. There are some very simple things you can try to scent your house naturally without allergy or asthma triggers and without putting your furry family or little ones in harm’s way.
- Boil aromatic botanicals on the stove. Try boiling some citrus peels for a fresh clean scent. Boil some cinnamon sticks or a blend of spices for a homey feel.
- Heat essential oils or pure food grade extracts in boiling/simmering water on the stove. You can buy essential oils in most health food stores, health food sections of your regular grocery store, and online at places such as (my business) Strawberry Hedgehog. You only need a few drops and the scent will last and provide great aromatherapeutic benefits as the actual plant material and nothing else is used to create essential oils. Try a couple drops of lavender oil with a couple drops of good vanilla extract for a balancing, relaxing setting.
- Get a tea light or electric diffuser to warm and distribute essential oils or food extracts. Be careful with the open flame as the oils and extracts are usually highly flammable.
- Make your own “solar” aromatherapy diffuser by putting some water and essential oils or food extracts in a glass in a sunny window.
- Look for essential oil based products – Aura Cacia has some great plug in essential oil based products available at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and probably several other health food stores.
- If you want to neutralize odors leave a bowl of vinegar in the middle of the room for an hour or so. Try cleaning your surfaces with vinegar to help reduce odors all over.
- Open your windows! Provided you are not in the middle of a dust storm as we often are here in AZ, it is a good idea to open your windows at night when the cool air can come in. Indoor air becomes highly polluted without circulation, more so than the outside air and this will save you on cooling costs in the summer.
- Get a new air filter – this will help with your utility bill and clean the air of what ails you.
- What is so stinky that you need to cover up anyway? Get to the source of it! If your garbage is smelly and bothering you perhaps you need a new container with a lid or you need to take it out more frequently. Is it that litter box that is such a stinker? Try changing it more often, the more often you clean the litter box the better you will keep the actual litter so you won’t have to spend as much changing the entire thing out and your kitties will be happier, too. It is better to have a clean smelling place without fragrance than masking the bad smells with perfume.
Whatever you do, just try to be more aware of what you are using and breathing in your home environment. Your home is your sanctuary! Don’t let it become polluted with dangerous, irritating unnecessary synthetic chemicals.