Few things are more pleasant than walking into a beautifully scented home, but most commercial air-freshening products contain synthetic ingredients that can release a deluge of potentially hazardous chemicals. In fact, 95 percent of the chemicals in synthetic fragrances, listed on ingredient labels as “fragrance,” are derived from petrochemicals.
Recipes for Natural Blends
Artificial fragrance is one of the most sensitizing and toxic of all ingredients used in personal- and home-care products today. The 3,000-plus chemicals used in the manufacture of commercial air-freshener ingredients can include volatile organic compounds, or VOCs (turn to page 52 to read more about VOCs and lung health); carcinogens such as benzene and formaldehyde; as well as a group of hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates. (For more in-depth information about phthalates and hormone-disrupting chemicals, read 6 Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals to Avoid.)
When the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) tested 14 air fresheners, it found that 12 contained phthalates, which can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems. In the study, even air fresheners marketed as “all-natural” or “unscented” contained the hazardous chemicals, which also can cause allergic reactions, asthma attacks, eczema and a host of other sensitivities. Manufacturers use these chemicals because they generally last longer and are cheaper than essential oils.
Make Your Own Natural Scents
Blending our own room sprays circumvents the shelf-life issue, as we don’t need to plan for complex distribution logistics. As for expense, some essential oils are pricey, but they are used in sparing amounts and are incredibly useful around the house (you may already have some on hand).
Besides smelling lovely, essential oils can affect our mood. When we breathe in an odor, scent molecules enter the bloodstream and are carried to other parts of the body. Depending on the chemical makeup of the plant, we can soothe or boost our spirits. Another upside to air fresheners made with botanical oils is the germ-fighting power of many essential oils. All the blends in this article contain mild antibacterial and antiviral properties.
To make these air fresheners, you will need a four-ounce spray bottle for each blend. Glass will be prettier sitting on your kitchen table or in your powder room—plus, you avoid plastic chemicals. You can find glass bottles at Wyndmere Naturals Aromatherapy. If you want to use plastic, look for a bottle made of hardy polypropylene.
To make each blend, add the water and essential oils in the amounts given for each recipe to the spray bottle. Then shake vigorously to blend. Label and date the bottle, and use within one year for maximum potency.
The ingredients will naturally separate, so shake well before each use. To deodorize your home, lightly mist the air several times a day. Follow common-sense safety precautions, and avoid spraying it into eyes, nose and mouth. Essential oils can smell delicious—keep them away from pets and children, and only use externally.