Is that stinky diaper pail running you out of the house? Sure, you want your house to smell fresh and clean ... and not like a wet dog or a pile of dirty diapers ... but breathing in the “fresh scent” provided by commercial air fresheners also gives you a dose of chemicals such as phosphates, chlorine bleach, or ammonia. These chemicals can cause headaches, nausea, allergic reactions, asthma attacks and lung irritation. In addition, many air fresheners work by using a nerve-deadening agent that interferes with your ability to smell or by lining your nasal passages with an odor blocking oil film. And the chemicals used to create those "fresh scents" don’t just disappear as they are sprayed in to the air. They linger on as they land on your countertops, floors and carpets.
Now, that just stinks.
Commercial air fresheners can be especially noxious for pregnant women who are sensitive to strong odors in the air. What’s worse, these chemicals are among those that cross the placenta easily. A study released by the University of Bristol found that expecting moms who used air fresheners on a daily basis, especially during pregnancy and when their babies were newborn, were far more likely to have babies with minor infections such as ear infections or diarrhea, than families who used these products less than once a week. This same study also found that the moms themselves experienced ailments such as headaches and depression more frequently than their peers.
You don’t need a bottle of chemicals to make your home smell great. Here are some simple, homemade air fresheners to try:
- White vinegar: Vinegar can be diluted in water and wiped on surfaces or sprayed in the air to clean and freshen naturally.
Household spices: Add any one of your favorite smelling herbs such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger, basil, or rosemary to boiling water and allow it to simmer on the stove and release its fragrances into the air.
Baking soda: Baking soda absorbs odors, so place a few open boxes throughout the home.
- Essential oils: Essential oils like cedar and lemon can be used in a number of ways to clean and freshen the air in your home. Dilute essential oils in water and spray into the air.
- Natural candles: Standard paraffin candles are made from petroleum and offgas VOCs into the air. Instead, burn soy or beeswax candles for a pleasant fragrance without the chemicals.
- Plants: Indoor plants are another great way to keep indoor air fresh and clean. They won’t necessarily remove odors, but they work great as air filters.
- Baking treats: If you like your house to smell like fresh baked apple pie or chocolate chips cookies, why not treat yourself to some goodies and actually bake some?
Fresh air: In warmer weather, be sure to open up windows and doors to freshen the air and remove toxic air particles from your home.