It's gross, but true: Just about every college student on the planet is guilty of using air fresheners to put off laundry day or sweeten the smell of a musty college dorm room. These days the handy little spray-bottles-of-clean are used to freshen up just about anything, including underarms and that pair of jeans you've worn for four days in a row. But masking not-so-fresh smells with yet another smell can hurt more than your social life. Many aerosol refreshers are tainted with toxic phthalates, which have been linked to birth defects and reproductive harm. A 2007 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study found that the hormone-disrupting compounds in 12 out of 14 common air fresheners and none of these products listed phthalates on their labels.

The best way to de-smell your living space in an eco-friendly way is to use good ol' fresh air. Try opening a window or even just the door. Doing so will clear the air and make your room more inviting to others. If hanging your smoke-filled jeans by a window just won't do the trick, there are phthalate-free fresheners out there such as Febreze Air Effects and Renuzit Subtle Effects. And for smelly pits, try green deodorants like the Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal. It may sound weird, but it’s received great reviews from fellow greenies.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in July 2008. The story was added to

Copyright Environ Press 2008