Welcome to the third installment of a series of special “spring purge” posts. The topic? Environmentally dubious household items that you might want to take a second look at while tackling spring cleaning duties. And when I say “take a second look at” I mean you should reconsider using and/or replace with a more eco-sensible alternative. 

So far, I‘ve recommended a household purge of antibacterial cleaning products containing the potent chemical triclosan and a partial purge of the common paper towel roll. This week, I’m examining purge-worthy aerosol air fresheners since, after all, cleaning and freshening do go hand-in-hand.

Don’t get me wrong — I love me some fragrantly scented air. In fact, as disclosed in my official MNN profile, I have a bit of a purchase-problem when it comes to scented soy candles. But if you’re the type who grabs for a can of Freesia Fiesta or Melon Madness aerosol air freshener to combat the stench of last night’s fish fry or this morning’s wet dog, I’m here to convince you to spritz your last spritz.

As you might be aware, the alluring fragrance housed in that aerosol can isn’t derived from freesia or melons but from a complex chemical brew that can trigger allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and pollute the indoor air. The four basic ingredients according to the EPA: formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, p- dichlorobenzene, and aerosol propellants. And unsurprisingly, air fresheners of all varieties, not just ones in aerosol cans, contain those nefarious volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a source of health woes and ground-level ozone.

So why am I picking specifically on aerosol air fresheners (don't even get me started on those plug-in things)? Aerosol cans no longer contain ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) but still employ questionable propellants like hydrocarbons and nitrous oxide. And although aerosol cans are recyclable, they are made from steel  ... not the most low-energy material to recycle. And here’s something to consider before you say adios to that half-empty aerosol air freshener: the improper disposal of non-empty aerosol cans is illegal in many states since the contents are considered as hazardous waste. Yep, that Freesia Fiesta is hazardous (not to mention ineffective since it masks odors instead of removing them). 

As someone who has an olfactory obsession, I’ve found plenty of ways to freshen my indoor airspace without a fragranced aerosol spray — and I’m not just referring to scented soy candles. For one, I’m big on the effective and free practice of opening windows and letting fresh, springtime air in. Additionally, something that I do every spring is place bowls of baking soda and/or white vinegar around my apartment to absorb stubborn odors. I’m also big on placing fresh-cut flowers alongside my air-purifying houseplants to inject a dash of color and subtle, natural aroma.

And yes, I do use an air freshening spray, but I’d like to think it’s an eco-friendly one. It’s Mia Rose’s Original Orange Air Therapy a commonly available, biodegradable non-aerosol spray (I got mine at Trader Joe’s) that’s made from pure essential oils distilled from orange peels.

Those are a few of my preferred air-freshening methods. How do you naturally fragrance and freshen your home without compromising the indoor air quality? Any pointers you’d like to share or essential-oil based, non-aerosol sprays you'd like to recommend? I'm all ears (and nose). 

MNN homepage photo: no_limit_pictures/iStockphoto

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

The spring purge: Aerosol air fresheners
Have an olfactory obsession? This spring, purge your home of chemically enhanced aerosol cans of air freshener and consider a few sweet-smelling, low-impact alt