I admit it, I was an air freshener abuser. My cleaning cupboard had more air freshener varieties than you can poke a stick at. But in fooling my nose, I was also poisoning mine and the wider environment. There are certainly greener ways to keep nasty smells at bay.
The majority of air fresheners you buy in the supermarket do not destroy odors, but simply mask them. They create a coating on your nasal membranes that fool your brain into thinking that the smell has gone. As for those air fresheners that claim to kill bacteria, our bacteria paranoia is leading us to kill good bacteria while creating strains of drug resistant bad bacteria.
Many commercially air fresheners contain a cocktail of toxic chemicals that aren’t healthy for us or the environment. Some of the chemicals you may find:
- Formaldehyde – known carcinogen
- Phenol – skin and nervous system irritant
- Limonene – skin, throat, eye irritant
- Petroleum distillates such as butane and propane
- Butanoic acid
- Naphthalene (found in moth balls)
.. and the list goes on.
I’ve read that up to 3000 synthetic chemical ingredients are used by the air freshener industry.
One of the other problems of these air fresheners is that these toxic chemicals accumulate in carpet over time, which is particularly of concern to parents with young children. Being rather sticky, the chemicals also wind up on our shoes and feet to be taken into the outside environment where they wind up in soil.
Added to all that, there’s the non-recyclable or reusable packaging of these products – millions of spray cans and plastic bottles hitting our landfills each year; not to mention the production of chemical ingredients and the packaging. The whole air freshener product life-cycle is an environmental nightmare.
Here’s a few tips for greener ways to help keep your home smelling fresh.
- A simple one, but improving air circulation outside to inside will do wonders. Open windows when you can.
- A tablespoon of salt in a half an orange with the flesh scooped out. I’m told this is a good one for the toilet.
- 1 to 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract placed in small containers around your home
- Pot pourri made from lavender, roses or whatever scented plants and flowers you may have in your garden.
- Use Baking soda to soak up acidic odors; also great for ash trays
- Use Vinegar to neutralize alkalinic odors
- A couple of drops of essential oil in an atomizer/mister full of water sprayed around (bear in mind this only masks the smell rather than neutralizing it)
- A couple of drops of essential oil on a cotton ball place in inconspicuous places around a room
- Placing citrus fruit or cinnamon in a pot with water and simmer gently (rather energy resource intensive though)
Lastly, treating the cause rather than the symptom is always a preferred strategy. For example, make the smoker in your home go outside or confine smoking to a specific room. That’s what my family did to me! Now we just have one stinky room in the house – my office. And yes, I’m well aware that for someone so concerned about the environment that my smoking is rather hypocritical – but one challenge at a time :).
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