Many people think nothing of spraying air freshener to get rid of stale, musky odors or the smell of smoke. Although some air fresheners do a pretty good job of making an indoor space smell more pleasant–at least temporarily–the toll that they extract on the environment can be significant.
Although called ‘air fresheners’, many commercially-available products are more like ‘odor maskers’, which simply coat the nasal membranes with a seemingly pleasant-smelling blend of chemicals. More than just deceiving the brain into thinking that unpleasant odors have disappeared however, these toxic chemical cocktails can actually be very harmful to human and animal health. Among the most common chemicals contained in commercial air fresheners are:
- butanoic acid
- nitro- and polycyclic musk
All these ingredients can cause serious health problems from cancer to skin and nervous system irritation, developmental and reproductive issues, endocrine and hormone related issues, and more.
In response to the growing demand for environmentally-safer products in the home and workplace, a number of companies have introduced green commercial air fresheners into the market. Most such products have entirely done away with the chemical components of previous air fresheners, opting for ingredients such as aromatic oils and natural fragrances.
Keep in mind that some supposedly ‘green’ air fresheners may not be all that friendly to the environment or to humans and pets. Some products that claim to contain a ‘natural ingredient’ (scents are common) may contain significant amounts of chemicals as well. For this reason, it is advisable to check the contents of any green air freshener you are considering beforehand. If necessary, you should be able to get a list of ingredients from the manufacturer.
A good way to be sure of what ingredients your air fresheners contain is to make your own solutions at home. Scooping out an orange half and then placing a tablespoon of salt in the hollow can be an effective bathroom freshener.
Vanilla extract can also be a useful ingredient in home brew air fresheners. A couple of teaspoons in small jars can be placed all around the home can work wonders for improving the smell of closed spaces.
Potpourri is also effective at making indoor spaces more pleasant. Containing lavender, roses, and a variety of other scented plants and flowers, the colorful appearance of potpourri makes it a visually-appealing option in addition to its air freshening qualities.
Don’t neglect to air out your indoor space as well. In some cases, this could be sufficient for making any indoor space smell more pleasant, and it is certainly better on the environment than a spray can full of chemicals.