Walk into the room, smell the repulsive odors, take out a can of air freshener and spray every square inch of the area until the stink is gone. That is how television commercials portray the use of air fresheners in eliminating odor. We do it as well, hoping that the bad smells are finally eliminated after a spritz or two of our favorite air freshener.
Fresheners like Febreze are widely available in the market, promising effective odor elimination in a variety of scents. The thing is, Febreze does not actually eliminate the odors. Instead the odor molecules are only trapped in cyclodextrin, a chemical that is shaped like a ring. Your nose smells the cyclodextrin instead of the odors as they are now sealed in the chemical.
Aside from that, Febreze is loaded with other chemicals in its ingredients that do more harm than good. From allergens to carcinogens, the health risks are too numerous as proven by a study done by the research organization Environmental Working Group (EWG). In fact, the Febreze products rank C, D, and F (from a ranking system with A as the highest and F as the lowest) in EWG’s website.
Instead of using unsafe air fresheners, you can rely on natural ways to make your rooms smell better without worrying about whatever chemical floats down your lungs. Some of these alternatives even have added health benefits as well.
- Essential Oils: These oils are effective alternatives to odor eliminators without any of the side effects wrought by chemicals. Oils such as lavender, lemon, myrtle, and peppermint can effectively eliminate odors and leave a calming scent lingering on the room. Simply mix a few drops of your favorite essential oil with water on a spray bottle for that instant air freshener, or use an electric diffuser for a more long term & hands off fragrance. When using the latter, choose the cold-air variant as heat can weaken the health benefits of the essential oils. Take note that essential oils are different from fragrance oils, as the latter are not completely natural.
You can also combine essential oils to enhance their redolence and benefits. Here are a few combinations to choose from that you can use in an electric diffuser:
- Essential Oils: Two drops each of lemon, rosemary, and lavender.
- Effect: Leaves a clean, fresh scent.
- Essential Oils: One drop of clove, two drops of cinnamon bark, three drops of wild orange.
- Effect: Imparts the scent of autumn.
- Essential Oils: One drop of bergamot, patchouli, and ylang ylang.
- Effect: Calms the body and promotes better sleep quality.
- Essential Oils: Two drops of lemon, one drop of cilantro, lime, and melaleuca.
- Effect: Powerful odor-eliminating properties, great for people with indoor pets.
- Essential Oils: Two drops of peppermint and wild orange.
- Effect: Sharpens alertness and focus.
- Essential Oils: Two drops of bergamot and frankincense.
- Effect: Potent stress reliever.
We personally use the following diffuser available here and have nothing but good things to say about it. If you end up getting an electric diffuser we recommend you get a variety pack of essential oils such as this set. A set like this will literally last you 6 months to over a year based on how often you use it.
- White Vinegar: This kitchen staple has a lot of other uses aside from its usual culinary purposes. Here are some ways on how to utilize it for odor elimination:
- Leave a bowl containing distilled white vinegar in a room with the strongest odors overnight. Expect fresher air the next day.
- To freshen your toilet bowl, flush down two and a half cups of white vinegar. After 30 minutes, flush again.
- For odors that reek in the sink drain, pour down one cup baking soda then a cup of heated distilled vinegar. After five minutes, pour hot water down the drain.
- If you have a litter box for an indoor pet cat that stinks, use vinegar to control the odor. After removing its contents, pour in a half inch white vinegar on the litter box and let it sit for up to 15 minutes. Afterwards, remove the vinegar, let it dry out, and then sprinkle some baking soda on the box prior to adding a fresh batch of litter.
- For odor emanating from the urine of indoor pets, blot it up first before wetting the area with a combination of water and white vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes then blot it again. Once dry, toss in some baking soda and wait until the next day before vacuuming it.
- Fill a jar with vinegar, toss in some lemon and orange rinds, then store it away so it can marinate. After two weeks, you can use it as a completely natural all-purpose cleaner.
- Lemon: This bright yellow fruit contains citric acid, which is excellent in eliminating odors. It also leaves a fruity scent afterwards. Some uses include:
- In a spray bottle, put in some baking soda followed by a squeeze of fresh lemon. Spritz it on rooms that smell bad, then open the windows to let it out.
- Cut a lemon in half and put them in a bowl, with the open parts face up. Place the bowl in areas with the strong odors.
- For odors in the fridge, absorb lemon juice with a cotton ball or sponge and leave it inside the refrigerator for one whole day.
- Rub a fresh slice of lemon on a chopping board especially after using it to chop fish or anything else with a strong smell.
- Plants: Through their usual process of photosynthesis, many indoor plants have the ability to cleanse air. They can also greatly reduce the concentrations of airborne chemicals, including the three main household toxins namely:
- Benzene (carpeting, ink, oil, paint, plastics)
- Formaldehyde (carpeting, furniture, mattresses)
- Trichloroethylene (adhesives, lacquers, paints, printing inks, varnishes)
Here are some of the beneficial household plants so you can choose which one is right for your home:
- Aloe Vera: The plant is easy to take care of, and eliminates both benzene and formaldehyde. In the event of a burn or cut on the skin, the gel inside the plant helps in healing when applied topically. Toxic to pets. Water when soil is completely dry. Needs bright and filtered light.
- Areca Palm: Regarded as one of the best air purifying plants, the areca palm not only removes toxins but also maintains moisture as well. The larger it grows, the more effective it cleanses the air. Not toxic to pets. Water often to maintain soil moisture, let dry between watering during autumn and winter. Put in area with bright, indirect light.
- Boston Fern: Beautiful in hanging baskets, the Boston Fern eliminates formaldehyde. As a humidifier, the plant helps in restoring air moisture, making it ideal for people with dry skin. Not toxic to pets. Water when soil is 30 percent dry or when the leaves or fronds turn pale green. Needs bright, indirect sunlight.
- Chinese Evergreen: Purifies a wide variety of chemicals and pollutants, and it also emits high levels of oxygen. It is said that its rate of absorption grows as time goes by. Be careful though as its sap is known to be an irritant and is poisonous. Toxic to pets. Water only once at least 30 percent of the soil is dry. Only low light for varieties with gray and light green color in the leaves. For those with orange, pink, red, and yellow, medium up to bright light is needed.
- Chrysanthemum: A colorful addition to the household that removes ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. Toxic to pets. Water after letting the top of the soil dry out a bit. Blooms longer at medium light.
- Dracaena Corn Plant: This slow-growing plant can reach up to more than nine feet in height. It can clean air and eliminate formaldehyde. Toxic to pets. Tolerates low light, can grow faster with larger leaves when put at indirect medium to bright light. Wait until at least 75 percent of the soil has dried out before watering.
- English Ivy: Not only it removes benzene and formaldehyde, it also minimizes airborne particles of fecal matter from pets. Toxic to pets. Bright indirect sunlight, avoid direct light as it can burn leaves. Wait until at least 30% of the soil to dry out before watering. Overwatering is indicated by crispy leaves.
- Golden Pothos: Does not require too much light and is not picky with water quality. Targets formaldehyde, making it a good addition to the garage where the chemical is abundant in car exhaust. Toxic to pets. Prefers low to medium light. 50 percent of soil should be dry before watering.
- Heart Leaf Philodendron: Excellent at getting rid of formaldehyde, this climbing vine however is highly toxic when ingested, so keep it away from reach of children and pets. Can survive in low light, put in medium to high light for accelerated growth. Dry out 50 percent of the soil prior to watering.
- Peace Lily: This beautiful plant with white flowers removes benzene, formaldehyde,trichloroethylene, xylene, acetone and alcohol vapors, and toluene. It also gets rid of mold spores that thrive in laundry rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms by absorbing them as food. Toxic to pets. Low to medium light is acceptable, up to indirect bright light. Faded leaves indicate exposure to excessive light, and too little light leads to the plant’s inability to grow flowers. Allow 50 percent of soil to dry out prior to watering.
- Rubber Tree Plant: Just like the Chinese evergreen, this plant generates more oxygen and removes airborne toxins. The American rubber plant is not toxic to pets, while the Indian rubber plant is toxic to pets. Medium to indirect bright light is good. The dark burgundy and green variants can survive in low light, but at the cost of smaller leaves and weaker stems. Allow up to 30 percent of soil to dry before watering, drier if the plant is in a low light or cool temperature area. Under watering and overwatering is indicated by yellowing leaves.
- Spider Plant: A common houseplant that is safe for pets and is robust as well, not to mention being a good plant for rookie plant enthusiasts due to the ease in taking care of it. It fights off benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, mold, and xylene. Not toxic to pets. Put in medium to indirect bright light, avoid direct sunlight. Faded green colors on the leaves indicate the need to water.
Do you have other ways in eliminating odors? Have you tried these alternatives? Let us know in the comments below.