Freshening the air of indoor spaces has become increasingly popular over the years. There are entire sections of supermarkets, grocery stores, and drug stores dedicated to this feat. And that’s on top of actual stores dedicated to providing a million and one products and scent combinations to help a home smell like whatever you desire. From lavender and sandalwood to pumpkin spice and a warm sugar cookie, there’s a fragrance option for everyone. The problem is, are these fragrances and the methods we use to envelop our homes in scent healthy? The truth is, they’re often not. Opting for a fragrance free or natural home fragrances is a crucial aspect of an awakened space.
Indoor Air Fresheners and Air Quality
Studies show that the air quality in our homes is often more polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. As the average person spends around 90% of their time inside, this statistic shines a light on a lesser discussed but important component of wellness: the safety of indoor environments and the impact they can have on our bodies.
There are several factors that influence the state of our indoor air quality, such as the off-gassing of new building materials and furniture and the presence of microbial growth. Another huge component lowering indoor air quality is the use of fragrances. With products coming in all sorts of scents, methods of use, and varieties, more and more homes are being flooded with these potentially toxic aromas. According to one study, 75 percent of households use air fresheners on a regular basis.
Keep in mind, though, that we can’t “fragrance out” a poor ventilation strategy. A healthy home should be free from any odors. Deep cleaning often, using air filtration, and creating proper airflow should all work together to keep your home odor-free. If you still want to add a light scent to your home to compliment your clean, indoor air quality we provide some natural options below.
The question of the hour is, what’s actually in the products you’re using to perfume your home? There is a good chance that there are chemicals within that can degrade your indoor air quality and potentially cause health problems.
Why Go Fragrance Free or Opt for Natural Fragrances?
Studies have shown that air fresheners can, “…emit over 100 different chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (terpenes such as limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene; terpenoids such as linalool and alpha-terpineol; ethanol, formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and xylene) and semi-volatile organic compounds (such as phthalates).” Some varieties can also react with ozone, creating a secondary pollutant emission.
It’s important to note that all types of air fresheners can emit these chemicals, including sprays, gels, solids, oils, cartridges, diffusers, and evaporators. Passive or active, it makes no difference.
The longer these products are used in an indoor space, the more chemicals will be released as well. They also penetrate into our building materials, furniture, and other homegoods, exposing us long after the fragrant polluting item is gone. Exposure to these pollutants can cause a wide range of health effects, which is why going fragrance free, or at the very least, opting for a natural home fragrance is a much safer route to take. These alternatives can help avoid migraines, respiratory issues, and neurological problems often associated with exposure.
The Common Chemicals
The difficulty in selecting common alternatives to natural home fragrances is the lack of ingredient disclosure. Thanks to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, air freshener companies are not required to disclose all ingredients by law and typically do not. Instead, the components creating the scent are listed in vague terms like “fragrance” and “odor eliminator,” to protect the “trade secrets” of their unique formula.
“Green” and “all-natural” products are also not always as healthy as they appear. The terms lack a regulatory or chemical definition, and claims often lack substantiation. So while they may say they’re safe for use and free from harmful chemicals, that’s not always the case.
Some of the common chemicals found in these air fresheners include:
- 1,4-Diclorobenzene (1,4 DB): can trigger respiratory reactions, skin issues, liver damage, and cancer
- Xylene: can irritate the respiratory system and cause headaches, dizziness, confusion, and loss of muscle coordination
- Formaldehyde: can cause skin rashes, shortness of breath, wheezing, and changes in lung function as well as cancer
- Parabens: linked to skin reactions, hormone disruption, fertility issues, and an increased risk of cancer
- Phthalates: linked to adverse impacts on neurodevelopment, reproductive hormones, thyroid function, breast cancer, and more
- Benzene: can increase the risk of cancer, negatively impact bone marrow, decrease red blood cells, headaches, trigger respiratory issues, and more
- Styrene: can increase the risk of cancer, negatively affect the central nervous system, and cause gastrointestinal issues, among other things
- Toluene: can cause adverse respiratory reactions, dizziness, headaches, anxiety, muscle fatigue, insomnia, nerve damage, inflammation of the skin, and liver and kidney damage, among other issues
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): these gases can cause a wide range of reactions depending on the type of compounds involved, but common reactions can include headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, organ damage, and adverse central nervous system reactions
With the powerful negative effects these chemicals can cause, it’s pretty easy to see why natural home fragrances are the best route to making your home smell fresh and clean.
What Are Natural Home Fragrance Options?
The ultimate goal in infusing a home with healthy scents is to use nature as a guide. The purer the components and methods, the healthier it will be for an indoor space. The good news is that there are several ways to give your indoor space a refreshing scent.
Options for natural home fragrances include:
Simmer pots are a cheap and simple way to add natural home fragrances to your indoor space. All you have to do is fill a pot or saucepan with water, bring it to a boil, and throw in your favorite natural ingredients. Allow this to simmer for a while, and your home will be packed full of your favorite scent.
Citrus, herbs, spices, flowers, and more are some of the top items you can toss into the pot based on your smelling preference and season.
Threaded Pomander Balls
This method dates back to the medieval ages and is made up of 100% natural ingredients that you can find right in your local grocery store. All you need are oranges, cloves, and your favorite spices. With these present in the home, your indoor space will smell fresh and clean.
Just make sure to toss the oranges after a few days so that they do not get the opportunity to mold.
Houseplants are a phenomenal addition to any home environment for many reasons, and it’s not just because they aesthetically enhance an indoor space. These green beings can not only help boost productivity, reduce anxiety, and increase optimism, but they can also help add natural home fragrances to your indoor space. No chemicals involved means a much healthier option.
As an added bonus, with so many plant varieties available, you can choose the scent that calls to you the most.
Check out this blog post for tips on how to prevent mold growth on your houseplants so that they continue to offer their power-packed benefits.
Aromatherapy offers various therapeutic benefits and has taken the world by storm over the last few years. From helping to reduce anxiety and inflammation to boosting moods and relieving headaches, these natural oils can work wonders in various facets of wellness.
While they’re often used directly on the body in some fashion, they can also be used to help enhance our homes. Instead of harmful chemicals and toxins, a diffuser will release your favorite-smelling all-natural essential oil into the air. These oils are made up of concentrated plant extracts, so they will not bog down your indoor environment with unwanted elements.
Lavender, peppermint, tea tree, and lemon oil are among the most common options, but you can choose the right one for you.
It’s important to understand that some essential oils can still be too strong for some individuals. Make sure to acknowledge what the oil is and do your research on how to diffuse it properly. Not all essential oils are healthy!
Essential Oil Sprays
Like diffusers, essential oil sprays will add healthy scents to a home and enrich the wellness of those spending time inside. They can be sprayed over a room entirely or on specific items in the house, such as a couch or bed.
Not all essential oils are crafted the same, though. Make sure to look for products that say “pure” and “organic” on the bottle. The botanical plant name should also be present. Stay away from anything labeled “fragrance oil,” as this is not the same type of natural product.
While this super product won’t add any scents to your indoor air, it will help eliminate odors within a home, promoting a fresh and clean environment. The benefit of using this item is that instead of masking the bad smells with artificial and potentially harmful products, baking soda absorbs and eliminates them through chemical reactions thanks to its basic nature.
Just sprinkle this on a surface, allow it to sit for 15 minutes, and then vacuum it away for its deodorizing powers.
As an added bonus, it’s low-cost, non-toxic, and can be found in any local store.
Combining these different natural home fragrances can help ensure that you’re filling your home with healthy and wholesome scents.
- A.C. Steinemann.Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients. Environ. Impact Assess. Rev., 29 (1) (2009), pp. 32-38.
- Wang Y, Qian H. Phthalates and Their Impacts on Human Health. Healthcare (Basel). 2021 May 18;9(5):603. doi: 10.3390/healthcare9050603. PMID: 34069956; PMCID: PMC8157593.
Ashley · @AwakeningSpaces
Awakening Spaces is a full service interior design and consulting firm that support health conscious individuals and those who have been impacted by mold, chemicals, and EMFs create safe nurturing spaces.
Whether you’re renovating, building new, or looking to improve your existing space, we’re here to help you navigate the massive project you’re taking on by looking at your environment holistically and outlining the steps you need to take so that you can feel confident that your home is supporting your health and you can get back to your life.