Do you know that air fresheners with synthetic fragrances do not add natural aromas or “purify” the air? They work by interfering with your ability to smell so you don’t smell anything! They also produce toxic off-gassing from synthetic chemicals to ‘mask’ or ‘overpower’ the odours.
They drown out the offensive smell by releasing chemical such as methoxychlor which coats your nasal passages with a film of oil or by deadening the olfactory nerves (which transmit signals from your nose to the brain and help you to identify smell).
Air fresheners come in many forms such as aerosol sprays, scented or aromatherapy candles, fragrance impregnated gels, plug-in deodorisers, atomisers, wick and reed diffusers and many more.
Some of the toxic chemicals that can be found in air fresheners:
- benzene – has been associated with cancer and aplastic anaemia. According to WHO, no safe level of exposure can be recommended.
- formaldehyde – a carcinogen (causes cancer), can also cause skin, eye, nose and throat irritation, asthma, headaches, nausea and vomiting.
- methoxychlor – a toxic pesticide that bioaccumulates in fat cells and persists in the environment. Its use as a pesticide is banned in Australia and other countries.
- paradichlorobenzene – also known as 1, 4-dichlorobenzene, or 1,4-DCB has been shown to cause cancer in mice. Its vapour is toxic and can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, headache, irritation to skin, eyes, nasal passages and lungs.
- phenol – a highly flammable and corrosive substance that causes serious skin reaction.
- phthalates – synthetic fragrances which are hormone disruptors. They are particularly dangerous for young children and unborn babies. Long term exposure to phthalates can affect testosterone levels and lead to reproductive abnormalities.
- styrene – suspected to be a hormone disruptor, possibly contributing to thyroid problems and reproductive system dysfunction.
- and many, many more toxic chemicals…..
Aerosol sprays used to contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) until they were banned because of the effects on the ozone layer. CFC’s had been replaced with volatile hydrocarbons such as methylene chloride, propane, n-butane and isobutene which are all flammable petrochemicals.
Scented and aromatherapy candles are usually made of paraffin waxes (petrochemical) and synthetic fragrance oils which release toxic fumes when the candles are burnt.
Most of these chemicals have not been tested for their long term and cumulative effects on human health. But it is safe to say that these chemicals represent a real risk especially to those who use them regularly and continuously, young children, pregnant women and those who suffer from allergies and asthma.
The Safe and Natural Way to Get Rid of Smells in Your Home – Part 1
A clean home really shouldn’t smell like anything. Clever marketing campaigns have programmed us to believe that a clean home should have the fragrance produced by synthetic chemicals found in conventional air fresheners such ‘pine oil’, ‘lavender’, ‘clove’, ‘jasmine’, ‘lemon’, etc.
1) To remove bad smell from your home, you must first identify and remove the cause of the problem rather than just masking the pungent odour with air fresheners.
2) The sun is a great and free, natural deodoriser. Put everything from musty linen to clothing outdoors in the sun and it will become fresh-smelling in no time.
3) Open windows daily to let some fresh air into your home. This will make everything smell cleaner and fresher.
4) Eliminate odours in your home by preventing dampness and installing extraction fans to remove moisture from kitchens and bathrooms.
5) Use rubbish bins that have lids and empty them every day to minimise bad odours in the house. Wash the rubbish bins 2 to 3 times a week with warm soapy water.
7) Bring 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of white vinegar to boil and let it simmer for 30 minutes to remove odours from the air.
8) Boil ground coffee (1 cup of water and 2 tablespoon of coffee) on the stove and let the wonderful aroma of coffee infuse your home. Alternatively, you can simmer cinnamon sticks in a pot of water for a yummy smell.
9) If you prefer to use candles to add a nice scent to your home, choose those that are made from pure beeswax and pure essential oils. Make sure the wicks are not made from metals such as lead.
- Fill a spray bottle with water, add a few drops of your favourite pure essential oil, replace the top and shake. A few squirts into the air will eliminate bad odours.
- Heat up a few drops of essential oils in a diffuser or vaporiser and its vapour will scent and refresh the air naturally.
- Always seek professional medical advice prior to using essential oils as they may interact with certain medications and exacerbate underlying illnesses.
- Do not use essential oils in pregnancy as they can be harmful.
- Keep them out of reach of children.
11) Use natural scents from fresh plants and flowers such as jasmine, lilies, roses or lavender.
12) You can also make your own potpourri using leaves from dried herbs or flower petals mixed with cinnamon. Put the mixture in a bowl and gently stir from time to time to release the fragrance. Sprinkle a few drops of essential oil to revive its scent.
13) If you would prefer to buy air fresheners already made from natural ingredients rather than making your own recipes, we recommend Clean Conscience. These air fresheners are made from Tasmanian pure spring water, castile soap, baking soda and pure essential oil (lemon myrtle or eucalyptus & tea tree).
In Part 2, we will discuss simple techniques you can use to get rid of unpleasant odours such as musty cupboards, smelly carpets, pet puddles, stale sour milk, cigarette smoke, fishy smell and much more.
Breathe easy with clean fresh air. See you soon!
Dr Esther Lok
Disclaimer: All advice may not be construed as medical advice or instruction and is not meant to replace the advice of your medical practitioner. Information has been compiled from the author’s personal experiences and own research into multiple existing public references and previously published scientific studies. While all care is taken, information is not warranted as accurate and The Organics Institute and Dr Esther Lok cannot be held liable for any errors and omissions.