Although reaching for that shiny Glade air freshener is an easy way to cover up odors, or scent the air in your home, most commercial scent products are full of chemicals that contribute to unhealthy indoor air and often just mask an underlying problem. As a result, I'm a big fan of natural, homemade air fresheners and good old elbow grease to keep my house smelling great.
In this Instructable, I'll go over simple ways to make sure the air in your home is as fresh, chemical-free, and naturally scent-a-licious as possible!
Step 1: First, Clean the Air With Elbow Grease
The least fun, but most important part of this equation = house cleaning.
If there are sources of bad odors in your home, trying to cover them up with another scent can make for some pretty strong and terrible smells. So first thing's first:
- empty all your trash/compost receptacles regularly and wash them with bleach water periodically
- manage your pet's output (i.e.: keep litter boxes clean and regularly vacuum carpets and upholstery)
- use bathroom and kitchen fans to keep odors and moisture out of the house
- clean bathrooms thoroughly and regularly
- open windows whenever weather permits; fresh air is the ultimate air freshener!
- keep basements as dry and clean as possible
- regularly clean out and wash the fridge; keep an open box of odor absorbing baking soda on a shelf as a back up
Note: If you ever have mild, but stinky smoke damage from a failed cooking experiment, wash all the surfaces with a mix of vinegar and water and place out a few bowls of vinegar. The vinegar will be it's own version of stinky, but it does a great job of neutralizing the 'burnt' smell.
Step 2: Get Clean by Getting Green!
Plants are natural air purifiers. More than just a pretty face, plants ability to absorb gases such as carbon dioxide, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), and other harmful chemicals make them great allies in the fight for high quality indoor air.
They also help remind us of life outside our box! Good for the air, good for the spirit. The more plants, the better!
Plants with proven air purifying track records are: spider plants, Boston ferns, purple waffle plants, English ivy, areca palms, golden pothos, aloe vera, and snake plants.
Step 3: Natural Air Freshener No.1
Now that the air in your house is as scrubbed and clean as possible, it's time to think about adding subtle scents that will be healthy and uplifting.
One of my favorite natural smells is eucalyptus. If it wouldn't raise so many questions out in the world, I would tape a piece of it to my nose so that I could smell it ALL THE TIME. But since that wouldn't go with most of my outfits, I'm left with placing it strategically around my home.
One of the most effective places is the shower. The warm steam helps to release the oils and it's like you're showering in an Australian jungle. (If such a thing existed.)
It's also effective in vases, in water or dried.
Eucalyptus = magic.
Step 4: Natural Air Freshener No.2
Coffee, in whole or ground form, is also a wonderful and subtle room scent. I've seen soap stores leave out tiny containers of it as a sniffer neutralizer, so your nose can take a break in between smelling different scents. It's like pressing an olfactory reset button.
Use small, decorative containers to fill with unused grounds or beans and put them in rooms that need a bit of 'grounding'.
Step 5: Natural Air Freshener No.3
This next one is the most effective in filling a whole floor of your house with deliciousness! If you've ever made mulled wine during the holidays, or even sautéed onions for that matter, you know how powerful heating spices and foods on the stovetop can be.
I only use this stovetop freshener method for parties or special events because it requires attention and supervision. Doing it while preparing a meal is the best time to try this since you've already got your eye on the stove.
There are an endless number of yummy smelling combinations, but this recipe is one of my favorites:
- Fill a small pot 3/4 full of water.
- Slice one lime and add it to the pot.
- Toss in a few stems of fresh mint and thyme.
- Add one tsp of vanilla or a vanilla bean pod.
- Bring to a boil and then instantly reduce to a simmer.
- Let it simmer for as long as you'd like to, adding more water as needed - just make sure you don't forget about it! Set a timer on your phone just to be safe. I don't want you to need to do the vinegar trick from the elbow grease step... : )
It's that simple - and really effective. Some other good recipes to try are:
- lemon, rosemary, & vanilla
- orange, ginger, & almond extract
- pine twigs, nutmeg, & bay leaves
- oranges & cloves
Step 6: Natural Air Freshener No.4
I saved the best for last! Not only does this sprayable freshener smell wonderfully uplifting, it actually cleans the air, killing odor causing bacteria. (A natural replacement for Lysol!!) I use this to deodorize my compost and garbage cans/lids in between cleanings and to keep the bathroom smelling fresh. Unfortunately it doesn't work on the pets... : )
Ok, here's what you need to make this magic happen:
- cheap vodka (aka bacteria killer)
- small unused spray bottle
- essential oil of choice (I use Sweet Orange, but Lavendar and Lemongrass are also great)
- small funnel
- Add 40-50 drops of essential oil to the spray bottle.
- Using your funnel, fill the bottle half way up with vodka.
- Fill it the rest of the way up with water, distilled if you have it. (Not to worry if you don't! Tap will do.)
Step 7: Label It!
So that everyone in the house, including guests, knows what it is, label your bottle either with a custom label (I laser cut a thin cork one) or with a permanent marker.
Step 8: Stay Fresh!
Remember that the most important ally in keeping indoor air fresh is fresh air itself. Open your windows as often as weather permits and employ the ideas here to enhance nature's work.
I'd love to hear the different ways you keep your air fresh!