Healthy Alternatives to Aerosol Air Fresheners

You may not know it, but you may be waging long term biological warfare on yourself and your family. There is increasing awareness about the harmful effects of exposure to chemicals such as pesticides and household cleaners, but did you know that air fresheners are also poisons?

History has taught the human race that bad smells mean disease and infection, so naturally we all want our homes filled with good smells. Unfortunately, chemicals used to carry these good smells into your home may give you lung problems and cancer. You should be especially vigilant about uses of air fresheners if you have cats because cats can be fatally poisoned by airborne substances absorbed through the skin.

Here are some alternatives you might consider to aerosol or plug-in air fresheners. You can make or purchase these items made with natural plant oils.

Scented candles

Scented candles are ideal for bathrooms as they are resistant to humidity. Light these whenever needed. They are great for eliminating odor from strong smelling foods after cooking or eating. I like to read and write by candlelight and always have votive candles in wine glasses on my desk.

If you are afraid of fire, place short, fat candles in heavy glass jars. Small flames usually extinguish themselves when a candle is dropped, but if you want to be extra safe, place candles in sturdy glass jars taller than the candle, so that the flame is contained should the jar tip. Light sunken or hard to reach candles with a burning spaghetti noodle.


Keep in bowls, pouches, out of reach of pets and small children who might eat sweet smelling things. You can even pull out the poly-fill of a stuffed animal, mix potpourri into the fluff and re-stuff. A scented stuffed animal can be placed on shelves, in drawers, or near your bed if it contains sleep enhancing herbs. Do not give an herbal toy to children or pets unless you are sure that the ingredients are safe.

Cloth Sachets Filled With Dried Herbs

Good for keeping your clothes fresh and bug free. You can make or purchase very pretty ones. Add scented oils if desired for a stronger scent. We use cedar filled pouches for closets and inside the piano.


These are scented balls made with oranges and cloves (instructions below) that last for years. They are natural, very fragrant and deter insects. Pomanders can be decorated and hung in your closets, around your home, and in your car. They can also be placed in drawers and storage boxes. You could make a bunch for Christmas ornaments and then redistribute them for use around the house after the holidays.

Fresh flowers

These don’t last as long, but are not expensive if you have a garden.

Pet Perfumes and Colognes

If your home has pet odors, you might consider using colognes and perfumes formulated for pets. If your pet is prone to allergies, ill, very old, or very young, you should get your vet’s recommendation for a product. Remember that not all products marketed for pets are entirely safe and that products formulated for dogs may be harmful to cats. The best air freshener may be a bath for your cat or dog. If odors are cause by skin conditions, herbs with antibacterial and anti-fungal properties may be helpful. But always research ingredients so that you do not accidentally poison your pet.

How to make a pomander

You might want to make a dozen or more at a time because a pomander will last forever (unless they get wet).

  1. Take an orange, lime, or lemon.
  2. Prick holes in the skin with a large needle and insert whole cloves until you have a prickly ball. For a neat appearance, space the cloves like longitudinal lines on a globe.
  3. Cure the pomade by rolling it in powdered herbs and letting it dry for several weeks.
  4. During the drying process, coat regularly with powdered herbs to prevent mould. Pomander will shrink as it cures.
  5. Decorate with ribbons and flowers if desired.
  6. To renew scent after long use, treat with essential oils and roll in powdered herbs.

Powdered Herbs for curing pomanders (use one or more)

  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Clove
  • Myrrh
  • Nutmeg (toxic to cats and dogs)

Some Common Fragrance Herbs

  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Rose Geranium
  • Rose
  • Orange
  • Cinnamon
  • Allspice
  • Bayberry
  • Pine
  • Citrus
  • Sandalwood
  • Mint

Recommended Reading
Air Fresheners: Are they bad for my health?

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