We’d probably all like to have a nicely scented home, but is it really worth sacrificing our good health, and the health of our planet?
Most people probably don’t think twice about using air fresheners, plugging them in and enjoying a “Summer Breeze”, without the understanding that it could be damaging their health, not to mention the health of one’s family, including unborn children and pets.
While there’s no doubt that the plug-in type is a big improvement over sprays, which lead to a direct breakdown of ozone in the stratosphere, that doesn’t mean they deserve a clean bill of environmental health either.
Air fresheners can contain volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, a class of chemicals that are well known to be hazardous to the environment as well as human health. In just one example, the University of Washington’s Anne Steinemann demonstrated that several of the leading air-freshener brands contained both a probable human carcinogen and a federally-designated hazardous air pollutant known as acetaldehyde.
The residual chemicals in air freshening products are known to accumulate in continually increasing amounts in the body over time, which means when health consequences eventually occur, they’re almost never attributed to them.
While many people were excited about the new plug-in types of air fresheners, it turns out, what we believed was the latest and greatest technology for filling our homes with a scented aroma, was not. In fact, scientists have uncovered numerous toxic substance in what seems like a fairly innocuous device.
Those toxic compounds include:
Phthalates. Phthalates come with many risks. Most have been linked to reproductive abnormalities, interfering with the production of testosterone, the male hormone.
The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) found that when testing over a dozen different air fresheners, the majority contained these chemicals that are also listed on the State of California’s list of toxic substances “known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm.” The NRDC has also stated that phthalates in the air we breathe can lead to asthma and allergy symptoms even in only trace amounts.
Naphthalene. The majority of plug-in air fresheners brands contain a chemical known as naphthalene which has been found to cause tissue damage and even lung cancer in laboratory rats and is suspected to have a similar effect in humans.
Formaldehyde. A well-known human carcinogen, formaldehyde is commonly used in air fresheners and other household products and has been definitively associated with nose and throat cancer. It can also lead to the chronic irritation of airways and the throat, potentially causing serious infection, asthma, and other respiratory issues, as the U.S. government National Toxicology Program reports.
Volatile Organic Compounds. As we mentioned VOCs are compounds that are used to help disperse scents in air fresheners, but these are harmful chemicals too.
Just one of the VOCs in air fresheners, 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, has been found in the bloodstreams of 96% of U.S. adults, an EPA registered pesticide and a known carcinogen that’s been linked to lung damage.
Another VOC, dichlorobenzene, was found to be the cause of death in many pet birds. In fact, the birds passed away not long after air fresheners had been used close to them. It also happens to be the primary ingredient used in the frightening pesticide DDT.
Even if you only use these air fresheners occasionally, studies have found that being exposed even just once a week raises the risk of household members developing asthma, and by as much as 71%, which is why it’s far better to make your own, than to subject yourself, your family and our environment to such a long list of potential hazards.
Make Your Own Gel Fresheners
Freshen up your home naturally with these simple gel fresheners.
They’re easy to make with a few simple ingredients. You can customize them with any scent and color you prefer. Plus, they’re fun to look at!
The process is so simple, you can easily make a bunch of air fresheners in just a few minutes. Make one for every room in your home.
The Video Tutorial
Watch our 90 second video tutorial showing the whole process first and then continue reading below for the full ingredients and supplies list and step-by-step photos of the gel fresheners being made.
Step-By-Step Photo Tutorial
- 1 packet unflavored gelatin
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup vodka or 1 tablespoon of salt
- 15 drops essential oil (we used Plant Therapy Lemon and Spring Blossom)
- 1-2 drops food coloring
- small glass jars (we used half-pint mason jars)
- lids with some sort of vent or holes (we used mason jar lids with a straw hole and a frog lid insert)
- small saucepan
Bring 3/4 of water to boil in a small saucepan.
Add gelatin packet and stir until dissolved. When you add the gelatin, the water will start to boil more aggressively. Turn off the heat at this point. Let mixture sit until cooled to room temperature, then add the 1/4 cup of vodka.
The alcohol in the vodka will keep mold from forming on the surface of the gel freshener. You can substitute with one tablespoon of salt.
Pour into the small jar.
Add the food coloring. You only need one or two drops. Stir.
Add in 10-15 drops of essential oils and stir. Refrigerate the gels until set.
Place a frog grid, a lid with a straw hole, or even a small piece of cheesecloth over the jars. This will help keep debris out while still allowing the scent to flow. You don’t have to use a lid, but gel fresheners will evaporate in about a month without one.
The recipe can be doubled or tripled to make more gel freshers.
Try different scents throughout the seasons. They are also perfect for hostess gifts.
Fun Scent Combinations
One of the things that I like best about making homemade gel fresheners, is I get to play with the scents!
I’ve come up with some fabulous aromas that you might want to try too, though you may also want to get creative and have a little fun coming up with your own as well.
The Flower Garden:
- 7 drops lavender essential oil
- 4 drops geranium essential oil
- 4 drops grapefruit essential oil
- 8 drops tangerine essential oil
- 6 drops lavender essential oil
- 3 drops lime essential oil
- 3 drops spearmint essential oil
A Walk in the Woods:
- 7 drops cedarwood essential oil
- 6 drops white fir essential oil
- 5 drops frankincense essential oil
- 5 drops mandarin orange essential oil
- 5 drops lemon essential oil
- 5 drops lime essential oil
- 5 drops grapefruit essential oil
Bugs Be Gone:
- 5 drops lemongrass essential oil
- 5 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 4 drops basil essential oil
- 4 drops thyme essential oil
- 7 drops ginger
- 5 drops orange
- 5 drops cinnamon
- 6 drops cardamom
- 4 drops cinnamon
- 3 drops clove bud
- 2 drops nutmeg
- 9 drops wintergreen
- 6 drops sweet orange
Christmas In the Air:
- 6 drops fir needle or spruce
- 6 drops orange
- 3 drops wintergreen
Where To Buy Essential Oils
Our favorite supplier of essential oils is Plant Therapy. They provide all of the essential oils mentioned above. The oils are 100% pure and unadulterated. You can browse their selection of oils on their Amazon store here.
6 More Homemade Air Freshening Alternatives
While homemade gel fresheners are my favorite way to scent my home, there are other good options too.
1. Scented Wood Blocks
It’s really easy to make scented wood blocks. All you need is some wood blocks such as these wooden cubes and essential oil.
Simply coat the wood blocks with the oil, perhaps using one of the suggested recipes above, though you may need to double or triple the amounts listed to cover them all. Pour some essential oil into a container, dip in a clean paintbrush and rub the oil so it fully coats the wood blocks.
2. Baking Soda/Essential Oils
Baking soda is famous as an odor absorber, and by blending it with some of your favorite essential oils it makes a great alternative to a chemical air freshener.
Simply add baking soda to a small glass jar. Now add your desired essential oils, using 6 drops of oil per each tablespoon of baking soda in the jar.
That’s all there is to it. Replace the contents when the baking soda starts to harden, as it won’t be as effective in neutralizing the odors.
3. A Relaxing and Uplifting Room Spray
After a long day, you probably need a little time to chill out, and your mood may need some uplifting too.
A room spray can make a great alternative to a gel freshener, provided you make your own. You can change the oils up as you’d like for different purposes as well, such as purification with tea tree oil, or lavender to encourage a more peaceful night’s rest.
To make the room spray, you’ll need:
- An 8-ounce spray bottle filled about three-quarters full with distilled water
- Fill the remainder of the bottle with witch hazel
- 14 drops grapefruit essential oil
- 14 drops tangerine essential oil
- 6 drops lemon essential oil
- 6 drops bergamot essential oil
After placing the lid back on, shake thoroughly and it’ll be ready for use.
4. Simmer Pot
Simmer pots are an old-fashioned way to scent your home, something you might recall seeing your grandmother or great-grandmother do. It’s one of the cheapest and easiest DIY air fresheners there is and you can easily change the scent just by switching up the ingredients.
You can use anything you like – my favorite is a perennial fall favorite, a scent I actually use quite often, not just in autumn, using sliced apples, cloves, and cinnamon sticks.
All you have to do is fill a small pot with water, about three-fourths of the way, and bring it to a boil. Add your ingredients and continue to boil for several minutes. Afterward, simply turn the heat down to a simmer, allowing the scent to fill the air. As the water evaporates, add more to keep it going.
It’s easy to create a pleasant scent using potpourri. Just blend some fragrant herbs and essential oils with dried flowers.
When you have a powerful odor permeating your home, like fish, garlic or onions, use ground coffee to dispel it. All you have to do is place a few bowls of fresh ground coffee in the room and its much more pleasant scent will take over.