Air fresheners are amongst the most toxic products found in our homes.
It is often very tempting to give a quick spritz around the house in an attempt to ‘freshen up’ the air, especially in problematic areas like shoe cupboards, pet areas, and dark or damp areas that get a little musty.
However, as well as only temporarily masking the odours (and not actually addressing the source of the problem), air fresheners are also potentially extremely harmful to human and pet health.
As preferable as these scents may be to some of us, they are also the primary source of hundreds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which can create secondary reaction products such as formaldehyde, glycol, acetaldehyde,ethers, free radicals and ultrafine particles.
Other chemicals used to make “air fresheners” have been shown to cause a number of health concerns, disorders and diseases such as migraine headaches, earaches, metabolic syndrome, depression, breathing difficulties, loss of coordination, nausea, irregular heartbeat, diarrhea in babies, liver, kidney and central nervous system damage, cancer, and are also toxic to pets.
Air fresheners come in many different formats from sprays and gels to hanging disks, pot pourri, oil stick diffusers, air wicks, plugins and powders like 'shake and vacs'. And although at some point we often don’t even notice their scent anymore, they continue to emit their fragrance (and VOCs) into the air.
It goes without saying that we all love to have a clean and fresh smelling home. However, cleaning with products that contain toxic and synthetic fragrances or simply trying to mask the smell by using air fresheners in various formats islikely to be detrimental to our health, not to mention ineffective.
So how do we remove odours and improve air quality without using toxic and synthetic chemicals? By addressing the source, and eliminating it naturally.
Here are some basic ways to prevent and address odours in the home:
Vacuum - Did you know that vacuuming is one of the most effective ways to to remove odours from your home? For best results and benefits to your health, invest in aHEPA vacuum cleaner (a certified sealed system which ensures fine dust and animal dander is picked up and that no particulates leak out at the connections where hoses and nozzles connect - particularly important if you have any allergy or asthma sufferers in your household).
For normal maintenance vacuum once a week. If you have pets you may find you need to vacuum more often - even daily in common areas.
If you have a particular odour in an area, try sprinkling the space with Baking Soda and let it sit for 30mins (or overnight) before vacuuming. Baking Soda will deodorize the area and absorb the odour, which you can then vacuum up entirely. Repeat as necessary until the odour disappears.
Ventilate - One of the easiest and cost-free ways to freshen up your home is to open your windows - even if only for 10 minutes every morning and evening. Fresh air flow will increase oxygen, flush and clear the air.
Vodka- Plain old vodka - even the cheap stuff - is a very effective unscented air freshener. Pour unflavoured and inexpensive vodka into a spray bottle and use as an air mister. It will help reduce stale and musty odours. You can also try adding a couple of drops of your favourite wildcrafted (processed without solvents) essential oil if you would like to add a safe and natural scent.
Vinegar - the plain white kind is another natural and inexpensive odour remover: - Laundry: Add one cup of vinegar to your washing machine during the wash cycle to freshen and soften clothes, and remove odours. - Room freshener: Place a small bowl of white vinegar in a small bowl somewhere safe and inconspicuous in your home to absorb odours from the air (although safe to consume it is best to keep out of reach of children)
Also remember to refresh your vinegar bowls when they are no longer absorbing odours.
- Cooking odours: Boil one teaspoon of white vinegar in 300mls of water to remove unpleasant cooking odours in the kitchen
Baking Soda - as per number 1, Baking Soda is a highly effective and natural odour absorber! Try the following solutions for odours around the house: - Carpet & Upholstery: sprinkle baking soda over surfaces, leave to work for 30minutes or overnight and then vacuum away to freshen and remove odours. - Bedding: Freshen up your mattress by sprinkling baking soda directly over mattresses. Leave to work for 30 minutes or overnight and vacuum away odours. - Closets: Keep closets and cupboards smelling fresh by leaving a dish of baking soda on a shelf or in a corner (where it won’t be spilled). The baking soda will absorb odours from the air. - Shoes: Simply sprinkle baking soda into your shoes and leave overnight to absorb odours. Tip and bang out or give them a little vacuum. - General areas: leave small dishes of baking soda out in inconspicuous areas to freshen and absorb odours. Baking soda will lose its odour-absorbing powers over time so you will need to change the powder out for a fresh batch every few weeks or as and when you notice it is no longer effective.
Packaged in a linen bag, bamboo charcoal works to absorb unpleasant odours, remove bacteria, harmful pollutants and allergens, and dehumidify air. However, the most remarkable aspect of bamboo charcoal is its longevity. Safe for children and pets, bamboo charcoal can rejuvenate itself if placed in sunlight once a month, and can be reused for up to two years. Afterwards it can be used as a fertilizer/
- Lemons: Smelly waste disposal? Toss your lemon skin shells into your Insinkerator whilst running hot water to remove odours and freshen up the air in your kitchen
- Wildcrafted and Organic Essential Oils (processed without solvents): Use your favourite blend in an oil diffuser to add a safe and natural scent to your home.
And of course be vigilant in the personal care and cleaning products that you choose to bring into your environment and use on your body.
Ditch the synthetic and chemically processed fragrances and go natural. Less is more when it comes to the ingredients in the products we use and they are often just as effective, if not more so.
We all need to be using safe cleaners, however not everything on the store shelf is created equally. Many products contain corrosive, toxic chemicals that might “clean” well but they certainly don’t do much to protect the health of your family. These toxic chemicals can leave residues, especially harmful on food surfaces, and contribute to indoor air pollution – or worse.
Simply put, this term describes the amount of toxins in your body that you are unable to get rid of. What is left is called “toxic burden” or “toxic overload”. Too many toxins in your body at once will overload your system, and can lead to increased inflammation and oxidative stress if you don't reduce your exposure.