14 January 2011

Kick chemicals to the curb with these naturally fresh household air cleaners

In the course of a typical day – whether you’re at home, work, or ambling through the aisles of a store -- inhale deeply and you'll be treated to a myriad of manufactured scents ranging from the familiar and comforting to the sublime and exotic. It’s a seemingly harmless little pleasure that we’ve all grown accustomed to – boy oh boy, that smells fresh! -- but one that nevertheless requires oodles of chemicals to achieve. Companies wouldn’t endanger our health with air-polluting, volatile organic compounds, though. They’re required to test the safety of the ingredients that they use in their products before they make them available to the public…right?

Errrr, nope. Today's widely available air freshening products, including conventionally produced and -- yes -- even ‘all natural’ plug-in liquid varieties, sprays or solid gels, are not submitted to testing of any kind. This isn’t a new revelation, however. What IS somewhat shocking is the fact that 3 years have passed since various consumer safety groups including the Sierra Club and the National Resource Defense Council reported on this huge oversight and – guess what? -- the U.S. government has still failed to create protective legislation of any kind on what continues to be a wildly thriving million dollar industry. That air freshening candle doesn't smell so sweet now, does it?

This is why all of us should care. While we happily sit at our dining room tables among the company of our family and friends, that decorative, limited edition air fresher with the cute little seasonal pattern is permeating our indoor environment with allergy/asthma-triggering and hormone/reproductive system-compromising phthalates as well as potentially cancer-causing formaldehyde and benzene. Go ahead and look at the label of your favorite scent-dispensing product and you’ll quickly realize that there is absolutely no mention of its toxic volatile organic compounds…or any ingredients, for that matter. Manufacturers are wise to make it seem like a harmless little indulgence that makes a house a home when the reality is anything but.

Technically, such scent-infused products don’t even ‘freshen’ air or neutralize unpleasant scents – they merely just mask unpleasant odors with chemical fragrances. Fortunately, there is always a natural alternative to save the day! If you're hankering for pure aroma indulgence with none of the chemical consequences, there are a number of ways to cook up your own naturally sweet scents:


Sometimes, an oldie really is a goodie -- and it’s hard to beat the freshening one-two punch of baking soda and lemon juice. When dissolved in hot water, the household cleansing duo morphs into an equally effective air freshener. You might also consider adding plain baking soda into a spray bottle, diluting it with water and accenting the blend with flavoring extracts such as vanilla or peppermint.


Whether you pour vinegar into a few small ramekins and place them throughout your home in unassuming spots, mist 100% vinegar directly into the air or simmer equal amounts of vinegar and water on your cook top, you’ll reap the benefits of 100% chemical-free odor neutralization. Try it just once and you'll be a believer!


Simmer various herbal, fruit and floral combinations on your stove top or in a mini crock pot, just like grandma used to do -- you bet your patootie it's cool again! Reserve citrus peels and plunk them in a pot of hot water to release their aromatic oils. Try creating a chai-inspired, household-warming brew consisting of grated fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, vanilla extract, cardamom pods, and cloves. Think about what culinary scents typically cause everyone to declare "Mmmm, it smells so good in here!" and brew to your heart's content.


Pure oils derived from herbs, spices and other botanicals will yield nose-pleasing results when poured directly into a spray bottle along with a bit of water and spritzed when the urge strikes. Another great way to spread the scentsational love – before you place a new roll of toilet paper in your bathroom, place a few precious drops of your favorite oil on the inside of the cardboard tube.

Elizah Leigh | @elizahleigh
Elizah Leigh's master's degree in education combined with her passion for the written word and deep-seated interest in environmental issues has proven to be the ideal trifecta for her present status as a green journalist. Currently commissioned to write a reference book on vegetarianism, Elizah hopes to inspire people through her words. Follow Elizah on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/chug