potpourri

Homes that are loved and lived in can sometimes reflect that fact malodorously, with aromas of rotting kitchen garbage, bathroom activities and pet filth. You might be tempted to cover up foul odors with traditional air fresheners, however these candy-colored contraptions are a bad bargain when it comes to your health.

Commercial air fresheners use toxic chemicals to mask stinky smells. Instead of neutralizing the offensive odor, they overtake it with a sickly strong smell of artificial flowers or fruits. Many air fresheners, such as those that hang around your car’s rearview mirror, actually work by coating your nasal passages with toxic chemicals and preventing your sense of smell. In some people, these air fresheners can cause headaches and trigger respiratory attacks. Some commercial air fresheners also contain benzene and formaldehyde, two volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have been proven to cause cancer and lead to neurological damage. Many contain phthalates as well, chemicals that have been linked to birth defects and developmental disorders in children.

Keep your family and your pets safe by making your own alternatives to toxic air fresheners and sweeten the smell of your surroundings, naturally:

1. Take out the trash. Make a daily habit of purging your environment of garbage, compost and recyclables, which cause many of the foul aromas in a home.

2. Open the windows. When the weather allows for it, open all the windows of your home and let the breeze freshen things up like nothing else.

3. Simmer your scent. For cooler months, a simple saucepan filled with simmering water and a couple of cinnamon sticks can scent your home for days.

4. Make your own natural air freshener. Creating a customized and all-natural air freshener is as easy and inexpensive. You’ll need to purchase a small water spray bottle (found in gardening supplies or toiletries) and your preferred scent of organic essential oils (carried by health food stores). Popular essential oils for the home include orange, blue spruce, lemon and lavender, but choose the aroma that appeals to you the most for the current season. Mix a few drops of essential oil into the spray bottle filled with water, and spritz around your home whenever you need a fragrant boost.

5. Buy all-natural air fresheners. Skip the plug-in fresheners that waste electricity and choose biodegradable, non-aerosol fresheners. Don’t rely on the air freshener’s “natural” label; read the ingredients to make sure all the ingredients are indeed 100% natural. Most organic, all-natural air fresheners are various mixtures of essential oils, so smell before you buy to find your favorite.

6. Use sachets. For places that you can’t spray, use small sachets filled with dried organic lavender to spread a sweet, homey scent. Sachets are easy to make yourself if you can manage a needle and thread, or you can purchase them inexpensively as well. Choose pesticide-free lavender blossoms and tuck the sachets into drawers, closets, cabinets, sofas, chairs and in home décor items.

Image: zimpenfish