Using scented air fresheners and candles may sound like a good way to keep your home smelling sweet and inviting—especially since your house may be feeling a little crowded right now. However, these products often trigger runny noses and sneezing, even asthma, in sensitive people.
“Air fresheners don’t clean, they just add another smell,” says James Sublett, MD, spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Most of these products are irritants rather than true allergens. However, Sublett says if you have breathing difficulties, headaches or other health problems when exposed to certain smells, it’s important to keep your home free of offending odors—and not just cover them up with chemical fragrances.
Here’s how to reduce indoor odors:
- Open a window. Even if you’re allergic to pollens floating in outside air, Sublett recommends cracking windows enough to let fresh air in, if only for a half-hour daily.
- Avoid using aerosols, especially in the bathroom and kitchen. Also, check vents to make sure odors and moisture are directed outside and not into an interior wall space.
- Ban cigarette smoking indoors. This should go without saying, but there—we said it.
- Groom pets outdoors. This reduces the amount of dander released into your inside air as well as reducing the amount of pet hair you need to remove from surfaces.
- Clean bedding, furniture and toys regularly. Fabric can trap and hold particles that contribute to off-smells.
In addition, there are nontoxic ways to freshen indoor air:
- Use vinegar and baking soda to absorb odors. Keep open boxes of baking soda in refrigerator, cabinets and closets. A shaker jar with holes in the lid allows baking soda to be used as a carpet freshener; sprinkle on rugs and vacuum as usual—or add baking soda to the vacuum bag.
- Place a shallow bowl of white vinegar in a room overnight to absorb offensive odors. You can also add a cup of white vinegar to a washer load to freshen laundry.
- Put the power of citrus to work in your kitchen. Placing a sponge dabbed with lemon juice inside your refrigerator, sanitize and deodorize cutting boards by rubbing with the cut side of half a lemon and clean drains and garbage disposals by grinding up orange, grapefruit or lemon peels.
- Let pure essential oils provide healthy sources of scent. Put a few drops into a spray bottle filled with water, then spritz on cardboard tubes of paper toweling or toilet paper. Dip cotton balls into eucalyptus or lavender essential oils to create a relaxing spa environment in the bathroom. When traveling, drop some essential oil onto a tissue and place it near the air intake in your hotel room to eliminate cleaning smells.
- Put plants with clean scents to decorative use. Sublett suggests placing fragrant plants such as basil, lavender, eucalyptus, rosemary, lemongrass or thyme near an open window or vent to diffuse scents throughout a room. Create potpourri by drying leaves and flowers of these plants to set out in bowls or bags
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.