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We spend most of our days and nights in a scent-filled environment: Homes, cars, and offices develop odors, whether it’s from damp fabric or wood, pet dander and fur, or even old food and everyday dust. Everything has an odor, and sometimes those odors are not very pleasant.

Most people use some form of air freshener to take care of the bad odors, but are air fresheners a healthy and non-toxic way to eliminate odors?

Air Fresheners: Friend to the Nose, but Could Be a Foe to the Body

There are some concerns that air freshening products may contain harmful chemicals that could contribute to long-term health challenges such as asthma, hormonal imbalances, and possibly certain cancers. [1] In fact, California lawmakers approved a bill at the end of April 2024 that would ban 33 toxic substances from being used in air freshener manufacturing starting in July of 2026. These chemicals – including lilial, xylene, and ethylene glycol – could contribute to reproductive, respiratory, and nervous system concerns, according to research scientists from the Environmental Working Group. [2]

The Concern with Phthalates

Many air fresheners may also contain phthalates, which are generally added to cleaners, cosmetics, and other household products to lengthen the duration of the fragrance. The main health concern with phthalates is that long-term exposure to them could increase the risk of developing reproductive, endocrine, and other health issues: This is more concerning when babies, children, and pregnant women are exposed to phthalates over an extended amount of time. [3]

While the Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) requires manufacturers to include phthalates in their list of ingredients on the product’s label, there are some loopholes to be aware of when purchasing air fresheners, however. Make sure you read the list of ingredients very carefully: Currently, the FDA does not require product manufacturers to list phthalates on their list of ingredients if the phthalates are used for fragrance purposes. [4] Study the label for words like “fragrance” or “flavor,” as these terms are used when a product contains fragrance-extending phthalates.

Should You Just Accept Bad Odors in Your Home?

Not at all! When purchasing fresheners or scented products for the home, be aware of the details written on the label. If possible, try to purchase freshening products that don’t use some of those potentially harmful ingredients. There are always other options to freshening up your house or car, such as:

  • Take the garbage out every day and clean your garbage disposal at least once a week.
  • For deodorizing cars, air out the rugs and vacuum seats, floors, and the dashboard every couple of weeks.
  • Open the windows in your house, even if it’s just a little bit in colder months. Half an hour of fresh air will carry that stink right out of your home.
  • Indoor plants can do wonders for restoring a fresh scent, as plants are natural circulators of stagnant air.
  • An open box of baking soda can be an effective deodorizer for the refrigerator and even in small spaces, such as closets or bathrooms.
  • Speaking of baking soda, try sprinkling it on your carpets before vacuuming.
    *Keep a close eye on your pets (especially dogs) to make sure they can’t easily access the area before vacuuming, as baking soda consumed in large quantities could be potentially harmful to their health.*
  • Use diffusers scented with your favorite essential oils in larger areas of your home.
  • Make your own fragrance sachets for little pockets of bright, happy scents: Use dehydrated oranges or clementines, a couple of cinnamon sticks, and some fresh cloves in a small mesh sachets (tied tightly to prevent spilling). Place some activated charcoal in those breathable little bags for an additional air purifying benefits. Hang these bags in areas where air purification is needed, such as near litter boxes, in gym bags, or the car.  Stash these happy sachets in little nooks and crannies around your home, such as closets, bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
  • Consider purchasing a high-quality air filter, which may help to purify the air inside your home of odors and some allergens.

These options can provide a more long-term solution to odors around the home and other spaces than other options, and some of them won’t cost you a cent!

Get Support on Your Journey to Health

Air fresheners can provide some short-term solutions for bad odors around your home or in your car. However, harmful chemicals – some of them cleverly disguised under innocent labels on the list of ingredients – used in those popular air fresheners on the market could affect your long-term health. Find out what other toxins your body might be dealing with and whether they may be preventing you from fully restoring your health. Contact a Wellness Way clinic today to get comprehensive testing and personalized guidance.

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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