Nontoxic Air Fresheners: Remove Odors Naturally

Branch Basics | Nontoxic Air Fresheners

Nontoxic Air Fresheners

Synthetic perfumes, air fresheners, plug-ins, scented candles, room sprays, and other artificially scented products often contain toxic chemicals like phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors. The chemicals used to make “air fresheners” have been linked to headaches, ear aches, depression, irregular heartbeat, and even diarrhea in babies. If you’d like to know more about the hazards of using scented products, check out “Fragrance is the New Secondhand Smoke”.

One of the best ways to reduce immune stress is to avoid breathing in these toxins at home. However, we do hear a lot of customer questions about how to remove odors without using synthetic chemicals (which really only mask the odors). Truly eliminating odors is far more effective than trying to cover them up with additional fragranced products. Here are some of the ways we keep our homes fragrance-free while eliminating potential odors.


We often mention how important it is to do regular HEPA vacuuming and its benefits for your health. Did you know that vacuuming is actually one of the best ways to remove odors as well? For normal maintenance, aim to vacuum once a week. If you are noticing a particular odor, try sprinkling the area (carpet or upholstery) with baking soda and let it sit for 30 minutes before vacuuming. The baking soda will deodorize the area and absorb the odor, which you can then vacuum up entirely. Repeat as necessary until odor disappears.

Circulate fresh air

Due to all the pesticides, chemicals, and other toxins you track in or store in your home, the air inside is actually between 2 and 200 times more polluted than outdoor air!  This may seem obvious, but sometimes the simplest way to freshen the air in your home is to open the windows and turn on a fan. In fact, regularly opening your windows throughout the year, even for just 10 minutes, to flush and clear the air can improve the air quality. So don’t be afraid to bring in fresh air the old-fashioned way with a nice cross breeze.


Vodka can be an excellent, unscented air freshener. Simply pour inexpensive,  un-flavored vodka into a spray bottle and use as an air mister. It will help reduce stale and musty odors. If you would like to add a scent, try adding a wildcrafted scent oil. Depending on the size of bottle you use, you may want to add less than 1 teaspoon to start, then test the spray bottle to determine if you need more or less fragrance.

Baking Soda

As we mentioned above, baking soda is a fantastic odor-absorber. You can sprinkle it on carpet, a mattress, or upholstery, then vacuum away the odor. You can also set out a bowl (or box) of baking soda in an inconspicuous area of your home to absorb and neutralize odors in the air. However, over time, baking soda will slowly lose its odor-absorbing powers. If you notice it is not as effective anymore, swap out the baking soda for a fresh batch.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a useful odor-remover, whether you are using it on a hard surface or on fabric or upholstery. As a room freshener, you can pour approximately a cup of white vinegar in a small bowl and place in a safe spot somewhere in your home. Note: although vinegar is edible, we recommend keeping this bowl out of the reach of children and pets. Don’t forget to swap out the vinegar after it is no longer absorbing odors.

Charcoal Air Fresheners

You can make your own DIY activated charcoal pouches, which can be placed anywhere you need an odor absorber. If you’d like to skip the DIY options, we do recommend Moso brand natural air fresheners. These pouches are versatile and can be slipped in a stinky shoe or tucked inside your car.

What’s your favorite way to remove odors from your home? Do you have a suggestion we should add to this list? Let us know by leaving your comment below! 


Why are synthetic air fresheners so bad? Find out in Fragrance is the New Secondhand Smoke.

Curious about fragrances and other chemicals that might be lurking in your home already? Check out this article on the dangers of common laundry chemicals and what they do: Do You Know What’s In Your Laundry Detergent? 

SAFE-SIMPLE-Clare-Wood-Branch-Basics-Minimalist-Mama-6Ready to streamline your routine? Read Clare’s tricks in Safe + Simple: Tips from a Minimalist Mama.

Going on a trip? Check out our Healthy Travel Guide for our favorite travel snacks and tips for preventing sunburn, jetlag, and more!

Want another trick for improving indoor air quality? Find out why we’re loving Himalayan Pink Salt Lamps!

Keep reading about chemicals to avoid in your home: Common Chemicals to Avoid – A Branch Basics Series

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    1. Hi Anabel,
      The vodka air freshener mentioned above (particularly with the addition of the wildcrafted scent oils) will remove odors and leave behind a light fragrance. You could also try combining measures, like the baking soda and vacuuming trick first, then spraying the scent on last. At my house, if the couch is not smelling very fresh, we sometimes even spritz with the All-Purpose Branch Basics and fluff the cushions for a quick odor-remover. Hope that helps!

  1. I like to buy the tiny crockpots at a local goodwill store, fill with either essential oils or actual ingredients: (favorite: cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, orange or any citrus peel, a few eucalyptus leaves, and rosemary) and let it “stew”. I also add a small amount of vodka (1 tsp) to make it mold free, which makes the ingredients last for several days by just adding more water. The alcohol does not smell at all. NO LID!
    I watch it and add water when necessary. I have one in my bathroom, bedroom and two in my living area since it is a bigger space. These have worked GREAT for me. You could add whatever spices you like. In summer, when there are mosquitoes around you could add peppermint, or any of the mint family for more pest control. I can get these tiny crockpots for about $5, and they are WELL worth it! I even gave them out for gifts last Christmas with a bag full of the ingredients.

  2. I mix essential oil into baking soda before sprinkling on carpets and mattresses. Let it sit for 20 minutes before vacuuming. Makes the whole house smell great. Eucalyptus, lavender and Rosemary is my go to mix. 5 drops each per cup of baking soda. A paper cup with holes punched in it makes a great shaker. Also a Parmesan cheese container works. I haven’t tried BB oils yet but I’m sure they are great.

  3. Spraying vodka is a very interesting idea! I am going to try it next time when I clean. I suppose it works. Thank you for sharing so many interesting methods. I definetely will try more than one. Best regards!

  4. I never would have thought of spraying vodka in the air to freshen a room. That’s a really interesting trick. I’ll have to give it a try this week. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Vodka is not an option for recovering alcoholics or those living with them. Can you suggest some different type of natural spray fresheners?

  6. For smelly shoes, spray with a few drops of tea tree oil in water and allow to dry naturally. The tea tree oil oil kills the bacteria that cause the smell.
    And for ‘post use’ bathroom smells, create instant, hot, activated charcoal by striking a match, letting it burn down as far as feels safe and then blowing out the flame. Wave the hot stick of charcoal through the air to pick up the smelly stuff.

  7. Another great charcoal air cleaner company: based in Nanaimo, BC Canada. Great natural and organic charcoal air cleaners to place in your home, gym bags, pet areas,cars and one for the fridge.
    I am very impressed with this company.


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