This post is from KS Contributing Writer Becca Stallings of The Earthling’s Handbook, with photographs by her son Nicholas Efran.
Winter is such a cozy time in the home, with family gatherings and all kinds of great food (like everyone’s favorite, comforting soup!). Unfortunately, with all the windows shut, any unpleasant odor will linger even longer than the guests do!
Many of the air fresheners on the market contain chemicals that can cause cancer and asthma, even in unborn children. Scented candles aren’t any better than sprays, gels, and diffusers, because burning petroleum-based candles releases dangerous chemicals into the air.
If you really like candles, scented candles made from soybean oil are a safe option, and Grove Collaborative makes some nice ones. However, essential oils offer a less-expensive range of options for safe scents, without the fire hazard of a candle.
Essential oil (EO) is a highly concentrated fragrance made by pressing or distilling a natural plant material. Just one drop has a strong scent that can spread over a large area, so the tiny bottles last a long time. Right now I have 3 half-ounce bottles and 3 two-ounce bottles of assorted scents, and that’s about a 5-year supply of EO for my household.
There are many ways to use essential oils, but these are my 3 favorite ways to scent my home. I usually use orange oil and/or peppermint oil because they smell fresh and are lower-priced than some other EOs.
The Toilet-Tissue Trick
What’s cheaper than two squares of toilet tissue? Not much, especially if you buy by the case. Two squares, a few drops of EO, and 30 seconds of your time will give several rooms a light scent that helps the house seem clean without being really noticeable.
Simply tear two squares of tissue off the roll and fold up into a square 8 layers thick. Drip about 4 drops of EO onto the paper, trying to land each drop in a different spot. Let it soak in a moment while you put away your bottle of oil.
Now pick up the paper by the outer corner and shake to unfold. Walk through the rooms, waving your little paper banner in the air to distribute the scent. Then drop it into a wastebasket; the scent will continue to evaporate from there.
Scenting the Incoming Air
This gives a stronger scent while the heat, air-conditioning, or fan is running; you may get a second or third wave of scent in subsequent climate-control cycles.
If your hot or cold air blows out of a vent, drip essential oil directly onto the slats of the vent grate or apply it using your toilet tissue prepared as above.
When using a fan, put 2 or 3 drops of EO on a small, stiff, non-glossy piece of paper (I use those cards that fall out of magazines!) and place it against the back of the fan. The suction will hold it on, and the scent will blow into the room.
When you get out the vacuum cleaner, put 2 or 3 drops of EO on just one square of toilet tissue, and vacuum it up. The scent will blow out of the vacuum cleaner so that its exhaust smells like oranges and peppermints (or whatever scent you’ve chosen) instead of like stale dust!
If you have radiator heat, drip essential oil directly onto the top of the radiator. It will vaporize slowly when the radiator is hot.
Note that essential oils will leave a bit of oil on any surface to which you apply them at full strength. This may result in a gooey spot that attracts dust on your vent or radiator. Simply clean it off with soapy water after the scent has dispersed.
Homemade Air Freshener Spray
This is great to have available in the bathroom so that guests can take care of any embarrassing aroma themselves. Homemade air freshener is easy to make with just 3 ingredients! I have a nice glass spray bottle from Grove Collaborative (Grove has a special offer available for new customers).
If you want to reuse a spray bottle that previously contained something else, make sure it does not have a lingering odor that will affect the smell of your air freshener.
This recipe makes almost 1 cup. To fill Grove Collaborative’s 16-ounce spray bottle more completely, make a double batch.
- 3/4 cup water (Tap water is fine.)
- 2 Tbsp. rubbing alcohol
- 10-20 drops essential oil in one or more scents of your choice
- spray bottle
The alcohol helps to disperse the oil in the water, helps the scent linger longer, and helps to prevent bacterial growth in the water so that your air freshener will last for months.
Measure all ingredients into the bottle. You’ll notice that the mixture looks cloudy on top because the ingredients don’t mix on their own. Put on the top and shake thoroughly.
Spray into the air wherever you’d like a burst of scent! As long as you’re keeping some distance from surfaces, you should have no problem with the diluted oil staining anything. Never spray liquid at a hot light bulb–it can explode!
Experiment to see how much EO you need in your spray to get the scent you want. Different varieties of EO have different aroma strengths.
You can combine this spray with the “incoming air” strategy by spraying a vent, fan, or radiator while it’s off to disperse the scent when it comes on. (Don’t spray into blowing air–it’ll blow back into your face!)
I love using essential oils to scent my home safely and affordably! But I don’t DIY everything. I’ve tried dozens of ready-to-use natural cleaners in the last two decades and found a lot more winners than losers!
For example, for sanitizing surfaces, I love method antibac spray, available from Grove Collaborative.
You can read all about the green cleaners that make my life easier (without breaking the budget) right HERE!