Gee, Your House Smells Terrific (But at What Cost?)

This past weekend, I saw a commercial for an essential oil diffuser by a mainstream air freshener company. The ad showed vibrant flowers and beautiful ocean waves and described its new product as “transforming natural essential oils into a fragrant mist.”

The images of nature and plants and reference to natural essential oils caught my attention. This sounds like a great way to safely deodorize a room or a house. No matter how well we clean, our homes can be the source of all kinds of unpleasant odors – from diapers to rotting food, to sweaty clothes.

We want our homes to smell fresh and inviting. And what better way to get rid of the stink than to get a really good air freshener? I mean, I want people to come into my home and think it smells like Tahitian spring mist!

Ironically, the products we know as air fresheners end up contaminating our air by releasing synthetic chemicals that can cause health and environmental concerns. Mainstream air fresheners typically contain a variety of synthetic fragrances. “Fragrances” are chemical compounds that have a pleasant odor. But the term “fragrance” on any ingredient label can include more than 3,000 different chemicals.

The EPA has found that the harmful particles released into the air by air fresheners (known as Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs) can cause respiratory irritation, headaches, liver and kidney damage, and even cancer. They also contain phthalates which are known to cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems. And aerosol spray air fresheners contain propellants like butane and propane, which come with their own list of dangers. Now that stinks!

So, how am I supposed to get rid of the smell of burned bacon from this morning? Or the odor from the diaper pail?

  1. Open the doors and windows. Did you know indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air? Sounds crazy, but it is true. Ventilate the house and get some real fresh air circulating. Now, if it is 100 degrees outside and the mosquitos are swarming in to enjoy your A/C, then. . .
  2. Diffuse REAL essential oils in an ultrasonic diffuser. Be careful to buy 100% pure essential oils that have not been chemically altered. We love and trust Young Living Essential Oils.
  3.  Try a stove top simmer. We love this recipe in the winter months. It smells amazing and lasts for hours. (add additional water as needed)
  • Fill a large saucepan or crockpot with water.
  • Then add:
    2-3 cinnamon sticks
    1 orange, peeled
    1 apple sliced in half
    1T whole cloves
    1T whole allspice berries
    5 whole star anise
  • Bring to a simmer (or for a crockpot, set on low or high with the top off)

Jennifer Helms along with Lisa Solomon co-founded Cleerlife, a one-stop shop for all things clean, green, and nontoxic. Reach her at or visit

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