250 million Americans used air freshener sprays and room deodorizers in 2018. While we don’t know what percentage of Americans are using waste-intensive versions, one can infer. A quick online search for air fresheners yields a long list of plastic-packaged products with few exceptions. But we know there’s nothing inherent to air fresheners and room deodorizers that necessitates plastic, or really waste of any kind! Here are just a few options proving that you can freshen up your home without any garbage.
1. Open the windows — air it out
Our apologies for this too-obvious of a suggestion, but we’d be remiss to overlook the cheapest, zero-waste-est, and arguably most effective option.
Airing out clothes by installing a window in closets was actually a method of cleaning clothes in the olden days. Have you ever hung a smelly textile to swing in the breeze? It worked, did it not?
2. Melt the remnants of old candles to make a new one
Perhaps you’ve noticed that you often burn through wicks of candles before the wax is completely gone? If you have a lot of nearly spent candles around your home, you can melt them into one new candle! To melt the wax, we recommend using the double boiler method – adding the nearly empty candle to a pot of about an inch of water and bringing to a boil. You’ll simply need a jar and a new wick to make your new candle. You can find candle wicks at your lock craft store.
3. Make your own room spray
If you’re spraying down textiles and upholstery, a simple mix of water and vodka can effectively disinfect and clear away smells. If spraying into a room, add your favorite essential oils to equal parts vodka and water.
Not super confident in your DIY skills? This spray bottle makes it easy for you with measurements and instructions printed right on it:
4. Make your own essential oil diffuser
If you have disposable wood or bamboo skewers or stir sticks laying around, you can easily make your own essential oil diffuser by adding 1 part carrier oil (almond, jojoba, grapeseed, safflower, or any other oil that doesn’t have a strong scent), 1 part vodka, and essential oils to a glass bottle or jar. Drop in the sticks and enjoy.
Another great non-conventional way to diffuse essential oils is by adding them to cotton (if you have an inexpensive and package-free means of getting your hands on organic cotton, that is).
One final way to DIY a diffuser is to heat essential oils in water over the stove. Heat on low to avoid bringing to a boil.
5. Hang eucalyptus branches in your shower
Hanging eucalyptus branches in the shower (not directly under the nozzle, just close enough to get a good steam), can help relieve upper respiratory issues, and is a great way to clear the air when you have a cold or allergies.
6. Burn sage
Burning sage, or “smudging,” is a Native American ritual for clearing negative energy in a space. But it has other benefits, too. It releases a fragrance that can uplift and soothe stress, and anti-microbial properties in sage are believed to help fend off viruses.
Some indigenous people have criticized wide-spread sage burning as profiting off their spirituality, and taking a small piece of their culture and twisting it to suit one's liking. If you're opting to participate in sage burning, we recommend you do a bit of your own research into its intended meaning and source your goods responsibly.
7. Burn incense
Incense is relatively easy to source package-free. You might even find it in bulk at your local drug store. Not only can incense make your room smell amazing, but depending on your scent of choice, it can soothe stress, increase focus, and stimulate creativity.
8. Make your own potpourri
Repurpose your food scraps and plant clippings! Gather flower heads, herbs, and citrus slices. Lay them on a baking sheet and spray with essential oils diluted in water. Heat in the oven at 200˚ Fahrenheit for about 2 hours.
9. Invest in a reusable scent diffuser and make it last
This is a lower-waste alternative to disposable plug-ins, but even so, any electronic system has a limited shelf life and a complicated disposal process. Invest in a diffuser that is great quality, and follow all the care instructions. If it breaks a few years in, try to repair it instead of replacing it.
Let us know if you have any other great ways to freshen up your space!