Those of us with kids, or pets, or kids and pets know that the aroma of our home can get a little funky from time to time. Sweaty sports uniforms, random cooking experiments and occasional pet accidents can combine into a rather interesting scent. So, many of us have taken to keeping scented candles around to combat the odor. The problem is, there are many ingredients in your average scented candle that linger, trapped in your living space, contributing to indoor air pollution.
A study done in 2009 at South Carolina State University compared the chemicals and soot residue from burning a petroleum or paraffin-based wax candle to that of a plant-based, soy wax candle. Researchers found that the paraffin wax candles not only emitted the potentially hazardous chemicals toluene and benzene, but the scented variety also utilized volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, to produce the scent that makes your entire living room reminiscent of your favorite fall-flavored latte.
While the immediate threat of short term exposure to scented candles is relatively small, using paraffin candles regularly, in a small space lacking adequate ventilation (like when you surround your bathtub in pretty-smelling candles and soak for an hour), makes it more likely that you’ll suffer irritations to your eyes, sinuses and lungs.
But you’re not doomed to a house that smells like last night’s mahi mahi and the towel from Baxter’s weekly bath were wrapped in seaweed and set on fire.
Here are three chemical-free ways to safely freshen the air in your home:
1. Essential oil diffuser
We are lucky to live in an age were there are a plethora of inexpensive and convenient electronic devices that make our lives a million times easier. What’s even better is that many of these are so simple and straightforward, there’s no way you can go wrong. Most essential oil diffusers are as easy as can be, consisting of a small pool which you fill with water and then add 4-5 drops of your preferred essential oil. The diffuser turns the essential oil-infused water into a fine mist that not only disperses a pleasant scent but scents can be combined and customized as part of aromatherapy throughout your home.
2. DIY wax melts
These are way easier to make than they sound. So much so that you’ll wonder how you ever got duped into buying the chemical-filled counterparts in the first place. Melt 2.6 ounces of soy wax flakes over a double boiler until it’s smooth and pourable. Add whatever essential oil you prefer, mix it well and then pour the wax into a reusable mold and let it cool. Keep the molded wax pieces in an airtight container and use one piece at a time in your wax warmers whenever your little non-toxic heart desires.
3. Carpet & furniture deodorizer
This is an oldie but a goodie in the realm of household fresheners. Combine 1 cup of baking soda with dried herbs or flowers like mint, lemon balm, chamomile flowers, or roses and sprinkle on your carpet and/or furniture. You can use a soft bristle broom or brush to work it into the carpeting or upholstery if you feel like you’re up against some serious musty material. Let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour, then vacuum it up. Be sure to vacuum thoroughly, and if you’re concerned that your furniture or carpet may become discolored, be sure to do a spot test first.