Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Breathe Easy

In our last post we talked about exhaust fans. Even using exhaust fans efficiently won't take care of other, longer lasting odors ... like garbage cans, clothes hampers or diaper pails? And what about the lingering smell of some foods ... have you ever left the house only to return and be greeted by the smell of last night's dinner?

The first thing to do, of course, is remove the source ... which works relatively well with garbage. Odors from diaper pails, clothes hampers and foods are not so easily removed. Parents using Eco-friendly diapers (disposables are not Eco-friendly) need to wash them. And washing one diaper at a time doesn't support our "only full loads", environmentally friendly washing practices ... not that new parents have time for washing one diaper at a time anyway. The same holds true for clothes ... gym outfits or dirty work clothes may smell but ... if there aren't enough clothes for a full load ... what do we do? Food odors are also hard to remove ... they seem to linger in the walls.

Perhaps air fresheners would work. You've seen the commercials ... a lovely woman sprays a fine mist into the air ... or plugs some little gadget into the wall ... and voila ... clean air, reminiscent of mountain breezes and spring. But wait ... are these products safe and good for the environment? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 12 out of 14 common air fresheners, of various forms (solids, sprays, etc.), including some marked "natural" or "unscented", contained hormone-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates (you can read their article HERE). Phthalates were not listed on the label. Additionally, many of these products are housed in earth unfriendly materials such as plastic.

Do we just have to live with the odors ... walk around with our noses covered or pinched shut with clothes pins? Nope ... here are some ideas:

  • Make your own essential-oil-based spray. Combine 30-40 drops, total, of up to three of your favorite oils with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle (an earth-friendly one, of course). Shake well and spritz in clothes hampers, kitchen compost bins, etc.

  • Use diluted vinegar to wipe down the inside of garbage cans and diaper pails. If you soak diapers, pour a cup of vinegar into the soaking water.

  • Sprinkle baking soda into diaper pails and clothes hampers.

  • Sprinkle aromatic spices in hampers ... or to enhance a room, place spices in a bowl (just place them out of your child's reach) ... try cinnamon, ginger or cloves.

  • Put a few drops of essential oil or extracts (vanilla, almond, etc.) on a light bulb. When you turn on the light ... the room will become infused with fragrance.

  • Burn a fragrant soy candle. Soy candles don't pollute and they are environmentally friendly.

  • Put a cotton ball, soaked in your favorite essential oil into the vacuum bag ... it'll freshen the air as you clean.

Freshen your air with these environmentally safe ideas and you'll breathe easy for sure!

As always ... I'd love to hear from you!


  1. I always wonder about those air fresheners!

    Oh! and I remembered you DID have a veggie and dumplings recipe- I made a comment on that post about how I bet you'd come up with one, and you already had - I'd simply forgotten! I'm going to look it up so I can prepare it next time :)

  2. Those are some great tips. I've never been a fan of air fresheners, either (just too synthetic for my tastes).

    I remember how proud I was of my mother 20 years ago when she decided she was going to use cloth diapers (instead of Pampers) for her twin girls.

  3. these are great tips! thanks sf. baking soda can also be used to remove smells from fridges - my mum keeps an eggcup of baking soda in the fridge at home and it absorbs everything!



  4. I really like the vacuum bag idea. That seems to be my biggest problem. Since I vacuum my dogs to help keep the hair problem under control, every time I use it, I smell them.

    Thanks for the tip!

  5. I have a problem with cooking smells in my flat - especially since my exhaust fan doesn't work (as I mentioned in my last comment) and especially after cooking lamb chops (I think it's the fat). It took months for the smell to leave - and that's with having windows open most of the time. Another benefit of going vegetarian!

    Re air fresheners - they also contain volatile organic compounds which can be nasty. Air fresheners being marketed for their ability to improve air quality is a ridiculous irony.

  6. I love essential oils. I noticed many years ago, before I became aware of what was in candles, that many of them gave me headaches. Now I know why.

  7. We have a bagless vacuum (which cuts on our paper waste), but I like the idea of the cotton ball. Does anyone have any ideas on how to do this with a bagless? Maybe the air filter chamber?

  8. OMG, these are awesome tips! Thank you! I love the light bulb trick. Gonna go home and try it tonight!

  9. Good ideas! I use baking soda for everything.

    OH! I come home tomorrow.

  10. I didn't know that candles pollute the air. Geez, I don't know A LOT

  11. yay a blog that'll help me help the environment :)

    i usually have a problem with odours so ill try these out. great tips!

  12. The sootless soy candles really are great.

  13. Excellent tips as always1 thanks for sharing them. I remember my Mom always telling me to get rid of really strong, nasty odors to open a jar of vinegar and let it just sit open in a room. Well believe me it does work! Is something I still do to this day.

    Plus I do love to burn candles. Though I do know some of them do have stronger scents then others. My favorites are by Yankee Candle.

    Well enjoy the day and will be back to check out more helpful hints from you! Bye.

    Nana Net

  14. To eemilla ... I'm not sure about a bagless vacuum. Perhaps a cotton ball in the filter chamber or ... perhaps one could put a few drops of essential oil onto the filter itself.

    Does anyone else have any ideas?


  15. A very eco-friendly way to eliminate odors once the source is removed, and a great lift to the spirit as well: open the windows and let some fresh air circulate through your house! If you open more than one window (in our small apartment, we open a window and the front door), it pushes air through the house similarly to an exhaust fan. Of course, unless you live in a warm weather state, this tip is best saved for spring!

  16. Wow! Interesting tips. I'll try applying for those with bad breath ;)

  17. hey sf :)
    passed you an award... pls check it out :) no rules, do as you wish with it :)

  18. Ok--I'm good on this one. I hate those spray cans of stuff so I use baking soda and vinegar. It's way cheaper too!

  19. It seems as though my wife uses baking soda for everything.


  20. I always thought that air refreshers were to be improve our environment air...Now I know!
    Great useful tips too.

    What about those body spray?
    Do they have the same hazards like the air refreshers?

  21. To astrogalaxy,

    Great question about body sprays. Here's an interesting fact: 60% of what one puts on their skin is absorbed into the body. So ... it's good to know what is in a product.

    The word "fragrance" on a label should always raise a red flag. Typically, products that are safe (both for us and the environment) will list all ingredients including the one responsible for the smell. There isn't regulation concerning the word "fragrance" so it can represent a number of things ... including harmful chemicals. It's an "umbrella" word used to cover up ingredients that they, for whatever reason, choose not to spell out.

    Here's a link to a great article on the subject:

    Making body spray is relatively easy. Check out this site for recipes and a lot of good information on safe body/skin products:

    Thanks for asking!


  22. Thank you so much for providing me with these answers!
    Have a wonderful week!