The best way to freshen the air is to give everything a good deep eco-clean, open the windows ajar (if safe to do so) and then keep the air fresh, simply through using common sense (removing unwanted clutter and furniture, steam-cleaning carpets and not bringing anything smelly into the house! But if you need extra help, there is no need to use toxic products in your home or car. There are far safer and better ideas. Conventional brands of air freshener contain toxic chemicals and can cause allergies to people and pets. Many also are in aerosol cans, which cause volatile organic compounds, which can harm our health.
Never spray perfumes or essential oils near pets or children (and air rooms after using). Avoid essential oils for pregnancy/nursing and affected medical conditons. Indoor plants don’t clean the air (a myth based on out-dated NASA research – many indoor plants are toxic to pets including lilies and sago palm (even brushing a tail against them can harm animal friends).
Bicarbonate of soda is a good natural deodoriser, just sprinkle onto carpets and then vacuum up 15 minutes later, or leave an open jar in the fridge. It’s also good sprinkled in the bottom of containers or bins, and can be used to clean cloth nappies and unblock plugholes.
White cleaning vinegar (not edible) is a mild acetic acid, so can remove alkaline odours (sweat, fish, pet smells) and can also remove musty smells. Just add 1 part white vinegar to 1 part vinegar to a mist spray bottle, the vinegar smell will disappear after 10 or 15 minutes. You can also soak a cloth to wipe down hard surfaces or add 1 teaspoon to 2 cups of water in a mist bottle, and use it to freshen fabrics.
Unscented volcanic potpourri is porous to soak up chosen essential oils, then slowly releases the aroma into your room (not near pets, babies or pregnancy/nursing). Long-lasting and reusable, it’s sold in a lovely matt black vessel with optional red agate stone lid.
Activated charcoal is a great way to absorb smells. If you use charcoal water filters (to avoid plastic jugs, but avoid for children and pets due to tiny sediments), you can use the spent charcoal pieces in drawers, the fridge or even smelly shoes to neutralise odours. Moso bags can be added to drawers or used in cars to naturally absorb odours.
Home Detox is a highly reviewed book by a qualified toxicologist, to take you through your home to learn how to remove potential toxins. The author (who specialises in oncology to prevent cancer) looks at everything from mattresses and pillows to cleaning and beauty products, furniture and clothing. From food storage to hidden toxins, she offers safe affordable alternatives for each room, in this practical and easy-to-read guide. Get rid of the ‘Toxic Ten’ in your home that may lead to headaches, asthma, high cholestrol, skin and sleep problems, replacing them with effective homemade solutions like baking soda, vinegar and (if safe to use) essential oils.
3 cities with the worst air pollution
Yep, London is indeed one of them, even though the city is home to 8 million or so trees. The other 2 cities with the world’s worst air pollution (2023) are Beijing and Los Angeles. The latter is famed (not in a good way) for its ‘smog’, very common in summer with higher temperatures. ‘London smog’ is also in LA, but appears in colder months and more from burning coal. But the LA smog is ostly from car fumes and emissions from industry.
You’d think everyone in California was living green, vegan and zero-waste. Sounds good, but the truth is not really. It’s a city packed with smog and car traffic jams, and the Hollywood film industry also promotes levels of excessive consumption (just see those ‘real housewife’ programs or the ridiculously extravagant ways that some Hollywood celebrities live, with multi-million dollar homes that could probably house 100 people or more. This is a city of limousines, with most top-listers not using the many bike paths and electric vehicles installed.
The huge emissions is causing havoc with the health of the (mostly poorer) population that live in LA city. This is also causing more wildfires in susceptible areas, and some people are dying of heatwaves. The council is trying, but it’s a bit like putting a sticking plaster on a volcano, and more needs to be done to encourage people to get out of their cars, they won’t if alternatives are not given (on the east coast, Miami offers free public transport for everyone on-demand). On the plus-side, the ‘city of Angels’ does have the world’s only solar-powered Ferris Wheel!
unscented natural car air fresheners
We all know that ‘tree air fresheners’ are not natural. But most ‘natural brands’ still contain scents (essential oils should not be used if passengers are pregnant, nursing, babies or pets).
Keep your car smelling fresh by giving a clean with hot water and biodegradable unscented cleaner, vacuum regularly and don’t smoke or eat curry-flavoured crisps while you drive! If you eat smelly takeaways in your car, take your litter home with you, as throwing it out the window causes scavenging wildlife to get killed on roads.
To remove present odours (from baby poo to vomit to cigarette smoke), use a charcoal purifying bag. The main brands (MOSO and Seek) are not sold in England but Halfords sell a similar version. Charcoal contains tiny pores that attract and absorb odours from air and fabric, without chemicals or fragrance . Just place it somewhere discreet in your car and let it get to work. These bags last up to 2 years, if you place them outside in the sun for an hour, every month or so. At end of life, just cut open and sprinkle onto your lawn.
Again, PURGGO is an American brand, so you’ll have to seek it out in shops or online. Made from hemp and organic cotton, one purchase will last a year. Again, just charge it in the sun for an hour or two every month. Hang on the headrest or anywhere else in your to remove all odours, including cigarette smoke. If you smoke, stop the car to get outside the car and use a personal ashtray to immediately extinguish the cigarette butt, until you can dispose of it later on in a safe bin.
If you want to use a spray, look in shops for MOSO scent-free car freshener spray, made with biodegradable ingredients and no harsh chemicals, nor added colour or fragrance. Instead, it uses powerful probiotics to target and destroy odour-causes molecules.
biodegradable plant wax candles
You don’t need candles, but millions of people buy them. So if you do, choose ones made from biodegradable plant wax, which is also safer and cleaner/slower to burn. Use with recycled candlesticks.
Follow candle safety tips. Keep away from pets and children (essential oils including citronella can harm), air rooms after use and never use in bedrooms nor leave unattended. Keep away from flammables and put out with a candle snuffer.
Trim wicks to 1/4 inch before lighting and keep free from trimmings and matches, and don’t burn more than a few hours at a time, stop use with 1/4 inch of wax remains. The first burn, ensure it’s long enough for the wax melt pool to reach the edges, this will prevent tunnelling. Use on a stable heat-resistant surface, and never burn to the bottom. Keep reed diffusers out of the reach of pets and children, or places where they could be knocked over.
Try to use soy wax (burns cleaner and slower with fewer soot particles) or cleaner coconut wax (rapeseed wax is also locally grown). Choose unscented or real essential oils. And try to find brands with organic cotton wicks, in sustainable packaging.