Natural Safe Ways to Freshen the Air

The smells inside our caves can get pretty rank, even if we’re really clean and neat. I am constantly cleaning myself and the trash alone makes the living room smell like a dumpster. And then there’s the cat boxes in the bedrooms, the left over lingering odor from several cooked meals a day, the smelly shoes that my sister loves to leave all over the place.. etc.. You get the picture. You know it in your own home. The temptation to grab the Lysol or the Febreze is almost overwhelming. I am guilty of this, too. When the cats make a mess or my father spills his coffee, I reach for a can. The couch actually smells like a Febreze factory. But I am a hypocrite because I am a believer and a promoter of natural living and this is a far cry from natural. Chemical fragrances are dangerous. I have already done a post on that and you can read it HERE. So why would I use them? Oh, they are convenient and I am so busy. It is much faster to grab a can and spray than it is to devise another solution at the moment. But it really isn’t all that hard to fix this problem and I am going to start doing it this weekend.

In the past, I have also turned to candles and incense. This has been a time honored international tradition that we borrowed from the Middle East and Asia. But it’s a dangerous one. The smoke from these burning scents are dangerous for our lungs, sinuses and overall health. I discovered my chronic sinus problems at the time were caused by the smoke from the incense I loved so much. So I just don’t recommend Incense. Candles have been proven to cause cancer in much the same way cigarettes do. It is not a good idea to stand around burning candles or to suck in the fragrance from a burning candle, no matter how lovely that fragrance is. So I am not going to recommend using candles or incense to solve odor problems.

But I do I have some great ideas for odor control. Some require recipes while others require a simple change of habit. Some of the things we get used to doing day after day make the matter worse. I, myself, get into habits and patterns that I am reluctant to change because I think it’s going to be hard or tiring or take up too much time. Don’t wait until you are sweating over the broom or the vacuum before thinking about making a change. Get started while you are sitting around or planning your day. The most important part of any change is making the mental note and the decision to do it. We gear up for change, toy with it in our minds, work up the energy and determination needed for it. But the decision to start is a big step. Once you focus yourself on the change needed, you will eventually find yourself just doing it. So let’s get started today!

POPULATE YOUR HOME WITH PLANTS

This is a self explanatory. Plants eat up the carbon dioxide in the air and absorb odors. Perfect houseplants to eat the odors in your home include Pothos, Ferns, Philodendron, Ficus, Weeping Fig., Spider Plant, Dracaena and small Palms like Date Palm and Areca Palm. These plants will absorb formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene so they are really good for your health.

MAKE POTPOURRI

Make homemade potpourri by simply collecting all the favorite scented flowers and herbs you can. As you collect them, add them to a container that seals tightly like a Coffee Canister or Spice Jar. Pack them in and be sure to leave it sealed. Add some sort of fixative like powdered root of Calamus Root (Sweet Flag), powdered Orris Root , Tonka Beans , Sandalwood Oil or Benzoin Gum . Add this to each little pile of herbs or flowers you add and then seal it up and keep it as you add to it. When the container is packed, seal it tightly and just leave it for awhile. After a week or two, you can start using it. This is by no means real potpourri, which will take a longer process, but this mixture will work for my purposes.

Add a handful at a time to a pot of slow boiling water. Simmer on the stove all day long and enjoy the fragrance! This is so effective that your house will smell like fresh herbs all day long and the nasty smells will disappear!

SAVE ORANGE AND LIME SKINS

This is easy to do, right? Just save the peels from your citrus fruit. These can be used in a many ways. You can add it to your potpourri mix above and toss them into the water with the herbs and flowers. You can put them in the microwave and heat them on low or warm for a long time, scenting the kitchen. You can toss them into the garbage disposal to help clear that smell or put them in the vacuum bag to help with those odors, too. Try to use them while they are fresh or only slightly withered. If they dry out completely, toss them in the potpourri.

BUY VINEGAR

The reason I say this is because Vinegar is such a good cleaner and overall air freshener. Yes, it has a strong smell of it’s own and you do not want your home smelling like a salad so you must water it down. One third Vinegar to two thirds water. If you put a bowl of Vinegar (or Lime juice) in the microwave and turn it on high for a minute, when you’re done all you have to do is wipe it down. I had a pizza smell in our microwave I could not expel. A bowl of Vinegar did the trick and I got the unit clean at the same time! If you use it and the smell is too strong for you, just water it down some more until it’s tolerable. You can use this on the floors, the walls, the windows, anywhere you do not need disinfectants. You can add Vinegar to your dishwasher to get your dishes squeaky clean; it is a great finishing rinse. Put it in a spray bottle with 1/4 Vinegar to 3/4 water and then spray it in the air. It will take odors right down to the ground and disperse them. And, finally, for long term treatment, you can place small bowls with vinegar in them in the corners of any room and this will absorb most odors.

BUY ESSENTIAL OILS INSTEAD OF SPRAYS

Save that money you spend on Lysol and Febreze. As convenient as these items are, essential oils are just as good and a lot safer for your family. The ease of use is why these items are so popular; the kids and dad can just grab the spray can and there’s no teaching involved. The first fear people have about essential oils is that it requires learning new stuff. But this is just not true. Here’s the deal. Buy essential oils for herbs and flowers you like. There is an oil for just about every herb and most flowers. In the case of flowers, you can make floral waters that are just as nice. And, overall, if you have a distiller or something similar, you can make your own oils. But this is for another post and another day.

Fill an empty spray bottle with water. Put a droplet at a time of your favorite essential oil into a spray bottle at a rate of one droplet per cup of water. Shake and label “air freshener”. Show the kids and daddy where the spray bottle is kept and leave it at that. This will do just about anything you now use the sprays for and it’s safe for furniture, bedding, clothes, et al.

MAKE SACHETS

Sachets seem hard to many people who don’t sew or don’t think of themselves as crafty. But they are really simple. I have made them and I am sewing challenged. I can’t hardly get a hem done and Lord forbid I have to fix a tear or a loose seam. You should see how awful I sew. My sister, on the other hand, is a seamstress so go figure. But I do think of myself as handy and crafty so I’m ahead of some people on this level. But this is not for handy folk only. You can make a sachet out of an old sock, for instance. You just need a bag of some sort, from a cloth bag to a mesh bag to a sock or even the foot of old hosiery. Fill it with your favorite herbs and flowers and then tie it with a long string or ribbon. You want the string or ribbon to be long because you might want to hang it. Hanging it on the clothes rod in the closet is one idea. Hanging it from a hook in the pantry is another. But these are also good on the ground and in small spaces. They are especially effective in small spaces so try it in your underwear drawer, a cabinet where food is stored, under a shoe rack, behind the toilet, or anywhere you think you have a stinky problem. They really do help a lot. You can buy these ready made online and in the stores but these are commercial product made with chemicals, dyes and other additives. If you decide to buy these, then you should just buy the sprays and abandon this project. The ones you buy in the store are not as good for you as the ones you can make yourself using fresh herbs and flowers.

MAKE SWAGS OR GARLANDS

This project is for more crafty or handy people. If you don’t think you can do basic crafting, then move on to the next idea. For the handy person, making swags or garlands are simple and fun. They also make great decorations for your home while adding their wonderful scent. Make a swag easily by gathering long stems of your favorite herbs or flowers. I personally like Artemisia, Larkspur, Eucalyptus and Lavender. Dry these by hanging upside down in a dark place for a few days or buy them already dried. Gather the stems together and tie with floral wire, leaving a small loop sticking out of the wire. Arrange and rearrange until you like the way it looks. Tie around the wire with a large ribbon and make a bow if you like. Hang upside down on the wall by the small loop of wire you created. This is so pretty to look at and it smells really great. You can change this out often, making new swags as you come with new designs.

Making a garland is even easier, really. You just have to be careful in your choices of flowers or herbs to use. Small flowers with short stems will have to wired in, as will most herbs. Flowers with longer stems can be wired together and then wired in. The trick with garlands is to start with the heaviest gauge floral wire you can find. Make sure you acquire as many feet of this wire as the length of the garland. Short garlands are easy and fun and just as good as long ones. But if you have a mantel or a long staircase you will want a long garland to decorate with. Either way, this is easy. Starting with the heaviest gauge floral wire you can get, cut a length of it as long as you would like the garland to be. Start wiring in the flowers and herbs you have chosen. The more consistent the pattern is, the nicer the garland will be. In other words, you want to group things together and space out the changes for best effect; such as when using bunches of Cedar and pine cones, for instance, you would wire in the bunches of Cedar first, being sure to fill out the garland as you go and then dot in the pinecones at even intervals along the spine. Wire everything in tightly and then add bows or bells or other frills. Use highly scented herbs or flowers to have the best effect. If you add unscented items like the pine cones, simply spray them from time to time with a complimentary essential oil. The garland can be a foot or two for laying on small pieces of furniture like standing cabinets or entertainment centers, or it can be 10 feet long or longer for the fireplace or the stairway. These are especially fun and lovely when it’s the holidays and you have a lot of other decorations up.

SCENT WOOD

This is for use during the winter months when you are using the fireplace. It is also good on the grill. Do not set this stuff out and light it like incense. Not unless you want a fire! But you can do this many ways. You can buy essential oils and add it to wood of your choice; you can scent wood sculptures, furniture, driftwood and even wood walls. Simply rub the essential oil into the wood and refresh it every so often. Another method is to collect the wood of scented herbs and flowers, like Lavender, Cypress, Cherry, Juniper, Lilac, Apple, Pine, etc… Use this wood in your fireplace to scent the house in winter.

MAKE HERB CUSHIONS

Here’s another project for the handy types. It’s not that hard because I can do it and, as I’ve already confessed, I can’t sew. I did it using Fusible Webbing, which I will explain in a moment. Or you can start with a ready made cushion that you would like to set aside for this purpose. I always made my own because every pillow or cushion in our home has been appropriated for another use. To make your own, simply cut out a chosen fabric in a square shape. Make two sides and try to make them even (LOL). The best way to do this is to cut one square first using a ruler to mark it out.  Afterward, lay this square over the remaining fabric and cut around it. This should create matching squares. Get a filler of your choice. I chose fabric filler which was comprised of strips of old clothing and stuff I was throwing out. I did this because I get allergic to fillers and I chose not to add fire retardants. I used fusible webbing to attach 3 sides of the squares. You can sew it if you like.

Lay the fabric square out flat. Lay the fusible webbing around 3 of the edges of the backside of one fabric square. Lay the other square over this one, making sure the edges are closely aligned. Double check to see that the printed side of the fabric is on the outside of the pillow on both sides. This would mean the lower square was face down and the upper square was face up. Now use the iron to heat the webbing around the three edges, leaving a fourth side open. Stuff the partially sealed pillow with the filler of your choice. Once it is almost full, set it aside and get some old hosiery or some fabric mesh. You can buy fabric mesh at the fabric store. If you use the hosiery, simply cut out the feet. Fill the foot or the mesh with the herbs and flowers of your choice but don’t fill it so much that’s thick super thick or lumpy. Fill it so it lays flat but has a fair amount of the herbs or flowers. You can sprinkle this with essential oil as well if you like. Tie off the mesh or the foot and then place it inside the pillow. Put as many in the pillow as you can fit, moving them around to make sure they are in various places and not all lumped together in a corner. After you have them placed and feel good about the feel of the pillow, which may require making some adjustments as you go, then you are ready to seal off the last side of the pillow. If you are a handy seamstress you can add a small zipper to the pillow to make it easy to freshen it in the future. If you want to seal the pillow up and make it disposable, then simply seal it either with sewing or with fusible webbing. Otherwise, you can add a strip of velcro to seal it and make it accessible, too.

If you choose to seal it with fusible webbing, simply add a strip of the webbing to the inside edge on one side of the opening and then iron it down. This will make the pillow seal permanent. If you want it to be accessible but do not want to sew in a zipper, then glue in velcro. Simply follow the directions on the packaging.

SCENTED FLOWERS AND HERBS

This is the same idea as the houseplants but more direct. Instead of absorbing odors, this method simply replaces them or overpowers them. Buy adding scented flowers and herbs to your home, you add lovely smells. You can buy fresh cut on a regular basis or you can actually place living plants. It depends on your lifestyle. You may even choose to grow your own. If you combine with method with the method of using houseplants, the effect is almost perfect. The houseplants absorb the chemicals and odors while the fresh flowers and herbs replace them with their own lovely brand. A quickie way that’s not expensive and doesn’t require a lot of care is to buy some Pathos and put the watering system in the pot (you can buy these online and even the cheap ones are fine). Then do the same with a pot of fresh Lavender. Just make sure that all the plants get some light for at least a few hours a day.

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