Breathe Easy: 10 Natural Air Fresheners


When something stinky takes over your home, the first thing you reach for might be Febreze. But when you run out, you have no choice but to rely on Mother Nature to provide aromatic relief (which, by the way, is better for the environment and your budget). So to help you battle all the stenches and smells that life wafts your way, here are 10 natural air fresheners that make breathing more bearable. (See also: 6 Things in Your Kitchen That Get Rid of Bad Smells Naturally)

1. Vinegar

Vinegar is one of the most effective and inexpensive air fresheners around. Just pour distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle and attack the problem areas head on. The vinegar scent may be overpowering at first, but as it evaporates, it’ll take the offensive odors with it.

2. Kitty Litter

Kitty litter makes sense as a natural air freshener because its main purpose is to mask the scent of a feline’s “business,” but one litter brand in particular — Jonny Cat Litter — is a cut above the rest, according to Joey Green, author of "Joey Green’s Cleaning Magic." The main ingredient in Jonny is diatomaceous earth, a mineral that absorbs odors and moisture in the air. If you can’t find Jonny Cat, settle for straight-up diatomaceous earth, which you can find at a garden supply store.

3. Ground Coffee

To use coffee grounds as an air freshener, let them dry out (an important step to avoid mold) before transferring to a bowl or wrapping in an old stocking that you’ll place in an area that you want to freshen. If you’re not a coffee drinker (I’m among that minority), visit your nearby coffee joint and ask if you can take some of their used grounds off their hands.

4. Potpourri

There are many recipes to make all-natural, homemade potpourri, but I thought you might enjoy this video recipe for “green” potpourri. All you’ll need is a brown bag, dried flowers (passion, hibiscus), orris root, orange peel, juniper berries, sandalwood, and orange-scented essential oil. You can find all these organic ingredients in a natural herb store.

5. Vodka

I bet you never expected vodka to be on this list of all-natural air fresheners, but here it is. The reason vodka makes such a great freshener is because it contains ethyl alcohol — the main ingredient in store-bought, chemical-laden fresheners — and when it dries, it leaves no odor. You can, however, enhance the smell of the vodka freshener with an essential oil — about 25 drops will do. And if I may — use the cheap stuff; you’re not drinking it, so there’s no need to waste the Grey Goose.

6. Citrus and Spices

Bring a pot of orange or lemon rinds and peels to a boil, add in a few cinnamon sticks and/or cloves, and enjoy the fresh, festive fall-like scent it sends through your home. While this freshener will begin to work immediately from the stove, there’s no reason you can’t bottle it for later use. 

7. Essential Oils

Essential oils are an important part of several of these natural air fresheners in order to give the base a more pleasant scent. But outside of vodka and potpourri, you can add essential oils to just about anything — such as a homemade candle, perhaps — that will help facilitate easier breathing wherever you are.

8. Baking Soda and Essential Oils

I like the idea of combining baking soda and essential oils in a small jar to make a natural air freshener for two reasons:

  1. It’s small, unassuming, and aesthetically pleasing.
  2. It’s perfect for gifting.

See how to make your own baking soda air freshener on Couponing 101.

9. The Great Outdoors

Nature is Earth’s air freshener — which is something we often overlook. When there’s a foul odor permeating your abode, open the window — or several — and let the cool breeze travel through your home while pushing out any offensive stenches.

10. Lemons

To remove seafood smells for your hands, it’s recommend to rub them with lemons. Likewise, when your garbage disposal starts to stink, throw a few lemon slices down the hole and run the blades for a burst of citrusy freshness. When you want to deodorize your home, dissolve one-eighth of a cup of baking soda in two cups hot water and a half-cup of lemon juice for an instant air freshener.

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Meg Favreau's picture

The last time I was home, my mom did number six (although sans citrus, I think), and it smelled lovely. I'm also a big fan of the good ol' box of baking soda in the fridge to suck up smells.

Guest's picture

Great tips! Who would have thought of vodka as an air freshener? I'm a huge fan of vinegar and baking soda as air fresheners. They're as cheap as can be and work great!

Guest's picture

I've heard the vodka secret before, but I've never actually tried it. I have, however, used vinegar to get the stench out of a dishwasher at my old apartment. It worked pretty well. I love the smell of coffee when it's brewing, but I'd rather use something like the homemade potpourri as an air freshener.

Guest's picture

I have use the coffee grounds and this works best as an air freshener! Thank you for this wonder article post!

Guest's picture

The article "6 Things in Your Kitchen That Get Rid of Bad Smells Naturally" stated:

"While it only works if you like the odor of java, unbrewed ground coffee can be used to eliminate smells, especially in things that used to belong to smokers, like cars or furniture."

So, just to clarify, unbrewed and brewed coffee grounds (as listed above #3) both work equally as well?

Guest's picture

I work part time as a wardrobe tech for dance theater. We mix water and cheap vodka 50/50 in a spray bottle and use it to remove odors from dance gear (which gets colossally sweaty and gross) when we can't wash. Works great - who needs Febreeze?!