TENSE, NERVOUS HEADACHE? What could be more soothing than a whiff of natural febreze alternatives like lemon or perhaps lavender, both of which are known to have calming properties? But hang on, maybe the chemicals in the scented candle you lit earlier are causing that headache, that itching, even that respiratory problem.
Indeed, research over recent years has suggested that manufactured fragrances can have an adverse impact on modern society – only now are the effects of some of the components being understood, much as toxic white lead was used as a cosmetic for centuries without its harms being realised. In fact, the very properties that make a fragrance easily vapourised, and thus able to stimulate our sense of smell, also mean they’re highly reactive. They may stimulate our immune reactions, too.
Small wonder then that, given the pleasure we often find in lighting a scented candle or giving the air a squirt with some shop-bought concoction, the fragrance industry is seeing a boom in ‘natural’ fragrances. The market is expected to be worth a whopping $4.3bn within the next four years, but even this is misleading. ‘The fact is that all fragrances are chemical. And just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe,’ says fragrance educator Karen Gilbert, who has worked with commercial giant IFF and wellbeing pioneer Neal’s Yard. She stresses that all scents must, by law, be toxicology tested and any known allergens listed. ‘The only way to get a fragrance without any allergens is actually for it to be 100 percent synthetic. Nature is unpredictable. Essential oils are chock full of allergens.’
‘There are other ways to bring scent into the home, through the use of what might be termed fragrance’s source material’
So the natural/synthetic divide is something of a red herring: if you feel a home fragrance is having an effect on you, Gilbert advises simply cutting back on usage. ‘All fragrance was previously used very sparingly, but now it’s in everything, right down to your toilet cleaner,’ she notes. Alternatively, work out your intolerance through a process of elimination or simply don’t use it at all.
Natural Febreze Alternatives
Yet this isn’t to deny the pleasant experience of fragrance in the home. The psychology that connects certain fragrances to certain effects (relaxing, invigorating, bringing focus, improving memory, etc) is not well understood and in fact, for any fragrance to have any effect on the mood it’s because we’ve learned to associate it with some event. Fragrances don’t work like drugs. It’s way more personal.
All the same, your choice of natural febreze alternatives in the home is likely to be evocative, if only of home. People talk of wearing a ‘signature scent, but a home can have one of these too. And, if you simply find a scent at home a welcome break from some of the unpleasant smells we’re assaulted by all day, almost by definition there’s some kind of feel-good factor.
Gilbert adds that there are, of course, other ways to bring scent into the home, through the use of what might be termed fragrance’s physical source material – what a ‘natural’ manufactured scent might claim to use in its production. Fresh-cut flowers are one obvious, if expensive, way – when buying, aim for stems with one open flower and plenty of buds. Certain indoor plants – notably eucalyptus, gardenias, Cuban oregano, and corsage orchids – may not always be the prettiest but offer a longer-lasting natural febreze alternative.
Likewise, some of the herbs that we commonly use in cooking – the likes of parsley, sage, and basil – are also fragrant, so planting up a small indoor kitchen garden is one way to bring a more consistently pleasant note to the air too. The old classic method to create a quick all-purpose air freshener is to bring a pan of water and rosemary to a boil and let it simmer for several hours. Later, once cool, it can be decanted into a spritzer and needs to be kept refrigerated. This simple method also works well with lemon, lavender, or mint.
There are many other natural febreze alternatives to try, too. Put a couple of capfuls of vanilla extract into a mug and bake it on high heat in the oven. Or fragrance as you clean: heat up white vinegar and top up a jar half-filled with citrus peels and some herbs, then seal the jar and let it sit for 24 hours. Strain out the peels and herbs and, diluted to one part vinegar and two parts water, what you have is a good-smelling and effective DIY cleaning spray. It’s also way more planet-friendly than all of those chemical-saturated alternatives.
Even more mundane products can be replaced. Take half a cup of baking soda, add two teaspoons of finely chopped rosemary and some lavender essential oil, mix it up in a food processor and store in a zip-lock bag. Hey presto, you’ve got a carpet or rug freshener. Sprinkle liberally, leave it for around 15 minutes and vacuum up. Baking soda is particularly effective at absorbing stains and unwanted smells, so it powers up the process.
The problem with many of these more obviously natural febreze alternatives is that they tend to require some effort in their preparation, they’re short-lived, or they’re limited in their effect. Their ‘throw’ – as industry types term the power and so reach of a fragrance – is a long way off that of a typical scented candle, incense stick or plug-in scent diffuser (which, it’s worth noting, can be refilled using water and essential oil and then re-used). So for your home to go properly ‘natural’ will require frequent replenishment.
That’s the downside. But the upsides are also clear – what’s likely to drive the ‘natural’ fragrance market over the coming few years is less a concern about health as sustainability. And a more organic approach to scenting one’s home is certainly that. If you feel manufactured scent – whether synthetic or natural, and the line between them is, frankly, very fine – is potentially causing you any problems, it’s surely worth that effort to boil up some rosemary and let its familiar note waft from room to room. It’s better than lighting a candle and finding oneself embraced by some exotic concoction said to be evocative of a Zen Evening – whatever that is.
Article via Planet Mindful.