To those of us who have been affected by multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and related conditions, fragranced products are a major menace. I feel those products rather amusingly called 'air fresheners' deserve special attention because of the way they are advertised to the public.
Manufacturers of 'air fresheners' make out that these products will make the air in our homes
fresh and clean and safe........like the air you'd breath in a mountain forest on a crisp spring day (if the images on some TV ads are to be believed!).
The problem is that a lot of people buy into this message when the reality couldn't be further from the truth. These products are petrochemicals, derived from the same stuff that powers your car. I regularly read reports now that studies are finding indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air, even in urban areas with high levels of traffic pollution. The culprits in this are all the synthetic chemical products, 'air fresheners' included, people use in their homes everyday without giving any thought to what they may be doing to their health.
The problem of course is that people like their homes to smell nice; there wouldn't be such a big market for these products otherwise. People who suffer from MCS are no different, I don't want my place smelling like a pigsty! So what to do?
Well, unlike 'air fresheners' which simply mask unpleasant smells with powerful chemical 'scents', there are a number of ways you can genuinely freshen the air in your home by removing the bad smells themselves, along with any harmful volatile chemicals.
When I first became acutely sensitive to everyday chemicals in a panic I went out and bought myself a rather expensive HEPA filter equipped air purifier. There's no doubt that these machines can effectively remove troublesome volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as well as bad smells from the air in a good sized room but they do have a number of drawbacks. They are expensive (both to purchase and in electricity bills), they are noisy (not good if you need to run them at night), and like any new electrical appliance, they themselves can be a source of MCS triggering VOCs. They also don't remove smells that may be ingrained in carpets etc.
I since discovered there are much cheaper and simpler ways to remove bad smells and really freshen the air in your home. Of course, you can simply open the windows. This is great if you live out in the country but can be a problem in urban/suburban areas where chemicals used by neighbours may waft in e.g. dryer exhaust, vehicle exhaust, pesticides used on the garden etc.
A great odour neutraliser I discovered is bicarbonate of soda (baking powder). This simple and cheap powder is very effective at absorbing nasty smells. A good way to use it is to shake it over carpets before vacuuming (as you would with many less MCS friendly products). It works a treat!
There are many other natural smell neutralisers like this. Filling a spray bottle with half white vinegar and half water and liberally spraying a room will quickly get rid of any nasty smells. Adding orange peel to bins/trash cans will have the same odour neutralising effect.
If you want to add more natural fragrance to your home you can use essential oils heated in water or drop a few sticks of cinnamon into a pot of boiling water. Both work well but those with very serious MCS should be aware that even natural oils found in pure essential oils may actually trigger symptoms.
Just recently I've also discovered a new range of products produced in Germany called 'Smell Busters'. According to the manufacturer they use only a special steel alloy, water and air which in combination react with molecules in the air causing odours, effectively neutralising them. I Can't tell you exactly how this process works (it's patented) but I have tried them out and they do seem to work. What's more, there are versions that slip inside refridgerators, can be used in the car, and also ones that deodourise smelly shoes!
So there you have it. There are a many natural and economical ways you can keep your home (and car) smelling fresh without the need for harsh chemical 'air fresheners'.