What air fresheners are good but not overwhelming?
December 21, 2009 1:45 PM   Subscribe

My friends have commented on how strong the air freshener in my apartment is. What brands or methods are good for a place with poor ventilation?

I'm a nonsmoker with no pets who has been trying to maintain a nice-smelling apartment using the Air Wick brand of plug-in fresheners, usually with whichever scent seems least likely to be overpowering. The apartment has four rooms: kitchen, living/dining, bathroom, and bedroom. Only the kitchen and the bathroom have ventilation shafts, while the living room and bedroom both have windows. My friends tell me that my place smells strongly of air freshener, and that they can sometimes smell it from outside my window (I live on the ground floor), or even worse, on my clothes. The thing is, it's usually on the lowest possible setting, unless I'm cooking. Whenever I try to cook anything with even moderate aroma, I can smell it for a day or two, although that's better than the week or so from before the freshener. This poor ventilation seems to be the main culprit, but I 'm not sure if there's anything to be done about that, certainly not by me. Plus, I get used to the scent after about a day, so I can't tell how strong it is.

So what can I do to neutralize odors and/or make my place smell good? It can be other brands of freshener, although I'm certainly open to other methods (including natural solutions) as long as they're not strong-smelling either. I'm somewhat of a brown thumb though, and my heating/cooling system seems to dry the place out. Also, I'm not sure if it makes a difference, but 90% of the apartment has carpeting that is vacuumed every week or two.
posted by zombieflanders to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I have the same problem with my place. I've turned to using baking soda in most places, just leaving a box in the smelly areas, and sprinkling baking soda when vacuuming. Helped immensely. I also find candles help clear the air - not even scented ones, just light them and leave them burn for a little while in the smell-trapped areas.
posted by lizbunny at 1:52 PM on December 21, 2009

Best answer: To me all air fresheners are disgusting, and just about any smell that air fresheners are supposed to mask is still better than the air freshener. This is not a universal preference, but I know I'm not the only one who has it (there were a lot of complaints when air fresheners were added to the bathrooms at a previous workplace), and perhaps your friends feel the same way.
posted by grouse at 2:04 PM on December 21, 2009 [21 favorites]

I think candles are a great option for you. I like to use the Jar Candles from Yankee Candle-- the scents are never overpowering-- they are very mild. Pop the lid off and light it up for 30mins - hour to clear out smells.
posted by OrangeSoda at 2:05 PM on December 21, 2009

Sometimes candles are even too smelly for me, so I like to go the more natural route. I use plain baking soda as a "carpet fresh" by sprinkling it around on my carpet, letting it sit for about a half an hour, and then vacuuming it up. If you don't have pets that would get into it, you can also put bowls of white distilled vinegar around the house to suck up smells. Also, every once in a while if you want a kick of scent (especially if it's cold out), you can put a pot of water on the stove with some cinnamon sticks and/or orange peels and bring it to a boil for a while.
posted by scarykarrey at 2:11 PM on December 21, 2009

I swear by Fresh Wave products. I especially like the spray air freshener and the jars of continous release gel. You may find it a bit pricier than what you can buy at the grocery store, but I think it's well worth it as you will not have that strong "air freshener" smell and these products really work! I think you can usually find Fresh Wave at hardware stores and Bed Bath & Beyond if you don't want to order online.
posted by bookmammal at 2:12 PM on December 21, 2009

Linen scented candles work for me. They're like the white noise of smells.
posted by debbie_ann at 2:16 PM on December 21, 2009

The plug-in Airwick are kind of strong. I like oil diffusers, the kind with reeds (not electric). Also, unlit scented candles and potpourri.
posted by fifilaru at 2:20 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

What happens if you don't use any air fresheners and just open a window instead? Do friends complain more? Less? The same?

I think you need to find that out first.

(Personally, I'm with grouse. Almost every air freshener smell makes my throat close up in revulsion, the same as when an old woman wearing way too much perfume sits next to me on the subway.)
posted by rokusan at 2:23 PM on December 21, 2009

If your place is clean, you shouldn't need air freshener. It's a scam. If a specific odor is bothering you at a specific time (such as cooking smells), I recommend Ozium. But pumping perfume chemicals into the air you breathe 24-7 is unnecessary.
posted by decathecting at 2:24 PM on December 21, 2009 [7 favorites]

I'm with grouse: perhaps your friends just prefer cooking smells to chemical smells. Candles, potpourri, heating cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves on the stove in a saucepan with some water and a dash of lemon juice--all of those are better solutions, for me, than air fresheners, because those make me a bit sick.

However, it's your apartment and your clothes. If you like the smell of Air Wick or Glade or whatever, let your air-freshener flag fly.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:26 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree that AirWick/Febreze/Glade-type air fresheners are on the strong side. I've found those reed diffusers work well (the oil in the bottle with little wooden sticks in it). They always come with a bunch of sticks but I've always found that just 3 sticks is tolerable. Any more and I get a headache.

Candles are also great, and yes, some candles can also be too strong.
posted by choochoo at 2:27 PM on December 21, 2009

No bad smell = good smell. Perfume smell = bad smell.

Keep in mind that the olfactory sense quickly adjusts to strong smells. It may be that you can barely smell the fragrance because you've been breathing it in all day. While it may be very strong to your friends who just walked in.

I would also keep in mind that the air freshener stuff you are breathing in all day is likely toxic.
posted by whiskeyspider at 2:39 PM on December 21, 2009

You can buy unscented air fresheners which are designed to neutralise odours rather than cover them up with more scent. They don't always get rid of everything but do make a noticeable difference. Wiping down benches, stove tops and walls after cooking can do a surprising amount of reduce lingering cooking smells, often a small layer of evapourated grease or whatever gets left behind which isn't visible or dirty as such but still contributes to the smell. We use baking soda flavoured spray n wipe to good effect. The baking soda sprinkled around before vacuuming will also help, as will any amount of time you can manage with a window open. Leaving boxes of baking soda or bowls of vinegar around might help too, and it's cheap and non-scented so worth a try even if it doesn't end up working for you.

I'm allergic to a lot of different scents so would be with your friends in complaining, although not as a matter of taste exactly (my throat closing up is involuntary not revulsion).
posted by shelleycat at 2:46 PM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Leaving boxes of baking soda or bowls of vinegar around might help too, and it's cheap and non-scented

Vinegar has a very strong smell. I would be beyond freaked out if I went into someone's apartment and it smelled like vinegar.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:50 PM on December 21, 2009

The lingering smell of food is by far preferable to chemical air fresheners, in my opinion.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:52 PM on December 21, 2009

Maybe it depends on which type of vinegar you buy? My cheap white vinegar smells hardly at all and wouldn't be strong enough to smell up the place, but the malt vinegar probably would be weird. I was thinking of the cheap plain stuff and in small quantities.
posted by shelleycat at 2:53 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have two candles: a nice light citrus-y one for everyday, and a cinnamon/spice/wine one for entertaining. I get a lot of "OMG it smells so GOOD in here"s. The trick is to avoid cheap candles. Anthropologie tends to have very nice ones that go on sale often.
posted by oinopaponton at 3:16 PM on December 21, 2009

Best answer: Air purifier. I have a big ol' round Honeywell air purifier and the improvement is amazing. I hadn't really noticed how stale the air in my poorly-ventilated apartment was until I started traveling for work - I'd come home and the odor would hit me hard for a day or two. Then we got the air purifier and now the inside of the house smells nice and fresh, with no need to add coverup scents.
posted by Billegible at 3:20 PM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: candles labeled as linen or cucumber or white tea or laundry are generally good and neutral.

if there's a strong smell i have to diffuse like when i cook chili and it smells like it for 3 days - i use lysol disinfecting spray in the "crisp" linen scent. just spray a little, open your windows, and it'll all go back to good. you can also set up a fan in your window so it blows outside right after you cook. this pulls the air/smells out of your apartment. doing this for 15 minutes or so should normalize everything and add some much needed ventilation.

i'm pretty sensitive with perfume-y type scents. i hate, hate, hate, the plug in fresheners, scented oils, incense, and any strong scented candles.
posted by nadawi at 3:27 PM on December 21, 2009

If you have it, use the exhaust fan over your oven when you cook, or just turn on a regular fan and open the window. When you vacuum, sprinkle plain baking soda around first. Also, I hate scented candles and plug-in air fresheners, but I find this orange essential oil air spray tolerable when used sparingly (it's very strong).
posted by hooray at 3:28 PM on December 21, 2009

Response by poster: Good ideas here, especially the air purifier, which I hadn't thought of. BTW, when I cook I usually use the exhaust fan and open the windows. Also, I'd like to try out the baking soda method, but since my vacuum is a Roomba, which uses random paths that would make timing difficult. In any case, the fresheners have been tossed.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:42 PM on December 21, 2009

you can get little window mounted fans to suck out while you're cooking, then turn them around to suck in fresh air. works seriously great. also all the sound engineers I know swear by Nag Champa incense (satya sai baba brand) is the best defunkifier ever for beer-and-fart-filled arenas. burns very clean and doesn't leave a lasting perfume.
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:57 PM on December 21, 2009

Baking soda all over the carpet as you leave, before the Roomba runs.... that would be a heck of a Roomba test.
posted by rokusan at 3:57 PM on December 21, 2009

It seems like you keep your place very clean. If you don't smoke or have pets or have severe lower intestinal issues, why do you think your place has offensive smells which have to be masked? If you cook with healthy ingredients and fresh herbs and spices, your place will smell great and homey. Most domestic stench comes from unwashed people, stinky pets, dirty laundry, messy kitchens and rubbish overflow.
Peppermint is a wonderful clean smell. I keep my dusting rags in a drawer infused with peppermint extract.
posted by Pennyblack at 6:04 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I do something similar to Pennyblack, in that I keep my dusting cloths infused with orange and cinnamon essential oils, or bergamot/petit grain/geranium, depending on the time of year. I also keep make essential oil beads which I leave in dishes in inconspicuous places. (I have 200 pounds of dogs, cats, kids, and I cook a lot.) I vacuum with baking soda; and even my allergy prone friends have never noticed any odors, unless they visit during rain storm (wet dog), or while I'm making dinner.

But those artificial scenting modules? I can't even be near them. They trigger massive headaches and sniffles for me.
posted by dejah420 at 6:53 PM on December 21, 2009

You could give lampe berger a try.
posted by bluefrog at 6:19 AM on December 22, 2009

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