Lavender and Eucalyptus
June 4, 2013 9:42 AM   Subscribe

I would love my apartment to smell very strongly of lavender and/or eucalyptus. I have cats, so live plants are sort of out. I would rather avoid having to burn candles. I just sort of want to come home and ensconce myself in the awesomeness. It is about 1000 square feet, and I would like to have the monthly maintenance of this aromatic oasis be about 50 bucks. Thanks in advance.
posted by oflinkey to Home & Garden (40 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This is basically what various kinds of plugin room fragrancers do, for far less than $50 a month. You can buy multiples for one room.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:46 AM on June 4, 2013

You could also hang sachets with dried lavender in your rooms.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:48 AM on June 4, 2013

You can make a room spray with essential oils. (Lavender and eucalyptus oils should be relatively easy to find at a natural foods store.)
posted by Jeanne at 9:50 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

how much work do you want to put into this? if you're willing to do it, you can spray your couch/pillows/carpet/bed/other fabric things with room & linen spray. this sounds like the exact scent you want. the scent lasts for a fairly long time, and i bet if you did it every day, maybe before you left in the mornings, your apartment would smell quite strongly of it.

(i should note that even though it says it's pine, there are supposedly also eucalyptus oils in there!)
posted by kerning at 9:51 AM on June 4, 2013

Lavender essential oil is magical stuff, and potent as hell. A couple drops of it goes a lot way. I put just a drop or two in my tub when I'm running a bath and freg, does it ever scent up the joint. Can you use essential oils?
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:51 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make a wreath of dried lavender and eucalyptus. The latter can make a room smell like itself for years.
posted by xingcat at 9:52 AM on June 4, 2013

I use a Lampe Berger alcohol lamp in my apartment (a little bigger than yours). They make eucalyptus and lavender scented oils (really, 90% isopropyl alcohol with aromatic oils in it). They're really great for "cleaning" the air. You can probably get by diluting the fragrant oils by 50% with 90% isopropyl alcohol from the drug store (there's also an 81% alcohol, or some thing--cannot use that one, only the 90%).

The other fun thing is that the lamps come in a thousand different shapes. You can find one to match your tastes.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:53 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, we had a dried eucalyptus wreath in our house when I was a kid and the thing exuded scent for a long, looooong time.

Also, reed diffusers if you want something that can sort of hide in plain sight.
posted by jquinby at 9:57 AM on June 4, 2013

I have cats, so live plants are sort of out.

Could you hang them from the ceiling?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:59 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've seen people recommend hanging a bunch of eucalyptus leaves from your shower head; the steam releases the fragrance and the oils. Instant decongestant! Example.
posted by carmicha at 10:05 AM on June 4, 2013

Supermarkets sometimes sell bunches of dried eucalyptus that you could hang on the wall as a decorative and nicely smelly touch.
posted by scratch at 10:05 AM on June 4, 2013

You can make lavender sachets with dried buds and muslin bags; add essential oil or a new batch of buds to make the scents last longer. Tuck them in out-of-the-way spots (bookshelves, drawers, on top of cabinets, etc.) so kitties don't get to them.

Alternately, put lavender bouquets or eucalyptus branches in high-up vases, or hang them in bunches from the ceiling or from the showerhead to make eucalyptus steam.

Scented oil rings can also be infused with lavender or eucalyptus essential oil and placed on top of all of your lamp bulbs.
posted by divined by radio at 10:08 AM on June 4, 2013

Bag of lavender. My father used to harvest the plant and make little pillows. Nice under a pillow too.
posted by BenPens at 10:09 AM on June 4, 2013

Just make sure it's not so strong that your neighbors can smell it. Especially if you have shared ventilation ducts (I have one in my bathroom, and I can smell the neighbor's cigarette smoke sometimes.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:13 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

You mention "and/or" for the two scents. So can I just suggest that you strongly consider lavender instead of eucalyptus? To my nose, eucalyptus is one of the most offensive scents around and I will refuse to enter a room that smells strongly of it. I know that I'm not alone in this opinion. So it might be a courtesy to guests, if you ever entertain, to lay off of that stuff.
posted by .kobayashi. at 10:19 AM on June 4, 2013

So you might want to avoid eucalyptus (fresh, dried or essential oil) in your house as it is toxic to cats.

However, fresh and dried lavender is not toxic to cats. The essential oils, being so concentrated, should be handled with more caution so avoid putting them somewhere where your cats can lick it up.
posted by jamaro at 10:20 AM on June 4, 2013

Essential oils and a diffuser.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:21 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thank you all, and if people have still more suggestions, I am willing to entertain them. I should have been more specific, of course, but I was going for brevity and an openness to all suggestions: I Have tried the plug-ins (Bath and Body Works) and I find that they don't work very well. Also, they seem--er--manufactured.

jamaro-- I did not know this. Thank you. Noted and the idea is removed!

Any and all suggestions on the best oils would be appreciated.
posted by oflinkey at 10:32 AM on June 4, 2013

I love the scent of dried eucalyptus. If you can hang a wreath that cats can't reach or knock down, that might be safer. Just so you know, some of it is dyed (often dark green or red), and the dye is water soluble. So if you live in a humid area and don't have air conditioning, the dye can leach out of the leaves and stain walls. Sadly I know this from experience. (Green dye dripping down a wall, ew.)

When I buy it for a vase or am looking for a new wreath, I usually find it at a craft or hobby shop like Michael's. But I prefer dried to the fresh.

Also you might like Dr. Bronner's Eucalyptus or Lavender soaps (bar or liquid) for your personal care if you want a scented bath or shower. They contain the real thing and smell like it! A bar in your drawer will also scent linens or other clothes nicely.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 10:32 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is my favorite "real lavender" scent - this is my second favorite. There are others that are more floral than herbal, and I like those too - this is my favorite "not true lavender" lavender.

I have burned all these in various oil burners - the kind where you fill the top with water and a few drops of oil, then put a tealight underneath. I have also used the lamp rings, but the terracotta ones will eventually crack.
posted by ersatzkat at 10:44 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cats don't eat all plants, so you could try one of the plants around them and see how they react. They also sell bitter sprays you can put on the plant to make the cats not eat them.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:55 AM on June 4, 2013

I keep lavender sachets in with all my clothes in my bedroom. The smell isn't strong but it's there (and helps with moths) I can re-up with more dried lavender at the co-op. I also have a few more open dishes of it in some places. I have eucalyptus in my bathroom and love it. It smells the best when it's near a sunny window so keep that in mind. I just have sprigs hanging form the wall (out of the reach of pets, though I have none) and they smell best when I've taken a long hot shower or, as I said, when the sun shines on them.
posted by jessamyn at 11:00 AM on June 4, 2013

Okay, so, I'm probably about to go WAAAAAY more in-depth than you really want here, but, hey, I'm at work and it's prety slow today.

First, unless your nose can't tell the difference between "lavender" and lavender, avoid things like plugin room sprays, candles, and commercially produced linen sprays. They have about as much lavender in them as bat guano. Also, if you have guests over often, a lot of people have sensitivity to those smells (I can't even walk down the laundry aisle at the supermarket without holding my breath, or I'll get a raging headache.)

Secondly, you say that you want everything to smell like lavender. Which is awesome! I also want everything to smell like lavender! Lavender is one of my favorite smells. The question becomes: which lavender? Lavenders smell different. Different varieties, different places (soil composition), different concentrations, even how the smell is presented (herbal sachet full of lavender buds vs. pure essential oil from the bottle) will affect the smell in different ways.

The good news is it's easy to make your own room sprays and things like that. Put some essential oil (EO) in a spraybottle full of distilled water, shake before use, and spray away! The bad news is, without a "fixative" like what's in a commercial spray, it won't last all that long. But most mid-grade lavender oil is cheap so you can use it a lot. You can also put the same mixture in an electric oil burner or a lamp bulb ring. For sprays, you might also consider using lavender hydrosol, which is the water that is used to steam out the lavender oil. Since not all of the oil can be extracted and some amount always stays behind, it has a really great scent, and they're relatively cheap too. To me, they have a rounder, fuller scent than just EO in water.

Let's talk essential oils for a minute though. Lavender grosso is probably the most common that you would get in an EO. Lavender grosso is that very strong, kinda metallic, 'sharp' lavender smell. It's nice but to me it doesn't actually smell like running my hands over a lavender plant. French lavender, Bulgarian lavender, or even better (if you can get it), CO2-extracted lavender are much nicer to my nose. You might want to try a lavender sample pack so you can pin down which one you like best. Once you've narrowed it down, you can buy more of your favorite or try even more lavender varities.

Oh, and the thing with essential oils is that sometimes they actually smell better (and stronger!) diluted. So if you're not getting what you want out of them, dilute them 1:9 in a neutral carrier oil, like sweet almond or fractionated coconut oil. Then try putting it in your burner or bulb ring or whatever.

Lastly, if you're not opposed to judiciously using a few chemical compounds, you could try adding a fixative like Glucam P-20 to your household/laundry sprays, isopropyl myristate to your diffusers, or even a little bit of dihydromyrcenol or terpineol alpha acetate mixed with your EO blend to help fix the fragrance and make it longer lasting.

Sorry I wrote you a novel. Perfumery is a really fascinating art.

Oh, and, by the way, Trader Joe's sells these and they are quite nice! I put them in my drawers and in my laundry. I imagine it would be very easy to buy small drawstring muslin bags and bulk lavender buds and make your own so you can refresh them, too!
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:40 AM on June 4, 2013 [15 favorites]

The oil rings on the light bulbs as linked above work pretty well. You could even have a lamp on a timer to turn on just before you get home so there's fresh scent when you walk in!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:41 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

By the way: Neither lavender nor eucalyptus plants are likely to be happy living in an apartment. (Eucalyptus is generally a tree.) The cats are the least if your worries. (You might be able to keep lavender alive in a sunny window for a while, but it won't be happy long term.)
posted by purpleclover at 11:43 AM on June 4, 2013

I use a Classic Ultrasonic Nebulizer with Aura Cacia lavender essential oil, Aura Cacia eucalyptus essential oil, doTerra lavender essential oil, or doTerra Serenity essential oil blend (lavender, sweet marjoram, roman chamomile, ylang ylang, sandalwood, and vanilla). I rotate the different oils so my nose doesn't “get tired,” but that’s just me. Sometimes I mix the Aura Cacia and doTerra lavenders. (Each use requires a total of 3–5 drops.)

The nebulizer has adjustable time & intensity settings. My only complaint is that it beeps when the water level drops too low.

Oh, and I second the Trader Joe’s Lavender Dryer Bags.
posted by editorgrrl at 12:02 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can get electric essential oil burners and nebulizers. A couple of drops of each essential oil will make your whole house smell lovely. Also lemongrass goes nicely with Eucalyptus but you an mix and match to your hearts content. Oils are so much more flexible with what you can do with them than the plug ins from the supermarket, and smell better in my opinion.

Warning though buying and mixing up essential oils to make nice smells can become addictive, luckily the oils are pretty cheap.
posted by wwax at 12:11 PM on June 4, 2013

Plants in bird cages is another possibility.
posted by Bruce H. at 12:26 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pelindaba Lavender Farm on San Juan Island in Washington state has really nice lavender stuff. They seem to offer several options for scenting the home. I bought some pure lavender oil when I got married 11 years ago, and it still smells strong and nice.
posted by leahwrenn at 1:42 PM on June 4, 2013

Be aware that one's nose will tire of a scent and you won't be able to smell it after awhile when home. I work in a florist shop and everyone always talks about how good it smells when they walk in. After I am at work for awhile I don't notice the fragrance.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:00 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another fragrance dabbler here. I scent my laundry with lavender by putting a few (or more) drops of essential oil into a new bottle of (formerly) fragrance free liquid laundry softener.

In the winter, I put a few drops (or more) into the water container of my tabletop humidifier and that spreads the scent through the upstairs in my house. Mind you, the oil has etched the plastic water container, if that is an issue for you.
posted by sarajane at 2:43 PM on June 4, 2013

showbiz_liz said: "I have cats, so live plants are sort of out.

Could you hang them from the ceiling

Poor kitties!

To do this, I'd go down the electric oil heater route. I have a Yankee candle one, which has a ceramic bowl on top to contain the essential oil and an element underneath to heat the bowl up. A little lavender essential oil in some large salt crystals (don't use table salt, it doesn't work properly) and you're set. You could even have it set on a timer so that it comes on about half an hour before you come home.

Alpine lavender is supposedly of a higher quality than the other types, as it has a higher concentration of esters (possibly the wrong chemical) which make it more relaxing. Avoid lavandula steochas, however. It's unlikely you'll be able to get it as it's not used in aromatherapy due to its high proportion of ketones. I have a 100ml bottle of lavandula angustifolia essential oil that cost me about £6. It smells as you'd expect, like proper lavender from the garden and not of nasty supposedly "nature identical" chemicals.

An easy way to get an instant hit is just to sprinkle a few drops of essential oil on a piece of kitchen tissue and leave it nearby you. The oils will evaporate quite readily and scent the air nearby. I've also sprinkled the essential oil, neat, onto the carpet without any ill effects whatsoever. Your cats will probably not thank you for this though.

When buying essential oils, look for those listed as "pure and natural". Blended oils are the essential oil in a carrier oil, usually some kind of vegetable oil. They're not as strong as the undiluted sort and likely won't scent your room as effectively. The pure stuff is where it's at.

I've made room sprays in the past by adding some essential oil to some cheap vodka then adding that to water in a spray bottle. The oils mix with the alcohol which mixes with the water. Otherwise, you have oil and water. You can get the same sort of effect by shaking the bottle before spraying though.

Fun fact: you can make lavender tea from lavender flowers, which is purple. It turns bright pink if you add lemon juice.
posted by Solomon at 2:49 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use Mrs. Meyers Lavender scented all purpose cleaner. I dilute it and put it on my mop, in the toilet, just about anywhere I can think of. The smell lingers for a few days and then finally disappears, but by then it is time to wipe something else down.
posted by cairnoflore at 2:56 PM on June 4, 2013

FYI, essential oils are toxic to cats.
posted by travelwithcats at 3:53 PM on June 4, 2013

Eucalytus oil is used in many homemade cleaning products. Two birds, one stone.
posted by kjs4 at 4:50 PM on June 4, 2013

Just a heads up on the eucalypt front: I had six cats at one point in an area that was basically eucalypt forest and they showed no desire at all to eat the leaves. Eucalypt leaves are leathery and hard and taste like balls. The Australian eucalpty forests are full of feral cats and our lives would be much easier if they were killed off by the trees.
posted by Jilder at 5:00 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know a couple who own a cat who had a bowl of scent chips in their living room, and the cat was fine (didn't chew on them or anything as far as I know); you just stir them up with your hands when you want to refresh the scent in the room. Looks like they do have eucalyptus- and lavender-scented ones!
posted by limeonaire at 5:45 PM on June 4, 2013

A few thoughts:

#1: Olfactory Fatigue. St. Alia of the Bunnies covered this above, but it's worth repeating. If you make your home smell like lavender, after a while, you won't smell it anymore. This happens to everyone. It's basically a defense mechanism, where your brain starts to ignore the smell that it recognizes as a constant (and, thus, not harmful) in order to pay more attention to changing smells. It's the same sort of thing as how people who live near something noisy after a while don't even notice anymore.

#2: Bulb Rings: They might not work if you're using modern bulbs. I recently switched from old fashioned light bulbs to the new LED thingamabobs, and wow do they run cool. I never thought about how much heat a light bulb generates until I stopped using them. But that heat is part of what makes a ceramic bulb ring work.
posted by 2oh1 at 7:41 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah! Solomon nailed something I forgot to mention-- for a scent and taste experience, lavender tea can't be beat. That one's from a company and in a fancy tin, but any dried organic lavender buds will do. It is a gentle, tasty beverage and makes great lemonade as well.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:14 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use a combination of many of the things mentioned but would also recommend the bonus pleasure of simply using bars of fine French lavender soap and stashing your extra bars in bathroom, linen and bedroom closets. (Even the wrappers make perfectly serviceable drawer sachets).

Once you've found the essential oils, soaps, sprays, potpourris, etc. that are perfect, keep on looking because I agree with others that you will need a new supplier after a time--maybe a few years. I've changed favorites several times over the years I've endeavored to live in a lavender-scented environment and find a new lavender will often refresh my senses so I can enjoy my favorite anew.

I have used their line of lavender products in the past and enjoy the Frasier Fir line as well from Thymes. I'd suggest the Frasier Fir as a possible substitute for eucalyptus. I like it in the kitchen and den although I want the lavender everywhere else.

Even though it is not really possible to raise lavender indoors, a small pot of lavender in a sunny window will last a few weeks and, for lavender lovers, is a better investment than cut flowers. The leaves are fragrant, not just the flowers, and you might find the cat will not bother it because of the smell.
posted by Anitanola at 2:24 AM on June 8, 2013

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