Home Hacks

This All-Natural, DIY Air Freshener Has a Surprising Secret Ingredient

September 14, 2016

Ah, the smell of home. There’s nothing like it. But what is that smell to you? Short ribs braising in the Le Creuset? Freshly laundered linens? Salty sea air wafting up from the shore? A pot of basil growing on the windowsill? Freshly brewed coffee?

If, like three out of four Americans, you routinely use air fresheners, you’re probably adding a lot more to your home than an aerosolized interpretation of “summer rain” or “strawberry jasmine.”  But these store-bought air fresheners don’t seem so fresh when you actually read the ingredients: phthalates, formaldehyde, p-dichlorobenzene, and more. Chemicals in common air fresheners, plug-in scents, and even some candles have been linked to developmental and reproductive disorders, various cancers, and breathing problems like asthma.

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Luckily, there’s a better, natural way to de-stink your home! Enter essential oils. These concentrated, potent essences of plants pack a powerful olfactory punch, without the risk of chemical air fresheners. Essential oils are fun and flexible: You can blend and combine different oils until you find just the right fragrance to freshen your home. Paired with a good basic cleaning routine and common household products (like vodka!), essential oils are the natural way create the home you’ve been sniffing around for.

A great choice for folks looking for a room-freshening spray with a clean, fresh, and just slightly medicinal vibe, this Cleansing Air Freshener is paired with one of my favorite essential oil blends. Here's how to make it yourself: 

What you'll need:

24 drops tea tree essential oil
16 drops rosemary essential oil 
16 drops peppermint essential oil 
small bowl, for combining oils
4- to 8-ounce spray bottle
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons vodka

How to make your own all-natural air freshener (about ½ cup):

Step 1: Mix your oils.

Combine tea tree, rosemary, and peppermint essential oils in a small bowl. I call this combination my Fresh and Cleansing Essential Oil Blend, which is a personal favorite. It makes an excellent all-purpose, refreshing scent, so if you're able to double or triple the batch you can use it in spray cleaners, hair rinses, and hair styling creams, as well as in body and room sprays. The tea tree oil makes this blend especially appropriate for deodorant sticks, powders, or sprays—where a little boost of natural antibacterial power is appreciated.

Step 2: Make the air freshener. 

In a 4- to 8-ounce spray bottle, combine the water, vodka, and essential oils. (Alternatively, you can swap in 30 to 60 drops of essential oils of your choice instead of the Fresh and Cleansing blend.) Cap lid tightly and shake to combine. The freshener will last indefinitely, though the essential oil scent may fade over time. 

Step 3: Use it. 

Shake the spray bottle well, and then spray the freshener into the air, around furniture, or on rugs. Don’t saturate fabrics; just mist!  

We originally ran this post last fall but we brought it back as a first fall refresh.

What are your favorite all-natural DIYs? Let us know in the comments.

Blogger Erica Strauss is the author of a new book, The Hands On Home, and these photos are from the book!

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Erica Strauss

Written by: Erica Strauss


Brianna P. October 14, 2015
Is there supposed to be baking soda added? I'm seeing dry ingredients as the main subject in the photo, but nothing in the recipe.
jblock October 11, 2015
Can sub witch hazel for vodka!
CalamityintheKitchen October 11, 2015
You're here! Yea! Food52 just got so much better.
What a lovely surprise for an otherwise ho-hum day. I feel almost as perked up as I would if I sprayed this lovely blend around!
My favorite combo for the fresh clean house smell is lemon and sage. Never thought to add vodka, I usually just mix the essential oils right into water. Does the vodka help carry the oil? With just ess. oil and water, they separate and need to good shake every time before use.....
David C. October 10, 2015
Looks like someone cut a fat deal with the MLM's...
Brett October 9, 2015
Natural oils are complex mixtures of many chemical moieties, including aldehydes (formaldehyde is an aldehyde), esters, and alcohols. Some of these natural scents include sensitizing agents as well--cinnamaldehyde in particular (the primary constituent in cinnamon oil). I have no problem with touting natural fragrances, but it needs to from an informed position. Saying things like natural oils are better simply because they are natural has no scientific basis.
Louie L. October 9, 2015
New at this...where to buy oils? and do you have to use Vodka? any other
liquid to substitute...is the vodka about the longevity of the mix...I can't stand the spray bottles of air freshener...always end up smelling like the items shaped like a Christmas tree hanging on a string...and currently my dryer sheets have not been lasting very long...so I appreciate your info and would love to know if I could use something other than Vodka...maybe Alcohol rub (for medicinal purposes?) just wondering...thank you so much?
arcane54 October 9, 2015
I use EOs a lot and this sounds like a lovely combination for many household uses. I have one caution based on experience: before you use this for any purpose that involves skin contact, test it first. I found out the hard way that I am one of the 1:1000 people who are allergic to tea tree oil (goes by melaleuca, too). Thanks for the simple, clean, natural alternative!
Susan H. October 9, 2015
i like to simmer cloves, cinnamon and orange peel!!!!