Homemade Air Freshener




About: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design from Parsons School of Design in NYC. Since then I've done work for Mart...

Although reaching for that shiny Glade air freshener is an easy way to cover up odors, or scent the air in your home, most commercial scent products are full of chemicals that contribute to unhealthy indoor air and often just mask an underlying problem. As a result, I'm a big fan of natural, homemade air fresheners and good old elbow grease to keep my house smelling great.

In this Instructable, I'll go over simple ways to make sure the air in your home is as fresh, chemical-free, and naturally scent-a-licious as possible!

Step 1: First, Clean the Air With Elbow Grease

The least fun, but most important part of this equation = house cleaning.

If there are sources of bad odors in your home, trying to cover them up with another scent can make for some pretty strong and terrible smells. So first thing's first:

  • empty all your trash/compost receptacles regularly and wash them with bleach water periodically
  • manage your pet's output (i.e.: keep litter boxes clean and regularly vacuum carpets and upholstery)
  • use bathroom and kitchen fans to keep odors and moisture out of the house
  • clean bathrooms thoroughly and regularly
  • open windows whenever weather permits; fresh air is the ultimate air freshener!
  • keep basements as dry and clean as possible
  • regularly clean out and wash the fridge; keep an open box of odor absorbing baking soda on a shelf as a back up

Note: If you ever have mild, but stinky smoke damage from a failed cooking experiment, wash all the surfaces with a mix of vinegar and water and place out a few bowls of vinegar. The vinegar will be it's own version of stinky, but it does a great job of neutralizing the 'burnt' smell.

Step 2: Get Clean by Getting Green!

Plants are natural air purifiers. More than just a pretty face, plants ability to absorb gases such as carbon dioxide, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), and other harmful chemicals make them great allies in the fight for high quality indoor air.

They also help remind us of life outside our box! Good for the air, good for the spirit. The more plants, the better!

Plants with proven air purifying track records are: spider plants, Boston ferns, purple waffle plants, English ivy, areca palms, golden pothos, aloe vera, and snake plants.

Step 3: Natural Air Freshener No.1

Now that the air in your house is as scrubbed and clean as possible, it's time to think about adding subtle scents that will be healthy and uplifting.

One of my favorite natural smells is eucalyptus. If it wouldn't raise so many questions out in the world, I would tape a piece of it to my nose so that I could smell it ALL THE TIME. But since that wouldn't go with most of my outfits, I'm left with placing it strategically around my home.

One of the most effective places is the shower. The warm steam helps to release the oils and it's like you're showering in an Australian jungle. (If such a thing existed.)

It's also effective in vases, in water or dried.

Eucalyptus = magic.

Step 4: Natural Air Freshener No.2

Coffee, in whole or ground form, is also a wonderful and subtle room scent. I've seen soap stores leave out tiny containers of it as a sniffer neutralizer, so your nose can take a break in between smelling different scents. It's like pressing an olfactory reset button.

Use small, decorative containers to fill with unused grounds or beans and put them in rooms that need a bit of 'grounding'.

Step 5: Natural Air Freshener No.3

This next one is the most effective in filling a whole floor of your house with deliciousness! If you've ever made mulled wine during the holidays, or even sautéed onions for that matter, you know how powerful heating spices and foods on the stovetop can be.

I only use this stovetop freshener method for parties or special events because it requires attention and supervision. Doing it while preparing a meal is the best time to try this since you've already got your eye on the stove.

There are an endless number of yummy smelling combinations, but this recipe is one of my favorites:

  1. Fill a small pot 3/4 full of water.
  2. Slice one lime and add it to the pot.
  3. Toss in a few stems of fresh mint and thyme.
  4. Add one tsp of vanilla or a vanilla bean pod.
  5. Bring to a boil and then instantly reduce to a simmer.
  6. Let it simmer for as long as you'd like to, adding more water as needed - just make sure you don't forget about it! Set a timer on your phone just to be safe. I don't want you to need to do the vinegar trick from the elbow grease step... : )

It's that simple - and really effective. Some other good recipes to try are:

  • lemon, rosemary, & vanilla
  • orange, ginger, & almond extract
  • pine twigs, nutmeg, & bay leaves
  • oranges & cloves

Step 6: Natural Air Freshener No.4

I saved the best for last! Not only does this sprayable freshener smell wonderfully uplifting, it actually cleans the air, killing odor causing bacteria. (A natural replacement for Lysol!!) I use this to deodorize my compost and garbage cans/lids in between cleanings and to keep the bathroom smelling fresh. Unfortunately it doesn't work on the pets... : )

Ok, here's what you need to make this magic happen:

  • cheap vodka (aka bacteria killer)
  • small unused spray bottle
  • essential oil of choice (I use Sweet Orange, but Lavendar and Lemongrass are also great)
  • small funnel

The How-To:

  1. Add 40-50 drops of essential oil to the spray bottle.
  2. Using your funnel, fill the bottle half way up with vodka.
  3. Fill it the rest of the way up with water, distilled if you have it. (Not to worry if you don't! Tap will do.)
  4. Shake!

Step 7: Label It!

So that everyone in the house, including guests, knows what it is, label your bottle either with a custom label (I laser cut a thin cork one) or with a permanent marker.

Step 8: Stay Fresh!

Remember that the most important ally in keeping indoor air fresh is fresh air itself. Open your windows as often as weather permits and employ the ideas here to enhance nature's work.

I'd love to hear the different ways you keep your air fresh!

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    23 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Dried and fresh lavender - lots of antibacterial agents, smells good and helps you sleep!


    3 years ago on Step 8

    YOU are awesome!!! thanks for this!!!!!!


    Apple cider vinegar is also a good natural air purifier. It doesn't leave a scent, but is great as a neutral air freshener :)


    4 years ago on Step 6

    Just a little science input here: vodka contains about 40% alcohol. Sanitizers and disinfectants must contain at least 62% (for skin) or higher levels for surfaces (70%) in order to effectively kill microbes. The alcohol concentration in vodka will certainly volatilize and help distribute the aromatic scents you add, but it's not good as a germ-killer. If you primarily want disinfection/sanitization, use the cheap isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol - like what you can get in the dollar store. Just make sure you start with at least the 70% kind (they do sell lower concentrations, so read the fine print).


    4 years ago on Introduction

    We, the lazy slob's of the world (my wife and I) found that after installation of our industrial powered sink Disposal and the flushing of most organic food waste down the drain the odors emitted by the garbage can disappeared. Also being one of the few in our town to take full advantage of curbside recycling which is subsidized by all City taxpayers now generate approx. 1 bag of garbage unfit for the recycling bin every 2 weeks. I'm aware our water use has risen while rinsing food cans, bottles, etc. making them acceptable for the bin but it's definitely worth it. We'll for sure try your Air fresheners as commercially available products have got to be offensive to anyone not odorifically (?) retarded. Being politically incorrect but a lifelong lover of Free Feline's and their love of the outdoors, hence no Litter box, our only odor problem is now the 100 lbs. of Dog my wife insist we maintain. Love and your Freshener shall conquer all!



    4 years ago on Introduction

    Would rubbing alcohol work just as well as vodka? (Except that (1) it is poisonous, so you'd want to make sure none drink it, and (2) it is more concentrated than vodka, so you may want to dilute it slightly with water.)

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    ethanol is very similar to rubbing alcohol and drinking alcohol and technically drinking alcohol is poison also. but yes it would work.


    4 years ago on Step 8

    About what size spray bottle is that? 4 ounces?


    4 years ago



    5 years ago on Introduction

    I use shop bought Scented sprays for my home. You have presented some great ideas for safer ways to make sprays. I have a supply of Vodka in the cupboard and some Lavender Oil so am going to try this. Thank you