Air Fresheners Are Often Toxic — Here's A Safer Way To Make Your Home Smell Cozy
The holidays may be behind us, but it's never a bad idea to give your home a cozy, fragrant vibe—especially as the long, dark nights of winter drag on. Who doesn't want to walk into their space greeted by a rush of cinnamon apple spice?
Board-certified internal medicine doctor and toxicity expert Vivian Chen, M.D., is certainly not one to knock a deliciously aromatic ambience, but if you're concerned about reducing toxins in your home, you might want to take a closer look at your freshener of choice. "These air fresheners are very common sources of endocrine disrupters like phthalates. So that would be the first thing to go," she says regarding common endocrine disrupters on the mindbodygreen podcast.
That doesn't mean you must sacrifice all the coziness! See below for Chen's alternate tips:
"I personally love candles, but they can also be a source of carcinogens, like benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, and phthalates," says Chen. These airborne particles can be harmful to health in high doses. Research has shown1 that burning a candle at home is unlikely to emit enough particulate matter to harm health, but during the colder months when you tend to keep your windows closed (aka, right about now), it may create more of a vortex effect.
That doesn't mean you should avoid candles entirely. Chen's solution? "You can look for soy or beeswax. Those are better," she notes. If you do opt for beeswax, just make sure it's 100% on the label; many candles include a blend of paraffin and another wax but will call it a "beeswax."
As for fragrance, seek products with 100% naturally derived essential oils, that are phthalate-free, or that further explain the "fragrance" to be natural and nontoxic. I personally adore all of Brooklyn Candle Studio's products, especially this Montana Forest blend.
Ah, simmer pots. If you're in the mood to DIY your own moody scent, you can't go wrong with one of these warm mixtures. It's also incredibly easy to whip up: All you need to do is add your fruit and spices of choice to a large pot of water, bring to a boil, then uncover and let it simmer for two to three hours. Trust me, it will make your whole home smell like the holiday season never left.
Feel free to browse TikTok for a slew of simmer pot recipes—my current favorite is this orange, apple, bay leaf, cinnamon, clove, and peppermint blend. But go ahead and let your creativity run wild. Vanilla! Cranberries! Grapefruit! Rosemary! The fragrance blends are truly endless.
The best part? Let it cool in the fridge once you're done, then you can heat it back up the next day.
Or if you'd like a quick hit of scent, opt for a scented room spray. These mists are super useful for reviving stale air, refreshing clothes between launderings, and even masking odors on cloth furniture. The thing is, though, many premade blends can include those harmful chemicals we discussed above (benzene2, phthalates, and the like), so always look for transparent formulas that explain what ingredients are being used and why.
At mindbodygreen, we are certainly proud of the essential oils we selected for our fabulous dream mist: Sandalwood grounds the formula and provides a warm, rich aroma, while lavender, Roman chamomile, and linden blossom offer delicate, herby notes to soothe the senses. It's a great, subtle aroma to nudge you into a restful, calmer head space—but feel free to browse our other favorite mists here.
Some air fresheners have been associated with carcinogens and harmful health outcomes, which is why Chen recommends opting for more natural sources of scent, like clean-burning soy candles and essential oils. Of course, essential oils come with their own safety concerns, too—check out our full guide to using these aromatic oils and reaping their therapeutic benefits.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.