Air fresheners are products used throughout the home to cover or remove offensive or unpleasant odours. An estimated 75 per cent of American households use some form of air freshener in the home, whether it is a bottled spray or a plug-in product. Air fresheners may be used to relieve odours such as smoke, pets, clothing, food and common bathroom odours. They are also used to freshen stale-smelling rooms.
The two main types of air fresheners are continuous action and instant action. Continuous action air fresheners release fragrance into the air slowly over a period of time. Candles, wick diffusers, reed diffusers, incense burners and plug-ins are all types of continuous action air fresheners. Some plug-in air fresheners use electricity and aerosol to release fragrance on a time-release system; these are a type of instant action air freshener. Most instant action air fresheners are aerosol or atomiser sprays. Aerosol air fresheners use a propellant to diffuse fragrance into the air when an actuator nozzle is pressed. Atomiser sprays release a mist of fragrance when an actuator is pumped or squeezed a few times.
How They Work
Air fresheners may employ a variety of methods to make odours more pleasant. Some products simply release a more pleasing scent into the air, which helps to mask the more offensive odour. In some cases, the air freshener may work to kill the odour-causing bacteria in the air, which causes the odour to dissipate. Other air fresheners may contain a nerve-impairing chemical that impairs the sense of smell when people breathe in the chemical. Similarly, the product might contain a pleasant smelling oil that fills the nasal passages with a film, making smelling anything else difficult.
Asthma and allergy sufferers are often allergic or sensitive to products that contain fragrances such as air fresheners; in fact, many workplaces forbid the use of such products in fragrance-free zones. Air fresheners may also contain a variety of chemicals that can cause serious health problems, a risk that is further compounded when some chemicals mix with indoor air pollutants. Common symptoms of prolonged exposure to air freshener chemicals include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, confusion, irritated eyes, nose and throat, lung irritation, respiratory distress and even anaphylaxis. Air freshener ingredients, including benzyl alcohol, phthalates, camphor, pinene, phenol, limonene and ethanol, among other chemicals, have even been associated with cancer, neurological damage, reproductive disorders and developmental disorders.
Alternatives to Chemicals
You have no need to fill your home with air freshening products when there are a wide variety of natural air fresheners available. Houseplants help to freshen the air and improve the overall air quality in the home. Many commercial air freshener fragrances imitate floral smells, so choose aromatic plants like gardenias, hyacinths, orchids, peppermint or jasmine. You can also add a few drops of essential oil, such as lavender, cinnamon or lemon, to cotton balls and place them wherever fragrance is desired. Open windows and doors to let fresh air in, and remove stale air in the home. Cut down on odours with baking soda in trashcans and refrigerators. Air filters and purifiers can also help to remove odours from the home.
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