7 Aug 2014

Why I Dislike Air Freshners (And Other Artificial Scents)

My friend, Natalie, has a boyfriend with the tootiest bottom in the world, according to her. My response is always, and will always be: try living with the wolf, whose backside can clear a room in seconds. My entire scale of bad smells has been completely redefined since he came to live with me, in an ever changing waft of awfulness regardless of what I feed him. I can only imagine that response will change if and when I get my own semi-housetrained male to share living space with and whose posterior rivals Bear's.

Nat's boyfriend's 'fix' to his tooty bottom is to spray a truly epic amount of deodorant in an effort to mask the smell he's just created. As I'm sure many of you are aware, this does little to actually hide the scent and somehow just ends up in a stink of alcohol-based chemicals and fart that smells far worse than the original odour, and yet he still persists.

I have an issue with air fresheners and, indeed, all artificially scented products that promise to make your home smell like the great outdoors. Partially because I've never smelled pine like that (even when in the middle of a pine wood), and if that's what flowers are supposed to smell like then gods help us all. But mostly because I have a sensitive nose; the wrong types of smell can send me into migraine hell and leave me whimpering in a ball, uncurling only to vomit copiously before passing out in sheer desperation for some relief. It's an ongoing joke in the office that I must be pregnant because there can be no other explanation for how I can smell the colour of the peppers in Nat's spicy chicken baguette when she sits behind me and one desk over. If I were, that would surely be the longest immaculate conception in history. In the meantime there is a moratorium on using sprays anywhere near me - which equates to almost the entire office thanks to open windows and desktop fans at this time of year.

Another gripe is the environmental cost and lack of knowledge about just what goes in to these things. You may not know this, but thanks to the myriad of chemicals used in the average British household, the air indoors is thought to be more polluted than the air outside. Research on ingredient names, where ingredient lists are available, can turn up any number of shocking results. Ambergris, a name invoking a floral scent to my mind, is actually whale vomit and is used as a fixative by perfumers (although, in fairness, nowadays it's often replaced by a synthetic alternative). Check the packaging carefully if you favour air fresheners, some carry warnings of their long-term adverse effect on aquatic environments. For reference, most things end up effecting the water supply as chemicals seep through the ground at landfills and enter underground water courses. Air fresheners are also most often linked to allergies and respiratory problems, and women who use them in the home are more likely to suffer from headaches. Like I needed to be told that.

So what's the solution for me, my friend with the stinkily bummed boyfriend and, hopefully, you? Well other than opening the windows and experiencing nature's bouquet as intended (or the local highway which is, obvs, not so great), try Bicarbonate of Soda. Yes, that multi-purpose little powder does what it does so well and in so many ways because of its awesome powers of absorption. Sprinkle some in a small pot and leave it in places that smell: your fridge, your bathroom, by the elbow of your boyfriend (or wolf), and let it do its thing. Just remember to change it every few months to keep its effectiveness in tip top shape.

For the truly stinky bummed, like Natalie's boyfriend, you can try feeding them fennel tea, which is great for flatulence, bloating, indigestion and IBS. Naturally soothing and caffeine free, pick yourself up an organic, ethically sourced blend to help bring a smell of peace and quiet to your home.


photo // joanne burgess photography