The most common question we receive from people is “How do I get rid of XYZ smell?” That XYZ has been filled with numerous variables from smoke, to fish, to feet, and more. Hey, let’s be real here, not everything always smells quite like it should. As a teacher for ten years, I am all-too familiar with the masking of gym funk with body spray, and as you can imagine, that mask mixed with the funk just equates to one odious classroom! The good news is that there are healthy ways to eliminate odors without increasing the amount of toxins by using air fresheners, body sprays, or paraffin candles.
Let’s look at why these different additives are toxic first. The main reason is the use of phthalates, which have been linked to common respiratory illness such as allergies and asthma, but even linked to greater problems over time such as reproductive failure and hormone interference. To be fair, the CDC explains that there needs to be a high level of phthalates in order to cause these issues, but when you start noticing that your air fresheners, detergents, candles, perfumes, shampoos, conditioners, soaps (the list goes on), all contain phthalates, you may start to wonder if you really are being exposed to a high level, just because it seems to be everywhere.
Before you freak out and start throwing away everything you own, read the labels. If it’s unclear whether or not the item uses phthalates, we recommend you call or email the company directly.
So, how can you eliminate odors in a natural, vegan way?
- One of the simplest, cheapest, and easiest ways to eliminate odors is to open your windows! One of my closest friends in the world lives in Munich, Germany, and he came to visit over last Christmas break. He was opening the windows to air out his guest bed. I quickly started stripping the sheets in preparation to wash them for him, and he pushed my hands away saying that “Americans need more fresh air!” Apparently, this is quite common in Germany, but there is a factual base behind the thinking. Sometimes the air in our homes is even more polluted than the air outside. So go ahead, and let the funk out by opening your windows.
- Essential oils! From lavender, to peppermint, to eucalyptus, the use of essential oils is an excellent and natural way to eliminate some funk. Be careful how much you use, though, these can be pretty strong! To get rid of some base funk, such as in bathrooms or in stinky shoes, I use a cheap spray bottle and mix about 10-20 drops of essential oil to about 1-1.5 cups of water.
- Essential oils can also be used for cleaning! Mix 5 drops of lavender, 5 drops of citrus blend or lemon, 5 drops of lemongrass with about 2 cups of water, you have a natural anti-viral cleaning agent. You can replace lavender with tea tree oil for an anti-fungal.
- Baking soda! Baking soda is excellent at removing funk in small spaces such as closets and refrigerators, or on carpets. For the small spaces, all you really need to do is open up a small box of baking soda and leave it there. You want to replace it about once a month. For carpets, you want to spread it out evenly over the carpet and let it soak in for about 15-20 minutes and then vacuum it up. No harm to pets or kids!
- Classic distilled white vinegar is another great solution for eliminating the funk. To get the funk out of the air, soak up a clean cloth with white vinegar, ring it out, and start swinging it around the room. You may look like you’re waving the white flag, but you will be debunking the funk. Distilled white vinegar also acts as an excellent cleaning agent, and can often be used to replace bleach when cleaning super-funky places like kitchen sinks and bathrooms. Not keen on your toilet smelling like your salad, no worries, mix the vinegar in a spray bottle with several drops of your favorite essential oil (use as much or as little as your nose would like).
- Light a phthalate-free candle! If you have some time to let it burn, an undyed soy candle with a cotton wick is a natural way to make your air fresher. The oil we use is even skin-safe, but we don’t recommend using this candle on your skin – we just want you to know about the purity level.
- Lemons are a natural deodorizer! If you have some funk in the kitchen, slice up a lemon and rub it in anything that needs freshening, follow with a damp cloth to wipe up any excess lemon – this is perfect for funky hands! Funky microwave? No problem – just nook the lemon for about 25 seconds and the freshness will emanate through the microwave.
- If you have some sweaty gym shoes that are starting to reek, grab up wads of newspaper and stuff those sneakers. Leave them stuffed for a day or two, and the newspapers will absorb the sweat and most of the odors (if they still stink, a few drops of peppermint essential oil in each will do the trick.)
- Dropped a burrito in your car? Leave an unlit soy candle in one of the cup holders and the heat of the sun and closed windows (while you’re parked) will melt the wax naturally and help deodorize the car. This will work during warmer days, when the outside temp is around 75+.
Ditch the funk and go fresh! Do you have any natural, effective ways to make your home fresher?