The Best Air Fresheners for the Home

Whether subtly or strongly scented, air fresheners do more than add fragrance to your home—they fight foulness and brighten your mood, too.

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Best Air Freshener Options

Photo: amazon.com

From funky kitchen odors to rank bathroom smells, our homes can get pretty musty, especially in the fall and winter months. Air fresheners can improve our environment’s scent through chemical or natural means. Some products diffuse synthetic or all-natural compounds to mask unpleasant odors and enhance air quality. Others contain purifying liquids or solids to deodorize and soak up bad smells where they lurk. It is up to you whether you want to be whisked away to a tropical paradise every time you inhale or not smell a thing but clean.

Here are some of the best air fresheners on the market today, plus helpful tips to guide you as you shop.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Fresh Wave Odor Eliminator Spray & Air Freshener
  2. BEST FOR PET ODOR: Zero Odor Pet Odor Eliminator
  3. BEST FOR BATHROOMS: Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray
  4. HONORABLE MENTION: Fresh Wave Odor Removing Gel
Best Air Freshener Options

Photo: amazon.com

What to Consider When Buying the Best Air Freshener

Air fresheners really come down to personal preference. Do you like strong scents or clean, unfragranced air? From this starting point, you can decide whether a spray, gel, sachet, or diffuser is right for you. Other important considerations are the size of your room and how long you’d like the product to last. Finally, think carefully about your health and any allergies or sensitivities you may have.

Type and Intended Use

There are many different types of air fresheners on the market. From sprays and sachets to plug-ins and gels, it can be hard to figure out which formula and dispenser style is best for you. Let’s break air fresheners down into their main categories:

  • Spray: Air freshener sprays are versatile and incredibly easy to use. Just spray them into the air or onto a smelly surface and let the ingredients do their work. Spray fragrances don’t linger in the air for long, which can be an upside or a downside depending on your needs and preferences. Sadly, most sprays come in single-use plastic bottles, which have a negative impact on the environment.
  • Gels: Odor-busting ingredients like essential oils can be suspended in gel. Gels evaporate slowly, ridding the air of foulness in the process. Because gels’ fragrances are usually quite mild, they are best for freshening air in smaller spaces, like bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Sachet: Scented sachets have traditionally been filled with dried herbs or lavender. However, the best odor-eliminating ingredient for sachets is one that isn’t scented at all. Activated charcoal sachets are eco-friendly, remove unwanted odors, and are the best bets for folks with allergies. These sachets are available in a wide range of sizes, including extra-large to purify an entire room and very small ones suitable for deodorizing a closet.
  • Diffuser: Available as plug-in, electronic, or stand-alone units, diffusers all have the same basic function: to pump micro-bursts of fragrance, either natural or synthetic, into the air. Essential oil diffusers are really a product category of their own. They differ from plug-in and electronic models in that they mix fragrance with water, humidifying and purifying air at the same time.

Strength and Longevity

How big is your room? How bad is the smell? Answers to these questions will help determine the best air freshener for your situation. Sprays and gels are usually best for smaller, enclosed areas. Sprays are also effective if you need to target a soft surface, like a sofa or rug to eliminate pet odors, for example. Sprays and gels should be strong enough to kill the bad smell, without being overpowering. Once they serve their purpose, their own scent should evaporate and leave clean, chemical-free air behind.

Diffusers, on the other hand, are intended for larger spaces like bedrooms, living rooms, and offices. Instead of scrubbing the air of bad smells, diffusers inject nice fragrances into your indoor environment, which linger for some hours. Plug-in and electronic diffusers are timed to release micro-bursts of fragrance from a cartridge or aerosol can. These units typically last 60 days before the cartridge (or can) needs replacing. Essential oil diffusers require just a few drops of essential oil, plus water refills, to keep air fresh day after day.

Scent and Ingredients

Air fresheners have reputations for being heavily and artificially scented, but that’s not the full story. It’s true that some plug-in diffusers and sprays contain synthetic fragrances and known toxins like phthalates. However, many air-freshener brands are appealing to health- and eco-conscious customers by upgrading the quality of their ingredients. Look for labels that list the types of chemicals not included, like dyes and alcohol, as well as those that tout ingredients like all-natural or organic essential oils. Products that contain ingredients deemed safer for human health and the environment receive Safer Choice certification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Popular home fragrances run the gamut from florals and botanicals to vanilla and spice. Citrus is also a classic, refreshing choice, especially for kitchens and bathrooms. Of course, if you have scent sensitivities or simply prefer clean, unfragranced air, charcoal sachets work, too.

Our Top Picks

No foul play here. These recommendations are based on health-conscious ingredients, quality materials, and products that actually do what they say: eliminate odors or perfume the air in your home. Here are the best in all categories, including sprays, gels, sachets, and diffusers.

Best Overall

Best Air Freshener Options: Fresh Wave Odor Eliminator Spray & Air Freshener
Photo: amazon.com

Fresh Wave should win best overall and best all-natural air freshener. It removes odors from the air without harsh chemicals, artificial fragrances, or known toxins. Potent enough to eliminate pet smells as well as trash, smoke, mildew, and bathroom odors, Fresh Wave can also be used as a deodorizer and fabric freshener. It’s safe to use on upholstery and carpets and won’t harm pets or little ones. With an essential oil blend of pine, lime, clove, anise, and cedarwood, Fresh Wave is versatile and pleasant to inhale. The aroma dissipates quickly, leaving your space clean and, yes, very fresh. The only downside to this EPA Safer Choice product is that it’s packaged in single-use plastic spray bottles, but they can at least be reused or recycled.

Best for Pet Odor

Best Air Freshener Options: Zero Odor Pet Odor Eliminator
Photo: amazon.com

For all your smelliest pet problems, this is the odor eater for you. Zero Odor is a liquid deodorizer spray that permanently eliminates funky scents wherever they lurk, including your kitchen, basement, carpet, and clothing. Zero Odor doesn’t contain harsh chemicals and is nontoxic and non-allergenic. The patented formula is designed to bond with odor particles on a molecular level, neutralizing them in the process. Best of all, Zero Odor is safe for your pets and your kids. Spray it on fabric, car upholstery, and carpeting for quick and effective odor elimination. This product doesn’t leave chemical traces behind, only the scent of clean.

Best for Bathrooms

Best Air Freshener Options: Poo-Pourri Before-You-go Toilet Spray
Photo: amazon.com

With its tongue-in-cheek name, Poo-Pourri is memorable for sure. But does it work? The answer is a resounding yes, and with all-natural ingredients, no less. To avoid bathroom smells altogether, simply spritz the toilet before using it. The original nonaerosol spray contains a blend of lemon, bergamot, and lemongrass essential oils. But you can also choose from the brand’s wide selection of fragrances. All Poo-Pourri sprays contain natural compounds and no harsh chemicals, parabens, phthalates, or formaldehyde. This is a great product for guest bathrooms or anywhere else a little discretion is required.

Honorable Mention

Best Air Freshener Options: Fresh Wave Odor Removing Gel
Photo: amazon.com

Fresh Wave’s innovative odor-removing gel is a winner for many reasons. First, it actually works, absorbing and neutralizing bad smells anywhere in the house. Second, Fresh Wave has earned a Safer Choice label from the EPA, so you won’t be introducing toxins into your air to mask bad smells and risk your health. Instead, you’ll enjoy the lightly-spiced aroma of essential oils, including pine, lime, clove, anise, and cedarwood. As the gel evaporates over 60 days, yucky smells vanish, leaving freshness instead. Place Fresh Wave gel containers wherever odors are worst, like bathrooms or pet areas, and let them do their thing.

FAQs About Air Fresheners

Sweeten your home with one of the best air fresheners available. If you choose a plug-in or electric diffuser, make sure to consider your scent preferences and choose a fragrance that is light and enjoyable for you as well as for family and friends. Or go for unscented charcoal sachets for an easy, eco-friendly solution to odor elimination and air purification.

Q. What are the most popular scents for the home?

Citrus, vanilla, spices (like cinnamon and cloves), and other botanicals found in essential oils.

Q. Where should air fresheners be placed in a room?

Where the source of the odor is or where the scent can be diffused to maximum effect, like a plug that gets plenty of air flow.

Q. How often do you need to change an air freshener?

Plug-in units need to be changed about every 60 days, and the same is true for gels. Sprays and sachets can last longer, depending on use.