Spray an air freshener and it may mitigate a bad smell momentarily. Plug-in air fresheners, on the other hand, combat unpleasant odors continuously, masking or even eliminating them from a home. These products come in a number of different formats and typically work by heating oil or wax to aerosolize or vaporize fragrances. There are also air purifiers on the market which, rather than add additional scents, sanitize the air by filtering out dust, mold spores, pet dander, and more.
While choosing the best plug-in air freshener might seem like a simple decision, there are a number of considerations to weigh. This guide explores the important features for shoppers to keep in mind and offers choices by category for some of the top products on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Febreze Odor-eliminating Plug Air Freshener
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Air Wick Plug in Scented Oil Starter Kit
- BEST ECO-FRIENDLY: Botanica by Air Wick Plug in Scented Oil Starter Kit
- BEST DIFFUSER: Pure Daily Care Ultimate Aromatherapy Diffuser Set
- BEST AIR PURIFIER: LEVOIT Smart WiFi Air Purifier for Home
- BEST MINI AIR PURIFIER: Germ Guardian Pluggable Air Purifier & Sanitizer
- BEST FOR BATHROOM: Mindful Design Frosted Pagoda Wax Warmer – Plug-In
- BEST FOR CAR: InnoGear Car Diffuser, USB Essential Oil Diffuser
Types of Plug-in Air Fresheners
There are four basic types of plug-in air fresheners: heated oils and sprays, wax warmers, essential oil diffusers, and air purifiers. Each provides varying benefits and offers differing levels of convenience, longevity, and additional features.
Heated Oil and Spray
These standard plug-in air fresheners are energy efficient, emitting a fairly strong fragrance while using a minimal amount of electricity. They feature cartridges filled with a wide variety of scented oils, which are then aerosolized and sprayed into the room. Most models are compatible with any refill cartridge from the same brand. Each cartridge lasts between 30 and 60 days, though longevity varies from brand to brand.
Some folks find the fragrance from this type of air freshener to be overpowering, but there are products that let you control the level of scent emitted, adjusting it to room size or user preference. Be mindful of standard plug-in air fresheners when it comes to children and pets, because heated oils and sprays are dangerous if ingested.
Wax warmers act as a safer alternative to burning candles, relying on either a light bulb or a warming plate as a heat source instead of an open flame. Bulbs for plug-in wax warmers range from 25 to 40 watts, and various models may emit soft, ambient light to mimic a candle. While some models may come with wax, it can also be purchased separately.
These products feature a heat-resistant bowl where users place wax melts or pucks that come in various natural and synthetic fragrances. The wax takes several hours to cool completely and should not be accessible to children or pets. Each wax melt lasts for up to 10 hours.
Essential Oil Diffusers
Essential oils are natural, plant-derived substances said to have a number of aromatherapeutic benefits. Essential oil diffusers heat essential oils to break them down and dispense the smaller particles into the air. Most models also use water to provide both a humidifying and air- freshening effect.
While the water reservoir must be refilled daily, only a few drops of essential oil are required. Some oil diffusers are sold with essential oils while others require that you purchase them separately. Essential oil diffusers should only be used for half an hour at a time because prolonged exposure to essential oils may have negative health effects.
Air purifiers actually eliminate unpleasant odors rather than simply covering them up. Not only that, but they also improve air quality by removing dust, pollen, mold, and pet dander. They are the ideal choice for reducing airborne contaminants that aggravate allergy symptoms and cause respiratory issues. They draw in air, then use filters to purify it before recirculating it into the room.
The highest-quality filters are known as HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters. They have been certified to trap 99.97 percent of all particles that are 0.3 microns or larger in size. HEPA filters must be changed every 3 to 6 months.
When choosing an air purifier, consider the size of your space. Most manufacturers will stipulate the ideal room size for their product and provide an air change per hour (ACH) rate, which lets users know how many times per hour it will filter all of the air in the room.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Plug-in Air Freshener
A number of factors and product features may affect a plug-in air freshener’s scent, settings, aesthetic, convenience, and overall quality. Keep reading to learn important considerations when shopping for the best plug-in air freshener for a home.
When choosing an air freshener, first consider where it will be placed. While a stronger fragrance may be a great choice for a large open space, it may be overpowering in a small bathroom. Also consider any pets or young children in the household, and be sure to place the plug-in air freshener out of their reach.
Note that your vehicle may also benefit from a plug-in product. Some are designed to be plugged into a car’s 2-volt outlet, while others use a USB cable. They’re convenient for covering up the smell of fast food or stinky sports equipment. They typically power on when the engine is running to avoid wasting the car’s battery.
One of the primary considerations when choosing an air freshener is whether to go with a scented or unscented version. Standard air fresheners, as well as essential oil diffusers and wax warmers, feature a wide variety of scents that can be swapped out seasonally or depending on your preference. Decide whether natural aromas from essential oils or synthetic scents are the better choice for your household, keeping in mind that some artificial smells may act as irritants to allergy sufferers. Also remember that air purifiers eliminate odors without emitting any additional scent.
Each type of plug-in air freshener can feature a range of settings.
- Some standard air fresheners allow users to control the level of fragrance emitted based on how strong they want the smell to be. Others feature night-lights that are convenient for late-night bathroom trips.
- Essential oil diffusers may include timers, ambient light settings, and auto-shutoff features that detect low water levels.
- Air purifiers often feature different fan settings, timers, and filter change indicators. They may also include smart technology, allowing users to control them remotely via a smartphone or a tablet.
When choosing an air freshener that will be placed in a visible location, the product’s appearance is a key consideration.
- Heated oil and spray air fresheners typically have a simple plastic design and display the color of the oil or liquid.
- Wax warmers vary widely in appearance, with options to suit a number of different decor styles. They may have either a natural, a contemporary, or a bohemian aesthetic.
- Essential oil diffusers come in a variety of shapes and sizes and feature casings made from plastic, wood, glass, and terra cotta.
- Air purifiers often feature streamlined modern designs that help them blend in with existing decor items.
Some shoppers may prioritize convenience when choosing a plug-in air freshener. Air purifiers offer optimal convenience since their filters only need to be changed a few times per year. Essential oil diffusers, on the other hand, need their water reservoirs filled daily.
When shopping for a standard plug-in air freshener, look for a model that is compatible with both vertical and horizontal outlets that can be plugged in upside down if necessary.
Our Top Picks
The following recommendations take into account the abovementioned factors and features for choosing the best plug-in air freshener, in addition to overall quality and value. Check out these top options in a variety of categories for eliminating unpleasant odors.
This heated oil set from Febreze packs a serious punch—and some pleasant scents. It includes the plug-in warmer as well as two refill cartridges, each of which features two rotating, complementary scents that feature notes of lily and pear.
Use the highest setting for large open spaces and the lowest setting for smaller rooms. Each cartridge operates for 1,200 hours (approximately 50 days) at the lowest setting. The warmer is also compatible with all other versions of Febreze plug-in cartridges for more tropical, floral, or musky scents. The warmer is compatible with both horizontal and vertical outlets and can be placed upside down if necessary.
Air Wick’s scented oil starter kit features two warmers and six refills at a budget-friendly price. Control the amount of fragrance emitted by choosing from five settings. This kit provides a lavender aroma for 360 days on the lowest setting, with each cartridge lasting for approximately 60 days.
The oil is free of dyes and phthalates and contains natural fragrances, which include notes of lavender essence as well as chamomile and woods. The packing materials and glass cartridges are recyclable to make the produce eco-friendly. The refills are also compatible with all other Air Wick plug-in air fresheners.
Air Wick’s Botanica line is tough on unpleasant smells and gentle on the planet. The oil contains responsibly sourced ingredients and no chemical propellants, dyes, or phthalates, and it was not tested on animals. The scent features Caribbean sweetgrass and sandalwood, and the sweetgrass essential oil is responsibly sourced from Haiti. It comes in a 100 percent recyclable box and is made in a zero-waste plant.
The kit includes two warmers and six refills, each of which provides up to 60 days of pleasant, warm aromas on the lowest setting. Air Wick also makes a number of other eco-friendly Botanica scents, including French Lavender and Honey, Pineapple and Tunisian Rosemary, and Himilayan Magnolia and Vanilla.
Pure Daily Care makes an excellent starter kit for those interested in aromatherapy. This diffuser comes with 10 therapeutic-grade essential oils, including lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree, orange, peppermint, lemongrass, jasmine, nutmeg, clove, and spearmint. Each is packaged in a 10-milliliter amber jar that protects the oil from sun degradation.
The diffuser itself is made from BPA-free plastic with a wood grain design and has a 400-milliliter capacity. It features seven ambient light modes with two light intensity settings as well as a timer and an auto-shutoff feature that detects low water levels.
LEVOIT smart air purifier connects to a Wi-Fi network, allowing users to control it remotely from a smartphone or a tablet. Eliminate 99.97 percent of airborne contaminants that are 0.3 microns in size, including dust, pollen, mold, and pet dander, using the ultrafine nylon prefilter, activated carbon filter, and HEPA filter. In a 183-square-foot room, this air purifier circulates air five times per hour and twice per hour in a 376-square-foot room.
For uninterrupted sleep, users can turn off all display lights while the purifier is operating. Sleep mode also operates quietly at just 24 decibels, while “high-speed” mode produces 45 decibels of sound, which is comparable to the sound of a fridge running.
Many plug-in air purifiers sit on a tabletop, but mini models rest directly on a wall outlet, taking up minimal space. Despite its compact size, this Germ Guardian product is powerful enough to sanitize air in small spaces. Rather than filters, it uses a UV-C light to remove airborne germs and viruses and reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The light actually alters the genetic structure of particles like influenza, killing them before they are breathed in. Each bulb lasts for between 4,000 and 5,000 hours.
To bring a spa-style vibe to any bathroom, consider this Mindful Design product. As a wax warmer, it provides the peaceful ambiance of a scented candle without the stress of an open flame. The pagoda-shaped warmer has a wood frame and glass siding, and it uses a glowing filament bulb to create a gentle golden glow for a relaxing atmosphere.
The outlet cord features a toggle switch so users can easily turn the warmer off when leaving the room. The bowl is removable for easy cleanup once the wax has cooled. The wax is not included; purchase soy-based wax for the best results.
Make commuting more relaxing with this USB-powered essential oil diffuser. While it’s designed to fit in a car’s cupholder, it’s also a great choice for a small work space since it plugs directly into a computer’s USB outlet. Fill the 150-milliliter reservoir with water and add a few drops of the essential oil of your choosing.
The casing is made using BPA-free plastic, and it emits an ambient glow when powered on. It features both a continuous and an intermittent mode as well as auto shutoff when the water runs out. A USB adapter must be purchased separately.
FAQs About Plug-In Air Fresheners
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about plug-in air fresheners.
Q. Do plug-in air fresheners use a lot of electricity?
Plug-in air fresheners are very energy efficient, using an average of 4 watts of power.
Q. Are plug-in air fresheners a fire hazard?
While some plug-in air fresheners have been blamed for causing fires, this is extremely rare. These incidents are typically caused by faulty wiring.
Q. What is the most effective air freshener?
Air purifiers are more powerful than traditional air fresheners because they actually filter and eliminate dust and mold particles to clean the air in your home.
Q. What is the longest-lasting plug-in air freshener?
The Air Wick Plug in Scented Oil Starter Kit is one of the most long-lasting plug-in air fresheners on the market, with the included cartridges lasting for a total of 360 days.
Q. How often do plug-in air fresheners need to be replaced?
The cartridges on standard plug-in air fresheners typically need to be replaced every 30 to 60 days, depending on the brand.