Are Air Fresheners Safe for Me and My Pets?

A very interesting topic came up in one of the pet sitter forums on Facebook to which I peruse daily and that was the toxicity of air-fresheners, specifically the plugin kind. Thanks to Jordan Di Marco, 2011 Pet Sitters International’s Pet Sitter of the Year and owner of Dogma Catma Pet Sitting out of Boulder, Colorado she posted a question to the group;

“Plug in air fresheners! I know they are awful and now that I'm pregnant they make me gag! Does anyone have any links to the toxicity in pets and/or long term studies that I could direct clients to?

They make me gag too and I’m not pregnant. I’ve never liked the fake smell but am victim to using them, especially in my own holistic pet supply store! I use them to cover up the bully stick smell that festers in the store, the dogs LOVE it but the owners and I cringe at that tingey stank.  At Active Paws Pet Supply I even go as far as to have a smell for the season, right now it’s clean linen, and then probably something tropical as it heats up. I’ll move to the cinnamon apple, then the maple pumpkin and end the year with rosemary spice. It’s an endless cycle that actually brings us many compliments.

But I get headaches and I have stayed in many pet sitting client homes with these devices everywhere! I have seen one that sprayed chemicals every few minutes at a doggie daycare where I taught a pet first aid and CPR class! So the question remains; are these toxic to our pets and us?

YES! Anything designed to smell like a rainforest (but you see it actually doesn’t, I’ve been, they’re humid, musty and it’s rare to get a smell of any flowers so fragrant as the counterfeit rainforest plugin attempts) usually is made up of a slew of chemicals. These little buggers also tend to be right at nose height for your cat or dog, let alone your 2-yr old child.

The Natural Defense Resources Council tested 14 of these plugin air fresheners and found 12 of them to contain, “phthalates (pronounced "THAL-ates"), chemicals that can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems”. Besides those lovely little hormone shifters, many contained “allergens and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as well as cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde”. Ok, I’m all set, there is enough of that crap in the environment, I’m not going to bring it into my home or store anymore. Its time to unplug!

But my house smells like a wet dog, even on a dry day (my realtor informed me of this), what the heck can I do? How do I get rid of that bully stick smell that seems to permeate my store? Well, let’s take a look at what William Sonoma does. I found a great blog, My Frugal Adventures and the author hits the nail on the head, for cheap! She copies William Sonoma and finds out that they “use different fragrances depending on the season and what they have on hand.  If you happen to stop by a store- take a look at the stove and ask what they have cooking.  The last time I was in they had lemon, lime, orange and cinnamon going.”  I have done this myself with lemon, rosemary and lemongrass, it was amazing and lasted several days. I would turn the pot on to simmer once every other day until the lemon got tired and into the compost it went. Some use crock pots. If you’re not into adding heat you can make your own sprays out of essential oils and if you would like to just set it and forget it, try buying natural oil air fresheners from various companies. I have one that is all natural so they can sell it as body spray and air freshener. If it’s safe to go in the air, it should be safe to go on your body right? Oh and I bought it from Amazon Smile so a portion of my purchase went to my favorite rescue :)

pet cpr certification onlin

Anyway, take a look around, if you find the plugin hanging out of the socket soaking your air with chemicals, consider tossing them and trying to open the windows, cook a pot of fresh ingredients that the air fresheners try to mimic or at the very least, spray your carpets/fabrics with natural oils. You can’t go wrong and your pets with their 1000 times more sensitive schnozzles will thank you. 

Want to learn more about how to keep your pet safe?  Take our online pet first aid class HERE!

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Laurie Kristensen 3072 days ago Your article was GREAT until you starting advising to use essential oils as an alternative -- MANY of THOSE are also very toxic to cats! Please encourage people to do more research of their own before using any essential oils around pets!