UPDATE: Over the past few months I have been switching over all my essential oils to Plant Therapy and I’m gradually discontinuing my use of Young Living Essential Oils. If you’re curious why or what prompted the change, I’d love for you to check out this page.
If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you know my stance on synthetic fragrances. But what I don’t share too often is why I got rid of candles, plug ins and sprays in my own house. There was a time that I would get so excited to walk down the scented candle aisle at Target (coupon in hand of course) and load up on candles, wax melts and sprays for coordinating season.
Knowing what I know now, I’m so annoyed with myself for bringing these things into my home. But, we are all constantly trying to better ourselves, so I feel as long as I learn and move forward, that’s all I can do.
I would have candles going after dinner, in the mornings when I got up and use Febreeze sprays daily to “freshen” my house. When people walked into our house, I’m sure the smell was overpowering to say the least.
Everything changed for me though, and it wasn’t overnight. I’m a creature of habit after all. When my older daughter was born, I had started reading a blog that was focused on family and raising kids. Her daughter was born just a few months before mine, and I couldn’t get enough of her advice and tips as I navigated motherhood.
She slowly started to talk about more and more essential oils and why she was replacing her home products with safer alternatives. I heard it all, but didn’t act. But my mind was open and I continued to mull over these potential changes for my own house.
Fast forward a few years and I now had my second daughter and I was still reading this blog now about a family of three girls and their lifestyle and adventures. One day on her Instagram feed she posted a picture of the air freshener aisle at Target and captioned, “If this aisle makes you excited, we need to talk.” WHAT?!
She then began to share study after study about what is actually in these products and how they really aren’t healthy or safe for our families. I stopped cold turkey. I threw them all out (except for that one can of glade air freshener I found at the back of the kids bathroom cabinet last month).
I still loved the scents, and I loved making my house smell good, but I knew I couldn’t use those products with a clear conscience any more. And that is when I started using essential oils. At first just to add scent to my house….but now they’ve become so much more important to me and apart of my daily routine.
Toxins in Air Fresheners
To put it into the simplest terms: Fragrances in sprays and products are basically chemicals formulated to smell a particular way. These smells are intended to mask the odor of chemicals that are in the product themselves.
You might be wondering how a company can label an item without including a list of chemicals in the product. Any scents formulated for a product are considered “Trade Secret”. In other words, it’s their proprietary blend of toxins and chemicals and they don’t need to tell anyone what it consist of.
With organizations like Environmental Working Group testing and analyzing products, we now know some of the specifics about toxic synthetic fragrances:
Petrochemicals: Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLS)
What they are: Petrochemicals are used as a carrier in a mixture to enhance the dissolving and dissipation of the fragrance. (The Case Against Fragrance).
Why they’re dangerous: SLS has been linked to organ toxicity, meaning it travels from the bloodstream and builds up in the heart, liver, lungs and brain. This build up is enough to cause damage.(Sage Journals).
What they are: Often used in plastics to make them flexible and transparent, but also added to aid absorption in loctions and creams. In other home products it holds the fragrance that is added.
Why they’re dangerous: According to ToxTown, these chemicals can affect human reproduction and development. It can affect the endocrine system and hormone production in both men and women. A particular phthalate, dipthaalate (2-ethylexyl) has been shown to be carcinogenic. (Sage Journals).
What they are: Benzene is derived from petroleum (or crude oil) and is what makes up a large portion of the chemicals used in synthetic fragrances. The reason it’s used is because it has a sweeter scent, and when exposed to air, it evaporates quickly. (CDC Fact Sheet)
Why they’re dangerous: Benzene is a byproduct of volcanic eruptions and forest fires as well as naturally present in crude oil and coal tar. It has been classified as a carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It is also linked to negative effects on the central nervous system.
What they are: Aldehydes are a relative of formaldehyde, which is a type of preservative added to our products so the scent remains strong. They also provide a floral and lemon scent to products. They can also be used as a disinfectant. (ChemGuide)
Why they’re dangerous: Aldehydes are one of the reasons cigarette smoke is so detrimental to our health. Basically they contain similar components to Carbon Monoxide and can cause pulmonary inflammation (heart and blood pressure issues). On top of all this, they have been reported to induce allergic responses. (NCBI)
What they are: This is another highly flammable, sweet smelling gas that is used to create different scents and odors synthetically. (EPA)
Why they’re dangerous: This chemical has been linked to breast tumors and can affect the central nervous system as well as the cardiovascular system negatively. (CDC) It is also known to “build up” in the system, allowing the problems to compound.
What they are: Parabens are added to products to preserve them and prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. They allow scented products to have a long shelf life without going bad. (FDA)
Why they’re dangerous: Parabens have been linked to human breast tumors and affect the body’s natural estrogen activity. (OrganicFacts.com)
What they are: Styrene is added to products to help mask the chemical odors some of the ingredients produce. (EWG.ORG)
Why they’re dangerous: Styrene is present in cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust and is considered a reasonable human carcinogen. (EWG.ORG)
So many products that we use at home are in the form of aerosol sprays. AIr fresheners to disinfectants to dusting spray all use this method for their products. These types of sprays contain special chemical compounds that are not present in other sprays nor in the natural air.
These chemicals allow the product or solution inside of the can to become airborne through tiny liquid drops. They stay in the air as liquid for longer than a typical spray bottle and it becomes much easier for anyone around to inhale the liquid. What we know about the chemical mixture in these cans is that when sprayed they produce VOCs that don’t dissipate quickly. On the contrary, the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) build up in the air and in the home environment.
Inhaling anything means that the liquid or gas is traveling directly to our sensitive lung tissue where it can become embedded. These aerosol cans should be avoided at all costs as they have been linked to an increased risk in asthma and pose both short term effects and long term effects on our bodies’ systems. (The Guardian)
I used to have an aerosol air freshener can addiction. I had a stockpile ready for anytime I needed to replace one of them that ran out. But to be honest with you, I never actually loved the scent they left. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but something always felt unnatural. Clearly, my instincts were right.
Masking Smells & Odors
One of my biggest pet peeves is getting up in the morning and smelling last night’s dinner odor. Yuck. We eat a lot of garlic and the smell the next morning is one of my least favorite things. This is the whole reason I started using candles, plug ins and wax melts in the first place. To get rid of the odor.
But did you know that these products don’t really get rid of the odors? On the contrary, they just add more scent and fragrance to the air and cover up the smell of what you’re trying to remove. Even Febreeze, who claims to naturally remove odors, is full of masking chemicals.
Through the years of getting rid of air fresheners and switching to natural methods like essential oils, I’ve found a pretty good way to keep unpleasant odors and smells at a minimum.
- Clean up right away: Cleaning the kitchen right away after dinner helps reduce the left over smell the next day. This includes cleaning the floor too. My best tip is to clean the floor with this wet mop and add two capfuls of Thieves Household Cleaner, a splash of rubbing alcohol and the rest water. It literally makes the whole kitchen smell clean.
- Open a window: Opening a window during and after cooking can help the odors travel outside and allows fresh, natural air inside to dilute the pungent smells
- Cook with a vented fan: Turn on your fan in your kitchen to draw air outside. This will also help with humidity. A humid environment holds onto more smells.
- Diffuser: I diffuse a blend of oils after dinner to help purify the air.
Hazards of Candles at Home
You may be a scented candle junkie like I was. I had them in every room, just waiting to be burned. I loved the scent and I bought them for gifts for all my friends. I just could not get enough.
But as I started to read more about these little jars, i saw that I was really doing my family a disservice by using these candles. Candles are different from other products that we use because we are burning the chemicals, which emits dangerous VOCs and gasses into the air.
While candles contain many of the toxic chemicals listed above, the problems with these are amplified as they contribute to extremely poor indoor air quality. (South Carolina State University).
If you really want candles, opt for an all natural beeswax candle like these: Solstice Naturals Beeswax Candles
Be cautious when shopping for candles however. Not all claims of “essential oils” mean that the scent or products are safe or organic.
Supporting My Health & Wellness
As an alternative, and a much better alternative, might I say, I chose to start using Essential Oils in my home.
I can’t tell you how happy this choice has made me over the past two years. I didn’t jump all in, but instead I tried a few things here and there to see if I could make the change from synthetic fragrance to this more natural option. I’ve never been a “jump right in” person. I do research and side step my way to the change.
As I started making the change just for the sake of reducing chemicals, I started to find that there are some HUGE benefits to using essential oils on a regular and consistent basis. (I will tell you my biggest takeaway from using essential oils is that CONSISTENCY is key).
As I began diffusing oils like lavender, I noticed that my kids really did seem more relaxed. As I used valor in a perfume roller, I saw that yes, I did feel more confident. Peppermint in the morning? Almost as good as a cup of coffee.
In addition to these small things I noticed, I began using Young Living’s Thieves blend for not just it’s wonderful aroma, but also for immune support. Now, I’m not a doctor, I’m just a mom who HATES when her kids are sick. I can remember two winters ago where literally every week there was some new virus in our house. And do you know the domino effect? One person brought the virus home and one by one we all got it. I would have done just about anything to prevent us from getting sick.
That’s when we started using Thieves and fast forward to this school year. We’ve had ZERO sick days, you guys! Sure, my kids still had a cold here or there when they got run down on vacation and around Christmas. But the severity of these colds and viruses was minimal and they didn’t miss school. I chalk it up to a few different lifestyle choices (getting ample sleep, avoiding sugary, processed foods and getting exercise on a regular basis). But I really feel like I’ve seen the difference since we started using essential oils on a regular, consistent basis.
I also found that the essential oils we were using were huge contributors to our emotional wellness. In a house where girls run the show, things can get pretty intense. Using oils to provide a grounding environment that promotes positivity and helps with negative feelings has been an amazing part of finding Young Living.
We use this blend with Valor and Stress Away every morning before school to lose the before-school-butterflies and promote a sense of inner peace.
Petrochemicals: Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLS): SLS has been linked to organ toxicity, meaning it travels from the bloodstream and builds up in the heart, liver, lungs and brain. This build up is enough to cause damage.(Sage Journals).
Pthalates : According to ToxTown, these chemicals can affect human reproduction and development. It can affect the endocrine system and hormone production in both men and women. A particular phthalate, dipthaalate (2-ethylexyl) has been shown to be carcinogenic. (Sage Journals).
Benzene Derivatives: Benzene is a byproduct of volcanic eruptions and forest fires as well as naturally present in crude oil and coal tar. It has been classified as a carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It is also linked to negative effects on the central nervous system.
Aldehydes: Aldehydes are one of the reasons cigarette smoke is so detrimental to our health. Basically they contain similar components to Carbon Monoxide and can cause pulmonary inflammation (heart and blood pressure issues). On top of all this, they have been reported to induce allergic responses. (NCBI)
Methyl Chloride: This chemical has been linked to breast tumors and can affect the central nervous system as well as the cardiovascular system negatively. (CDC) It is also known to “build up” in the system, allowing the problems to compound.
Parabens: Parabens have been linked to human breast tumors and affect the body’s natural estrogen activity. (OrganicFacts.com)
Styrene: Styrene is present in cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust and is considered a reasonable human carcinogen. (EWG.ORG)
Aerosol Sprays: Inhaling anything means that the liquid or gas is traveling directly to our sensitive lung tissue where it can become embedded. These aerosol cans should be avoided at all costs as they have been linked to an increased risk in asthma and pose both short term effects and long term effects on our bodies’ systems. (The Guardian)
Candles: Contribute to very poor indoor air quality problems and emit dangerous VOCs and gasses ;into the air (South Carolina State University).