Many synthetic air “fresheners” release toxic substances, including carcinogens and chemicals that can affect our respiratory, neurological and reproductive systems. These products are suspected of triggering asthma, headaches and a range of other health problems associated with indoor air pollution.
Keep in mind that a “natural” or “green” label on an air freshener product does not necessarily mean that it is. Beware “fragrance-free” products too: these often contain odour-masking chemicals.
The basis of a nice-smelling home is, firstly, to keep it clean, and reduce sources of bad odours. Secondly, it needs good ventilation -- as much through-flow of fresh air as possible.
That's sufficient, really, but if you want to sweeten the deal, there are plenty of non-toxic ways to do so. A few ideas:
Small open containers of bicarbonate of soda (baking powder) to absorb odours. Bicarb doubles as a household cleaner.
Wiping surfaces with white vinegar, which is also a natural de-odoriser and cleaner. (The vinegar smell disperses quickly.) Lemon juice works too, and you can add some to the vinegar.
Fragrant dried herbs and flowers (crush them to release more fragrance) e.g. thyme, lavender.
When you juice a lemon or orange, simmer the remaining peel and pulp in some water to release more of the scent. Add a stick of cinnamon, or some cloves.
Fragrant house plants e.g. geranium, jasmine, gardenia.
Fresh ground coffee or beans smell great and help absorb odours.
Home-made natural scent options like these are going to be subtler than commercial synthetics, but then they tend to smell more natural too...
(Olivia Rose-Innes, Health24, September 2011)