Looking for some alternatives for air fresheners. I have been looking at various alternatives such as coffee grounds (possibly in a muslin bag), and the like. What works here? I would rather get away from the current mass-produced air freshioners that are currently used in cars and homes.

The issue here is that I am in a situation where I have inlaws complaining about odors in cars etc and they are used to air fresheners in these cases.

  • 4
    None of those things freshen air. They all add extra contaminants. Can you tell us a bit more about what the problem is that you're trying to solve, to help us understand, for example, why proper ventilation isn't the answer to your question?
    – 410 gone
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 8:25
  • 1
    "Air fresheners" is a common colloquialism for products that are used to removed or mask unpleasant odors. I don't think he meant better air exchange... although that would likely work. Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 14:02
  • 2
    Open the car/house window?
    – Noel
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 23:52

3 Answers 3


Recently when we picked a crop of basil for making pesto the house was filled with the aroma. Obviously I'm not the only one who's noticed this, as Googling make your own herb air freshener returns a lot of relevant results.

This one specifically suggests just putting some leaves in some newspaper in your car, which might be suitable for your purposes.

Other suitable substances appear to include lavender, rosemary, thyme, mint, cinnamon, and citrus peel.

  • I ended up going with a partial variant of this, namely with sachets of coffee grounds. The fragrance is not overpowering and it seems to work pretty well. Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 4:36

The best way would be to remove the source of the odours, and ventilate properly. Consider using an antiseptic solution for cleaning, which will help kill the bacteria that can cause persistent odours from things such as absorbed sweat.

The second-best way is to circulate the air through an activated charcoal filter, which will remove smelly contaminants.

Thirdly, if you just want to mask the odours, then there are plenty of sustainably-farmed smelly oils that can soak into paper to provide slow-release fragrances.


Any kind of potpourri is the most sustainable option. The Fabreeze product is also surprisingly low impact and quite effective. Regular automotive type air fresheners actually aren't that bad, though. Usually their a paper base soaked in various alcohols and esters. All of those things are produced from renewable sources and decompose readily.

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