I just got back from the dentist's office. And yes, it got a clean bill of health, and a silver star on my chart (reduced flossing demoted me from a gold star). Whew! But, I have a problem with that office; it stinks.

Well, you might think it smells good, but I do not. Because other patients complain about the “dentist office smell” they use various plug-in scents, scented candles, and spray air freshener / air fragrance products to mask the odors people comment on. The irony is that I'm complaining about the faux fresh-air smell. My sinuses buzz when directed to photographed products, and sometimes the chemicals used to make those products cause me to get cold-like symptoms that can last 24 hours. That's not a price I'm willing to pay my dentist, no matter how good he is.

Now, to be fair, he and his office compatriots do try to please me, as much as they can. When I went to him the first time I could not even stay in the waiting room as I waited for my dental hygienist because the scent was so pervasive. They removed all the air fresheners during my stay, but that did not help enough. So I quit going.

I live in a small community, and his wife asked me why they had not seen me in the office in a while. So I told her. She totally understood my perspective and promised to work on removing the fake air scents. The dentist, seeing me at lunch recently, walked up to me and said to be sure to ask the receptionist to mark in the calendar to remove everything the day before my appointment. I told him that there would not be enough time since the carpet, upholstery, and curtains were arranged with the chemicals. Darn it! I was right. But, they do get a point for trying.

As he left me in the chair, after his exam was completed, to finish my cleaning, he asked me what my boulder dentist had used (I told him that office smelled fresh like unscented clean air). I called and found they used nothing; they do not have a “dentist office” smell to mask. Huh.

Since I want to keep using this dentist I decided to research what they could use to mask or remove the scents that other patients are bothered by. You get to benefit from this research, as I will (I hope) in 9-12 months when I go back.

Quickly, here's a list of the problems associated with various chemicals found in most commercial air fresheners:

  • allergic reactions
  • asthma attacks
  • eye irritation
  • lung irritation
  • skin irritation

Problem chemicals include:

  • camphor (potential nervous system harm)
  • d-limonen (a pesticide)
  • various neurotoxins and endocrine-disabling compounds
  • formaldehyde (a carcinogen)
  • paradicthlorobenzine (a carcinogen
  • 1,4 dichlorobenzene (a lung irritant)

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are what's at work here, and many are known to cause cancer.

The first place I checked for good air fresheners was GoodGuide, but was disappointed in the results. Miesness Rainforest Air Freshener was the only name I recognized that I knew had quality, non-petro-chemical ingredients. [note: I quit to use the phrase “natural ingredients” since green washing has so ruined the meaning of it.] I checked the next two on the list and was dismayed by the list of chemicals.

Then I just Googled for “natural air freshener” to see what I could find. I loved what I found here:

  • baking soda
  • beeswax or soy candles, scented with essential oils
  • cedar blocks, though cedar can be an allergen
  • essential oils, dispersed in a variety of ways (lightbulb rings, cotton balls, and porous containers made for the job)
  • HEPA air filters
  • lavender bundles
  • open doors and windows
  • orange with whole cloves inserted
  • potpourri made of herbs and flowers
  • spices, gently boiling on the stove, or in a simmer pot
  • white vinegar

And some commercial “natural air fresheners” include, from the same Google search:

  • CitraSolve's Air Scense
  • Earth Friendly Products / ECOS Uni-Fresh Air Freshener
  • Method Breathe Easy
  • Natural Sundae's Natural Air Freshener – Rosemary & Sage
  • Aura Cacia Orange Pomander Air Freshener
  • Ecco Bella All Natural Air Freshener Ecco Mist, Citrus

And the list goes on.

It puzzles me why people think they need to buy commercial products to freshen the air (or their clothes) when they can save money by just taking a natural approach. Open windows go a long way in freshening indoor air. And it's free! For odor removal baking soda is always good. And if you want a fresh smell, go with flowers. But clearly the marketer are winning and people spend reasonable amounts of money making their homes and offices “smell good” with commercial air fresheners.

The hardest part is convincing people that the more chemicals they put in their bodies the more health problems they, or their loved ones, are going to have. All I can do is say try to be as natural as possible with creating a fresh smell in your home or office, and save money.