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Plants to use as an air freshener?  RSS feed

 
master steward
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What plants would make a good air freshener?   To consider planting this spring. I am thinking plants grown outside to use cut or died to freshen the air in my bathroom.

The problem is DH insists on keeping the door shut at all times.  It is starting to get a smell.  I think it is just stale air as I have smelled the drain in the shower, the stink and smelled the toilet.  I don't detect any smell.

This time of year there are no flowers to bring inside and if I had them none of mine have an exceptional smell.

I have rosemary and lavender but it seems to get a smell you have to rub them.

Any suggestions?
 
gardener
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Just about any "air freshener" type plants are going be full of aromatic oils, which means you have to crush them to get the oils to form aerosols so you can smell them.

Mints, sages, lemon grass, sweet grass(vanilla grass), thyme, rosemary, in fact all the herbs first need to be crushed to get the oils into the air.

Citronella also falls into this category.

Unless you want to set up to grow flowers year round, at some point you will have to resort to crushing herbs or buy essential oils and use a heated dish to get those oils into the air.
 
gardener
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The problem with the air freshener plants I've tried is we stink louder and longer than a little bit of plant sitting around. If regularly crushed and replaced or heated maybe the plant would win. However, I found dried plant is a good medium for essential oils.

That all said, vanilla extract is supposed to be real good at scent absorption and good smelliness. I used it in skunk mitigation and was pleased. Basically, I think, all it is is alcohol and a vanilla bean. We can't grow vanilla here, but they are orchids which like hot and humid- many bathrooms are like that, especially in warmer climates.
 
pollinator
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I used to have a wax vine (Hoya) that flowered readily and was very fragrant. They're incredibly tough as house plants and seem to live forever. You just have to make sure that there's no furniture underneath the flower clusters that will be damaged by large drops of sugary nectar.
 
pollinator
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Even if the plant does not offer a pleasing aroma, it is still filtering the air and drawing particulate matter from the air in the room.  So in that regard, any plant is a good plant.  Common plants you frequently see in people's bathrooms would be a fern or a spider plant.  The more leaves, the more it is working to filter the air.  Two of more is even better.  Here is a link with a list of houseplants that do a good job filtering the air.

https://greatist.com/connect/houseplants-that-clean-air

I would think that any tropical plant would do well in a bathroom with all the steam that commonly comes off a shower or bathtub.  Is there a window where the plant could be suspended in front of?  Hanging it from the ceiling would keep floor and counter space free. And when the leaves get dusty, it's easy enough to just hang the plant in the shower for 30 seconds and give it a spritz.

Daily condensation without venting can lead to mold.  You don't want that.  If he insists upon keeping the door shut, I'd get in there immediately afterward and try to vent that moist air out ASAP.  Swing that door open and try to get some cross-ventilation going if possible.  Is there a vent-fan to exhaust the wet air out?  Wire it to the light switch: when the light goes on, so does the ceiling fan.

Best of luck.
 
Anne Miller
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Thanks everyone for the replies.  I really appreciate the help.

I read up on rosemary and its wonderful benefits so I am going to try heating some leaves on the stove and putting the pan in the bathroom to cool.

I found this article that explains why flowers smell,  its from Mr Smarty Pants at wildflower.org:

https://www.wildflower.org/expert/show.php?id=4813&frontpage=true

Also you have to scroll down to find the article.  The last two plants they list, Salvia coccinea (blood sage) and

Salvia farinacea (mealycup sage) I have growing in my garden though I don't remember any smell.
 
gardener
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NASA did some studies on this very subject of purifying air in closed environments using plants. Here's a couple links that might help:

Here's a little summary article: https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2007/ps_3.html

Edit: I had posted a link here to download a free ebook, which turned out to not be free, and after sleeping on it for a night I decided to remove the link, since I think it is misleading and not what it is advertised to be. The book in question is How to Grow Fresh Air by B.C. Wolverton and below is a link to the book for purchase if anyone is so inclined. I think it’s important to note that the link for the free pdf of the book appeared to me to be unaffiliated with the author and the publisher so I certainly don’t place any fault on them for any internet trickery. I usually leave errors in my posts and don’t normally go back and remove them but I feel like this is an exception and warrants removal so good people aren’t deceived.

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/329816/how-to-grow-fresh-air-by-b-c-wolverton/9780140262438/
 
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"Here's a link to a free PDF download of the book written by former government scientist Bill Wolverton after his civil service with the space agency: https://sites.google.com/site/faf34ry765utsgerg23d/-pdf-download-how-to-grow-fresh-air-50-houseplants-that-purify-your-home-or-office-best-epub-book---by-b-c-wolverton"

I wish that was a true link to a free pdf download James, but alas it just scoots you over to a site that wants your email address first and then a credit card number.  They promise not to charge you.......your mileage may vary on that one.

Here is a direct link to a pretty good pdf on varieties of houseplants, the light, etc they need and indoor pollutants they might help with https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/of-39.pdf

I put lavendar and sage I grow down the compost toilet and they help refresh the air and then become compost.



 
James Freyr
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Well shit. I know better than to take things on the internet at face value and it got me again. I failed to click on the download now button. I really try to do my best to share accurate and credible information here on Permies, and I faltered again. My apologies to you BeeDee and to everyone else who has clicked on that link hoping to get a free ebook. I feel like I should know by now that free things are never free, but apparently I have yet to get that thru my thick skull.
 
BeeDee marshall
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No problem...:^)   I am always looking for free as well, but these sites are insidious.  Even if you don't finish the sign up, they get you with the email address and spam arrives for many a moon.
 
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I have two suggestions, although they are not strictly in the plants section.  This isn't my area of expertise, because my sniffer is pretty dead, while my wife is a fair approximation of a bloodhound, especially when she was pregnant.  Same with my daughters.  Funny, in my family, there is a definite gender difference in sensitivity to smells.  Your husband may not even notice the problem.  (This shouldn't give him a pass on helping to solve it.  In the past I have tried to plead dead nose as an excuse for not dealing with the problem.  My lovely wife refused to buy it, I assume you won't either.)

1.  Don't overlook the ability of baking soda to absorb off smells.  Put it in a pan to increase surface area.  Change once in a while.  (Really precise instructions, I know).

2.  Essential oils.  A drop or two of lavender or rose on a handerchief might help.  For heavens sake don't use oil of oregeno.  That stuff will peal paint!

I assume, since I'm seeing this in February, that the cold weather is keeping the window shut and causing the problem.  I'm guessing you also don't have a ventilation fan.  Opening the door will provide much needed humidity in the winter.  A slightly open window in warmer weather would probably solve the problem.  

An open door is probably the best solution.  (Although I would still opt for my other two suggestions as backups).  Unless someone is seriously ill, it shouldn't stink up the house.
 
pollinator
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My neighbor turned me on to dried wild chamomile he harvests and puts in his trailer to help freshen the air in there as well as help absorb moisture build up.

I tried it in mine and it worked quite well.

Now it took a gallon pot sized amount of dried chamomile, to be enough to really freshen things up in my 25 ft trailer so that might give you a start on how much needed depending on the size and humidity problem in you bathroom. As for the moisture absorption, you need to take the dried chamomile out and dry it in the sun every couple to few days depending on how much moisture you have so it doesn't get moldy. And you need to replace it every moth or two.

But chamomile is a pretty easy plant to grow and it is pretty and it has plenty of other uses. Little warning, German chamomile if left unchecked can spread fast and become invasive. If your harvesting the buds for tea, and the plants as a air freshener dehumidifier though it should never be a problem. But I always like to warn of any invasive potential if it is there.
 
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I compiled a list of ten of the best plants for purifying indoor air and put it on our family blog a while back.  The focus was on plants that clean toxins and contaminants from the air, not make it smell better, but I thought I'd post it since it's come up in this thread.  Here is the list, if it's helpful.  Regarding making the air actually smell better, I'd go with fresh flowers in season (like lilacs and old roses), cut plants like evergreens and eucalyptus in the winter, and perhaps aromatic pot pourrie (cinnamon bark, etc.) in fall.  You can force bulbs like hyacinths in the winter and have blooming aromatic flowers that way in the winter, too.

The 10 Best Houseplants for Purifying Indoor Air

Houseplants offer lots of benefits to homeowners. They can bring a little green to snowy winter months, they add some cheer and they also are just pretty. One of their best uses, however, is in cleaning indoor air.

With our modern, energy-efficient homes and the prevalence of toxins in our manufacturing processes, indoor air is likely to be even more polluted than outdoor air these days. Sources of toxins in our air include everything from fabric softeners to carpet cleaners to plastics to crop dusters in the fields near our homes. Cancer-causing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are in our paints, varnishes, fabrics and furniture, and they can lead to everything from asthma to headaches to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

The good news is that some houseplants can really help eliminate them, using a process called metabolic breakdown to convert these chemicals into energy, among other methods.

Scientists have found that all houseplants purify indoor air to some extent, but some plants do an especially good job of removing harmful toxins. Some plants work eliminating certain toxins better than others, too. One might be particular good at ridding the air of formaldehyde (likely to be highly present in your air if you have new carpet or lots of particle board materials in your home) while another might be great at reducing benzene levels (likely to be high in homes that have been exposed to pesticides and cigarette smoke).

Here are the ten best houseplants for purifying air, along with photos and information about which chemicals each plant is best at removing.

Aloe plant



This succulent is known for being a great natural treatment for burns (simply cut a leaf and rub the juice on the burned area). Fewer people know that it also helps purify the air. It is especially effective at removing formaldehyde, a harmful chemical that’s present in particle board, carpets, flame retardants and much more.

Mums (Chrysanthemum)



While these flowering plants are commonly used outside, they are extremely beneficial inside when it comes to removing benzene and trichoroethylene, a chemical used by the dry cleaning industry and in printing inks, paints, varnishes, and adhesives that is considered to be a potent liver carcinogen. Keep mums in a location where they will receive a lot of light.  They may not bloom all year, but they will help your home’s air all year.

Note: mums are poisonous.

Devil’s Ivy or Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum or Scindapsus aureus)



This hanging plant is one of the most common in homes, particularly because it’s so easy to grow. You can also easily take cuttings and root them to start new plants or share with friends. NASA studies showed that Devil’s Ivy was one of the best plants for removing formaldehyde from the air, among other chemicals.

Ficus



These plants are easy to grow, make attractive small potted trees and also help purify the air from many irritants and chemicals, including ammonia and formaldehyde.

Gerbera Daisies



NASA studies showed these plants to be some of the best at removing benzene, a known carcinogen that can also cause headaches, drowsiness, loss of appetite and other health problems. Sources of benzene include inks, dyes, plastics, rubber and detergents and other common household products. They prefer bright light and work well in a sunny window.

English Ivy (Hedera helix)



Another hanging plant that’s easy to care for, this one also purifies well. It is considered one of the best all-around at counteracting off-gassing chemicals and contributing to balanced indoor humidity.

Note: English Ivy is poisonous.

Areca Palm



The top air purifying plant as ranked by NASA’s study is the Areca palm tree. It removes all indoor toxins that are tested and is also considered the best houseplant for humidifying the air. Areca Palms prefer bright sunlight.

Boston Fern



This easy-care hanging plant removes many contaminants, including benzene, formaldehyde and xylene. Wisegeek reports:

It is estimated that common Boston ferns can remove a full 1,800 micrograms of formaldehyde from the air per hour. This means that placing the plants in a room can virtually eliminate formaldehyde that may be introduced through off-gassing.



Philodendrons



NASA studies found that these commonly loved hanging plants were the most effective at removing higher concentrations of formaldehyde (aloe was best when concentrations were low).

Note: philodendrons are poisonous.

Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum)



This plant is widely loved by homeowners because it’s easy to grow and makes a great hanging plant. It is also one of the best plants for removing formaldehyde, among other harmful chemicals.

All houseplants are also effective at improving the health of your home’s air in other ways such as reducing carbon monoxide, humidifying the air and increasing oxygen.

Keep plants away from drafts, which inhibit their air cleaning abilities.

How many plants do you need? As a general rule, aim for about one vigorous plant per 100 square feet of living area or 2 to 3 plants for a moderately sized room. For a typical 1,800 square-foot house, The University of Minnesota recommends 15 to 18 houseplants in 6- to 8-inch pots.

You may want more if you have more sources of pollutants, such as new carpet or furniture, recent paint jobs, a newer home or many items made out of plastic and pressboard (particle board).
 
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Great post Alicia. Just want to point out, though, that you might want to double-check your sources. I think some of the photos in your post aren't of the plants you describe. English Ivy is actually Bougainvillea, and the last photo isn't spider plant.

English Ivy (Hedera helix)


Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum)


 
Alicia Bayer
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Sorry, that one picture was Bougainvillea and had been incorrectly filed as English Ivy since the leaves look so similar to variegated English Ivy.  I've replaced it with a correct one.

The second photo was spider plant, it was just a variety that wasn't variegated (two-toned) the way many are that we're used to seeing.  See this nursery page about types of spider plants to learn more about that.  I've replaced my original photo with a variegated one though, since that's what most people are used to seeing with spider plants.

 
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BeeDee marshall wrote:No problem...:^)   I am always looking for free as well, but these sites are insidious.  Even if you don't finish the sign up, they get you with the email address and spam arrives for many a moon.

There are several site that offer 10-minute disposable email addresses.

Mick Fisch wrote:
I assume, since I'm seeing this in February, that the cold weather is keeping the window shut and causing the problem.  I'm guessing you also don't have a ventilation fan.  Opening the door will provide much needed humidity in the winter.  A slightly open window in warmer weather would probably solve the problem.  

An open door is probably the best solution.  (Although I would still opt for my other two suggestions as backups).  Unless someone is seriously ill, it shouldn't stink up the house.


Not only that but when you keep the windows closed indoor CO2 levels rise alarmingly fast, I have a meter and you're above 1000ppm levels before you know it.
 
Anne Miller
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These are so neat and I have most of these item in my spices:












 
pollinator
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Thank you Anne! These will be great with wood stove season. I always keep a pot of water on the stove anyway.  Although my husband may be disappointed to find out good smells are scents only😀
 
Alicia Bayer
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I once simmered a bunch of orange peels in water hoping to make the house smell like oranges.  To my surprise, it made the place smell like canned crescent rolls.  It was really bizarre!  The rest of the family didn't believe me until they went downstairs and smelled it too.  I've done it since then (with clementine peels too) and it always makes it smell like crescent rolls.  I never do it anymore since I find it just depressing to make the house smell like something we all want to eat when there aren't any.  ;)  
 
Anne Miller
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Alicia Bayer wrote:I once simmered a bunch of orange peels in water hoping to make the house smell like oranges.  To my surprise, it made the place smell like canned crescent rolls.  It was really bizarre!  The rest of the family didn't believe me until they went downstairs and smelled it too.  I've done it since then (with clementine peels too) and it always makes it smell like crescent rolls.  I never do it anymore since I find it just depressing to make the house smell like something we all want to eat when there aren't any.  ;)  



Alicia, thanks for sharing your experience with orange peels.  I am sorry it didn't work out for you.

I have never tried just orange peels, I have always used dried orange peel, cinnamon and cloves:




So based on your experience, I did an experiment yesterday:

I opened my jar of dried orange peels and they smelled heavenly.

I put a small piece of dried orange peel  in a cup with about 1/2 cup water then popped it in the microwave for about 15 seconds.

My initial thought was that it smelled like a cup of water.  I put it on my desk while I read topics on permies.

There was still no aroma of orange so I picked up the cup and smelled.  Yes, it smelled faintly of orange!


I have also used orange peels as a dry potpourri:





This looks like another idea, has anyone tried this?  Orange peel infused vinegar






 
pollinator
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I had a huge citronella plant during college, somehow kept it alive from one dorm room to another, to a frat house, to an off-campus house... the bros never noticed but the ladies always said I had the best smelling room of any male they had encountered at college.
 
Tina Hillel
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Anne, I finally tried the coffee cake air freshener and it smelled great. Even my husband noticed and liked it and he hates "smelly stuff". I kept topping up the water in the woodstove pot and the scent lasted several days. Great use of used coffee grounds.

Thank you!
 
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This thread seems a very knowledgeable one. I have never thought about using the plants like this. I have plants, but those are mostly in the garden area and so rarely some smell comes inside.
 
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