Finding your special olfactory signature with Spring aromas for the home
Indoor living has advantages—like protection against thunderstorms and windburn, convenient plumbing, and a refrigerator—but it also creates a static environment, recycling old air and trapping air-borne bacteria, germs, and unpleasant smells.
Of course, a clean house always smells good. There’s that fresh piney scent of all-purpose cleanser and bleach from the laundry, which is great. Sort of. The green-minded among us know that most household cleaners contain a host of unpronounceable toxins that researchers tell us cause anything from dizziness, nausea, and headaches to neurological disorders and birth defects.
Makes housecleaning a rather unsettling project.
White vinegar is the new go-to liquid for cleaning everything, but it makes the house smell like a dressed tossed salad. Spraying a room freshener around may mask that odor, but then the house smells like a badly detailed used car.
What to do?
First, open the windows. Everything needs a good cleaning, even the air. Open the closets, shake out the bedding, and put pillows and cushions outside. Then put on your big-girl pants (or big-boy pants) and clean house. Whether you use your favorite brands of cleaning products or mix your own with white vinegar and lemon rinds, the circulating air will waft any negativity away.
Gail Robinson, an agent with William Raveis Real Estate in Southport, stresses fresh air. “Prior to any showing, I recommend the homeowner throw open all the windows for a few minutes to bring in fresh air. Airing out the home can make a big difference.”
Once settled down and closed up, the house needs a little aromatic pick-me-up. For house-showings, Robinson recommends the irresistible smell of something freshly baked, which makes the home warm and inviting. That may be impractical for an everyday practice. It’s time-consuming and a diet-buster. A simple alternative is a few drops of vanilla extract on a few light bulbs. Turn them on and the house smells like cake.
If you’re avoiding air freshener products on supermarket shelves, think about essential oils. These can be mixed with water and sprayed on sheets and furniture, and misted throughout the house. There are dozens of fragrances to choose from, in tiny bottles, which carry a big aromatic punch.
At Fashionista, a vintage and variety store in New Haven, proprietor and neighborhood diva Todd Lyon is a fan of essential oils. “I want everything—everything!—to smell like rosemary. I bought my ex a little bottle of essential rosemary oil off a street vendor and he’d dab some behind each ear before we went out. Women followed him in droves because he smelled like a roast.”
Molly Shackleton uses essential oils in her individually hand-poured candles. Shackleton, who lives in Branford, saw the market for scented candles for the home and started Short Beach Candle Company in 2012. All of her candles are made from soybean oil.
“Most candles are made of paraffin,” Shackleton says. “That’s a waste product, the stuff they skim off the top in the process of making gasoline. And paraffin candles give off carcinogens, but really, you would have to burn ungodly amounts of candles to do any harm.”
Still, the idea of burning a candle made from petroleum sludge may detract from the romance of creating ambience. Short Beach Candle Company’s candles-in-a-jar are available in gift shops, pharmacies, and spas all along the coast from Stamford to Westerly, Rhode Island.
There are less romantic approaches to a fresh-smelling home, like filling smelly tennis shoes with hunks of sidewalk chalk or shaking baking soda under the sofa cushions. These are suggestions of Heloise II, the daughter of the iconic author of Good Housekeeping’s Hints from Heloise, a column that started in 1959. The younger Heloise has carried on her mother’s tradition of sharing helpful household tips. Her book, Heloise Conquers Stinks and Stains, should be on every bookshelf. Or at least stored under the kitchen sink with an open box of baking soda.
Newer homes are tightly sealed to be energy efficient, but synthetic building materials and ordinary living and breathing produce pollutants, which are trapped in unventilated spaces. In 1989, NASA got together with the Association of Landscape Contractors of America to research ways to purify the air for extended stays in orbiting space stations. What they came up with can make your home cleaner and smell sweeter. They created a list of common houseplants that soak up indoor pollutants, like Gerbera daisies, English ivy, spider plants, and bamboo palms.
Don’t worry about upkeep. If a plant can live in a space station with no sunlight, where the other inhabitants have other things to think about—like zero G aerobics—certainly they can survive in your bathroom.
Methods of dealing with the aroma of your home run the gamut from charcoal briquettes in an old sock to a bouquet of wood reeds in a jar of eucalyptus oil. You just need to find your signature.