Good Question: Green Alternative to Febreze?

Pin it button

(Note: Include a pic of your problem and your question gets posted first. Email questions and pics with QUESTIONS in subject line to: green(at)apartmenttherapy(dot)com)

Sam writes:

I love Febreze fabric refreshers, but I'd like something a little more earth friendly. Can anyone recommend an eco-friendly alternative, or a good home recipe for one. Something antibacterial would be great. Thanks!


Sam, this is a good question.We're assuming you're referring to Febreze Fabric Refresher, not the line of air fresheners that are also sold under the Febreze name.


Our opinion on Febreze Fabric Refresher is that it's not any worse than green commercial cleaning products such as Mrs. Meyer's: that is, its main environmental impact comes from the fact that it's primarily water, which is heavy, and it's trucked around the country in plastic bottles.


Pin it button
The main ingredient in Febreze is called cyclodextrin, and as chemicals go, it's not that scary. A chemist friend who once worked for P&G explained that it's basically a sticky ring -- we like to imagine it's a very, very small donut. It's made from corn, but in the same way that ethanol is made from corn; it's refined and very far removed from the source.
Each element in the ring is designed to grab on to different kinds of molecules associated with odor. Once that happens, the ring becomes too heavy to float in the air and it falls to ground, where one of those sticky elements in the ring latches it on to the carpet or bedspread that you're freshening. So: Febreze works by making things dirtier!


Now for the alternatives:

  • Air fresheners, for the most part, are out, though some like Method's products.

  • If it's carpet you're trying to freshen, you can make a powder, but you'll still have to vacuum.

  • Or, if you're in an rented apartment, washing the walls and hidden places like the top of kitchen cabinets with a solution of vinegar or a green cleaner such as CleanVia can help eliminate stale smells from the previous tenant's pack-a-day habit, diet high in fried foods, or both.

  • Another alternative is an air purifier. You won't be using any chemicals at all, but the ongoing energy use offsets the savings.




We're not big fans of antibacterial products -- keeping things dry and relatively clean is the healthiest thing for your house and yourself.


Readers, any other alternatives to Febreze? We'd love to know of a home brew that works in the same way...
image of Febreze via Febreze web site; cyclodextrin diagram via scienceinthebox.com as linked above

16 Comments