Plug-in air fresheners: Safe around babies?

The Pediatric Insider

© 2016 Roy Benaroch, MD

Ajay wanted to know: “What do you think about plug-in air fresheners in a house with babies/kids?”

Ah, the wonders of the modern world. In the days of yore, if the air was stinky you had but two options. You could replace the air, by flushing away the old air via an open window, or using a fan. Or you could try to cover the stench with some other kind of odorous substance, perhaps lighting a match or putting out a bouquet of roses.

Come to think of it, those are the only two options now, too. Those “plug-in air fresheners” should more-accurately be called “plug-in make a different stinkifiers”. They don’t “freshen” the air by removing magic stink particles or somehow transporting new air into your home. They just make a new scent to cover up whatever’s stinking up the place. There’s a little heating element in there, too, to warm the new odor, getting those little stink molecules to disperse faster, and some of them also have a tiny fan.

Choices I found include:

  • Clean Linen (I think clean linen should have no scent at all, but who am I to say?)
  • Toasted marshmallow (All of the smell without actually getting to toast or eat the marshmallow.)
  • Hawaiian Breeze
  • Wet Dog

Are they safe? Sure. The little smell molecules aren’t going to hurt anyone, though some people would prefer to go to Hawaii that to merely smell like it. And there’s the small chance of them catching on fire and burning your house down. (Hey! Burning House could be another scent! Glade, are you listening?) Personally, I’d just open a window, but Ajay, if you’d prefer your house to smell like toasting marshmallows in bed, go for it.


Stink it up

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8 Comments on “Plug-in air fresheners: Safe around babies?”

  1. wzrd1 Says:

    Well, there are also HEPA air filters, some of which have activated charcoal prefilters to quickly fail.
    We used one when we were in the Middle East and fine dust was always in the air.

    At home, we just open a window.
    In the Middle East, no so much. Forgot the window was open once, went to work and a sandstorm filled the bathroom and kitchen with a quarter inch of dust. Another time, I called home to tell my wife to close the windows, as a sandstorm just blew onto the base, she barely got the windows closed in time – after initially denying the storm, then dropping the phone and running to the windows.
    That crap has the same consistency as Portland cement and behaves in a rather similar manner when wet.


  2. Dr. Roy Says:

    wzrd’s right — a good quality HEPA filter, properly maintained, can genuinely remove at least some of what I’ve been calling “stink particles”.

    Portland cement, not so much!


  3. wzrd1 Says:

    That’s why there are pre-filters, which ended up being cleaned monthly at the longest interval.
    Here, in the US, those pre-filters should last at least a quarter before needing cleaning.


  4. Hi Dr Roy;
    I’ve been subscribing to your blog for some time now and I just love it. Every post is interesting and extremely useful to a mother of 3 young children. I was hoping I might be able to place a link to your blog on my blog Every Mum ( so other mothers can benefit from your advice?

    Kind Regards


  5. Dr. Roy Says:

    Tara, sure, always happy to join a blogroll, thanks for your support!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Steffy Says:

    Hello! I found your blog by chance. Please allow me to comment 😃 I have a 18 months old son. We have been using air wick and candles around him. I personally don’t think it’s good for anybody as we are basically inhaling chemicals in the air… There are some articles claiming that is actually harmful for people. My husband has an opposite opinion of mine, and we’re still using those artificial air fresheners. We asked our pediatrician about this and she said that’s not a problem at all… but I still feel nervous about using those products. Should I not worry? I just want to make sure this won’t cause any health issue for our son in the long run…


  7. wzrd1 Says:

    Air, by nature is chemicals. Otherwise, it’d be a vacuum!


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