The average person spends more than 90,000 hours at work during a lifetime. Since we spend so much time in the office, it’s important to have it look — and smell — its best. Studies suggest working in a smelly office may affect your mood and your work performance. The converse is also true. If you work in an office that smells good, your mood may improve, along with your productivity.
Ready to improve the smell of your office? There are many types of air fresheners, and not all are created equal. Below, we discuss common types of air fresheners, how long they last, and how safe and effective they are at eliminating the smell of the Italian sub or garlic chicken you had for lunch. After reading, you’ll be able to find the best air fresheners for removing odors and refreshing your office space.
Choosing the best air freshener for Your office
If you work in a shared space, check with your coworkers before introducing a new scent. Some people are sensitive to smells and may experience headaches or mild allergic reactions such as sneezing or congestion in response. With that caveat, here are your options for clearing the air of odors.
Aerosol sprays are the most popular air fresheners. They deliver scented liquid under pressure, which quickly evaporates when released into the air. The scented air replaces bad smells with a stronger, cleaner smell—perhaps grassy meadows or cleansing rain.
In addition to spray air fresheners, spray odor counteractants can help make your office smell clean. Unlike air fresheners, odor counteractants, such as Febreze, don’t just mask odors. They eliminate them by trapping odor molecules. Most Febreze items are scented, but non-scented options are available if you have a perfume-sensitive coworker.
While generally considered safe for most users, aerosol sprays may release volatile organic compounds, which can irritate the lungs and increase asthma risk. Because of this, particularly in the time of COVID, some companies may ban aerosol sprays. Check with your employer before spraying.
A pumpkin spice candle in October or a pine-scented candle in December can create a festive atmosphere, and it may lift your mood. Look for non-toxic candles made of soy wax or beeswax. Of course, be careful any time you light something on fire — even a candle. A scented candle may be a better choice for a home office than a corporate one.
Companies make essential oils by distilling plants such as lavender, peppermint, or oranges to extract their aromatic chemicals. You can combine them with carrier oils such as coconut or olive oil to create safe, pleasing scents.
In addition to masking unpleasant odors, essential oils can safely and effectively enhance mood. Some scents, such as lavender and jasmine, reduce anxiety. Other scents, such as peppermint and rosemary, improve concentration and memory.
If your coworkers are sensitive to smells, put a few drops of your favorite essential oil on a personal delivery device such as a cloth or handkerchief. Keep it in your desk drawer until you need a pick-me-up.
Scented oils are like essential oils, except rather than coming from natural materials, companies manufacture the scents in labs. The oils can mimic unnatural scents such as clean linen or a new car. They’re generally less expensive than essential oils, although they expire more quickly. Scented oils don’t have the same health benefits as essential oils.
If you choose to freshen the air with an essential or scented oil, you need a mechanism to get the scent into the room. Essential oil diffusers (also known as aroma diffusers) are one way to do this.
A diffuser breaks oils down into smaller molecules and disperses them into the air through a fine, scented mist. They break down oils in different ways. For instance, a nebulizing diffuser doesn’t require water or heat. Instead, it pressurizes air to diffuse a mist of oil. If you live in a moist or humid climate, this type of diffuser is a great option. Ultrasonic or humidifying diffusers use ultrasonic vibrations to diffuse a mixture of oil and water into the air. These diffusers are a great option for dry climates, as humidifying diffusers add moisture to the room along with scent.
If you commute to work, invest in a portable diffuser. These plug into the outlet in your car and, depending on the scent you choose, may help you stay alert on your commute to work or wind down on your drive home.
Air purifiers work differently than scented air fresheners. Instead of masking bad odors with good ones, air purifiers use a fan to suck in air and run it through filters. The filters trap pollutants and particles, and the fan pushes clean air back out. The most effective air purifiers use a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which can trap smaller particles than a standard air purifier.
Some air purifiers use ionizers that charge air particles, causing them to bind to dust and other allergens and settle to surfaces rather than float in the air. If you’re in the market for an ionizer, consider opting for models that don’t produce ozone. In addition to being bad for the environment, ozone can act as a lung irritant.
Plug-in air fresheners rely on heat induction and heat-activated scent gels to continually release a scent into the air. Because they deliver a steady stream of scented air, you won’t need to do much maintenance other than replacing it when the scented gel runs out.
When choosing a plug-in air freshener, be aware that some contain phthalates, hazardous chemicals that can cause hormonal abnormalities and other health issues. Look for nontoxic options.
Solid air fresheners
Like plug-ins, solid air fresheners are a low-maintenance choice to release clean-scented air. Solid air fresheners trap and release scented air. Plastic usually encases the solid air freshener, so you can lift the lid a little or a lot to release the amount of fragrance you desire. As with aerosols and gels, some solid air fresheners are safer than others. If possible, choose a solid air freshener without phthalates.
Rather than covering up nasty odors, freshen the scent of your office by eliminating scents at their source. To do so, reach for a cleaner that destroys odors. Enzymatic cleaners, such as Enzyme Plus or Biokleen’s Bac-Out Stain and Odor Eliminator, eliminate odors by breaking down waste particles into smaller pieces. Then the enzymes eat the smaller pieces of waste particles, destroying odors in the process. These products work best for eliminating animal-generated scents, such as body odor or pet accidents.
DIY and eco-friendly options
In addition to the products above, you can use simple, natural ingredients to help control odors. When it comes to DIY odor-removing options, white vinegar is an inexpensive, simple option. Add as little as a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of water, put it in a reusable spray bottle, and spray it around the room. The yucky odors bind to the vinegar, which eliminates them. Also, try leaving a small bowl of vinegar in the corner of your office to trap noxious smells.
Baking soda is another tried-and-true eco-friendly odor-eliminating cleaning option. Baking soda bonds to smelly chemicals and turns those odors into less reactive (and less smelly) salts. Place a bowl of baking soda in the staff refrigerator, bathroom, and other places that collect odors. For extra cleaning power, mix a little vinegar into the baking soda to form a paste to scrub down surfaces. Be prepared for bubbling, which occurs when acidic vinegar combines with basic baking soda.
Charcoal also traps, absorbs, and eliminates odors, and it can last for several years before needing to be replaced. Look for activated carbon granules or discs and wrap them in muslin or cheesecloth to make simple air fresheners. Or buy premade activated charcoal deodorizers.
Finally, the easiest fix of all is to open a window! Fresh air quickly and naturally eliminates many airborne odors, including food odors.
You spend a lot of time in your office. You shouldn’t hate the way it smells when you’re in it. Try some of these products to make your office smell its best, and you may notice an improvement in your anxiety levels and productivity.