From funky kitchen odors to rank bathroom smells, our homes can get pretty musty, especially in the fall and winter months. Air fresheners can improve our environment’s scent through chemical or natural means. Some products diffuse synthetic or all-natural compounds to mask unpleasant odors and enhance air quality. Others contain purifying liquids or solids to deodorize and soak up bad smells where they lurk. It is up to the individual whether they want to be whisked away to a tropical paradise every time they inhale or not smell a thing but clean, fresh air.
Here are picks for the best air fresheners on the market today, plus helpful tips to help guide people as they shop.
- BEST OVERALL: Fresh Wave Odor Eliminator Spray & Air Freshener
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Fresh Wave Odor Removing Gel 2-Pack
- BEST AROMA DIFFUSER: Everlasting Comfort Essential Oil Diffuser
- BEST PLUG-IN: Air Wick Botanica Plug In Scented Oil Starter Kit
- BEST AUTOMATIC: Svavo Automatic LCD Fragrance Dispenser
- BEST CHARCOAL: Moso Natural The Original Air Purifying Bag
- BEST FOR PET ODOR: Zero Odor Pet Odor Eliminator
- BEST FOR BATHROOM: Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray, Citrus Scent
- BEST FOR CAR: Febreze Car Air Freshener
- BEST LONG-LASTING: Glade PlugIn Plus Air Freshener Warmer
How We Chose the Best Air Fresheners
There are hundreds of different air fresheners on the market, and of course it’s impossible for us to convey fragrance via the website. That being the case, rather than just spritzing the scent in the air, we had to look at other ways to make our selection.
The best air fresheners don’t mask unpleasant smells with strong perfume; they neutralize the odors, and this was a key factor. We also looked at providing options for those who like a certain fragrance in the air, and for those who prefer unscented air fresheners.
Environmental and health considerations are always an important part of our deliberations, and we looked for safe, responsibly sourced ingredients whenever possible. Finally, we wanted to offer versatility, so we chose devices that would suit any location and could combat a wide variety of odor sources.
Our Top Picks
No foul play here. These recommendations are based on health-conscious ingredients, quality materials, and products that actually do what they say: eliminate odors or perfume the air in the home. Here are the best in all categories, including sprays, gels, sachets, and diffusers.
Fresh Wave should win best overall and best all-natural air freshener. It removes odors from the air without harsh chemicals, artificial fragrances, or known toxins. Potent enough to eliminate pet smells as well as trash, smoke, mildew, and bathroom odors, Fresh Wave can also be used as a deodorizer and fabric freshener. It’s safe to use on upholstery and carpets and won’t harm pets or little ones. With an essential oil blend of pine, lime, clove, anise, and cedarwood, Fresh Wave is versatile and pleasant to inhale. The aroma dissipates quickly, leaving any space clean and, yes, very fresh. The only downside to this Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Safer Choice-certified product is that it’s packaged in single-use plastic spray bottles, but they can at least be reused or recycled.
- Type: Spray
- Size: Two 8-ounce spray bottles
- Fragrance: Unscented, lavender, or lemon
- Versatile air, fabric, and trash freshener
- Natural, plant-based ingredients
- EPA Safer Choice certified
- Single-use plastic bottles
- Scented versions dissipate too quickly for some
Get the Fresh Wave spray air freshener at Amazon.
Fresh Wave’s innovative odor-removing gel is a winner for many reasons. First, it actually works, absorbing and neutralizing bad smells anywhere in the house. Second, Fresh Wave has earned a Safer Choice certification from the EPA, so buyers won’t be introducing toxins into the air to mask unpleasant smells and risk their health. Instead, they’ll enjoy the lightly spiced aroma of essential oils, including pine, lime, clove, anise, and cedarwood. As the gel evaporates over 60 days, yucky smells vanish, leaving freshness instead. Place Fresh Wave gel containers wherever odors are worst, like in bathrooms or pet areas, and let them do their thing.
- Type: Gel
- Size: 15 ounces
- Fragrance: Unscented
- Natural, with no harsh chemicals
- EPA Safer Choice certified
- Easy-to-use refills
- Jar needs to be near odor source
- Some find it ineffective with pet odors
Get the Fresh Wave gel air freshener at Amazon.
Here’s a gift that keeps on giving: Everlasting Comfort’s Essential Oil Diffuser is stunning to look at and works like a dream. This ultrasonic diffuser is made of BPA-free materials that look like carved wood. The electronic components are certified for safety, reliability, and quality, making Everlasting Comfort a good choice for bedrooms and living spaces of all kinds. Just add a few drops of a favorite essential oil and the diffuser does the rest, wafting a gentle mist that will last all night long. Though the diffuser does come with a cleaning kit, the extra-large 400 milliliter water tank doesn’t require frequent maintenance. Noise-free with a built-in timer and seven colored LED mood lights, Everlasting Comfort delivers a fresh scent that is calming for both the lungs and the mind.
- Type: Diffuser
- Size: 400 milliliters
- Fragrance: Any essential oil
- 7-color mood lighting
- Variable mist output
- Works for up to 13 hours
- Requires periodic cleaning
Get the Everlasting Comfort air freshener at Amazon.
Drift away to a desert island or an alpine meadow: Whatever an individual’s favorite scent may be, there’s an Air Wick Botanica plug-in diffuser for them. The essential oils from this Caribbean Sweetgrass and Sandalwood kit are responsibly sourced from Haiti and contain no artificial dyes or phthalates. Long lasting and easy to refill, Botanica by Air Wick lasts up to 60 days on low power and can be plugged in anywhere. As well as sandalwood, this plug-in also comes in an ever-increasing range, including Himalayan Magnolia and Vanilla as well as Fresh Pineapple and Tunisian Rosemary. The downside is this product may be too overpowering for those who are sensitive to scent.
- Type: Diffuser
- Size: 2 warmers plus 6 refills
- Fragrance: Caribbean Sweetgrass and Sandalwood, Fresh Pineapple and Tunisian Rosemary, Himalayan Magnolia and Vanilla, Island Rose and African Geranium, French Lavender and Honey Blossom
- 5 output levels for fragrance control
- Responsibly sourced ingredients
- Plug-and-go simplicity
- 60-day duration requires lowest setting
- Warmers are not recyclable
Get the Air Wick air freshener at Amazon.
The Svavo fragrance dispenser is best for larger home and commercial spaces. For those who want aroma to linger in the air without much effort, the Svavo’s dispenser could be the air freshener of choice. Using its LCD display, users can program the spray interval time from 1 to 60 minutes at their preferred level of fragrance intensity. They can even program different modes for weekends and weekdays, making the Svavo great for gyms and other places of business. The fragrance dispenser can be mounted to a wall or simply set on a desk, bookshelf, or other flat, stable surface. The unit requires aerosol fragrance sprays, which come in a range of scents, and two AA batteries, both sold separately.
- Type: Aerosol spray
- Size: Takes standard 5.51-inch by 2.56-inch refills
- Fragrance: Any standard aerosol spray
- Frequency intervals of 1 to 60 minutes
- Flexible working modes for workplace use
- Freestanding or wall-mounted
- Comparatively expensive
- Batteries not included
Get the Svavo air freshener at Amazon.
There are lots of charcoal air purifiers on the market, but few stack up to the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag. Each bag contains the highest-quality bamboo charcoal, which is nontoxic and completely biodegradable. Instead of masking fragrances, Moso bags effectively purify the home’s air, freeing it from odors, pollutants, and even moisture. Fragrance-free and 100 percent chemical-free, a Moso bag can last up to 2 years with simple maintenance. Simply place any Moso bag outside in the sun once a month for an hour. That’s it. And instead of throwing out the bag when it has stopped absorbing odors, sprinkle the charcoal on the garden for an all-natural fertilizer. Each Moso bag covers up to 300 square feet and is intended for kitchens, basements, bedrooms, and anywhere else that the air needs a refresh.
- Type: Sachet
- Size: 600 grams (21 ounces)
- Fragrance: Unscented
- Chemical- and fragrance-free
- Covers up to 300 feet
- Lasts up to 2 years
- A little bulky
- Needs direct sun once a month
Get the Moso Natural air freshener at Amazon.
For all the smelliest pet problems, this is the best odor-eater solution. Zero Odor is a liquid deodorizer spray that permanently eliminates funky scents wherever they lurk, including kitchens, basements, carpet, and clothing. Zero Odor doesn’t contain harsh chemicals and is nontoxic and nonallergenic. The patented formula is designed to bond with odor particles on a molecular level, neutralizing them in the process. Best of all, Zero Odor is safe for both pets and kids. Spray it on fabric, car upholstery, and carpeting for quick and effective odor elimination. This product doesn’t leave chemical traces behind—only the scent of clean.
- Type: Spray
- Size: 64-ounce refill (16-ounce spray available)
- Fragrance: Unscented
- Nontoxic, nonallergenic, and biodegradable
- Economical pack for use with any spray bottle
- Made in the U.S.
- We believe packaging is single-use plastic
- Fabrics and carpets should be patch tested
Get the Zero Odor air freshener at Amazon.
With its tongue-in-cheek name, Poo-Pourri is memorable for sure. But does it work? The answer is a resounding yes, and with all-natural ingredients, no less. To avoid bathroom smells altogether, simply “spritz the bowl before you go.” The original nonaerosol spray contains a blend of lemon, bergamot, and lemongrass essential oils. But buyers can also choose from the brand’s wide selection of fragrances, including humorously named blends like “Deja Poo” and “Ship Happens.” All Poo-Pourri sprays contain natural compounds and no harsh chemicals, parabens, phthalates, or formaldehyde. This is a great product for guest bathrooms or anywhere else a little discretion is required.
- Type: Spray
- Size: 2 ounces
- Fragrance: Citrus (many others available)
- All-natural ingredients
- Traps odor under the water
- Up to 100 uses per bottle
- Not completely child-safe
- Possible eye irritant
Get the Poo-Pourri air freshener at Amazon.
The interiors of cars and trucks get subjected to all manner of smells. People hop right in after exercise, food and drinks get spilled, wet dogs jump in, etc. Add heat on a cold day, and it can get pretty smelly in there.
Febreze Car Air Freshener is a simple, affordable, and effective solution that uses what the company calls Odor Clear Technology to eliminate odors actively rather than just masking them. Just push to activate and then clip it to the air vent of a vehicle. The scent level is adjustable, providing up to a month of pleasant freshness in a wide variety of fragrances.
Febreze has high safety standards, but there are petroleum-based contents, so they are not recyclable in the normal sense. However, specialists TerraCycle will dispose of Febreze products in an environmentally friendly way if sent in. Additionally, like many such products, Febreze should be kept away from kids and pets.
- Type: Diffuser
- Size: Four 0.06-ounce fresheners
- Fragrance: Gain Citrus, Gain Island Fresh (others available)
- Odor Clear Technology; eliminates odors at the source
- Conveniently attaches to air vent for ample scent distribution
- Supported by TerraCycle; fully recyclable
- Easy to set up in seconds
- Should be kept away from children and pets
- Limited quantity per unit; may run out fast
Get the Febreze air freshener at Amazon.
Many low-cost plug-in diffusers can simply be turned on or off. Though some offer variable-scent output, they still operate day and night, whether the house is occupied or not.
The Glade Plugin Plus is different in that it offers an optional 8-hour rest cycle, so it can be turned off during the night or while people are at work. This makes the fragrance last longer, and because the plug-in isn’t on when it’s not needed, it also saves energy.
The Smart Light feature indicates when the fragrance level has dropped to 30 percent so a refill can be kept handy. It will also turn itself off automatically when empty, providing further energy savings. Glade offers literally dozens of different fragrances for all preferences. Some feel the initial scent is stronger than necessary, while a few find the light too bright for bedroom use.
- Type: Diffuser
- Size: 0.67 ounces
- Fragrance: Any Glade PlugIn refill
- Energy and scent control
- Alert for low fragrance level
- Auto shutoff when empty
- Light may be too bright for some
- Single-use plastics
Get the Glade air freshener at Amazon.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Air Freshener
Air fresheners really come down to personal preference. Some people like strong scents while others prefer clean, unfragranced air. From this starting point, there is then a choice of whether a spray, gel, sachet, or diffuser is right for personal preference or location. Other important considerations are the size of the room and how long the product is expected to last. Finally, it is worth thinking carefully about any health issues and any allergies or sensitivities family members may have.
Type and Intended Use
There are many different types of air fresheners on the market. From sprays and sachets to plug-ins and gels, it can be hard to figure out which formula and dispenser style is best. Let’s break air fresheners down into their main categories:
- Spray: Spray air fresheners are versatile and incredibly easy to use. Just spray them into the air or onto a smelly surface and let the ingredients do their work. Spray fragrances don’t linger in the air for long, which can be an upside or a downside depending on individual needs and preferences. Sadly, most sprays come in single-use plastic bottles, which have a negative impact on the environment.
- Gels: Odor-busting ingredients like essential oils can be suspended in gel. Gels evaporate slowly, ridding the air of foulness in the process and leaving a fresh scent behind. Because gels’ fragrances are usually quite mild, they are best for freshening air in smaller spaces, like bedrooms and bathrooms.
- Sachet: Scented sachets have traditionally been filled with dried herbs or lavender. However, the best odor-eliminating ingredient for sachets is one that isn’t scented at all. Activated-charcoal sachets are eco-friendly, remove unwanted odors, and are the best bets for folks with allergies. These sachets are available in a wide range of sizes, including extra-large to purify an entire room and very small ones suitable for deodorizing a closet.
- Diffuser: Available as plug-in, electronic, or stand-alone units, diffusers all have the same basic function: to pump microbursts of fragrance, either natural or synthetic, into the air. Essential oil diffusers are really a product category of their own. They differ from plug-in and electronic models in that they mix fragrance with water, humidifying and purifying air at the same time.
- Reeds are another type of diffuser, using capillary action to evaporate scents into the air.
Strength and Longevity
How big is the room? How bad is the smell? Answers to these questions will help determine the best air freshener for different situations. Spray air fresheners and gels are usually best for smaller, enclosed areas. Sprays are also effective for those who need to target a soft surface, like a sofa or rug to eliminate pet odors, for example. Sprays and gels should be strong enough to kill the bad smell without being overpowering. Once they serve their purpose, their own scent should evaporate and leave clean, chemical-free air behind.
Diffusers, on the other hand, are intended for larger spaces like bedrooms, living rooms, and offices. Instead of scrubbing the air of unpleasant smells, diffusers inject nice fragrances into the indoor environment, which linger for hours. Plug-in and electronic diffusers are timed to release microbursts of fragrance from a cartridge or aerosol can. These units typically last 60 days before the cartridge (or can) needs replacing. Essential oil diffusers require just a few drops of essential oil, plus water refills, to keep air fresh day after day.
Scent and Ingredients
Air fresheners have a reputation for being heavily and artificially scented, but that’s not the full story. It’s true that some plug-in diffusers and sprays contain synthetic fragrances and known toxins like phthalates. However, many air-freshener brands are appealing to health- and eco-conscious customers by upgrading the quality of their ingredients. Look for labels that list the types of chemicals not included, like dyes and alcohol, as well as those that tout ingredients like all-natural or organic essential oils. Products that contain ingredients deemed safer for human health and the environment receive Safer Choice certification from the EPA.
Popular home fragrances run the gamut from florals and botanicals to vanilla and spice. Citrus is also a classic refreshing choice, especially for kitchens and bathrooms. Of course, for those who have scent sensitivities or simply prefer clean, unfragranced air, charcoal sachets work, too.
Sweeten your home with one of the best air fresheners available. If you choose a plug-in or electric diffuser, make sure to consider your scent preferences and choose a fragrance that is light and enjoyable for you as well as for family and friends. Or go for unscented charcoal sachets for an easy, eco-friendly solution to odor elimination and air purification.
Q. What are the most popular scents for the home?
Citrus, vanilla, spices (like cinnamon and cloves), and other botanicals found in essential oils are the most popular.
Q. Where should air fresheners be placed in a room?
They should be placed where the source of the odor is or where the scent can be diffused to maximum effect, like a plug that gets plenty of airflow.
Q. How often do you need to change an air freshener?
Plug-in units need to be changed about every 60 days, and the same is true for gels. Sprays and sachets can last longer, depending on use.