Smells Toxic: Artificial Scents to Avoid

artificial scents

Now, more than ever, it’s hard to avoid artificial fragrances. From garbage bags to room fresheners to laundry detergents, we live in a world where fake floral smells are everywhere. It’s important to be aware of these artificial fragrances because they can be extremely toxic to the human body over time.

Many people are allergic to fake scents. This is mainly because they are made up of toxic chemicals, derived from petrochemicals. These chemicals include: benzene derivatives, aldehydes, phthalates, and a slew of other known toxins that are capable of causing cancer, birth defects, nervous-system disorders and allergies—many of which are included on the EPA’s hazardous waste list.

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More than 95 percent of chemicals in artificial fragrances are derived from petrochemicals, which are derived from natural gas and petroleum. 

Artificial Fragrances to Avoid



Petrochemicals, like many of the other artificial ingredients in artificial fragrances, build up in the body over time. They are used in pesticides, plastics, soaps, detergents etc. Repeated exposure has been linked to endocrine disruption and several types of cancer.
Products made with petrochemicals to AVOID: soaps, detergents, paints, some clothing and furniture, suntan lotions, diapers, mouthwash, nail polish. For a more detailed list, visit here.

woman applying Lotion


Chemicals from the Phthalates family are commonly found as the artificial fragrance in scented body care products, such as perfumes, lotions, shampoos, etc. They are inhaled as well as absorbed through the skin. The chemicals enter the blood stream and are absorbed through the lungs. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors and suspected carcinogens.

Products made with Phthalates to AVOID: perfumes, scented body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, body spray, make-up products such as concealer, plastic baby toys, unfiltered water. 

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air freshener

Other Toxic Chemicals

Repeated use of air fresheners and cleaners with artificial scents can cause toxic interactions in your home. The air can be contaminated by the interactions of these types of products. Often times toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, dioxin and other volatile chemicals are produced from their interaction. These are not chemicals you want to breathe in on a daily basis, or really ever.

More products with toxic chemicals to AVOID: air fresheners, home cleaners, bubble bath, lipsticks, whitening toothpastes, hand and dish soaps. For a detailed graph, visit here.

How to Avoid Artificial Scents

  • Read labels to avoid chemicals in the products you buy.
  • Make your own non-toxic cleaners at home. 
  • Only buy from companies that fully disclose all ingredients used on their labels.
  • Never microwave plastic.
  • Look for plastic that says “BPA-Free.”
  • Opt for fresh or frozen foods, over canned. 
  • Look for nail products labeled “three-free.”
  • Look for fragrances from essential oils or products labeled “fragrance-free.”
  • Avoid antibacterial hand soap.

Non-Toxic Alternatives

Luckily, there are some great alternatives to the toxic artificial scents you should always avoid. Here are some of the best non-toxic alternatives to leave your home smelling fresh:

Baking Soda and Vinegar

To eliminate unpleasant odors, baking soda and vinegar are your best bets. These two can eliminate any unpleasant odor in your home. Set baking soda around or leave a bowl of vinegar in any room. Baking soda works particularly well on carpets. Both of these products are great, all-natural cleaning solutions that can replace many of the toxic chemicals in your home.

Spices and Plants

For a pleasant, non-toxic fragrance in your home, purchase your favorite spice plant. Examples include: vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, or even petals from flowers, like roses or orange blossoms.  Place the spice or petals in olive oil, and let them soak. Drain through a cloth and you’ve created your own all-natural perfume!

Essential Oils

Essential oils, such as lavender and eucalyptus, are one of the best ways to make your home smell great without any toxins. Oils can be diffused with a water diffuser or you can place drops on cotton balls and leave them around your home. You can also make your own air freshener by combining oils with water in a spray bottle. 

Open the Windows

One of the best way to avoid artificial scents is the most simple: open your windows. This allows fresh air to circulate through your home, letting any toxins escape and fresh, breathable air to come in. It seem’s so simple, but it’s one of the best ways to avoid artificial scents and toxins – with FRESH air! 


Sachets are probably the most pleasant and effective non-toxic alternative. A sachet of dried, organic lavender can make any drawer, closet, cabinets, furniture, or room smell lovely. They are easy to make yourself or you can purchase them at local stores and boutiques. 
The human sense of smell is acute and powerful. Customers gravitate towards products that smell “good.” But it’s important to think twice before purchase products which might initially have a pleasant smell, but really are loaded with toxic chemicals that can harm you and your family.

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