How to: make your house stink less


To those who have never been to my house: imagine, if you will, a household in which seven of the nine members are covered in fur, unable to turn shower nobs (and likely afraid of water anyway) and unable to use a toilet.

Which is to say, to those who have been to my house: I'm sorry about the smell. I know it smells sometimes. We do try to handle that as best we can, but see above re: number of non butt-wipers among us.

Yesterday, Mark and I had a bit of a disagreement about the smell in our house. We both agree it smells, but Mark's solution is often to spray Febreeze all over everything. To my mind, that just makes it smell like dog butt+chemicals, which doesn't improve anything. My best air freshening solution thus far has been judicious use of reed dispensers. When I posted this out to Mark, he told me those don't work.

Which got me to thinking. They do work. At least, the one in my office works swimmingly. It makes the air smell nice without giving me the impression I am inside a fabric softener bottle. So why don't the ones in the house work so well?

What it must come down to, I decided, is volume. There were two mostly-empty bottles in my entire 1000+ square foot house, as opposed to one nearly full bottle in my small office. We don't need something different, I declared--we need something more!

The obvious answer would be to run over to the conveniently located Ross and buy a half dozen of the little things, complete with their unnecessary packaging, probable chemical ingredients, and steep price tags. However, it seemed to me that there was another way.

What you see here is what I started with. Two mostly-empty dispensers (formerly lavender and jasmine, I believe) and one new, full one that I didn't ever use because the "wild berry" scent makes me want to retch.

old diffusers

The first step, if I am going to reuse these, is to wash them out. So I poured the nasty berry one down the sink, filled the sink up with hot and soapy, and got scrubbing. For the bottles that still had labels on them, a little rubbing alcohol mixed with hot water did the de-stickying trick. Realizing I was going to need more bottles to fill every room in my house with these suckers than just these, I dug into my thrift supplies and found some similar small bottles and stuck them in to wash too.

washing the bottles

After everything was washed up, I found I had seven little bottles ready to fill--just enough to fill every room! I was, however, going to need some more reeds for my diffusers, so I found a package of bamboo skewers that Mark will never miss and added them to my supplies.

bottles to be filled

Next came figuring out what to put in these little guys. Clearly the commercially prepared ones include some sort of scent agent (maybe EO, probably perfume) and some sort of carrier oil. But is that all? Commercial air deodorizers are usually alcohol based--should I include alcohol as well? How will alcohol mix with the carrier oil? Finally, I decided to try some oil-only versions and some alcohol and oil mixture versions and see which ones worked better. I still only needed a few easily accessible and inexpensive ingredients:


What you see here is a isopropyl alcohol and mineral oil, both available at any drugstore or supermarket (probably for less than a buck a bottle), and essential oils. Since my aim isn't flowers and bunnies, but rather making my house smell less like the great hairy unwashed, I wanted to go with something simple and air clearing, so I choose a mixture of lavender and rosemary EOs.

For the alcohol and oil combination, I did about 1/2 and 1/2, with a really generous amount of EO added. For the oil only one, it was just the mineral oil and EOs, again with a generous amount (several dozen drops in about a cup of total oil).

Since the mouths on these little bottles are tiny, I went with funnel to distribute the mixture. The whitish liquid in this picture is the alcohol and oil blend--it's not as pretty as the straight oil.

filling the bottles

Finally, you see my completed project. The clear jars in the front are the just-oil mixture, the ones in the back contain alcohol. I've distributed them around the house and I will let you know if one variety seems to work markedly better than the other.

finished products

Obviously doing this saved resources over buying a new ones, but what about money? A conservative estimate would put these at about $4 each, or $28 for the seven of them I made. The bottles I used that were thrifted were at most $0.25 each, so if I had thrifted them all, that would be $2.75 max. Maybe $0.50 for the skewers. If I used a half bottle of alcohol and mineral oil total, that's another $1or so. I used maybe $1.50 worth of EOs. That totals $5.75. Savings of $22.25.

Not bad.


Hey Grace - Those are awesome - I might have to swap you for some!

P.S. you description of your house made me lol - we have several non-butt wipers in our house two - some of them are even human...

Great idea, thanks for sharing. I may need to make a couple soon myself -- with a brand new non-butt-wiper in the family it's sure to be getting stinkier in here.

LOVE THIS! You rock, Grace!

This is SO COOL. Please do let us know if they work. I image they would make lovely gifts as well!

I've been thinking about trying to make these too, so this post is right on time. But I worry that my non-butt-wiper would chew on the reeds, and don't have enough high places to keep them out of reach (that kitty can get into anything!). Have you had a problem with your animals getting to them?

Thanks for posting!


Thanks for the info on this. Funny thing, while at the grocery store today I ALMOST bought one of these. Now I am glad I didn't. Little did I know this info would be waiting for me on my computer.
Beth in PA

This is SUCH a great idea!!! I'll be linking to this!

this is really useful. I just balk at spending the outrageous price for those in the stores so this is wonderful information.

could you post about which ones seem to work the best?

Oh yes please post which ones worked the best.

Love the blog!


I just saw your FYI, sorry the coffee hasn't kicked in. :)

can you tell which version is working better yet??

This is a great idea! I read that wood won't wick so wondering if this worked. Did it? I can't find reed or willow sticks anywhere here. Not even the craft stores.

I bought some mineral oil to see if this will work. I bought my reeds on ebay. I got 100 for 6$. Wondering which works best pure oil or oil alcohol mix?

I also read that bamboo doesn't work as well, and you really should use new reeds each time you fill it up. (I think another use out of them if its the same scent would be fine, again just might not be as strong) I know you can get reeds online for cheap, but you can also get them at your local dollar store. I'm just going to buy the packages for a few dollars and dump out the scent and make my own. I also read a few other places that instead of a 50/50 ratio, just adding a splash of alcohol in the oil will help it to go up the reed, and it won't be cloudy like that either!
I am going to make mine tonight!

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