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You might not realize how important it is to have fresh, clean air in your home—until there's a smell you can't shake. Stale, stuffy air—combined with odors from laundry and gym wear, bathroom smells, food aromas, and musty areas—can create an environment that your nose finds unbearable. Solutions range from sprays to gels to plug-ins and more. It's all about finding the right scent and medium for your space and the smells you're battling.
No matter why you want to give your space a scent boost, here are the best air fresheners.
Best Overall: Renuzit Gel Air Freshener
Easy to operate
Scent level is controllable
Variety of scents
Doesn’t last long
It’s hard to find an air freshener more versatile than the Renuzit Gel Air Freshener. The 98 percent naturally sourced, biodegradable gel cone doesn’t require batteries, you don’t need to plug it into an outlet, and there’s nothing to spray. It’s easy to operate—just twist and lift the cap. You can control the amount of fragrance by raising or lowering the cap.
Because the gel cone is small, it will fit in almost any space. It's also one of the less expensive options, so you can place one in every room and experiment with various scents. Best of all, it comes in almost two dozen scents, including After the Rain, Pure Breeze, Tranquil Falls, and Hawaiian Sunset. And if you like the scent of Snuggle dryer sheets, the gel cone air freshener is also available in two Snuggle scents.
Best for Cars: Febreze Car Air Freshener Vent Clip
Easy to attach
Plenty of scents to choose from
Only lasts 30 days on the lowest setting
Considering everything that happens in your car—eating and spilling food, transporting other humans and pets, and often driving with the windows up due to extreme cold or heat—it's normal for smells to develop. However, the Febreze Car Air Freshener Vent Clip makes it easy to banish those smells. As its name implies, you merely clip the air fresher to your car vent, and then you can adjust how much of the scent is released.
On the low setting, each vent clip lasts for an average of 30 days. There are over two dozen scents to choose from, including Linen & Sky, Fresh-Twist Cranberry, Sea Spray, and also two Gain laundry detergent scents.
Best for Bathrooms: Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray
Variety of sizes
Variety of scents
Available in very small amounts
One place you don’t want odors to linger: the bathroom. It can be embarrassing for both parties when one person is exiting the bathroom and another person is entering the space. Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray can help you avoid such unpleasantries. By spraying the scent directly onto the water in the toilet bowl, a barrier is created to trap odors underneath the surface.
The spray is made of natural ingredients—including essential oils—and is free of aerosols and parabens. Besides the original citrus scent, it’s also available in other options, such as Lavender Peppermint, Lavender Vanilla, Tropical Hibiscus, and Vanilla Mint. You can also use Poo-Pourri in your kitchen trashcan, as well as in your laundry room or other areas with strong odors.
Best Plug-In: Glade PlugIns Air Freshener Start Kit
Plenty of scent options available
Variety of scents
Must be plugged in
If you like air freshener options that you can set and forget, consider the Glade PlugIns Air Freshener Start Kit, which includes the fragrance warmer that you plug into an outlet and five refills. You can adjust the amount of scent that's released based on the size of the room and how strong you want the fragrance to be.
Some of the fragrance options you can choose from include Tropical Blossoms, Hawaiian Breeze, Apple Cinnamon, Cashmere Woods, Clean Linen, and Lavender & Aloe.
Best Automatic: Glade Automatic Spray Refill and Holder Kit
Easy to refill
Choice of three settings
Limited settings for spraying times
Another set-and-forget option is an automatic spray air freshener. The Glade Automatic Spray Refill and Holder Kit uses two AA batteries and includes three settings, so you can dispense a burst of fragrance every nine, 18, or 36 minutes—though there's an off setting as well for overnight or when you're away on a trip. In addition, there’s a Boost Button that you can press to release fragrance whenever you desire.
Each canister lasts for an average of 60 days, and the dispenser has a low refill indicator to let you know when it's time to swap out canisters. Aqua Waves, Clean Linen, and Blooming Peony & Cherry are some of the many fragrances available.
Best for Bedrooms: Caldrea Linen and Room Spray Air Freshener
Scent is not continuously circulated
If you like to add a fresh scent to your bedroom, the Caldrea Linen and Room Spray Air Freshener is perfect for you. Free from artificial colors, formaldehyde, aerosol, and parabens, it’s made of essential oils and is safe enough to spray in the air or on garments and linens without leaving stains.
This spray is perfect if you don't need a continuous air freshener but would like something to refresh your room every once in a while. Scent options include Pear Blossom Agave, Rosewater Driftwood, Lavender Cedar Leaf, and more.
Best Charcoal: MOSO NATURAL Air Purifying Bag
Variety of sizes
No fragrances left behind
Can be used for two years
Must remember to put in the sun monthly
The MOSO Natural Charcoal Air Purifying Bag stands out because it is available in a variety of packaging and sizes. For example, there’s a freestanding option that lets you place it anywhere without worrying about it toppling over. There’s also a smaller size that can be hung in closets or bathrooms or tucked into drawers. The car MOSO bag can be used in cars, SUVs, and trucks.
All of the MOSO bags are made of bamboo charcoal and are free from fragrances entirely. Each bag absorbs odors and moisture and only requires one hour in the sun each month to maintain effectiveness. The bags last for up to two years, and the contents are biodegradable. Plus, there is a place on each bag to write the date the packaging was opened, so you’ll remember when to put it in the sun and when two years have passed. You can even recycle the bag’s contents in your backyard.
Best for Smoke: Air Choice Air Purifier
True HEPA air filter
Removes odors, smoke, dust
Sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with odors like smoke, you need something stronger than a traditional air freshener. The Air Choice Air Purifier is a small appliance that has a pre-filter that removes dust, lint, and allergens in addition to an ionizer filter that removes odors and smoke and a True HEPA filter that removes tiny airborne substances.
This air purifier is designed to clean 215 square feet of air in 10 minutes and refresh the air six times an hour. It’s easy to operate with just one button that turns it on and off and controls the three fan settings. The lowest setting is quiet enough that it won’t interrupt your sleep. At just about 5.5 pounds, it’s easy to move to different rooms when needed.
The best overall air purifier is the Renuzit Gel Air Freshener (view at Amazon), which is a biodegradable gel cone and doesn’t need to be sprayed or plugged into an outlet. Twisting the cap up or down controls the amount of fragrance released, and it is available in a variety of scents. If you prefer no fragrance at all, the MOSO Natural Charcoal Air Purifying Bag (view at Amazon) uses bamboo charcoal to clean your air naturally. It’s also easy to care for and biodegradable, and each bag lasts for two years.
What to Look for in an Air Freshener
Do you want fragrant air freshener or one with no scent? When making this decision, also consider family members, friends, pets, or co-workers who might be sensitive to heavy perfumes. You’ll also need to decide whether you want an air freshener that allows you to control the level of fragrance released if that’s important to you. Some air fresheners let you adjust the intensity, while others are all or nothing.
If you have children and pets, a plug-in might not be the best option unless the outlets are high enough that they can’t be reached. Gels and sprays can also be dangerous if ingested, so they'll need to be out of reach. And bamboo charcoal can be a choking hazard if the bags are torn open.
Choosing a type also means choosing how easy to use or customizable you want your air freshener to be. Something you can plug into an outlet or set on a table is more convenient than having to spray air freshener all of the time, and it might be a better pick for areas with consistent smell issues, such as a laundry room or bathroom. On the other hand, if you only want to freshen the air on certain occasions, such as when company is coming over, it might be easier just to spray the air before your guests arrive.
If you have strong odors, you'll need to treat the source of the smell in addition to adding a freshener on top of it. Nothing smells worse than bad odors mixed with perfume. However, sometimes you’ll need to experiment with products to find the one that works best for your needs. If moisture is a problem, bamboo charcoal does a better job of absorbing it than sprays or oils do. But if your room just needs a gentle refresh, those methods should work fine.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Terri Williams is a professional writer who has tested hundreds of products. She has product review bylines at Tom’s Guide, and both home improvement advice and product review bylines at Realtor.com, Bob Vila, Apartment Therapy, and Heavy.com.