How to Create Home Fragrances Using Household Ingredients

Spices, fruit and flowers can have your entire home smelling sweet in no time.
Spices, fruit and flowers can have your entire home smelling sweet in no time.
Bernd Lippert/Getty Images

You've decided to have a small get-together for your closest friends. It will be a simple evening --some cocktails, maybe a game and some good old-fashioned conversation. You've bought all the groceries, cleaned the house and scooped out the kitty litter. But then it dawns on you to wonder, "Does my house smell?"

According to a 2008 study by Dutch Boy, chances are it actually does. But the problem is, you can't smell it. Dutch Boy's study found that 96 percent of people claim they've noticed an untoward odor at someone else's house, but only 36 percent acknowledged an odor in their own homes [source: Dutch Boy]. It's all too easy not to whiff any odors in your own home -- you're used to it. But people seem to be aware that there is a chance something stinky is lurking in their homes, because Americans spent $5.1 billion on home fragrances in 2007 [source: Reuters].


In this economy, it's hard to justify spending $5 on a tiny jar of air fragrance and even harder to justify spending almost $20 on a large jar candle. Luckily, there are many ways to create your own home fragrances using all-natural ingredients you have around the house. You don't need to make an extra trip to the store at the last minute to get an air-freshener, you just need to head to the kitchen and use what you have.

In this article, we'll tell you how to create home fragrances using spices, fruits, plants and flowers. The projects are quick and easy, and you won't have to wander around trying to figure out what your house smells like. Let's get started by digging into the spice rack.

Using Spices to Create Home Fragrances

Some people think of creating a spicy scent during the holidays, but it's really something that can be done year-round to add a pleasant, fresh odor to the house.

Depending on your personal olfactory favorites, you can use any of the following spices alone or mixed together to freshen the scent of a room:


  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice
  • Mint

You'll also need water or apple cider, and you can optionally add some vanilla or almond extract if you want to sweeten things up. Two of the main methods for using these spices to produce a lasting scent involve the pot method and the saucepan method. Using the pot method, fill your pot halfway with water. Use your stove to bring the water to a boil, the turn the heat down so the water is still receiving heat, but no longer boiling. Drop in the spices.

With the saucepan method, again fill your pan with water, halfway. Heat the water to a simmer and then add you spices.

With both of these methods, the warming of the spices will help them to release their scents. If you don't cook very often but still want to simmer spices, you can buy prepackaged spice packets at various retail shops and online.

For scents that will last longer than an afternoon, you can also make sachets using dried spices [source: Gruenberg]. These can be placed in decorative bowls in the living room, hung on doorknobs in the bathroom or tucked into drawers.

If spices turn you off, you can always use citrus. Read on to learn about creating home fragrances using fruit.

Using Fruit to Create Home Fragrances

Not every fruit will work when making a home fragrance. For example, you wouldn't want to leave a banana peel out on display during your dinner party. One look at the cleaning products aisle in your local grocery store will confirm that citrus scents are appealing to just about anyone. There is something incredibly fresh and clean about the smell of citrus. And with just a few fruits, you can fill the whole house with that crisp scent.

Household fruit, such as oranges, lemons, limes or grapefruit, can be mixed or used alone to create home fragrance.


If you are in a hurry, the quickest way to get the fruity, fresh scent into the air is simply to peel the fruit. Try the following:

  • Fill a large bowl halfway with water.
  • Remove the peel by tearing it into small bits that are roughly 1 inch x 1 inch (2.54cm x 2.54 cm).
  • Drop all of the peel into the bowl of water.
  • Turn the peel pieces so that the color side is facing up.
  • Squeeze a little juice from the fruit into the bowl.
  • Place the bowl as a centerpiece on your table.

If you have a little more time, you can zest the fruit. This process involves either using an actual zester kitchen tool or a basic vegetable peeler. Be sure to avoid the white stuff that is closest to the fruit, which is technically called pith. Citrus zest can be added to simmering spice pots for additional aromas. You can also liven up your dinner table by placing a small plate under your table's centerpiece and sprinkling the zest around the rim.

For sneak-attack scents that will surprise and delight you on a regular basis, read on. Next, we'll discuss creating home fragrance using plants and flowers.

Using Flowers and Plants to Create Home Fragrances

Flowers and plants add beauty to any home, but they can also add a pleasant scent to the air if you choose the right ones. These days, the extensive breeding of flowers has caused some of them to lose their fragrance. In fact, some flowers are bred purposely without fragrance in order to enhance other features [source: Stewart]. But you can still find plenty of flowers and plants that will release their magic into your home environment. Try to catch a whiff before you make a purchase to ensure you actually like the fragrance of common fragrant flowers, like the rose, lily, magnolia, lilac or peony [sources: Midler, Bond Totten].

Houseplants need to have flowers in order to produce fragrance. You can have multiple scents at different times of the year if you choose plants that will flower in different seasons. Not all varieties of plants will have scents, such as orchids [source: Orchids by Hausermann]. You will need to ask the seller if that particular plant will produce the fragrance you are looking for.


Some common fragrant plants include freesia, hyacinth, hoya, jasmine, gardenia, primrose and narcissus [source: Martha Stewart].

Be sure to read up about the plants and flowers of your choice to ensure you are giving them proper care (watering, fertilizer, light and air movement). With proper care and feeding, these plants will last for many years to come.

Now that you know how to freshen up your home using household ingredients, you'll never have to worry about your home's odor. You'll already know that your home smells wonderful.

To learn more, visit the links on the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Links


  • Bond Totten, Lindsay. "Fragrant Flowers for Your Garden." (Accessed 04/12/09)
  • CBC. "The healing power of spices." 10/31/06 (Accessed 04/12/09)
  • Dutch Boy. "U.S. ADULTS REPORT, YOUR HOUSE STINKS!" Aug. 2008. (Accessed 04/12/09)
  • Gruenberg, Louise. "Tips on Spring Cleaning: Spice Sachet Blend." The Herb Companion. February/March 2003. (Accessed 04/12/09)
  • Orchids by Hausermann. "Fragrant Orchids." (Accessed 04/12/09)
  • "How to Choose Fragrant Houseplants for Every Season." (Accessed 04/12/09)
  • Langenhennig, Susan. "New perfume is designed to mask a woman's true age." The Times-Picayune. 04/10/09. (Accessed 04/12/09)
  • Martha Stewart. "Fragrant Houseplants." (Accessed 04/12/09)
  • Midler, Laura. "Fragrant Flowers." (Accessed 04/12/09)
  • Reuters. "The U.S. Home Fragrance Market Will Propel to $6 Billion by 2012." 03/19/08. (Accessed 04/12/09)
  • Stewart, Amy. "Flower Confidential." Algonquin Books. Jan. 2007. (Accessed 04/12/09)
  • UCANR. "Dracunculus vulgaris, a Voodoo Lily for your Garden." Marin County Cooperative Extension. (Accessed 04/12/09)