Nothing’s worse than coming back home only to smell pet odor, last night’s dinner or stale air. While a good housecleaning and or mighty air purifier can help remove these odors, an air freshener is an easy, inexpensive way to help banish lingering aromas and make your home feel more inviting. A good air freshener should make the air smell clean and fresh and eliminate— not just cover up — odors without being too overpowering or fading too soon.
Here at the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, director Carolyn Forte and her group of Lab pros lead testing of hundreds of cleaning products and tips year-round, including those that claim to get smells out of microwaves, washing machines, fabrics, pet and cooking zones, plus any tips to generally freshen the air in your home. When we test air fresheners, we evaluate them both in the Lab and at home to better simulate real-life conditions. We assess the intensity of the scent initially and over time, monitor how long they last (especially if they claim to work for weeks or months), and evaluate ease of use. We also check for any leakage or damage to surrounding surfaces as well as any specific performance claims the product makes. Here are the best air fresheners to buy in 2021:
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Best Overall Air Freshener
Fade Defy Dual Scented Oil Warmer
Plug-ins can’t be beat for non-stop freshening until you no longer notice them or they stop working altogether. GH Seal star Febreze’s Fade Defy Plug uses two compatible alternating scents: Just as your nose gets used to one, the other kicks in so you’ll know it’s working.
Even more innovative, this air freshener digitally monitors and controls how and when the scent is released so it doesn’t fade quickly, and you’ll know when it’s time for a refill. In our GH Cleaning Lab tests, we found that when set to “low”, the scent was very noticeable — even in large spaces — for a full 50 days. Other features we liked include the adjustable scent level and the light alert when a new refill is needed.
- Scent lasts until the refill is used up
- Light alerts when a new refill is needed
- Adjustable scent level
Best Smart Air Freshener
PlugIns Plus Air Freshener Warmer
You’ll save energy and extend the life of GH Seal star Glade’s fragrance with its unique built-in rest or sleep cycle. The device can easily be programmed to stop releasing scent for eight hours overnight when everyone in the house is sleeping.
It also has an indicator light when the oil level is at 30% so you know it’s time for a refill soon. And when it does run out, the auto shut-off feature kicks in so there’s no wasted electricity. In our Lab tests, we were impressed by its high performance and innovative features. This air freshener also gets praise from shoppers with over 17,000 reviews and a 4.7 rating on Amazon.
- Has a rest cycle for less scent and energy use overnight
- Some reviewers said light was too bright for use in the bedroom at night
Best Spray Air Freshener
Air, Linen & Sky Air Freshener
This GH seal star doesn’t just cover up smells, but actually neutralizes and eliminates them, by trapping and deactivating odor molecules while adding a burst of fragrance. In our Cleaning Lab tests, this Febreze freshener got rid of strong smoke and cooking odors. Pet owners who tested this at home gave it a thumbs up. The trigger spray nozzle is comfortable to hold, and it emits a fine mist propelled from the can.
- Got rid of smoke, pet odors and more in our tests
- Easy-to-dispense spray can
- Scent may not last long enough for some
- Spray may make hard floors slippery
Best Candle Air Freshener
Scented Soy Aromatherapy Candle
A candle is a pretty and long-lasting way to freshen the air and give your home a distinctive, signature scent. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products are known for their luscious, realistic, essential oil fragrances, and these garden-inspired scented candles are no exception. Mrs. Meyer’s products always do well in GH Lab tests and come in a variety of spring fragrances such as lavender, basil, geranium, honeysuckle and lemon verbena.
The candle is made of soy and vegetable wax and has a lead and metal-free wick. It claims to burn up to 35 hours, and when it runs out, the jar is recyclable or reusable. The screw-top lid protects the wick and keeps the candle surface clean when not in use. With over 3,800 perfect 5-star reviews on Amazon, multiple shoppers said they found the aroma very pleasing, though some said the candle was smaller than they expected.
- Lasts for 35 hours
- Recyclable jar
Best Air Freshener for the Car
Car Air Freshener Vent Clips
These mini devices are specifically designed to attach to your car’s air vent to keep your vehicle smelling fresh as cool or warm air wafts through it. A GH Seal star, Febreze Car has a dial to control the scent intensity and lasts up to 30 days when used on the lowest setting.
It’s a fan favorite on Amazon with over 5,500 reviews and a 4.6 rating, with shoppers saying these are their favorite car fresheners. We like that it’s discreet and eliminates the distracting “tree” freshener hanging from the rearview mirror.
- Attaches to car vents
- Can control scent intensity
- Does not last as long on higher settings
Best Air Freshening Gel
Odor Removing Gel
Fresh Wave’s odor eliminator comes in the form of a gel that evaporates over time as it eliminates airborne odors. Simply peel off the seal on the jar, and screw the vented lid back in place. Set it on a counter, tabletop or shelf to continuously deodorize spaces up to 200 square feet. Fresh Wave’s line of deodorizers have worked well in GH tests, and we’ve found this gel to be a convenient and effective way to eliminate odors in confined spaces, like from burned popcorn in the microwave where you wouldn’t use traditional sprays or other methods.
Fresh Wave Gel is plant-based and claims to be safe for people, pets and the planet with no synthetic perfumes, alcohol or phthalates. It is EPA Safer Choice certified. Multiple reviewers were wowed at its ability to eliminate odors from their house full of dogs or cats and said that it just doesn’t mask the odor, but actually gets rid of it. When the gel disappears, the jars are refillable.
- May need more than one for a large room
Best Bathroom Air Freshener
Before-You-Go Toilet Spray
GH Seal star Poo-Pourri works by creating a barrier on the toilet water’s surface to trap odors and keep them from reaching the air. All you do is spritz three to five sprays onto the water before you go. In our tests, we were impressed by how well it kept bathroom smells from becoming airborne, plus how pleasant a scent it left behind. Poo-Pourri is made with natural essential oils and comes in an incredibly varied array of scents and sizes, even for travel. The mini bottles are pretty enough to leave out for guests to use, too.
- Traps odors and freshens air
- Comes in a wide range of scents
- Need to spray 3-5 times before going
Best Linen and Air Freshener
Linen and Room Spray Air Freshener
This luxurious and versatile spray can be used to add a rich, inviting fragrance to your home, car or linens. Caldrea is known for its creative mix of unique essential oils that produce fragrances with depth and pampering qualities. We especially like spraying it on clean bed linens when making up the bed. Trust us, you feel like you’re in a 5-star hotel when you slip between the sheets. It can even be sprayed on linens as you iron. With over 4,900 reviews on Amazon and score of 4.6 stars, shoppers praise it for its light scent that’s refreshing but not overpowering.
- Can use to freshen up the home, car or linens
- Can be used on linens while ironing
- Scent may not last long enough for some
- May not remove strong odors as effectively as other products
Best Closet Air Freshener
These dehumidifying crystals eliminate and prevent musty odors by absorbing moisture and removing excess humidity from the air. Easy to use, simply remove the aluminum seal and place the canister of crystals with its vented top on a closet or basement shelf. Once the crystals turn into gel, it’s time to replace it. In GH tests, airBOSS was especially effective in musty closets and kept winter coats smelling fresh even in storage during humid summer months.
- Removes moisture to prevent odors
- Does not add fragrance to air
Best Diffuser Air Freshener
Vitruvi Stone Diffuser
This sleek diffuser freshens the air using water and essential oils. It can run continuously or in intervals and shuts off automatically once it runs dry. Over 1,600 shoppers on Amazon gave Vitruvi a perfect 5-star rating, and many say they were wowed by the outer stone casing which gives it a sophisticated look, unlike most plastic diffusers. Perfect for bedrooms, bathrooms or any place you want to evoke a relaxing vibe. It comes in white, pink, charcoal, terracotta and black.
- Can choose essential oils
- Sleek design
- Higher in price than some air fresheners
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