Making Sense of Home Scents

July 26, 2023

We all want our homes to smell as clean and fresh as they can. The supermarket aisles are packed with all manner of products to help us do just that! 

Our sense of smell is one of our most powerful senses; some scents are more positively associated in our minds than others. What’s the best way to make our homes and workplaces smell wonderful or to mask unpleasant odors? Reed diffusers and air fresheners are two fantastic ways to scent a space. At first glance, they may seem relatively similar, but in reality, they are two completely different products. 

A reed diffuser is typically a small-mouthed bottle filled with essential oils with five or six diffuser sticks in it. Essential oils are found in the seeds, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants and can be both beautifully and powerfully fragrant. Essential oils have long been used for food preparation, beauty treatment, and healthcare practices. Some oils induce uplifting or invigorating effects, while others are more calming. 

While a standard electronic diffuser emits well-perfumed must into a space, a reed diffuser offers a more subtle scent to a room. Diffusion is one of the simplest methods for using essential oils aromatically. Diffusers are designed to distribute microscopic droplets of essential oil into the air to naturally clean and freshen the air instead of harmful chemicals that can affect your health. Some oils are known mood enhancers and can promote calm or reduce stressful feelings, including: 

  • Lavender for calming and grounding, and can help with sleep 
  • Peppermint to invigorate and improve focus 
  • Lemon or wild orange to refresh, uplift and energize 

The diffuser sticks (or reeds) are integral to a well-functioning reed diffuser. The fragrance moves up the diffuser, eventually making its way to the top where it can gently move around a room. Reed diffusers are perfect for people who don’t want their aromatherapy experience to be too overpowering. It’s also ideal for those on the go who don’t have the time to clean an electric diffuser. A reed should be wiped down periodically to avoid dust build-up and the sticks should be flipped once or twice a week to keep things smelling fresh. 

You can make your own diffuser at home with essential oils, and a bit of salt, baking soda, or high-proof alcohol. 


  • ¼ cup baking soda 
  • 5-6 drops of essential oils (any fragrance) 


  1. Put ¼ cup baking soda into a small jar. Add five or six drops of your favorite essential oil or blend. 
  2. Put a piece of fabric on the jar and seal it with an elastic band 
  3. To keep an area smelling fresh, place the jar on a solid surface and shake often to activate the fresh scent. 
  4. When the scent starts to fade, simply add two or three more drops of essential oil to the jar. 

Small reed diffusers can be placed just about anywhere around your home—on the corner of the bathroom sink or behind the toilet, on a kitchen shelf as a useful yet decorative piece, or on the end table of your living room. 

One important note: Reed diffusers may be problematic for pets in that all animals, especially cats, are very sensitive to smells. What may seem a pleasant scent to our noses might be overpowering for your pet’s nostrils. 

Air fresheners, on the other hand, simply and quickly eliminate unwanted smells. You can even prevent unwelcome scents with automatic air fresheners that will eject a spritz of fragrance every 10 to 30 minutes. Air fresheners are filled with substances that convert from liquids to gasses, which our noses are able to pick up more easily. As the gas molecules spread around the sprayed room, the space begins to smell fresh and clean. 

Most people have probably seen an air freshener tucked in the corner of someone’s bathroom. They are usually in aerosol cans and scented to smell light & fresh. Lemon and lavender are two popular air freshener scents. 

Air fresheners are not natural. At least the ones you buy at the grocery store aren’t. Since the point of a good air freshener is to provide a quick solution to a stinky problem, most of them are designed to eject scent droplets efficiently. Standard air fresheners brands contain over 100 different ingredients in their products. But DIY air fresheners are completely safe and have the bonus of containing the great benefits associated with essential oils. (Follow the directions above for the DIY diffuser only adding water to the solution and using a spray bottle to distribute.)

Both reed diffusers and air sprays are, for the most part, efficient and safe. There’s nothing like walking into a lovely and fresh-smelling home! Regardless of which products you choose, this should be your main goal!