Friday, March 22, 2013

Good Idea Friday - Refilling your Wallflowers

"Do it yourself refills for any plug-in air freshener. Less expensive and better for your health!"

This idea was submitted to me by at least three different people last week, so it's clearly a hot item over at Pinterest at the moment. But is it a good idea? Bad idea? Honestly - it's a little of both. Not bad enough to put as a bad idea, but flawed enough it's not the best of ideas. Here's why. 

Wallflowers - the ever popular home scent item from Bath and Body Works, are heavy in things like VOC and chemically made scents. Anyone wanting a more natural home will understand why plugging something like that into your outlets to scent the home isn't really all that good. But what about a more natural alternative? As the pin states just use natural oils! 

My first thought when I saw this was that it was fairly sound - simply replacing the artificial scents with natural oils would work. But after spending a bit of time researching I'm not so sure anymore. Over at My Daily Bread, she brings up a lot of good points - mainly that what makes natural oils so nice is also why they aren't commonly used in items like this. Exposure to high heat, air and light will cause the oils to break down. Not to mention the sheer COST that it would take to refill these - essential oils are very costly depending on the scent you're going for. I've seen on other blogs where they recommend mixing it with various other oils and alcohol, but that starts to get in possibly dangerous territory since this is eventually being heated by an outlet, and could pose a fire risk. Different oils have different heat rates at which they can combust, so unless you know the oil you're using is safe to use in this manner it's probably best not to. I'd imagine a light scented oil with a high smoke point would be the safest as they handle heat the best, something like canola (475°F) or safflower oil (510°F) tend to have a high smoke point and are easily accessible.

But that all aside - does this work? Yes, I believe it would. I don't have those in my house to personally test out, but I've read enough blogs and articles about it to make me think this would work. The downside being of course is it's far more costly and not going to be as powerful scented as the artificial ones. 

So what can you do if you want a more natural way to scent your house without having to spend $15 every time you need to refill one plug in? Easy. Long ago, before they had even came up with plug ins, it was fairly common for people to have metal or ceramic rings that they would set on a lamp's light bulb and then fill with oils. Once heated by the lamp, the scent would be released. Why is this better? Because you're only using a small amount of oil at a time, so it doesn't have time to fade or go rancid, and comes with a far lower chance of fire. You can also change the scents easily on a whim. The rings are sold at a lot of different places and tend to run about $5 a piece, so it's also cheaper than the whole wallflower set up is. 

So what do you think? Good idea or bad idea? Any of our fans going to try this for us and report back?  


  1. OMG, HI!!! This is Gertrude Pumpernickel from My Daily Bread and I am so stoked that you found my post on refilling Wallflowers helpful! I LOVE your blog! It's a great example of citizen science and I appreciate the diligence you go to to research the spurious claims made on so many Pinterest posts. As far as the Wallflowers go, I didn't burn the house down but I also didn't succeed in making the house smell like anything, and it cost more than just buying new Wallflowers. Keep up the good work!

  2. Anonymous29/4/14

    I've done this, but I put the essential oils in water in the pug-in scent warmer. It works, though the scent is not as strong as the chemical kind or when heated in a candle-lit warmer. It's just strong enough to make the bathroom a little more pleasant.

  3. Anonymous23/2/15

    I like the metal or pottery ring around the light bulb, but mine are for old incandescent bulbs. Have they made a new style to work with the new CFL's? And do the CFL put out enough heat to make any difference?

    1. You know I didn't even take in account those who use CFLs or LEDs when I wrote this post. I've spent some time researching though, and you're right - neither of the newer bulb types get hot enough to really work. I'd suggest instead to look at more modern choices like oil diffusers. Here's a great write up on various styles and types:

  4. I actually found this post searching for a way to make this work. Sadly, it's not working. I have tried this with water like the recipe suggests and using a carrier oil - neither one does the job like a real wallflower. I have to get my nose right in it to small anything. :/

  5. Anonymous3/4/16

    An idea I found on a website (sorry I can't remember where), said to use a candle warmer and use a coffee mug and put water and a few drops of essential oil in the mug and set it on low. Of course, you don't want to leave this overnight unattended or around little ones that might spill it. But this can be used about anywhere. I found a cheap little difuser that plugs into my computer USB port and puts out a nice scent from essential oils that I drop onto a pad inside.

  6. If you don't have a diffuser for essential oils... Make your own reed diffuser, place your oil on a cotton ball and clothes pin to your vents, or place a dab on your light bulb (while it's off) and when it heats up the tiny amount will do more than you think! Before falling in love with essential oils I used wallflowers ALL the time, in every room. I've researched trying to replace them but decided it's not worth it before I even went for it.