Homemade Essential Oil Air Fresheners

Have you ever noticed that males of all species have a tendency to (How can I put this delicately?) be malodorous?

I’m talking from a position of knowledge and experience here; I have a husband, five sons, and two male dogs.  We also have chickens and a cat. My boys tromp all over the yard without regard to the location of dog or chicken scat.  I feed my family a great deal of beans. My dogs get gassy when they’re nervous.* There are ample opportunities for ‘the stink’ to arise.

*Boy, do I wish I was joking about that.  Last summer we took the dogs to a family reunion in Southern Michigan.  We got stuck on the Ohio Turnpike in 90°F temperatures.  Our air conditioning broke and only one of the windows in the van worked.  It was the window next to yours-truly’s head.  So all the air exiting the van went right. past. my. face.  Remember that.  It will become very important to my story in mere moments. And the dogs?  Well, let’s just say being stuck in traffic was as hard on their nerves as ours.  Being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic in sweltering temperatures with a flatulent eighty-five pound hound dog and his equally foul-smelling and obese beagle buddy was -in a word- horrific. You could have calibrated a 30-second hourglass by timing the brief respite between ‘episodes’ from Hambone and Diggedy.  I was traumatized. We all were.

I learned early on in my mother-of-many-boys career that eliminating the causes of ‘the stink’ was nearly impossible; I learned it was all about making a pleasant smelling oasis in each room.  And I spent money on it.  Oooh, baby, did I spend money; scented candles, gel air fresheners, room sprays, linen sprays, plug-in room deodorizers, misters, potpourri (sidebar: My mom fed boiled potpourri on a taco to my German exchange student friend in high school.  But that’s a story for another time. Hi, Mom!)

When I learned that three of my babies had asthma, all that stuff went out the window.  Actually, it went in the trash, but you savvy, right?  All the pretty smelling stuff went buh-bye.  Laundry detergent, fabric softener, cleaners?  All unscented.  Boo hoo.  Poor me.

The allergist told me I could use essential oils in small amounts in little bowls or reed diffusers, but I found that the scent dissipated too quickly.  I had to find something that smelled nice (or an inexpensive carbon filter face mask comfortable enough to wear 24/7) or risk losing what little sanity I had left.  It took five years…

You’ve heard that necessity is the mother of invention?  Well, I’m the mother of five little necessities and I had a perspiration. (My Dad defines ‘Perspiration’ as an inspiration that hurts.)  Homemade all-natural, essential oil powered, gel based air fresheners.  They met all the requirements to keep my poor asthmatic kids from doubling over and wheezing.  They smelled great.  They lasted a good long time.  They were cheap to make.  They had five ingredients you could find at any grocery or department store.  And this mom was happy.

Now a word or two about essential oils: they’re pretty powerfully scented, so go easy on how much you add.  You don’t want to add more than 30 drops per air freshener until you know just how strong your oil is.  The basic air freshener base recipe is listed and my favorite scent combinations are given below it.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe sans photos and yakety-yakety, click here!

Homemade Essential Oil Air Fresheners


  • 1 ounce granulated or powdered gelatin
  • 2 cups cold water, divided
  • 20-30 drops of your choice of essential oil
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • optional, food coloring to tint the air freshener

Also needed:

  • heat-proof jars to hold the hot gelatin liquid
  • a disposable chopstick or skewer to use as a stir stick

Bring one cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the boiling water and whisk until smooth and all the gelatin is dissolved.  Add the salt and the second cup of cold water and whisk.  Set aside.

Add the desired amount of essential oil and food coloring, if using, to the jar(s).  Quickly pour the hot liquid gelatin over the essential oil and food coloring.  Stir until evenly colored.

Allow to cool, uncovered on a heat-proof surface.  When it reaches room temperature, place wherever you want a lovely scent.

Sweet Basil and Lemon  Air Freshener

  • 20 drops Sweet Basil essential oil
  • 8 drops Lemon essential oil

Rosemary Orange  Air Freshener

  • 25 drops Sweet Orange essential oil
  • 5 drops Rosemary essential oil (The Rosemary essential oil is mighty strong stuff.  Keep a light hand with this!)

Fresh Pine Scent Air Freshener

  • 25 drops Fir Pine essential oil
  • 3 drops Lemon essential oil
  • 2 drops Sweet Orange essential oil
  • 1 drop Bergamot essential oil

Pure Lavender Air Freshener

  • 30 drops of Lavender essential oil

Essence of Provençe Air Freshener

  • 20 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops Thyme essential oil
  • 2 drops Lemon essential oil


This year, if we have to take the dogs on another road trip, I’m prepared; I’ll just cram one of these up each nostril and pray.


  1. says

    You have a dog named Diggedy?! That’s my planned name for our next dog! No kidding. As in Hot Diggedy Dog! Is that where you got it too?

    Also, awesome post.

  2. Cindy says

    what a great idea. The essential oil diffusers I see are usually really expensive. I can’t wait to try this at home.

  3. Rebecca says

    Sacha- Yes, Diggedy is short for ‘Hot Diggedy Dog’. He is an elderly shelter-acquired beagle. When we got him years ago, his shelter-given name was Mr. Beaglesworth. Ty didn’t think it suited him and renamed him within minutes. Diggedy ended up being prophetic. Boy, that dog can dig!

    Cindy- Thank you! I, too, have spent beaucoup d’argent on the essential oil diffusers in the past. Let me know how your air fresheners turn out!

    momgateway- Thank you so much. My kids love making these with me. They’re keen on the part of the proceedings where food coloring is added. Hence, the color of the air fresheners in the post. Holy vibrant, Batman!

  4. Courtney says

    How long do these last? I have been unhappy with the choices in scents for air fresheners, your scent combinations sound lovely.

    • Rebecca says

      Hi Courtney! They last about 4 weeks as long as you add ample salt or vodka to inhibit mold growth. If they start growing fur, just empty the rest of the gel out and start over :-)

  5. Katy R says

    I wonder, have you ever tried using it for the bottom of a flower vase? (Using plastic flowers in it of course) Then you could pretend the flowers are real and use the stems to stir it lol

    • Rebecca says

      What a great idea, Katy! You’d probably have to wait until the gelatin mixture cooled down somewhat to avoid melting the stems…

    • Rebecca says

      Renae- They do a little bit of each. They wither up and shrivel on the bottom, evaporate in the middle, leave a little withered plug near the top and quit smelling… When they evaporate in the center it’s time to swish the rest out with warm water and restart!

    • says

      I’m wondering this same thing. I’d love to make them ahead of time to give away for the holidays, but I’m worried how long I could keep them packaged. I wonder, would covering them in plastic and putting them in the fridge make them keep until I could give them away?

  6. Kathy says

    Any suggestions for food fragrances? facon, yeast, fresh bread, onions, etc? to put into the gelatin?
    That would be nice –

  7. says

    Orange essential oil is one of the best fragrances and is great when diffused into the air. Not only for the smell, but for the energy and mood it brings.

  8. Julianne Collier says

    Have you every used fragrance oils? I have a lot that I need to use up. I am sure they will work just fine, but just wanted to check.


  9. shon says

    Will definitely give this a try. I came across this while searching for ways to get my plug ins to last longer…I LOVE a scented home; makes me feel all comfy. Any tips on places to buy essential oils?

  10. Mika says

    I, too, am a mom with 4 kids, 3 of the male kind and one of the female. 3 of the four are asthmatic and we too and to remove anything that was scented. I used natural products to clean with but never once though of doing homemade air fresheners. Even though my guys and gal are grown and two are out on their own, I still have 2 male stinkers to deal with so your freshners will be made and used. I just started using a homemade laundry detergent that has a light scent which has not bothered the Asthma and it is VERY budget friendly. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Patty says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Such a great idea! I have 2 boys, 2 cats and a very large bullmastiff and these will certainly come in handy.

  12. Sharon says

    Wow! I am always in search of great new things and your homemade gel air fresheners are awesome–economical, cute and no chemicals. Ive got some vintage looking labels that would look good on these too! Thank you for sharing a fantastic idea.

  13. Heather says

    Such an awesome idea. My friends and I can’t wait to make these. What size jars did you use and if a candle votive was used instead, how many drops of oil do you recommend for each one?

  14. Addison says

    My husband and I made these for our first Christmas and they really work. We made a few for our apartment first to test them out and it’s so great. Thanks for the recipe!

  15. Michelle Ferris says

    This made me really sad. I made a bunch for christmas, and they molded after a short while. I wasn’t even able to give them as gifts, and now I just look like a bad, giftless relative.

  16. Jessica says

    I think that it would be super green to use old baby food jars! I have a ton of them, so it works out. Do you think that I could recover with the lids and they would be ok?

  17. sw33tp3a says

    could one use flavored gelatin? Say use cherry gelatin & add a complimentary essential oil or two? Maybe that the flavored gelatin would promote mold? Hmmm…I’ll have to try it both ways.

  18. says

    Thank you for this! I make my own air freshener spray with essential oils but sometimes you need something a little more stickaround ifyaknowwhatImean.

    Have you considered cutting corn from your dog’s diet? My dog was power scratching himself bald. I cut corn from his diet and later wheat. When I did the gas stopped!

  19. Julie L. says

    There has been no response about the molding issue. I am going to try these as well & will probably give as gifts for mother’s day. Am wondering if you cover them & put them in the fridge it might stop the mold issue. But you have to wonder if that would alter the lasting power of the essential oils. The only other solution would be to make them within a few days of when you are giving them as a gift, cover maybe with a piece of pretty fabric & ribbon for looks only on the day of the gift giving with a note to uncover & display for best results.

    • says

      There is so much at play regarding whether or not mold with form. 1.)Are your ‘jars’ sterile? 2.)Is your water sterile? 3.)Is there naturally occurring mold in your living environment? Of the nearly 100 of these I’ve made, only 2 molded. One of those was in a very hot, very humid room. The other? Well, I just don’t know what went wrong, but it wasn’t awful, I just cleaned the jar out, ran it through the dishwasher and made another one in there that did just fine. As with anything else that doesn’t contain chemical preservatives, there is some question about whether or not it’ll grow fur, but that’s the trade off!

      • laree says

        Jello will melt on a hot day. That may be why their stuff was runny. Mold can’t grow in sunshine, that’s what ‘they’ say anyway.
        Also depending on brands and/or quality of essential oils will make a difference in now it mixes together.
        All this aside thanks for the recipe! I have needed wholesome air freshener for quite some time this is very inspiring

  20. Deborah Jennings says

    I have some spray air freshener (pump spray). I am wondering if I added some Essential oil to some sweet almond oil if it would work in a spray bottle. I just may have to try this one out.

  21. Annie says

    Hi, thank you so much for this idea. I have literally never made anything craft like since childhood but am now happily sitting looking at 2 jars if air freshener! Feel stupidly proud if myself!!

  22. messy says

    Rebecca, I don’t beleive that is the answer both times I had purchase a brand new package. It seems to be to much water with the two cups. I have tried twice now.

    • says

      I can’t imagine it’s anything else, Messy, if you followed my instructions, because one ounce of gelatin is an entire box (4 packets) of Knox brand unflavoured gelatine. With 2 1/2(ish) teaspoons (and 1/4 ounce) per packet x 4 packets, you have the power to gel up 8 cups of liquid.
      These set up very firmly for me every time!

  23. Diana says

    I love this idea, I tried the lavender recipe exactly but it did not gel at all, reading through your replies you suggest it may be the gelatine at fault, however the same packet of gelatine has worked well with my fruit juice jellies at much lower concentration, so I’m still a bit puzzled as to why it has not set at all. Incidentally what is the purpose of the salt? I feel it could be reacting somehow with the essential oil and causing the problem maybe, if so can it be left out? Really want to be able to make this work for me! Many thanks

  24. says

    The salt is a mold preventative, but if you think it’s interfering with your gelatin, you could leave that out and try the vodka instead! Keep in mind that alcohol does make it set more softly, too, but it should still set up!
    I have a couple friends who have had issues with it setting up as well. I admit I’m perplexed because every time I’ve made these they set up like a treat!

  25. says

    This looks great! I am excited to try it. Because we don’t keep food coloring on hand, I am going to try using a bit of green tea for green and hibiscus for red. I’ll post on my blog about it and let you know how it turns out!

  26. says

    I only have 2 boys, 2 birds (stink) and one overpowering husband. Hubby is on a high fiber diet due to a medical condition and “OH BOY” can he clear a room. I have only met one other person that had a more pungent scent, my cousin. If he blew wind we would have to pull the car over and air out. LOL We have all sorts of airborne allergies so I am careful what I spray. I am terribly allergic to lilies, which tends to be a base for most perfumes and air fresheners. I am so happy to be trying this, I just got my Essential oils yesterday and can’t wait to get into another project!!

  27. Mary Jo says

    I made the homemade essential oils following your directions. I found that one of my jars had mildew all over the top. Has this happened to you? Did I do something wrong?

    • says

      Mary Jo- It seems to be an intermittent problem for people. Did you use vodka as a mold retardant? Also, are you certain it was mildew and not just a gelatin skin? Sometimes gelatin sets up oddly like that.

  28. Tracy says

    Boo! I bought brand new gelatin and followed the recipe exactly but mine are not setting up at all. My kitchen smells good, but onto plan B for Christmas gifts……

    • says

      Don’t toss it yet! Try reheating it and adding the same amount of gelatin again. I’m wondering whether some folks are having trouble because of a different brand of gelatin. The one I get, I get in bulk from an Amish store. I’m working on a hunch here.

      • Tracy says

        I came back to say they actually have firmed up – took much longer than I expected so I am sorry to have posted so soon! My kitchen still smells great and I still have some gifts to give away! I used knox unflavored gelatin, salt, water and lavender oil. I did check the expiration date of my gelatin to make sure I wasn’t using anything that was expired. Again, sorry for the rush to post initially, patience is not my virtue!

  29. Danielle says

    How many air fresheners will this recipe make? I notice that there are four in the picture, but I’m only looking to make one.

  30. Rachel says

    I made these and they turned out great the only problem is when you make them in advance they start to mold. I covered mine with press and seal wrap and after letting them sit around they started to mold. How do I stop them from molding when I want to keep some on hand for gifts. Maybe I should have only made a couple at a time.

    • Marlena says

      Did you make sure to add the salt or vodka? My guess is that vodka would last longer but I haven’t tested that theory yet.

      Also, the press-n-seal would seal in moisture and retain heat which creates the perfect environment for mold. Maybe try putting the covered jars in the fridge. I would also experiment with putting a small hole in the plastic to allow for some air circulation, or even using a paper muffin liner instead of the plastic wrap. Good luck :)

  31. Megan Chaney says

    I’ve tried another recipe and it didn’t turn out well. I was left with runny goop at the top. What size jars did you use for this one? And did you use 20-30 drops essential oil per jar?

    • says

      Gelatin and oil sometimes behave oddly together, depending on both ingredients. I used baby food jars and jelly jars and I used about 20 drops per jar.

      • Shannon Huey says

        I did this exact thing with jelly jars and 20 drops and it is very runny. I don’t think it hardened at all. Is it suppose to be gel-like? I just don’t know what I could have done wrong.

        • says

          It is supposed to be jelly like. I’m confused, because you’re not the only one to have had issue like this but they turn out perfectly for me every time I’ve made them (about 10 now…) let me see what I can figure out.

        • Coreena says

          Same here with the runny air fresheners. I have tried 3 times to make these. I have been using Now Foods Beef Gelatin Powder, not Knox. Does that matter?

          • says

            Wow! I’ve never heard of that kind of gelatine. I’ve only tested this with Knox from a packet and bulk Knox. I’d say do an experiment where you try to gel up an equivalent amount of plain water and see if it works.

  32. Shelby says

    I have made about 20 of these! Almost all turned out perfectly, except one scent I made. I used a different brand fragrance oil in this one, and it did not set up as nicely as the others. All other factors were the same, I used Knox gelatin, and vodka to prevent mold. It is my assumption that different oils may cause the watery consistency. These are cheap enough to make, so I suggest experimenting with different oils until you are satisfied! Hope this helps :)

    • Debbie says

      I too was wondering how many jars 1 recipe would make, say if baby food size jars….2, 3 etc. Thank you ahead of time, so I know how many jars to purchase and how to adjust recipe!!

    • says

      There are so many variables it’s almost impossible to answer that, unfortunately. It depends first of all on the strength of the essential oils you’re using. Second, it depends on the size container you use. Third, it depends on the time of year it’s out. Fourth, it depends on the airflow in the area where it’s placed. Finally, it depends on the relative humidity of your house. That’s a really long-winded way of saying I don’t know. 😀

  33. Kelly says

    I noticed that in the comments section, you mention using vodka rather than salt. How much vodka? I also found that the oils floated to the top of the gelatin after stirring. I would like to try vodka to see if that helps. I remember that my mom used to make lavender water by first adding vodka to the essential oil in order for it to mix with the water rather than float on the top. Thanks.

    • Nikki says

      Vodka or Ethanol (Alcohol) will help solubilize the essential oils. Mix essential oils in Vodka or Alcohol before adding to water.

      I am looking forward to trying this recipe. Will update with feedback :-)

      • Nikki says

        Made two recipes using salt in one and Alcohol (Vodka) in the other. Pre-mixing the essential oils with alcohol works well but made the gel cloudy. Seems like salt works better for this recipe, gel was nice and clear but fragrance only lasted for a couple of days (maybe).

    • Nikki says

      Unfortunately the fragrance only lasted a couple of days and after a week the gel lost clarity and became dry.

  34. Christe says

    Help!! I made these last night and followed the directions exactly as listed. I used salt rather than vodka. The problem is that they are still totally liquid hours after they have cooled. First, is there anyway to fix the batch I already made, rather than just throwing them away? Second , any idea what I could have done incorrectly to cause this to happen?

  35. Jo says

    My gelatin air fresheners look and smell lovely but the oil is floating on the top! Any suggestions as to why. Thx.

  36. Rebecca says

    I wonder if it would help with preventing mold by using distilled water. It wouldn’t matter with the water that is heated but it would the cold water that is added. I know that makes cleaners, laundry detergents and room sprays last longer. Just a thought.

  37. says

    LOL I love your story how you got stuck in the traffic with the dogs. I was in almost the same situation last month. I will remember it for the rest of my life! Thank you for sharing such an interesting article! Greetings!

  38. says


    THANK YOU–ONLY REPLY TO MY EAMIL alphonsisray@yahoo.com


  1. […] all males smell, just the non-metro ones that don’t read this blog. Anyway, Rebecca from Foodie With Family has a recipe for homemade gel air fresheners that take just five ingredients all of which can be […]

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