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How Air Fresheners Work

Paul Favors
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Air fresheners have long been regarded as an important consumer product. The main function of an air freshener is to eliminate or mask unpleasant odors. Air fresheners can be found in aerosol cans, candles, gels and heat-releasing products.

Generally air fresheners only mask the existing odor by emitting a scent that is stronger than the bad odor.

Basic Concept

An air freshener is used to spread fragrances into the air. It works on the basic concept that molecules are free to move throughout the air. When the fragrance is sprayed into the air, it tends to move freely and spread, which is usually the main motive for using an air freshener.

The First Air Fresheners

Air fresheners are basically perfume dispensers which release fragrances into the air. Initially, air fresheners were bottles with perfumed solution and a large wick. Air fresheners were later developed to be used in aerosol spray cans.

Aerosol Cans

Air fresheners in aerosol spray cans create a mist of liquid in the air. These are generally used to cover larger areas like a living room or bathroom. Aerosol can work when you push the top of the bottle, which allows pressure in the bottle to release a mist of fragrant liquid into the air.


The above mentioned procedure, also known as masking, is the most widespread functions of an air freshener. It propels a fragrance into the air which makes the offensive odor less dominant. Yet another concept is that of absorption. Air fresheners functioning under the principle of absorption are designed to absorb unpleasant odors. Some air fresheners use the concept of chemical neutralization and disinfection which aims for a similar result.

Other Types

Candles and paper air fresheners are also on the market. These air fresheners work on different principles, but the basic concept still remains that when molecules are released into the air, they move freely, spreading without any finite boundaries. For example, paper is often covered with substances containing fragrances and used as an air freshener in cars.