I have to admit, I’ve always been a big fan of scented candles, especially in autumn and winter– there’s nothing nicer than the smell of pumpkin pie or gingerbread. But there has been some recent talk that indicates that scented candles aren’t such a great idea after all; that they decrease indoor air quality as opposed to improving it. And that makes sense– a lot of candles are petroleum based, with scents that are composed of various chemicals. And by lighting these candles in our homes, we’re burning all of that into the air we breath. But there’s a simple fix here. For candles there are plenty of beeswax and soy candles on the market. You can find ones scented with organic essential oils. So we don’t have to give up candles completely. But what about those rich autumnal scents we so like to perfume our homes with? There’s a simple solution here as well– potpourri. My mom used to put some in a kettle on the stove occassionaly through out the fall and winter. It’s a simple concept– just mix dried spices, herbs or other items in a cup or so of water, and optionally, organic, natural essential oils, and let it simmer on the stove. Your entire home will take on the fragrance. If you’d like to perfume rooms that are distant from the kitchen, or are hesistant to leave the stove on unattended, I find that electric candle warmers are perfect. You can put all of your ingredients into a mason jar and set it atop the warmer and you’ll have the same effect. It’s also a more child-friendly option, as you can place the warmer in a location where the kids can’t reach it and you don’t have to worry about them getting too close to the stove. I’ve also seen small potpourri crockpots on the market, made just for this purpose. It’s essentially a crockpot with a 1-2 cup capacity. You can use any combination of ingredients you like, but here’s a simple, classic recipe I like to use:
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces
Several curls of dried orange peel
1 teaspoon of whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg, crushed (put in a plastic bag and hit with a hammer– don’t pulverize it, you just want it broken into pieces)
1 small piece of dried ginger
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
Mix all of the above with 1 cup of water. If you’re using the candle warmer method, place it all in mason jar and set it on the warmer. If you’re using the stovetop, put it all into the smallest pot you have and set it on a back burner on the very lowest setting. On the stovetop be extra careful that all of the water doesn’t evaporate out and cause the spices to start burning. You should either add more water periodically or turn it off so this doesn’t happen. I find with the stovetop method it’s best to set a timer for a half hour or so, so you don’t forget to check on it. Needless to say, if you plan to go very far (outdoors to garden for awhile or upstairs to fold laundry, whatever) or leave the house remember to turn to stove off! (This is where the benefits of the candle warmer and potpourri crockpot come into play since they don’t require constant monitoring, though common sense also says to turn them off if you leave the house). So you can go as far as your kitchen cabinet for an excellent way to scent your home this fall– better air to breath and cheaper than those expensive candles anyway!