There’s a new hack floating around TikTok that suggests your wick-based air fresheners, like the kind you plug into the wall, don’t have to be tossed out when they stop working. Instead, according to some social media posts, you can boil the wicks to give your home a major scent boost. Seems like a neat way to indulge your nose and stretch your money, right? Wrong.
In clips on the video-sharing platform, users show themselves pulling the nearly-depleted wicks from their air fresheners and tossing them in a pot, sometimes a few at a time. Then, they boil water with the wicks inside to unleash a scent frenzy, dispersing what’s left of the scented oil into the air. Comments on these videos tend to be from users claiming they, too, do this all the time.
Other comments suggest combining the trick with a hack that went viral a few years ago involving boiling household cleaners like Fabuloso to really get the scents swirling. If you remember the Fabuloso-boiling craze of 2018, though, you probably also remember that experts quickly spoke out to warn that boiling chemical cleaners can be dangerous. So…
Why shouldn’t you boil wicks?
At first, the trick seemed like a good idea: You get a great smell and save money on new air fresheners by using them to the last drop. We wanted to be sure, though, so we reached out to the National Capital Poison Center. Medical Director and Interim Executive Director Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor told Lifehacker she has “a couple of concerns” about boiling wicks soaked in essential oils, volatile aromatic compounds, and alcohol-based carriers.
Her first objection was to the alcohols, which she pointed out are flammable, “so having these wicks in proximity to other sources of combustion can increase the risk of fire.”
Next, she said, “the essential oils present in the air fresheners can be irritating when they come into contact with skin, so people might develop unwanted skin reactions from handling these products. The aromatic compounds/fragrances can also cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals when handled.”
Her conclusion was that overall, the risk of harm likely outweighs any benefits of boiling the wicks.
What can you do instead?
If you still want to give your home a scent bath using your stove, stick to the old-fashioned method. Your grandma had this right: Boil cinnamon sticks, orange peels, cloves, apple wedges, or other natural ingredients to disperse some lovely scents and leave the alcohols, oils, and aromatic compounds out of it.
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