Secret Store Scent Recipes You Can Make at Home

Becky Worley

Can you make your home smell amazing with a few secret recipes that deconstruct fancy store scents? You can if you follow these cheap and easy recipes. Plus they may be healthier for you than all those sprays and diffusers.

Realtors bake cookies or apple pies at open houses. Why? Because that smell is the essence of home. And stores do it too. Maybe not cookies and pie, but they have signature smells that make you feel good, make you want to get out your wallet, and then they try to sell you that smell for your own house in diffusers, potpourri and sprays… to the tune of $6 billion dollars a year in home fragrance purchases.

But thanks to the good work of curious and frugal bloggers, here are some ways to make those smells at home for practically nothing, with natural ingredients.

Williams-Sonoma Scent
The most popular smell described online is called the Williams-Sonoma scent. The idea is that by gently simmering a few natural items in water, your house will smell clean, sweet and – I know it’s a weird adjective for a smell – but classy.

2 cups water,
1 sprig rosemary,
1 teaspoon of vanilla,
The juice from half a lemon (throw the rind in there too; it adds zest and looks pretty)

Tommy Bahama Scent
Want something more tropical, how about smell of the Tommy Bahamas store?

Simmer on low:
A can of pineapple juice,
Sliced citrus (lime or orange work best, but lemon is nice too)
1 tsp coconut extract
Optional- Malibu or traditional rum (the alcohol evaporates faser and it really punches up the smell)

Woodsy Smells
Many stores use woodsy smells to evoke clean, homey feelings, and I really like this idea for DIY smells. What fragrant greens can you find close to home? I like to start with my boiling water and add cedar, juniper, or pine. We have a plethora of Bay trees close by too, and its leaves in particular can really clean out a house’s funky smells.

You can use fresh herbs too. Thyme, oregano, and lavender will work wonderfully. The heartier the stalks, the better. You want a stronger, reedier herb that releases its oils over time, not a fleshy herb that wilts fast and is done. For that reason I personally don’t like the smell of boiled mint, though many people do.

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Add ingredients from your spice cabinet
Adding cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, or dried bay leaves can really affect your simmer pot. If you have bergamot, it will put out a huge smell, kind of like Earl Grey tea. Experiment, and see what you like.


You can make big batches of these concoctions, and store them in the freezer in wide mouth (freezable) Mason jars. Then you can pop them out and simmer them as needed when you’re expecting guests.

Slow Cooker
The downside of these smells is that once you take them off the stove, the fragrances only lasts for a few hours. Another downside from the stove, I have had the unfortunate experience of boiling one dry: not a good smell and oh, yeah – fire hazard. So my favorite way to make the scent last longer is to put the ingredients in a slow cooker. Because it has even lower temperatures than the stove, you get a longer simmer. Added bonus: you can plug it in anywhere in the house, not just the kitchen. Also, a steamer pot on the woodstove works great in the winter.

If you have a favorite DIY smell trick, post it on our Facebook page.

One note: I started on this quest to find a natural way to make the house smell better because I have two dogs, two kids, and our house can smell funky. I am super-sensitive to air fresheners and perfumes, so I’ve always disliked synthetic sprays and perfumes. In researching for this article, I also came across some strong evidence that home air fresheners have chemicals with serious health repercussions called phthalates that are worth learning about if you regularly use these products.

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