Buying an air freshener for your car may seem like such a simple thing to do that you may well be wondering why you need to read a product review guide – well, just try telling that to this poor guy! It may seem crazy to think, but an air freshener is actually a more powerful tool than many of us give it credit for.
For one thing, many of them are chock full of chemicals. The cabin of your vehicle is constructed with surprisingly delicate materials – leathers, plastics and various adhesives – so you need to know that any extra element you add is not going to do any harm. Which is why we’ve put together this guide to help you choose the right product – and avoid making a stink.
The Best Car Air Freshener
Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag
Remember that story we mentioned up top about the guy who melted his dashboard with an air freshener? Well you certainly don’t have to worry about that with this product.
This item is an entirely natural – and so harsh chemical free – way to remove odors from your car. It is essentially a linen bag that contains natural bamboo charcoal and nothing else.
The activated charcoal essentially scrubs the air of excess moisture that can be a breeding ground for nasties like mold, mildew, bacteria – these are the things that really cause bad odors. Stop them in their tracks using products like this one and you don’t need to worry about bad odors in your car – they simply don’t exist!
After care couldn’t be easier either – just take it out your car every month and leave in the sun to dry and re-activate. After two years use (yes – two years!) instead of tossing it in the trash, you open the bag and sprinkle the charcoal on your favorite plant as tasty, nutritious plant feed.
How cool is that?
- BrandMosu Natural
- Weight12.6 oz
Car Air Purifier, FRiEQ Car Air Freshener and Ionic Air Purifier
This cool gadget looks like it’s just been beamed down from the USS Enterprise, right? Actually, it works on the same principal as the product above – though that is where the similarities end!
Like the charcoal based product, this too works to eliminate the causes of bad odors before they can develop. Instead of removing excess moisture however, this device releases negatively charged ions into your car cabin. These ions effectively purify the air by destroying things that could cause odors – again like bacteria and mold.
It can also target things like cigarette smoke that can hang around for a long time. Yes, it’s pretty futuristic but it is based on actual technology and science – negative ions are a real thing naturally found in the real world.
The device operates simply by plugging into the 12-volt charger in your car, and has no filters or refills required over its working life. Simply plug it in, turn it on and away it goes.
- Weight1.44 oz
Meguiar’s G16402 Whole Car Air Refresher
Who doesn’t love that new car smell – and who doesn’t miss it when it inevitability goes away? If that sounds like you then this product could be the one for you.
This is our first spray can on this list, but as usual the principle is the same. The spray contains compounds that target and eliminate the sources of bad odors in your car. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean it’s going after your dog! It works on a molecular level, so again is targeting those nasty bacterial and mold spores, stopping bad smells fast.
As a spray, it has the added advantage of being able to pass through the vehicle ventilation system, helping it to get into all the nooks and crannies in there to root out even well hidden odor causes.
As a final bonus it helps to leave behind that all-important “new car smell” – even in a car that was “new” when Clinton was in the White House.
- Weight2.56 oz
Chemical Guys Air_101_16 New Premium Air Freshener
Usually when a product comes along with “premium” right there in the name, we’re a little skeptical. After all, if you’re putting it right up there in the product name, you’re already setting a high bar for yourself. Fortunately, when it also comes with the name Chemical Guys attached, then you can believe the hype.
This is a premium product, rest assured. It contains natural enzymes that – you guessed it – go to work taking out all the junk in the air that causes bad odors. It is also specially formulated to re-create that cool “new car” smell that you know we love!
As a premium product it does of course come with a somewhat premium price tag – however this is offset somewhat because this is actually a concentrated product. You can use it neat – in which case use it very, very sparingly – but you can also dilute it down with water.
That helps to offset the price tag somewhat, making this product both effective and economical.
- BrandChemical Guys
- Weight1.19 lbs
Air Spencer (000400) CS-X3 Squash Scent
This is the first of what would be considered a traditional air freshener to appear on the list. It does not contain enzymes, it does not shoot out ions to target mold spores – you simply tape it to your dash (or leave it in a door or dash cup holder) and let it do its job.
The question then is does it do it – and the answer is a resounding yes! The Squash scent air freshener has been around for years and years. In fact the first time you smell it, chances are it will transport you straight back to your childhood!
And you will smell it, this is a pretty strong product although it toes the line just the right side of being overpowering. It will definitely cover up bad smells and bring a nice aroma to your car. It lasts about a month, and refills are pretty cheap too, so it’s a decent long-term investment.
- BrandAir Spencer
- Weight45 gr
Ozium Smoke & Odors Eliminator Gel
This is a great little product that does exactly what it says on the label – i.e. it eliminates bad smells, especially from smoking.
It’s really easy to use too – you simply twist the lid to reveal the built in vents. Leave the vents open a little wider to get better odor control, close them up a bit to add a little extra time to the product lifespan – it’s up to you!
It’s also comes with it’s own built in (and kind of unique, it’s hard to describe) perfume that it gently releases – but it’s not overpowering, don’t worry.
What more can you say? This is a pretty cheap product that does everything that it claims it will.
- Weight5.4 oz
Little Trees U6P-60155 Black Ice Air Freshener
Hands up – when you started reading this article on car air fresheners, who didn’t expect to see these iconic products make it onto the list?
Truth is, when you think air freshener, the image in your mind almost certainly goes to the little tree hanging from the rear view – and with good reason. This product by this brand has been around for years, and whilst it may not have the high tech abilities of some of the products on this list, it is certainly one that has stood the test of time.
It’s hard to write about these, because everyone knows what they are, right? They hang from the rear view, they smell great – simple! One complaint has always been that the odor perhaps doesn’t last as long as with other products.
Since these come in a pack of 24 though, you can easily replace them as the perfume fades. A great, traditional product that been around almost for as long cars themselves!
- BrandLittle Trees
- Weight2.88 oz
Yankee Candle Gel Car Jar Ultimate Hanging Air Freshener
I know exactly what you’re thinking – surely a lit candle is going to be a hazard whilst driving, right?
All jokes aside, this is of course not a traditional Yankee Candle – it’s actually a gel product that hangs from the rear view – though you could also tack it to the dash or leave it in a cup holder if you prefer.
Whilst it is not a candle, this product does take advantage of the years of premium fragrance making of a reputable brand like Yankee. What does that mean in practical terms – it means it smells great!
Again, it also neutralizes odors pretty effectively too, allowing it to work on to fronts of odor elimination, and also creating a nice smelling atmosphere for your car.
- BrandYankee Candle
- Weight0.16 oz
GerTong Aromatherapy Car Diffuser
If you’re thinking of setting the mood right for a really romantic evening with your loved one, you don’t need some fancy restaurant to set every in order. Clipping the GerTong into one of your car’s aircon vents should really start spicing up the evening. Of course, you’d have to pick the right scent from the 11 aromatherapy essential oil diffuser refill pads that the package comes with.
The thing is that, since the GerTong is a handy aromatherapy diffuser that can be snapped right into your car’s AC vents, you might as well have a mobile spa right inside your car. It’s the perfect device to help you relax, set you in the mood, and even alleviate some of the aches that you’re experiencing after a hard day in the office. Again, the thing here is you’ve got to have a working knowledge of the different essential oils used in aromatherapy and the benefits that they bring.
Not only is this air freshener ideal for cars, it can actually be converted into your own portable essential oil diffuser for home, office, or even travel use. You don’t have to worry about troublesome smell anymore since it’s the soothing and relaxing scent of aromatherapy oils that will be bathing your senses.
- Weight0.96 oz
Refresh Your Car Scented Gel Can
With notes of sweet ripe banana combining with the nutty goodness of tropical coconut filling your nose, this car air freshener provides an entirely different riding experience. Putting it simply, you’ll be driving yourself towards the idyllic beaches and virgin rainforests of a tropical island paradise.
That’s the experience one gets with every tin can of the Refresh Your Car. With a choice of Hawaiian Sunrise, Summer Breeze, and Pacific Rain and a few others providing a refreshing fragrance to your car, you can always be sure that the ride will feel nothing less than paradise-like. Not only is every can of this car air freshener fully capable of bringing sensations of paradise inside your car, it also does a great job eliminating nasty odors.
Controlling the strength of the scent that fills your car’s cabin is quite difficult with conventional air fresheners. With the Refresh Your Car, fine-tuning the degree of fragrance that floods your cabin is made ridiculously simple with a twist of its scent control lid. It’s an otherwise simple solution that other manufacturers perhaps did not really think about. For that, the Refresh Your Car gets a nice thumb’s up.
- BrandRefresh Your Car
- Weight5.6 oz
Little Trees Vent Wrap Air Freshener
The issue with most car air fresheners is that they have to be placed right in front of the air con vent to allow the scent to be circulated throughout the cabin of the car. While this is quite understandable, the presence of a gadget or contraption that can detract from the overall aesthetics of one’s car interior can be an issue that is not easily passed by some car owners. And if you’re one of them, you’d want something that easily blends with the rest of your car’s interior.
That’s exactly what the Little Trees bring to the table. Looking at the package you’d think this car air freshener is just like other products that need to be hanged on your rearview mirror or clipped to your air convent. But once you open the package, you’d be surprised at just how small this contraption is. Moreover, you’d be asking yourself how such a small piece of technology can help you freshen up your cabin.
With a patent-pending StediScent technology, the Little Trees car air freshener actually hugs a single slat in your air convent. The way in which the Little Trees is designed is that it blends seamlessly with the black background of the vent so your passengers won’t exactly know where that lovely fragrance is coming from. It’s the perfect tool for keeping your car smelling fresh, making others think that you’re so meticulous in the care of your vehicle.
- BrandLittle Trees
- Weight0.8 oz
Nova 2.0 Powerful Ionic Car Air Purifier
If you’re like some car owners who don’t necessarily believe in masking an odor with another, more pleasant scent, you’d definitely grab the Nova 2.0, too. Understand, however, that this is not a car air freshener per se, but rather a car air purifier.
It works by emitting 5.6 millions of negatively charged particles per second into the air. These anions interact with particles in the cabin air so that they are effectively neutralized. The good thing about the Nova and other similar designs is that the ionizing particles neutralize not only odor molecules, but also bacteria, viruses, fungi, allergens, and other potentially harmful molecules floating inside your car.
There’s another beauty to the Nova 2.0. It produces ozone in very minimal amounts, but enough to get rid of even the nastiest odors like cigarette smoke, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and many others. You may not be filling your car interior with the most fragrant smell, but you’re surely turning it into something fresher, cleaner, and definitely healthier.
The Nova 2.0 easily plugs into your cigarette lighter adaptor and already comes with 2 USB ports to extend its versatility. The decorative blue LED light at the top also makes for an interesting mood light inside your car.
- Weight4.8 oz
Carall Glare Luxury Car Air Freshener
Are you looking for a car air freshener that looks as elegant as it is effective in giving your car interior the kind of freshness that it really needs? Well, look no further as the Carall is simply one of the most elegant, most luxurious gel type car air fresheners we’ve seen.
With a candy sweet scent that lasts up to 60 days, definitely longer than other products we’ve used before, the Carall comes in an elegant-looking blue glass that is reminiscent of those luxury glasses served in some high-end club. The stainless steel lid provides a remarkable contrast to its blue body, more like a luxury yacht anchored in the Caribbean.
But don’t just take our word for it. You’ve got to experience it to really appreciate the beauty of the Carall. What’s more, since it comes in a glass type of container, you can easily bring and use it at home, in the office, or even in your hotel room during one of your travels. It’s that cool.
- Weight3.84 oz
Humixx Car Air Freshener
More like a miniature soundbar, the Humixx is a minimalist, simple, and contemporary-looking design of car air freshener that is as easy to use as it is effective in putting the sensation of freshness back in your car.
Measuring a mere 3.26 inches long, the Humixx bar can be easily clipped onto any of the slats of your car air convent. Numerous holes perforate the barrel. The holes work seamlessly with its twist cap design to give you exceptional control of the degree of scent that your nose can tolerate. This way you won’t complain of the scent being too strong for your nostrils’ liking.
Scent bars can be easily inserted through the tubular body of the Humixx, giving you instant fragrance wherever you may be driving. The package already comes with 3 scent bars – orange, lime, and olive. Sadly, you’re essentially stuck with these 3 aromas. We surely wish there were more choices as not everyone will consider these scents to be their preferred aroma.
Team ProMark NFL Auto Air Freshener
Fans of the NFL will love this car air freshener from Team ProMark. We believe that it’s going to be more of a collectible than it is primarily an auto air freshener. And if we are going to read the feedback of the car owners who have been lucky enough to buy these products for their car, we’re inclined to believe that it’s more for decorative purposes.
For starters, the scent is definitely there. The problem is that it really doesn’t last that long. So, after several hours of driving around, you’ll be left with nothing more than a cardboard cutout of the football helmet of your favorite NFL team.
Like we said, it’s a great gift for avid followers of the game. But if you’re looking for some serious freshening of your car, this one’s definitely not for you. It’s a collector’s item, nonetheless, being officially licensed by the NFL itself.
- BrandTeam ProMark
- Weight0.16 oz
Car Air Freshener Buying Guide & FAQ
Different Types of Car Air Freshener
One of the things that you need to consider when buying an air freshener for your car is the type of freshener. Currently, there are 6 types of car air fresheners.
Cardboard – These are very inexpensive air fresheners that will typically last about 5 to 10 days with some extending up to 3 weeks. These are mostly hanged on rearview mirrors or clipped anywhere else inside the car. They don’t necessarily mask really stubborn odors, though.
Plug-in – These are oil-based air fresheners that come in cute little bottles.
These are easily plugged into your cigarette lighter socket which heats up the fragrance oil and starts filling the cabin with its scent. It is one of the most preferred types of car air fresheners especially if one is faced with really stubborn odors.
Can – These car air fresheners come in cans made of either plastic or metal. What provides the fragrance is a gel-like substance contained in the can. The top or lid of the can typically come with a number of holes which can be manipulated by twisting the lid to allow a specific number of holes upon which the scent will pass through. For instance, if a product comes with 5 holes, you can twist the lid so that only 1 hole is open. Twist it again and you’ve opened 2 holes. The more holes that are opened, the stronger is the scent
Sticky gel – This type of air freshener is actually a modified version of the can type. You’ve got a fragrance gel that comes as a single block or strip instead of being contained in a can. It easily sticks onto any surface. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do a good job of masking nasty odors.
Spray – Quick and very easy to apply. These are what best describes this type of car air freshener. Sadly, you’d have to spray more frequently as the scent doesn’t really last that very long. The good news is that you can direct your spray on areas that you really want to smell nice.
Vent sticks or diffusers – These are simple devices that can be clipped into the slat of your car’s AC vent. Airflow through the vent carries the scent given off by these devices so you get a really nice smell inside your car.
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Benefits of Using Car Air Fresheners
Car air fresheners are not really new technologies. They’ve been around for more than half a century. Every mode of transportation today, be it on land, water, or air, will have an air freshening system in their respective cabins.
One of the most important benefits of using car air fresheners is that it makes the ride more enjoyable or, to put it simply, less stressful. Not everyone can stand the smell of moldy car interior or even a cigarette smoke-filled cabin. Not everyone will feel comfortable with the stench of pet urine on the car’s floor or even upholstery. The point is that, while it is unavoidable that odor molecules will be floating and sticking around in our car’s interior, you can do something about it. Using car air fresheners can help provide a more pleasant odor to your cabin, making the trip more worthwhile.
There is another benefit that is closely related to the first. Since there are air fresheners that utilize essential oils, you can actually feel more comfortable and more relaxed while driving. If you’re feeling pain, the scent of essential oils can help alleviate the pain sensation or discomfort that you’re experiencing. Think of it more like another day in the spa where you’re being calmly treated to a taste of paradise.
Some air fresheners actually work more than just simply mask the odor; they actually work to neutralize the source of the nasty smell. These products are the best since putting a scent in lieu of another is hardly the best way to manage a problem. This makes these types of air fresheners true healing wonders. If you’re able to get rid of the actual source of the bad odor, you’re saving your lungs from inhaling these odor molecules. And if you have allergies, this can actually be a life-saving device for you.
Q: What if I have allergies or the smell is too strong?
A: While it is easy to think that car air fresheners don’t contain allergens that can trigger allergies, science has shown otherwise. A study presented to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology showed that there is a positive relationship in the number of respiratory problems and the sales of air fresheners and scented candles in the home. What this simply means is that as people tend to buy more scented products, there is a commensurate increase in the number of people who develop respiratory problems in households that use such products.
Since car air fresheners are essentially scented products, there is a strong likelihood that it will trigger asthma or allergic symptoms in individuals who are at an increased risk to such conditions. For those who already have allergies, exposure to car air freshener especially those that are strongly scented can further worsen the symptoms of asthma and allergies. If the allergy is severe enough, it can lead to a life-threatening form of allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
According to the same report, more than a third of individuals who have asthma reported worsening of their health conditions when exposed to air fresheners. And this is not only car air fresheners they are talking about.
Volatile organic compounds have been shown to trigger allergy symptoms or even aggravate existing asthma and allergy conditions. Some of the major volatile organic compounds used in many car air fresheners today include alcohols, formaldehyde, esters, petroleum distillates, and even limonene.
So, are car air fresheners safe if you have allergies? The very simple answer is ‘no!’
Q: How often should I change my air freshener?
A: Different manufacturers of car air fresheners have their respective duration of effectiveness, often depending on the type of scent delivery. For instance, those that come in cans typically last longer than gel types while cardboard types of air fresheners will not usually last that very long.
That being said, how often you should change your air freshener is dependent on the type of product that you’re using. It also depends on a variety of products such as the humidity and temperature of your car interior. Increased cabin temperatures can quickly reduce the lifespan of air fresheners so you’ll be changing your contraptions a lot more frequently.
Q: How can I make my car air freshener last longer?
A: Making your car air freshener last longer can be tricky, but it can be done. It all depends on the type of air freshener that you have.
If you have a gel type, make sure never to open the lid or the product itself completely. Many car owners make the very simple, but costly mistake of fully opening gel car air fresheners. This will only hasten the speed at which the gel will be used up.
If you have a paper or cardboard type of air freshener, there really isn’t much you can do to prolong its fragrance. What you can do, however, is to ‘recharge’ the cardboard by soaking it in your own favorite scent. This is more of reusing these types of air fresheners rather than prolonging their lifespan.
If you have liquid air fresheners, the best way to lengthen their lifespan is by opening them only halfway, especially if you live in a rather cool environment. If there’s an odor that you want to overpower, that’s the time you can open it to its fullest.
Our Top Pick
There are a few car air fresheners in this list that truly deserve a shot at the plum of being the best car air freshener this 2018. However, having started our article with the story of that unlucky fellow who melted his dashboard simply because he used the wrong kind of car air freshener, we’re more than inclined to award the trophy to the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag.
It actually makes perfect sense. Unlike other products that only mask the smell in your car, Moso works more like a natural sponge that attracts these nasty odor molecules and keeps them forever locked in its porous natural bamboo charcoal. It’s as simple as that. There are no additional chemicals or substrates to ruin your car’s interior, except perhaps for the linen bag that, by itself, is also made of natural, car-safe materials.
The best part of the Moso is that you only have to buy it once every 2 years. A single bag can remove nasty odors inside your car, requiring only regular monthly recharging under direct sunlight. It doesn’t come with fragrances, too. You’re actually retaining the true scent of your car’s interior and not some artificially-formulated scent that can be quite irritating to the nose.
Picking the right car air freshener actually depends on what really matters to you. Is it the complete neutralization and removal of nasty odors so that the natural scent of your car will stand out? Or will you be content on simply masking the nasty odor with a slightly better, more pleasant one? The choice is ultimately yours to make.