Do you agree that a person’s home should have a smell? People seem to think so.

During the 2020 lockdown, the sales of scented home products such as candles, potpourri and essential oils jumped by almost 30%. I’m sure that amongst the buyers there were a few poor souls desperately trying to fumigate the virus but the majority probably were trying to improve their home environment, where they suddenly found themselves spending a lot of time.

If you find yourself wondering whether you, too, should be imparting a pleasing scent to your home, here’s the lowdown on the approaches you can take.

Fresh air

This should top any list and you’d be surprised how many people forget to air their house. It is true that it is a bit annoying having to open and close all those windows every day. However, no home scenting product will give you the freshness of a good airing. Otherwise it’s like spraying deodorant over a really sweaty armpit – it sort of works, but it’s also gross. Seeing as most of us live in the UK, you can reach two goals with one action by considering condensation when airing your house. You might want to air your bedroom at night (when your breath introduces a lot of moisture into the air), your bathroom after a shower and your kitchen whilst cooking. After all, the smell of damp is definitely not what you want for your house.

Fresh flowers

Asian man smelling a red rose with his eyes closed and brushing his hair back with his hand.

The smell of fresh flowers is always a delight.

A feast both for your eyes and your nose. An undoubtedly expensive and time-consuming way to scent your home, but one that might just be worth it for an aesthete. What comes to mind are big bouquets decorating large residencies, but there are other options too. Consider single stem vases with an individual flower in each, or fresh cuttings growing in jars filled with water. Best of all, grow flowering plants indoors and enjoy their scent every year. Varieties like madagascar jasmine and hoya will make your home smell divine.

Oil burners

An oil burner is a simple contraption. A dish is filled with water and a few drops of scented oil, the tea light placed underneath heats the water and the scent evaporates into the air. You can use synthetic or natural scents (‘fragrance’ usually denotes synthetic scent and ‘essential oil’ should be natural). The light of the tea candle adds cosiness to the room but remember that you’ll need to keep topping up the water as it evaporates into the air. Once you have tried single-note scents, experiment by mixing essential oils for a more complex result. You can find good pairing ideas online, some are stimulating and some have calming properties.

Potpourri

This is a mix of dried plants that release scent gradually over time. You’ll want a container with a small opening or a closed container with holes in the lid. Some people like to display their pot-pourri in glass containers as it is made up of rose petals and other plants that are pleasing to the eye. You can also place your potpourri in a small bag and scent your drawers/cupboards that way. It’s an old-fashioned and elegant way to scent your home, although its origins are less so. Originally it was used to mask the smell of chamber pots (eek!).

Plug-in scent diffusers

These plug into the mains electricity socket, can be programmed with various settings and usually will switch off automatically when empty. In other words, zero effort. I’m not the greatest fan of these because they either use cartridges (so you have to keep buying them and it’s not very eco-friendly) or they’re refillable but spray a mist into the air (which is not great for our already-humid environments). If you do like them, make sure that you know what’s in your fragrance mix as some of them can be hazardous. That’s why our masseurs George and Adam use only high quality and essential oil plug-in diffusers. Adam prefers mint and tea tree essential oil in his.

Reed diffusers

Like potpourri, reed diffusers work slowly and require practically no supervision. You have a handful of reed sticks in a jar, which is partially filled with a mix of carrier oil and essential oil (or fragrance oil). The scent travels up the reed and diffuses into the air. You do need to turn the reed sticks once a week or so, and ideally you should also slosh the oil around to mix it. Once the oil is used up, you can mix your own and refill the jar, and replacement reed sticks can also be purchased (although they last for quite a long time). Our masseur Adam likes to use reed diffusers with Jo Malone scents or rose essential oil.

Incense

Hand of our masseur George holding a box of Aoyama incense sticks, with an incense burner in the background

Our masseur George showing the incense sticks that he uses in his massage sessions.

Incense can come in the form of sticks, cones, resins, coils…However, sticks and cones are the most common. You light the stick or cone, and whilst the flame is quickly extinguished, the incense starts smoking and continues smoldering until it’s used up. There are many types of incense, however if you are looking for a mystical, meditative scent, seek out ‘temple incense’. If you are looking for something a bit more modern, try woody/tobacco scents or gentle florals. Our masseur George likes to use high quality incense sticks to scent his home and workspace.

Scented candles

Perhaps the most popular method of scenting a room. I am positively intrigued by the huge disparity in scented candle prices – you can get one for a pound or pay upwards of £100. Here’s what you might want to consider:

  • Material of the candle itself. Paraffin releases more soot and toxic materials than, say soy wax or beeswax, but claims that it might cause ill health seem to derive from a single unpublished study. If you’re concerned, you might want to consider natural materials. Careful about buying ultra-cheap candles shipped from abroad: it’s rare that the wick contains lead but it’s possible to find such candles and they’re definitely bad for you.
  • Scent. Some fragrances can be toxic although you should be safe if you buy from a reputable brand. If in doubt, consider candles that use essential oils for their scent.
  • Shape and size. Those wide multi-wick candles produce a more even burn (less ‘tunnelling’) and distribution of scent but they take up more space and burn faster.

Do trim the wick of your candle to ensure longevity and an even burn. 1-2h of burn should be enough to scent a room.

Interested in scent? You might like our article on male fragrance.