You’ve likely spotted it in the mall ever since you were a teenager: the Bath & Body Works store, in all its scented, vibrantly-hued glory. With all those helpful employees standing at the ready in their checkered aprons and with cleverly named scents like “Sunkissed” and “Endless Weekend,” it can certainly be tough to resist all that beautifully packaged goodness and delicious-smelling aromas.

Although we can all agree that nearly everything in a Bath & Body Works store smells great, there are some things to keep in mind when shopping their products—specifically, if you’re interested in purchasing anything from their Wallflower line. Are Bath and Body Works Wallflowers toxic? Let’s break down the potential risks to you and your family, and what to use instead.

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What Is A Bath & Body Works Wallflower?

Much like the plug-in air fresheners you see lining the shelves at grocery stores and big-box retailers, Bath & Body Works Wallflowers are plug-in air fresheners that are an offshoot of their other scented products, which include lotions, body washes, and candles. They’re marketed as “always-on” fragrances, which are plugged in and feature white plastic flowers that distribute aromas into the air. They feature scents that include “Crisp Morning Air,” “Berry Waffle Cone,” “Lavender Vanilla,” and more.

How Do You Use A Bath & Body Works Wallflower?

You simply plug a Wallflower right into a wall outlet, just like the plug-in air fresheners you see at mainstream stores. You can replace the scents with refills. The plugs themselves last around two years, while the refills each last about 30 days.

Is It Safe to Leave A Wallflower Plugged in All The Time?

Generally, it’s safe to leave a Wallflower, or any plug-in air freshener, plugged in for long periods of time since they use very little electricity. The only instance in which plug-in air fresheners can become fire hazards is if there is faulty wiring (which has nothing to do with the freshener itself).

are bath and body works wallflowers toxic

What Is An “Air Freshener?”

Whether it’s plugged in, sprayed, or presented as gel in a plastic container, an air freshener is a product that releases fragrances into the air. It doesn’t actually clean the air or decrease indoor air pollution in any way, but rather just masks odors with another, more pleasant scent.

Can Air Fresheners Hurt You?

Over time, experts generally agree that the chemicals in traditional air fresheners, plug-in or otherwise, can impact health and overall wellbeing. Although these chemicals make things easier for the companies that create the air fresheners (in the interest of saving money or being efficient during the manufacturing process), they aren’t ideal to breathe in and out all day long in your home. Air fresheners contribute to indoor air pollution (which can actually be worse than outdoor pollution) and release toxins into the air that can bring about a host of health woes, from respiratory difficulties to even cancer.

How Does A Bath & Body Works Wallflower Freshen the Air?

Since Wallflower refills are made up of fragrance oils, when you plug one in, the electricity heats up the oil and releases the aroma into the air. Again, Wallflowers don’t technically freshen the air, but rather adds synthetic fragrance into the air to mask other smells.

Are Bath and Body Works Wallflowers Toxic? What Makes Them Unsafe?

Even though Bath & Body Works shares that Wallflowers are crafted using essential oils (which sound totally natural, right?), unfortunately, those oils are mixed with not-so-great-for-you chemicals as well. These chemicals include:

Formaldehyde

While it is something frequently used in scientific labs, formaldehyde isn’t the best thing to be releasing into your home. It is a frequently used chemical in a wide variety of products, from glues to cosmetics to dishwashing liquids to paint, but it’s still not something you’ll want to inhale on a regular basis. In fact, in Europe, it’s a chemical that’s very strictly regulated due to its carcinogenic properties, something that the National Cancer Institute has confirmed.

Phthalates

Phthalates are chemicals that are often found in personal care products: think anything fragranced like soap, shampoo, and air fresheners. It’s used to make fragrances last longer, which is why that Wallflowers scent continues smelling fresh and aromatic long after you first plug it in.

Fragrance

Unfortunately, the U.S. laws and regulations around ‘fragrance‘ and/or ‘parfum’ allow companies to include various toxic chemicals in their products without listing them on the ingredients label.

VOCs

“VOC” stands for “volatile organic compound,” a term that generally applies to various chemicals that can easily turn into gas, which then turns into vapor in the air. VOCs greatly contribute to indoor air pollution, something that doesn’t bode well for the lungs and heart.

are bath and body works wallflowers safe for dogs

Are Bath & Body Works Wallflowers Safe Humans and For Pets?

Because Wallflowers have chemicals that aren’t the best to be inhaling within your home, the same thing goes for your furry friends as well.

Are Wallflower Air Fresheners Toxic to Me and My Family?

Since Wallflowers contain ingredients like formaldehyde, phthalates, and VOCs, this can make them potentially toxic to you and your family when inhaled. Air freshener poisoning symptoms can include allergy symptoms, hormone disruption, coughing, stomach upset, and more. When encountered on the skin, air freshener fragrances can bring on rashes and skin irritation. And if you have small children, be forewarned that plug-in air fresheners are their deadliest when ingested.

How Do Wallflowers Air Fresheners Affect Cats?

According to PetMD, the essential oils contained in air fresheners, like Bath & Body Works Wallflowers, can be very toxic to cats. It’s imperative that your cat, or any of your pets, do not ingest the air freshener. When inhaled, a Wallflower or any other air freshener can cause cats to develop feline asthma or neurological problems.  

Will Bath & Body Works Wallflowers Hurt My Dog?

The same goes for dogs. Canines can develop neurological problems just like cats as a result of inhaling air fresheners. These symptoms can include unsteadiness, weakness, and tremors, as PetMD shares. Dogs can also experience asthma and allergies from breathing in air fresheners.

Are There Safer Options to Bath & Body Works Wallflowers?

While it’s certainly better to use air fresheners in your home that contain more natural ingredients that haven’t been mixed with worrisome chemicals, you should know that not all essential oils are ideal for your pets to be around.

For humans, however, most essential oils are completely safe when emitted into the air. So consider purchasing one of these non-toxic air freshener plug-ins instead of Bath & Body Works Wallflowers.

Use Non-Toxic Products to Clean and Deodorize Your Home

non-toxic-air-fresheners

Moso Natural

Moso’s completely non-toxic odor-absorbing bags come in various shapes and sizes, which you can place all throughout your house. By setting a bag in the kitchen, bathroom, closet, or laundry room, this is a great way to actually get rid of odors (instead of just masking them).

These bags last a really long time, too. Simply let the bag soak in the sun every once in a while to refresh it and then reuse them for up to two years.

non-toxic-diffuser-1

Aera

This company purveys diffusers that hold canisters of natural scents. Lasting a whopping 800 hours with a scent that doesn’t change over time, you can choose from scents like “Linen,” “Citrus,” and “Mint and Eucalyptus.”

non toxic room spray

Grow

These plant-based air fresheners can be spritzed around your home or in your car and don’t carry those chemicals derived from petroleum. Freshen up the air and your home and feel better knowing that this company provides ingredient transparency, ranging from essential oils to hexenyl acetate, found in green tea, to alcohol that’s been naturally fermented from grains. Choose from scents like Lavender Blossom, Citrus Cedar, Bamboo, and more. 

non-toxic-cleaning-supplies

Branch Basics

Of course, one of the best ways to keep odors at bay and your home smelling fresh is to keep it clean. Branch Basics’ non-toxic concentrate can be used as an all-purpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, streak-free glass cleaner, and even laundry detergent.

Other Ways to Scent Your Home

You can always choose to purchase an air-freshening product with a pre-made scent, or you can customize the scent by turning to other products and hacks. For example, an essential oil diffuser is a great way to create your own blends by using the organic essential oils of your choice. Boiling citrus peels in a stockpot can immediately release an orange-filled scent into your space. Ionic air sanitizers, which circulate negatively charged ions into the air, can also make your home feel a lot fresher.

What Are Pet-Safe Essential Oils?

While it’s best to confirm with your vet, it’s generally believed that some essential oils are safe for pets and others are not. According to Rover.com, the essential oils that have been deemed safe for dogs include lavender, copaiba, frankincense, peppermint, and petitgrain. The American Kennel Club (AKC) shares that cinnamon, citrus, pine, tea tree, ylang ylang, and other essential oils can be poisonous to dogs. Experts can disagree on the toxicity of some essential oils (i.e. some say that peppermint is safe while others believe that it’s not). This is why it’s imperative to check with your vet before using essential oils in your home, whether they’re diffused or applied.

Essential Oils That Aren’t Good for Your Cat

Just like dogs, some essential oils can be quite irritating for your feline friend. These include the same essential oils that are troublesome for dogs, like cinnamon, citrus, and tea tree. Again, check with your vet before using essential oils in any way.

Conclusion

Even though essential oils are considered a natural, fragrant alternative to chemical-laden products, keep in mind that while Bath & Body Works Wallflowers have essential oils, the fragrances are mixed with less-than-desirable chemicals. If any product contains toxic chemicals and VOCs, it may be time to rethink your product choices to benefit the health of you, your family, and your pets—especially since our fur babies can’t tell us if they have headaches from an air freshener!

You may certainly adore a home fragrance product you’ve been using for years, and it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of that product. But it’s good to know that there are many natural alternatives out there to deodorize your home.


About the Author

Shelby Deering is a lifestyle writer from Madison, Wisconsin. For the past 16 years, she has contributed to national print magazines and websites, including Naturally, Danny Seo, Healthline, Good Housekeeping, Parade, USA Today, and more. In her own life, she embraces non-toxic, cruelty-free beauty and cleaning products, and when she’s not researching a “clean” shampoo or lotion to add to her daily regimen, you’ll find her walking her corgi, Dolly, running local trails, or discovering treasures at nearby flea markets.


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Image credits: Chewy, Anna Svets, Element5, product photos belong to respective brands