Last updated on May 18th, 2019 at 10:28 pm

We’ve come a long way from the “new car” scented air fresheners hanging from our rearview mirrors. Americans spend an average of more than 12 days in the car driving, every year. Being stuck in traffic is dreadful and leads to a stressful commute — it’s only natural to want to make the interior of your car as pleasant as possible. Let’s start with a low-tech and typically low-cost way to accomplish this.

  • Calm you down as you fight traffic.
  • Keep alert if your commute makes you tired,
  • Cover up those bad smells like cigarette smoke or pet odors.

Calm Those Nerves

Commuting is hard on the mind and body. Air fresheners derived from plants, called botanicals, can counter some of the stress that comes from sitting in traffic. Herbs like lavender, bergamot, chamomile, rose, sweet basil and lemon balm are proven to relieve anxiety and stress. Best of all, you can plant many of these herbs in your garden (or create an herb garden on your kitchen window sill.)

Staying Alert

Tired or drowsy driving is a major problem on the road and can lead to tragedy. The Centers For Disease Control says drowsy driving slows your reaction time and affects your ability to make good decisions. Nothing replaces getting enough sleep, but two botanicals — peppermint and rosemary — help keep you alert.

 Eliminating Bad Odors

Let’s face it: if you’re a smoker, or you just like to take your puppy out to the dog park on the weekend, your car can reek! It could be the last place you want to spend during a 30 or 60-minute commute. There are a lot of products on the market to combat bad car smells, but the scent of orange or citrus is one of the best choices.

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Our Top Picks

Young Living Essential Oils

Young Living Essential Oils main image with 4 types of oilsThis company has been around for decades, although it has recently gained in notoriety as aromatherapy and essential oils became more mainstream. Young Living made its name selling pure oils from plants for de-stressing, or fighting off cold viruses. Young Living also offers oil blends, like Joy, which blends rose oil with other herbs to create a blend that triggers a feeling of happiness.

The good news is some of the claims behind aromatherapy are now proven to be true. The bad news is that some of the oils can get pricey, and it can be hard to justify spending $50 on a 5ml bottle of plant oils. Young Living also offers room and car diffusers for sale on its site, although you can find other car diffusers for sale in the room spray aisle at your local grocery store. In the wake of Young Living’s success, other companies offer essential oils as well. You may find a better deal, but make sure to read the ingredients before buying.

Ozium

Ozium deodorizing spray on dash for car

This deodorizer has been a smoker’s secret for decades. Ozium comes in a spray or odor-absorbing gel jar. The company claims the product eliminates odors rather than masking them. It comes in a natural scent, vanilla, and orange scent, and while it may not completely cover up the smell of smoke, it is one of the better products on the market. It’s also available on Amazon, Walmart, Walgreens, Auto Zone and other retailers for less than $5.

Orange peel

Multiple oranges peeled on counter

This odor-fighter is a DIY botanical deodorizer. If you make a sachet of dried orange peels and put it under the car seats, the peels will help fight odors. The pro here is that it's cheap and convenient. The con is that it's not effective against very strong smells, and needs replacing often. It is the same idea as a potpourri. You can also use this method for basil, mint and lemon balm. Just be sure to put the botanicals in a container that is both breathable and sturdy enough to keep the peels from spilling all over the floor.

A couple of final words on the best natural deodorizers for your car. If you're deodorizing to help yourself stay calm or awake in traffic, make sure whatever you use has the genuine botanical oil in it. Fake scents don’t work like the real thing, and you will be disappointed by the results. Second, be aware of allergies. If you or a passenger is allergic to roses, a rose essential oil will most likely trigger a miserable experience.