Taming the Stink

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My family and I just got back from a short vacation. While we were gone we missed our scheduled dirty diaper pick up by our diaper service (check out my recent post on why we use cloth diapers). As every parent knows, babies come with a certain amount of stinky business, but I was truly impressed by how strong the stench of week-old dirty diapers could be. The smell sent us reeling.

To battle the odor, my husband picked up a bottle of Febreze “air refresher” at the store later that day. My initial thought was “yes, please, anything to cover the poo stink,” but as he held down the aerosol trigger and the “apple spice & delight” scent filled the room I had second thoughts. As cruel as it is to put my baby to bed in a room that wreaks of poo, I’m not sure I want her breathing whatever chemicals are in this stuff.

This sparked a debate between my husband and I. He believes “they” wouldn’t sell something if it were harmful, and I am not so trusting. We both agreed it would be an interesting thing to investigate.

The label of the bottle list the ingredients as “odor eliminator, water, fragrance, non-flammable natural propellant, quality control ingredients.” What, I wondered, is an odor eliminator? With a little investigating I learned that the active compounds in Febreze are called cyclodextrins (CD for short), basically glucose, aka starch.

Turns out this stuff is used in all kinds of things we use every day. It is used in medicines (for instance in nasal sprays), as a food additive, and even cleaning supplies.

Most interesting to me was a peer reviewed article published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics which considered the safety of using a CD in nasal sprays and concluded that “the results of this study confirm the safety of the cyclodextrins investigated as nasal absorption enhancers.” If you can safely shoot the stuff right up your nose, it seems safe enough to inhale a little as it wafts through the air of a room.

I’m still a little wary of the fragrance, since I know strong perfumes can sometimes irritate my throat, so I might go invest in a bottle of unscented Febreze, but all in all it sounds remarkably harmless. I feel a lot better, and am thrilled there is such a baby friendly product that works so well.


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