Reasons to Avoid Car Air Fresheners Might Surprise You

Air fresheners have been a part of car ownership for as long as I can remember. You see them casually in the check-out lanes of the local market, hanging from more than a handful of rearview mirrors in a parking lot, and even see fancier ones at a high-end candle and scent stores. They seem so normal and widely used that we don’t really think twice about grabbing a Black Ice and throwing it into our car to help hide the scent of french fries, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing for you or your car.

Don’t hang your air fresheners

While it is fairly common to see plenty of objectives hanging from people’s rearview mirrors, one of the most common is air fresheners. But, you may not realize that in most states hanging any object from your rearview mirror is actually illegal. Most police officers may not give you a ticket for having them, but there is a valid reason behind it — having anything hanging in your windshield can obstruct your vision. For many people, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you end up piling an endless number of air fresheners on top of each other, it can become pretty annoying to see around.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Biologist Corey Rossi uses a video camera to document migratory birds near a landfill June 4, 2006 in Browerville, Alaska |Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Damaging your car

There is an entire market surrounding our desire to keep our cars smelling fresh and clean. A submitter from TopGear claims that the oil residue from an air freshener damages their car’s interior, namely the plastic trim that sits around the air vent. This claim has been echoed by many other drivers, though most of the claims haven’t been substantiated. In fact, in a lawsuit, Fabreze claimed that they were aware of this potential problem. Of course, any time you are using chemicals unnecessarily in your car, there is a risk of damage — a risk most people shouldn’t be willing to take, as repairing car interior can be pretty costly.

An Energizer Holdings Inc. Driven by Refresh Your Car! brand gel air freshener is displayed for a photograph | Daniel Acker/Bloomberg, Getty Images

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They’re kind of a waste of money

Sure, the first few days of using an air freshener can be great. You can make your car smell like ‘new car’ or ‘black ice’, but chances are if you want to keep that scent fresh, you’re going to have to switch out your air freshener more often than not. Some stores offer more expensive versions with fancy clips that decorate your dashboard, and while you can find them for just a few dollars, the price of some options can get surprisingly steep. Really, the best way to keep your car smelling fresh is to keep it cleaned and well-detailed.

An American flag air freshener hangs from the rearview mirror of a cab | Greg Kahn, Getty Images

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While the risks of using air fresheners don’t really outweigh the benefits, it might make you think twice next time you go to grab one for your car. As always, it’s easier to keep your car clean and use automative detailing spray that will leave your car looking, feeling, and smelling clean, without the need for air fresheners to begin with.