TikTok Is Wrong About Boiling Air Freshener Wicks

There’s a new hack on TikTok that suggests wick-based air fresheners like the ones you plug into the wall don’t have to be thrown away when they stop working. Instead, according to some social media posts, you can boil the wicks to give your home a strong scent. Seems like a great way to pamper your nose and stretch your money, right? Wrong.

In clips on the video-sharing platform, users are shown pulling nearly used up wicks from their air fresheners and throwing them into a pot, sometimes several at a time. They then boil the water with the wicks inside to release the fragrant frenzy, dispersing what is left of the fragrant oil into the air. The comments on these videos tend to come from users claiming they do it all the time too.

Other comments suggest combining this trick with a hack that went viral a few years ago using boiling household cleaners like Fabuloso to really bring out the scent swirl. If you remember the Fabuloso boil craze in 2018, you probably also remember that experts were quick to speak out to warn that boiling chemical cleaners could be dangerous . So…

Why can’t you boil the wicks?

At first, the trick seemed like a good idea: you get a great smell and save money on new air fresheners by using them to the last drop. However, we wanted to make sure of this, so we turned to the National Capital Poison Center . Medical director and acting chief executive Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor told Lifehacker she had “a few concerns” about boiling wicks soaked in essential oils, volatile aromatics and alcohol-based carriers.

Her first objection was to alcohols, which she pointed out are highly flammable, “so having these wicks near other sources of ignition may increase the risk of fire.”

Then, she says, “Essential oils found in air fresheners can be irritating when in contact with the skin, so people may develop unwanted skin reactions when handling these products. Aromatic compounds/perfumes can also cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals upon contact.”

Her conclusion was that, overall, the risk of harm likely outweighed any benefits of boiling the wicks.

What can you do instead?

If you still want to give your home an aroma bath using a stove, stick to the old-fashioned method. Your grandmother was right: boil cinnamon sticks, orange peels, cloves, apple slices, or other natural ingredients to disperse pleasant aromas and remove alcohols, oils, and aromatic compounds from them.


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