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How to Reuse Car Air Fresheners

How to Reuse Car Air Fresheners

Car air fresheners are an affordable and convenient way to keep your vehicle smelling clean and pleasant. However, most air fresheners are designed for single use, meaning you have to frequently replace them once their scent starts to fade. This can add up in cost over time, not to mention the toll it takes on the environment as used air fresheners pile up in landfills.

Luckily, there are many simple tricks to extend the life of your car air fresheners so you don’t have to keep buying new ones. Reusing air fresheners is an easy way to save money while also reducing waste. With a few basic preparation and maintenance steps, you can get the most mileage out of those fragrant trees, cardboard clips, or gels.

Keep reading to learn various methods for restoring old air fresheners and making them last longer. We’ll also cover when it’s time to throw in the towel and replace completely worn out fresheners. With this comprehensive guide, you’ll be able to enjoy months or even years more use out of your car air fresheners.

Remove Air Freshener When Scent Fades

The first step to reusing an air freshener is knowing the right time to take it out of service. Air fresheners work by slowly releasing fragrant oils into the air, and once those oils have fully dispersed, you’re left with a scentless product.

Check on your air freshener regularly by smelling it up close. When you can no longer detect the clean, pleasant fragrance, it’s time to remove it from your car’s vent clip or rearview mirror. Don’t wait until the smell turns stale, as this can leave unwanted odors in your car’s interior.

Once removed, avoid throwing the air freshener directly in the trash. With the proper storage techniques, you can significantly extend its usable lifespan.

Refresh with Essential Oils

One of the simplest ways to revive an old air freshener is by replenishing its scent with essential oils. Oils like lemon, lavender, eucalyptus, pine and orange contain powerfully concentrated aromas. Just a few drops is all it takes to refresh most air fresheners.

Start by buying a variety pack of popular essential oils. Make sure they specifically say “100% pure essential oil” on the label. You only need half ounce or one ounce bottles, as a little goes a long way.

Next, remove the faded air freshener from your car’s cabin. Turn it over to locate the most absorbent side, usually the back or bottom. Place 2-3 drops of your chosen essential oil onto the air freshener, allowing the oil to fully soak in. Be careful not to oversaturate one spot, as this can lead to excess dripping once you put the freshener back into service.

Allow the essential oils to absorb completely before returning the air freshener to your car’s vent or clip. Test it out for a day or two first, as some particularly potent oils like pine may be overpowering at first. You can always add more oil later if the scent remains too faint.

Rotate between different essential oil scents to find the ones that best suit your tastes and freshener type. Citrus and floral oils provide energizing and uplifting aromas, while earthy oils like pine create a more grounded, relaxing atmosphere.

Use Dryer Sheets

In addition to essential oils, you can extend an air freshener’s viability using an item you likely already have around the house – dryer sheets. Simply place a used (but not fully dried out) dryer sheet inside your air freshener’s housing. As heat inside your car causes the dryer sheet to warm up, it will release a light, fresh fragrance.

Dryer sheets fit perfectly within most cardboard air freshener clips. For hanging air fresheners, partially insert the dryer sheet so it remains secure. Make sure to check on the condition of the dryer sheet periodically. Once its scent starts fading, insert a new sheet to keep your car smelling continuously pleasant.

Most dryer sheet scents complement typical air freshener fragrances. Opt for ones labeled as “spring fresh”, “linen” or “mountain breeze” rather than heavy perfume varieties. Dryer sheets also contain anti-static properties to help remove dust and other particles from your car’s air.

Reactivate with Heat

Heat can help revive an air freshener’s fading scent. The gentle warmth opens up the product’s pores to release more of the remaining fragrant oils. Heat works well for trees, gels and cardboard air fresheners.

To use this method, remove the air freshener from your car first. Next, place it inside your microwave and heat it in 10-15 second intervals, checking the scent in between. You can also use the blow dryer function on your hair dryer. Hold it about 6 inches away from the air freshener, moving it continuously to avoid melting.

Leaving an air freshener in a hot parked car on a sunny day works too. The interior heat helps open the air freshener’s pores to freshen its scent. Just make sure to remove it rather than leaving it in direct sun, which can cause cracking or fading.

Only use short bursts of heat to refresh air freshener scents. Extended exposure can cause trees and cardboard to become brittle or melt gels. Check frequently as you heat and stop immediately if you notice any changes to color or shape.

Wash with Soap and Water

Over time, oil and dust buildup on air fresheners can mute scents. Washing with mild soap and water cleans away residue to renew fragrance. This works best for synthetic air fresheners.

Hand wash your air freshener using a small amount of gentle hand or dish soap. Allow it to fully dry before returning to your car’s cabin to prevent mildew growth. Washing also removes any stale odors left behind so you start fresh.

If washing fails to restore scent on its own, you can use it in combination with essential oils or dryer sheets for optimal effect. Washing first clears away debris, allowing the oils or dryer sheets to penetrate better.

Take care not to submerge cardboard air fresheners completely, as they will quickly disintegrate when soaked. Instead, use a damp cloth to gently wipe down the surface. Spot clean any visible stains with very mild soap solution before drying.

Store in Airtight Container

Proper storage extends air freshener viability by retaining scent for longer periods between uses. After removing from your car, place the used air freshener in an airtight plastic bag or storage container. This prevents the remaining fragrant oils from fully dissipating into the surrounding air.

Zip-top plastic bags work great for compact air fresheners. For larger cardboard or hanging styles, use plastic storage bins or shoe boxes with tight sealing lids. Wrapping air fresheners in plastic cling wrap also minimizes air exposure.

Stored this way, an air freshener that seems completely scentless can revive once you unseal the container and expose it to fresh air. The closed environment allowed the oils to rest without fully evaporating.

Keep your stash of stored air fresheners in a cool, dark place like a cabinet or closet. Heat and light can cause the scents to break down faster. Now you’ll always have back-ups ready for rotation when your in-use freshener requires replacement.

Know When to Toss

While many air fresheners can be reused almost indefinitely with the right care, they won’t last forever. Over time, constant heating and cooling in a car causes most materials to break down. At that point, even rigorous restoration efforts won’t salvage an air freshener.

Signs that indicate an air freshener is beyond saving include:

  • Brittle, cracked or dried out construction
  • Mold, mildew or staining
  • Visible discoloration or fading
  • Permanent odors that won’t wash away

Synthetic air fresheners tend to have a longer viable lifespan than paperboard types. However, even the highest quality car air freshener will reach the end eventually. When washing, heating and scent boosters no longer refresh fragrance, it’s time to replace with a new one.

Dispose of unusable air fresheners in your regular household trash. Never try to keep using an air freshener past its prime, as this will make your car’s interior smell worse rather than freshening it. A quick replacement is the only solution here.

Buy Quality Fresheners

Not all air fresheners are created equal. Cheap, poor quality ones begin fading almost as soon as you take them out of the package. On the other hand, those made by reputable brands using premium materials and scents tend to have much longer lifespans.

Spend a little more upfront to invest in top rated air fresheners made with quality ingredients. Look for ones constructed from sturdy plastics rather than thin, cheap cardboard. The fragrance oils should consist of authentic essential oils rather than synthetic perfumes.

Brands like Febreze, Ozium and Chemical Guys offer car air fresheners formulated to last longer between changes. While more expensive initially, their extended performance makes up for the higher cost in the long run.

You’ll get the best return by reusing higher end air fresheners rather than trying to revive cheap, quickly fading ones. An investment here prevents constantly having to buy replacements.

Use Multiple Air Fresheners

Rotating multiple air fresheners is another great strategy to keep your car smelling continuously fresh. Simply divide up your interior into different scent zones.

For example, attach one air freshener to the rearview mirror to fragrance the front seats. Place a different scent in the backseat area to cover passenger space separately. You can even clip one inside the trunk to make unpacked items smell pleasant.

When each air freshener begins losing potency, you can remove it to restore while putting a different one into use. This extends the time between having to revive any particular freshener. Multiple fresheners also allow you to alternate between complementary scents, like citrus and pine.

Using 2-3 fresheners at once means you’ll always have a back-up ready when needed. Just transfer the revived one to replace the current fading freshener. Renewing them in cycles keeps at least one actively dispensing pleasant aroma.


Reusing car air fresheners is an excellent way to save money while also reducing environmental impact. With some basic maintenance like washing, essential oils and proper storage, most air fresheners can extend their lifespan significantly. Even cheap paperboard types can last much longer when carefully refreshed and rotated.

Implement a simple routine to check on air fresheners frequently and swap them out as soon as scent starts to fade. Proper revival methods prevent having to immediately throw them away, keeping your ongoing costs lower. Investing in quality fresheners made to endure also increases reuse potential.

Next time you notice your car’s interior losing that clean, fresh smell, don’t just toss out the old air freshener. With a few easy restoration tricks, you can enjoy that same product’s revitalizing fragrance for many more weeks or months ahead.


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about reusing car air fresheners:

Can I reuse scented trees and cardboard air fresheners?

Yes, scented cardboard trees and paperboard clips can be reused with the proper care. Remove them promptly when scent fades. Refresh with essential oils, dryer sheets or heat. Handle cardboard gently and avoid soaking to extend lifespan.

How long does an air freshener typically last?

On average, a quality air freshener lasts 4-6 weeks with regular use before requiring reuse or replacement. Higher temperatures and direct sunlight decrease lifespan. Proper rotation and scent restoration can extend viability up to a year.

What are the best scents for reusing air fresheners?

Citrus, pine, floral and herbal scents like lemon, orange, lavender, eucalyptus and tea tree retain their aroma well over reuse cycles. Avoid heavily perfumed or sugary scents which become stale and musty faster.