Car air fresheners: 8 Pros & 5 Cons

Updated Mar 23, 2018 | Same topic: Handy Maintenance Tips

Take into serious consideration both pros and cons of using car air fresheners to decide if you really need one.

Filipinos can be real sticklers for hygiene (what other nationality is fond of taking baths at least once a day?), and it shows even in the cars we drive. Sure, it looks good and runs fast, but a Pinoy car is a clean car, and nothing smells like cleanliness more than a whiff of an air freshener inside the cabin.

Car air fresheners come in different forms at all sorts of price points, making it easy for practically any car to use one. Just as varied are the reasons why they are either a good purchase or a stinking deal. Let’s start off with the why you might need an air freshener in your cabin. The answers might be a breath of fresh air.

8 advantages of using car air fresheners

1. Car air fresheners help neutralize unpleasant odors

The primary purpose of air fresheners in your car is, simply enough, to make it smell better and get rid of unwanted odors. The new car smell that captivated you on the first few days of ownership is bound to wear off when you use the car on a regular basis, even more so when you frequently have passengers or cargo. Remember that since your car’s cabin is a closed environment, odors have a habit of lingering unless they are countered by fragrance.

Car Air Freshener | Nearly Free DIY!

2. Disinfects

Spray-type fresheners are said to be best suited in killing airborne pathogens inside the car. This is important if you regularly have passengers, as they are prone to contaminating everyone with germs they bring in from the outside air. There’s also pollution from other vehicles outside via their emissions.

a woman suffering from allergies

Car fresheners can aggravate allergies

3. Flexibility

Car air fresheners come in various forms: there's the classic cardboard type, the refillable liquid type, the can-type, the gel-type, diffusers, and plug-ins. That means there’s an air freshener for practically any place inside the car you can think of.

car aircon vents

Some air fresheners can clog your aircon vents

Hang it from your rear-view mirror, stick it into an aircon vent, leave an open can on a cup holder or plug one to be powered by the car’s electrical system, there’s almost no limit. And if you happen to be in a particularly large vehicle such as a van or a bus, then you can use more than one type of freshener to ensure that every corner of the cabin is covered.   

4. Convenience

Not everyone has the luxury of time to have their car interiors thoroughly washed, scrubbed or sprayed in an effort to get rid of a particularly bothersome odor. All you need to do is choose a car freshener that you like, leave it inside the cabin and let it work as you go about your day. And it’s not going to complain about the smell it’s supposed to eliminate.

5. Car air fresheners can change your mood

It’s not easy trying to maintain your composure behind the wheel, especially with Philippine traffic conditions the way they are. A sudden obstruction creates a bottleneck that threatens to make you late for work. Another motorist abruptly cuts ahead of you. You nearly get sideswiped by a speeding motorcycle.

traffic jam

Air fresheners can reduce stress caused by traffic jams

All of this can contribute to driving stress, reducing your lifespan considerably if you don’t take the necessary steps. A whiff or two crawling across your nostrils should be enough to gradually improve your disposition and give you a more positive frame of mind.

6. There is a variety of scents for car air fresheners

Car fresheners come in a range of aromas that will satisfy various customers. Floral scents are popular, as are citrus-laced fragrances. There are those derived from nature such as forest, mountain air, ocean mist, or even the smell of rain. Some fresheners even try to approximate a new car smell, in a somewhat nostalgic attempt to bring back the time when a car still smelled factory-fresh.

an air freshener in a car

Car fresheners make your car smell better

The point is, you don’t have to be stuck with a fragrance that only appeals to someone else. Choose what suits you and what you think you can live with on a daily basis.

7. There are also lots of designs to choose from

While they’re primarily all about the smell, car fresheners are also about looks, especially if their designs complement the car’s interior. There are a wide range of designs available that will appeal to practically any user, from children as well as grownups, that lets you either blend in seamlessly on the car’s interior or add a spot of color in an otherwise drab cabin. The designs, in some cases, also determine how the freshener’s mechanism works.

interior of a mercedes benz car

Car interiors that look good are also expected to smell good

8. Maintains fragrance

Car air fresheners don’t easily run out of fragrance to disperse, meaning that their effects linger for a little while, even after the freshener has run out. Hopefully, that window would be just enough for you to replace the used-up freshener with a new one.

>>> Also check out: 6 best car air freshener ideas for Filipino drivers

5 disadvantages of using car air fresheners

But just as there are benefits to using a car air freshener, it also has its drawbacks.

1. A temporary solution

Since car fresheners do run out eventually, pretty soon the original problem of having to deal with undesirable odors comes back with a vengeance: the lingering smell of used socks for instance, residual body odor from the last passenger who boarded your car, dried-up vomit from when your friend had one tequila too many, or even a dead insect inside. And since it’s a temporary solution you need to administer every time, it also becomes a matter of …

2. Cost

Having to spend on a car air freshener periodically may not look like much, but the purchases all add up, especially since car fresheners only mask the smell, instead of addressing the root cause. If the source is untraceable, then there is no choice but to buy more fresheners just to sustain the effect. That sort of money might be better spent on other things, such as fuel or maintenance expenses to keep your car running in tiptop shape.

>>> Click to find more helpful tips for car ownership on

3. Car air fresheners contain phthalates

Phthalates are used to dissolve and carry the car freshener’s fragrance all over the cabin. Unfortunately, they have also been blamed as the cause for reproductive problems such as hormone imbalance, reduced sperm count and birth defects. Certain levels of exposure to phthalates could lead to an increased risk of cancer.

an air freshener hang in a car

Just as there are benefits to using a car air freshener, it also has its drawbacks

Some car air fresheners also use artificial fragrances derived from ethanol, formaldehyde and phenol. Many fragrance oils in car fresheners are solvents derived from petroleum; they can generate heat upon reaching a certain temperature, corroding plastic parts such as knobs, switches and panels inside the car.

4. A magnet for dust and other minute contaminants

Gel-type fresheners are especially guilty of this, trapping free-floating dust and other allergens when used for an extended period of time. This will only aggravate things for people with severe allergies or respiratory problems, since the air is mostly recirculated inside the cabin.

5. Car air fresheners conceal important clues you should be aware of

Since car air fresheners keep us so fixated on smelling good and giving an impression of cleanliness, we may not be aware that they are actually hindering us from being aware of our cars. A car freshener’s sweet-smelling scent might cover the smell of leaking fuel in the engine bay, a situation that needs to be addressed right away. Or we might blissfully unaware that exhaust fumes are already making their way to the cabin from outside.

a man cleaning upholstery in a car

Regular cleaning is an important factor to keep a cabin smell good

>>> Read more: Diagnose your car's annoying smells & Remove bad odor from your car

Car air fresheners: Final thoughts

Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide whether a car air freshener is a good investment or not. Remember that an air freshener is not a catch-all solution, and that you’ll still need to observe the proper diligence in keeping your car clean and in good order, not only for superficial reasons but also for your health and well-being.

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Joseph Paolo Estabillo

Joseph Paolo Estabillo


Joseph holds a degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines Diliman and has been writing professionally since 1999. He has written episodes for CNN Philippines' motoring show Drive, and has worked on corporate projects for MG Philippines and Pilipinas Shell. Aside from being’s Content Lead, he also writes content for numerous car dealerships in the U.S., spanning multiple brands such as Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Maserati, among others.


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