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Fragrance Free vs Unscented; The Great Debate

You are in the cleaning aisle of your local grocery store, the label says “unscented” while another says “fragrance free.” What’s the difference? And why is this important for your health?

Fragrance free: No artificial (synthetic) fragrances have been added to the product. There are no odor masking agents. If there are ingredients in the product that give off a scent, you will smell it.

Unscented: Unlike “fragrance free,” unscented does not mean the product has no odor. It means that chemicals have been added to hide the original scent. These masking agents, called phthalates, are known health hazards. Despite this, they are in widespread use throughout U.S. industries.

What are phthalates? Phthalates are a large class of chemicals with diverse applications, including masking odors. Companies use them to get their cleaning products to their “unscented” final stage before they hit the shelves, despite many studies linking them to:

– Asthma
– Deficit hyperactivity disorder
– Type II diabetes
– Breast, liver, and testicular cancer

And that is by no means an exhaustive list. Both the European Union and the United States have recognized the health risks and restricted their use in children’s toys and products.

Prefer fragranced products? Fragranced products often contain synthetic fragrances derived from crude oil. Products containing synthetic fragrances have been linked to similar health issues such as, allergies, asthma, and cancers. Also, just because a product is fragranced does not mean it it won’t also have phthalates!

If you are like me and sensitive to scented/fragranced products, you will look around and realize artificial fragrances aren’t only in cleaning products, they are everywhere — just like phthalates. Thankfully, more and more products are coming to market that don’t contain artificial fragrances or harsh chemicals. And due to a rush of studies linking phthalates to illnesses, labeling requirements are slowly being rolled out for products that use them.

To protect yourself try looking for products that are certified organic and always make sure to read the label.



When it comes to limiting exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, the best choice for your family is to opt for products labeled as "fragrance-free" and those that do not use an aerosol propellant. By specifically seeking out fragrance-free products, you can minimize the risk of exposing yourself and your family members to any potential harmful chemicals that may be present in fragrances. Additionally, avoiding products with aerosol propellants can further reduce your exposure to potentially harmful substances. These propellants are commonly used in various household products such as air fresheners and sprays. By choosing alternatives that do not rely on aerosol propellants, you can ensure that you are not involuntarily inhaling any harmful chemicals present in these propellants. It is worth noting that finding the best product that works for you and your family may involve some trial and error. Different individuals may have varying sensitivities and reactions to certain chemicals. Thus, it is important to experiment with different options within your home environment to find the product that suits your family's needs while minimizing exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.