Do it Yourself Wallflower Plug-in Refills

Most everyone you ask would agree that having a home that always smells fresh is a good thing. C and I have used Wallflowers in the past to freshen up places like the bathroom. But, when I found out that the liquids in Wallflowers (and other liquid-based, commercially-produced air fresheners) contain VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), I wanted to stop using them immediately. But I didn’t. In truth, I liked the way they smelled, and I hadn’t found a good alternative. Unfortunately, the more I researched about VOCs, the more I realized they weren’t something to mess with.

Why are VOCs bad? Because, according to The Daily Green,

[e]ven at low levels, these chemicals can cause a number of symptoms. But they sound like symptoms of lots of things, so it can be hard for a doctor to narrow it down to VOCs. Common symptoms include fatigue, headaches, skin and eye irritation, tingling or numbness in the extremities, drowsiness and dizziness.

You can even find the EPA chiming in on VOCs dangers. Also according to the Environmental Working Group, VOCs can also contribute to cancer, birth defects and infertility.

So is our fresh-smelling house really worth all of those problems? Do I really want to risk our health and the possibility of our future family on a scent?

Not really.

So what’s a good solution? Making your own, of course! Frugal and healthy!

I originally saw this idea on Pinterest (though, I have way too many pins, so I wasn’t able to find it on my own boards). But this is the blog that has the tutorial.

The idea is to take an old Wallflower (this does require having a plug-in unit and an empty bulb) and fill the bulb with essential oil and water – therefore creating your own refill mixture.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Unscrew the old bulb and remove the wick. This was my LEAST favorite part. The instructions I read made it sound easy peasy. Just pop the wick out. Right? Wrong. This step alone took me twenty minutes. I had to slide the flat head screwdriver under the plastic and pry it up, once I got it halfway, I used pliers to get it out. Let’s just say this step left me with blisters.
  2. Rinse out the bulb and rinse off the wick. Ours still smelled like the old scent, so I washed it a lot. and squeezed out the wick the best I could. Wash, squeeze, repeat. And then I dried them off the best I could, and squeezed excess water out of the wick with a paper towel. Even after all of this, it still smelled a little like the old scent, but was a lot less concentrated and will dissipate with time.

    When you're doing this, beware of the nail sticking out of the wick!!

  3. Put desired essential oil in bulb. I used lavender for this, partially because it’s what I have on hand. If this works the way I want, I might branch out with some citrus essential oils. I filled the bulb up with about 1/4 inch of oil. The original blog post I got this from said to use more, but lavender is expensive.
  4. Fill the bulb the rest of the way with water. Fill to JUST BELOW the widest part at top! Do not overfill, remember that the wick being reinserted will displace some of the liquid, and you would hate to waste essential oils!
  5. Reinsert the wick. (My second least favorite part, it took me nearly as long as getting the wick out.) Make sure to apply pressure evenly, directly from the top as this will let it pop back in place. Wiggling it from side to side to get in doesn’t work. Neither does lightly hammering all the way around. Prayers did seem to help though ;)
  6. Screw the refilled bulb back into the Wallflower unit. Plug in and enjoy the fresh scent!

So after all this is finished, I do really like the natural lavender scent emanating from our bathroom, but I do wish I had been cautioned about the process. If you are going to try this, just make sure you are aware that that wick sure doesn’t want to come out! It will eventually, but it does take some time. If you have any tips to get the wick out and in faster, I’ll appreciate it!

But, in the end, it’s a teeny tiny sacrifice to make when we’re talking about the health of our families.

42 comments on “Do it Yourself Wallflower Plug-in Refills

  1. Chelsey on said:

    Great idea! I’ve been wanting to refill my swiffer solution, I saw a pinterest thing for that as well. I love reusing-repurposing-natural-chem-free ideas for around the house :)

  2. Alanna on said:

    I tried it just now and it took me about 5 secs. The trick is, when you get to the nail part turn it so that it can go around the spiral neck of the container. Thanks for the idea!! :)

    • Melanie on said:

      Thanks! I’ll have to try the next time! Let me know how long yours lasted…Ours didn’t last long with just the water, so I think I might try oil next time.

      Glad it worked!

  3. Susan on said:

    I did this but the water & oil didn’t last very long once I plugged it in. Guess I’ll use more oil next time.

    • Melanie on said:

      We had the same problem too, but we didn’t use any carrier oils last time. I’m thinking next time we’ll do all carrier oils and essential oils and hopefully it will last longer. I think the problem is the water evaporates as well as “burns off.”

      • Hunter B. on said:

        I tried using just the oil and for some reason it didn’t last very long. It provides a smell for that small area but not for the whole room as I thought it would…maybe it wasn’t an essential oil I picked up from Walmart like I thought.

  4. Renee on said:

    To take the top off, I used the end of some tweezers rather than a flathead. This seemed to work quicker since the tweezers are not as thick.

    • Melanie on said:

      That’s a good idea.

      I tried using tweezers but mine bent horribly. Granted, I have tweezers that came out of a free manicure kit, so that could be more the reason that they didn’t hold up :)

  5. Hi. I was wondering if you had any success with a carrier oil for these wallflower refills. I found a suggestion for grapeseed oil on the Internet, but then it scared me when it said not to leave the wallflower unattended. Any luck? Thanks.

    • Melanie on said:

      Oh boy! I haven’t actually had a chance yet to make one with a carrier oil. I wonder if it’s true, though because I am pretty sure that the original Wallflowers are made with oil. Hopefully someone will comment who has actually made one this way!

  6. Alex on said:

    I really want to try this as it seems a much healthier alternative. My only worry is that I have two cats.
    I was thinking of using either peppermint, orange or lemon essential oils. Has anyone used any of the above around cats? I want to make sure they are not bothered by the oils. Also curious if any of the above oils are toxic to cats.
    I am assuming they will be fine since I have previously used the store bought scents which are obviously a hazard to anyone’s health and essential oils seem a lot safer in general.

    If anyone has used this idea and have cats in their home please let me know how it worked for you! Any information would be appreciated!

    • I’ve used peppermint, orange, lavender and eucalyptus in our apartment and then our home with 2 cats and they’ve never reacted to any smells.

      If anyone does use a carrier, let me know if it worked for you. I tried using straight mineral oil with the essential oil but it didn’t work (no smell, amount never went down) so I’m not sure what I did wrong.

      • Silverfox Massage and Crafts on said:

        I read once that mineral oil can be used to water proof wood, so I’m thinking it actually seals/blocks liquid absorption. I tried this once with diffuser reeds and also had zero result.

  7. Amanda on said:

    I had no problem taking the wick out or putting it back in…guess I was just lucky. However, I do have a few FYI’s for everyone: 1) Don’t rinse the wick too much or it will expand and won’t go back in the plug. Happened the first time to me, luckily I had another one to use. 2) DO NOT USE EXTRACTS!!!! They contain alcohol, which cannot be exposed to heat. I originally put peppermint extract in mine, then I realized extracts contain alcohol. This also means you should be careful of the essential oils you use. Make sure they are 100% pure, as some companies dilute them with alcohol. Hope this helps. :-)

  8. Pingback: DIY: Scented Oil Plug-In Refills! « Frugal Twenties

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  10. I’ve always wondered if it would be possible to get a syringe & just make your own solution and squirt it in there somehow through the wick. I would like to try that. I am not sure that I have EVER thrown any bulbs away, as I feel there has got to be SOME useful or cutesy purpose reuse. Once I find my one shining moment…I’ll be posted.

  11. Marscleite on said:

    OK Guys!!! I just loaded mine up with 100% Lemongrass oil (maybe 1/2 inch) and melted some coconut oil and poured that in. It was difficult to get the top and wick off. I used the file portion of a nail clippers (the built in kind). It was also a mini clipper, don’t know if that makes a difference, but the curve at the tip was perfect for rolling the lid up. Once I got it up high enough, I took a needle nose pliers and got ahold of the shaft portion and just pulled up. Sounds easy, but there was some trial and error there.
    I think those buggers stay warm enough that the oil won’t solidify. I just plugged it into my bathroom and closed the door to see if its fragrant enough and stays liquid. (10 minutes later….) Nice and fragrant in there!!! I think coconut oil will be the ticket. I’ll come back and update with any changes. I feel good about it though.

  12. I’m concerned that the wick will still hold some of the previous toxic scent. What is the best way to get the B&BW oil and scent out?
    I plan to wash it out as thoroughly as I can without destroying the wick, and then leaving it out to air for several days. Then maybe repeating?
    Any suggestions?

    • I’ve had mine soaking for a few hours in baking soda/vinegar, then prob alcohol. And repeat if necessary. Not sure if that’s the best thing to o! I’ll prob even stick it in a bowl of coffee grounds. Worth a try! I’m just looking for a carrier oil to last longer than 12hrs!

  13. My bf decided he could get the wick out quicker with the edge of a pocket knife. it popped right out and didnt damage anything.

  14. So… you’re not supposed to use this more than twice, right? Just want to make sure so I don’t cause a problem. After that, I guess that means it’s time to find another way to use essential oils because there’s no point in buying Febreze or Wallflowers just to dump it all out, lol.

    The Febreze plug-ins were super easy to dismantle! I also have Airwick, but the wick must be made of cloth or something because it fell apart immediately when I rinsed it.

    • Melanie on said:

      I don’t see why you couldn’t use them multiple times as long as the wick is still in tact?

      And it’s good to know it works with other brands (and not others). Thanks for letting us know :)

      And, if you’re uncomfortable using a bulb more than once, you could always switch to diffusers.

  15. What about liquid potpourri? I found a big bottle of Ocean Mist, that I had for a while. It’s the kind you put in simmering pots. It does not show ingredients, so I am not sure. Anyone know?

  16. To remove the wick, I use an inexpensive, but sturdy, carving fork which has the two tines EXACTLY the right width to fit under the edge of the plastic part that holds the wick. I wedge the fork down as far as it goes and the stopper pops out! No big deal! However some are a little harder to remove than others. I’ve done about 20 so far with no great problems. (For example- http://www.oneida.com/juilliard-carving-fork.html)

    I have tried various carrier oils, etc. Cyclomethicone (chemical again? which we’re trying to get away from?) evaporates in a couple of days. Grapeseed oil and other carrier oils such as almond and sunflower clog the wick and absolutely DO NOT move the fragrance at all and have to be thrown away. Yuck. I gave them a good long time to be sure and they never worked. Combo of water, cyclomethicone, oil in various amounts… nope. Seems to be the oil which clogs stuff up. I can’t believe anyone would use coconut oil which hardens at 75 degrees! Water works about the best. Just be sure to shake and emulsify the oil and water really well. It does tend to separate. Shake the bottle with your finger over the opening BEFORE you insert the wick! It will leak when shaken with the wick already in place.

    The wicks can be used indefinitely, until they get too frayed at the top and/or until they become too short from trimming off the frayed part. I try and keep each wick for a specific fragrance (citrus, lavender, floral, etc.) so I don’t have to wash them in-between uses and fray the wick even more. And I’m VERY careful about re-inserting them into the plug-in unit.

    As far as heat of the liquid, the Wallflowers work by heating the AIR above the wick. There is NO heat in or around the liquid. I even tested the temperature of the liquid with an instant read thermometer. It never got warmer than the room. The temperature of the top of the wick where the evaporation takes place was around 145 to 150 degrees F.

    I use about 1ml of Essential oil in the empty Wallflower bottle. Essential oils are different than “fragrance oils” which is a chemical compound with all the stuff we’re trying to avoid: phthalates and VOCs to name a few. Then fill up just below the widest part with purified water. One of my favorite combinations is 0.5ml French Lavender and 0.5ml Mandarin Orange. When you consider that Wallflowers cost anywhere from $3 to $7 apiece, then using 1ml of expensive Essential oil isn’t outrageous. In fact, it’s a lot cheaper, better for us, and FUN! 1ml is about 35 drops.

    My Lavender-Citrus mix costs $9 for 30ml… That’s about 30 refills. Lavender is one of the most expensive (along with Rose, Neroli, Gardenia, Ylang Ylang, and Jasmine) but there are MANY others under $3 for 1/2 oz which is 15ml. You can get great Essential oils at Bulk Apothecary and Brambleberry to name a couple.

    The only problem is that the water-based fragrance doesn’t last very long. At first it’s very strong, but after about a day it becomes faint even though the bulb is still filled with water.

  17. Sarah Schmara on said:

    FYI: the lavender oil is also releasing Volatile Organic Compounds. VOCs are found in all sorts of things, from glues in pressboard furniture and fumes from cleaning products to orange peels. Some are probably more harmful than others but all aren’t great in a poorly ventilated home. Remember to open windows and let some fresh air in!

    Might try this as it’s nice to make custom scents for different moods!

    • Melanie on said:

      Thanks for the info, Sarah. It looks like lavender, tea tree, peppermint, lemon and eucalyptus are the biggest offenders for VOCs. (I still hope they’re at least a LITTLE better than store-bought ones! Fresh air is always best, though :) )

  18. Nikki on said:

    I used a cigar cutter. It worked amazingly as it was able to slide right in between the stopper and the bottle! Happy homemaking!!!

  19. Angie on said:

    I have found if you let the bulb and the wick air dry for a week or so it makes it easier to remove. :)

  20. Christine on said:

    What a great idea!

  21. Veronica on said:

    I just, with the flathead screwdriver kept pushing it up. And to reinsert it I pushed in with a washcloth protecting my hands

  22. Roxanne on said:

    I just used some Citrus Bliss & FCO (Fractionated Coconut Oil) I’ll let ya’ll know how it works!

    • Christy on said:

      HI there,
      The essential oil and water did not work for me.
      Did the essential oil and FCO (Fractionated Coconut Oil) work?

  23. Melodie on said:

    All this talk about the wicks…. surprised no one has posted this yet!
    replacement plug in diffuser wicks
    http://www.purityfragrance.co.uk/everlasting-replacement-wick-for-plug-in-air-freshener-5-pack-10-p.aspa

    or

    http://m.ebay.com/sch/i.html?kw=replacement+plug+in++wick&isNewKw=1&pgn=1&epp=24&mfs=GOCLK&acimp=0&itemId=&cnm=&cid=&sqp=replacement+plug+in++wick&_trksid=p2053742.m2428.l1313.TR0.TRC0.Xreplacement+plug+in++wick

    • Melanie on said:

      Good idea- I didn’t know these existed. Have you tried them before?

    • James on said:

      BUYER BEWARE!!! If you are ordering from North America, be real careful with Purity Home Fragrance in the UK. In all, I waited more than 9 weeks to receive my replacement wicks with no success. Nobody ever answered their telephone number and their answering machine suggested contacting them through an e-mail address. Purity Home Fragrance did not so much as acknowledge any of my 3 e-mails.

  24. mike on said:

    i layed the wallflower plug-in down on its side next to my printer and home phone, then realized hours later that it leaked every where! i want to know if there is an easy way to clean it up or get it off the printer, phone, and desk. any help would be greatly appreciated! thanks!

  25. Amy Carter on said:

    I have been looking to see if I could find replacement wicks for a while so don’t have to deal toxic remnant smell and chemicals. The above two links didn’t work for me but I found this on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Replacement-Wick-FIBER-Plug-Freshener/dp/B00FAXULGU. Can’t wait to try them out. Still researching best solution for magical mixture that will be noticeable and last a long time. Will let you know if I do!

  26. To take the wick out, I soaked the wallflower refill in really warm water. Now, let’s see how I can get these suckers back in…

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