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.

69 thoughts on “Do it Yourself Wallflower Plug-in Refills

  1. 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. 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!! :)

    • 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. 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.

    • 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.”

      • 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. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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. 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.

      • 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. 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. 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!

    • I’m currently soaking my wick in rubbing alcohol as it was sitting around in the empty bottle for quite some time and was a bit of a dried on, cakey mess. So far the rubbing alcohol is removing everything, even the color and the wick hasn’t expanded at all. Far easier then wash, squeeze, repeat. After it’s all been drawn out I’ll give it a wash. Then filling my bulb with fractionated coconut oil as it’s nice and thin and will travel up the wick well, and “Purify” .

      • Just an FYI – rubbing alcohol is flammable… I’m just reading all the posts (just plugged my first refill in about 1/2 hr ago with water and was wondering about carrier oils) and saw the posts about rubbing alcohol. Just a cautionary note – it is very flammable. I don’t think that using rubbing alcohol on something that will be plugged into a heat source would be recommended as a safe option for cleaning…

  13. 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.

    • 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.

  14. 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?

  15. 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-

    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.

    • I think that since the essential oil is lighter than water, your 1ml of EO stays at he top and dissipates first. Also, oil and water don’t mix so you need some emulsifier to combine the two.

      From what I’ve read, EO may be clogging the wick which is why you get little to no fragrance when using EO with a carrier oil.

      Don’t know what’s the best solution to make fragrance last for 20-30 days using 1ml of EO. If someone has the solution, kindly share so we can all live a healthier life without the chemical poisons in Glade, Fabreeze, Air Wick, etc plug in air fresheners.

  16. 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!

    • 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 :))

        • Just because it’s a VOC does not mean it’s harmful, at all. Unfortunately this is just another example of how quickly people can blow things out of proportion without reading up on it first. I’m not saying the bath and body works stuff isn’t bad, I mean it burns my nose just walking past the store, but please realize all essential oils are VOCs. It’s the concentration of said VOC that may be bad. Anything in excess can kill you, even water.

          • Absolutely true. We probably should be more concerned with the synthetic fragrances that are used (composed of who knows what!). The more I read, the more I learn – it’s definitely been an ongoing process!Thanks for your input!

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

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

    • It seems to me that the easy way to put the wick back in it to go to the household toolbox, get a deep wall socket that just fits over the wick but not over the plastic piece and just push the unit in place!

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

  19. 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!

    • Be careful! I did the same thing, and i have had the oil remove the finish to the wood on two pieces of funiture by the oil that leaked out! Very disappointed!

  20. Has anyone tried food grade propylene glycol as a carrier? The electronic cigarette refills use it to dilute the nicotine and flavorings. They also use vegetable glycerin as a “healthier” replacement for the propylene glycol. The supplies can be bought from E-Cig specialty stores online.

    • after some research, I am thinking of trying refined Jojoba oil; oderless, colorless, and has antifungal properties.

    • Did you find the right solution? noticeable and long-lasting? water mixture is gone in days. carrier oil mixture isn’t noticeable

  21. To get the wick out, I ran hot water over the end of the bottle until the plastic piece warmed up a bit. I then used a pair of kitchen scissors with a built in bottle opener/nut cracker and just gripped the edges of the plastic cap and it popped right out.

  22. A little trick that I found out is…the time that I spent making air fresheners, I decided to clean my house! It really is healthier for my family

  23. I use vegetable glycerine mixed with alcohol and essential oil in my reed diffusers to make them last longer (and it works). I’ve got a feeling that the vegetable glycerine would make a good substitute instead of water to dilute essential oil in this project too. I know I’ve got a couple of empty plug-in diffusers stashed away somewhere, and when I find them I’ll give it a try.

  24. There you go B & BODY WORKS…..keep on discontinuing our favorite scents. With the help of each other we don’t NEED OR WANT you for much anymore. Stick it in your ears! Too bad you lost Harry Slatkin…..good for him to have own company now with his wife

  25. Ok to get the Wick out I used a pair of get this fish skin pliers. I know many may not know what that is but it took less than 2 seconds and was very safe. I started with the just pulling the wick enough to get the pliers around the plastic to remove the whole assembly. Just my 2 cents.

  26. I use the plug in pod warmers and you can use any coconut oil with your essential oils. It’s great that it solidifies after you turn it off making it easier to clean. After multiple uses, when the fragrance is gone, wipe it out and start again. Best of luck everyone!

  27. Hi there, I don’t know if they’ve ‘ changed the flowers recently but I just used by pointer and middle finger to pull it up! I did have some nail tho that day. Maybe each one is different & you just need to find an easy one!


  28. My wick came out without an issue. I filled it with Grapeseed oil and about 4 drops each of Young Living therapeutic grade oils: lemon, lavender and peppermint. Water will evaporate quickly plus oil and water don’t mix so don’t waste your oils, use a carrier of some sort. I just plugged in, so I will let you know.

  29. I know I’m super late to the game but I pop the wick out in seconds with a bottle opener. The circular kind not the claw kind.

  30. The initial Airwick plug in smelled wonderful though out the whole house. I refilled it with water and varying degrees of essential oil and got very little scent. Tried 1/3 essential oil with the rest grapeseed oil got no smell. I poured it into my electric warmer in the small bathroom and it smells wonderful. Still trying to find a ratio and ingrediants for the plug in that will be as strong as the oil that the plug in came with. What were the results using coconut oil? Anyone have success with a strong scent with a plug in?

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