There’s no place like a shopping mall over the holidays, where twinkling window displays and Bing Crosby carols fill shoppers with that warm, fuzzy desire to buy … er, give. But the most powerful consumer cravings and sense memories may be triggered by the aroma of fresh pine. Marketers know that the most efficient pathway to your heart is through your nose—just ask Cinnabon. The neurons responsible for processing odors reside in the brain’s emotional center. Some malls may shell out for enough freshly cut pine trees to fill your nostrils with the scent of woodsy cheer, but you might instead be getting misted with a host of chemicals, synthetic perfumes that simulate holiday scents. Febreze’s seasonal formulation, Jolly Pine, can make your house smell like the mall—and keep your bathroom smelling like Santa’s workshop, not Satan’s outhouse.


One of the key ingredients that help Febreze keep the stench in check. This sugar ring eliminates bad smells by cordoning them off. Its hydrophobic core attracts certain volatile aromas—like of rancid grease —and traps them inside its funnel shape. Make no mistake, you can still inhale the smelly stuff—it’s just walled off from your olfactory receptors.

Hydrogenated Castor Oil

This surfactant derived from castor beans—which are actually poisonous seeds, but that’s another story—has been processed to have bonus water-loving -OH groups that help reduce the overall surface tension of this formula, so all the contents mix well and penetrate fabrics like polyester more effectively.

Dialkyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate

A type of salt that, like the hydrogenated castor oil, keeps the perfume oils mixed in with the rest of the ingredients. It’s also found in many cosmetics and is considered to be safe in low concentrations.


The active ingredient in booze! But it’s denatured here, so spiking your cider with it will not get you tipsy. (Doing so is inadvisable for myriad other reasons too.) Ethanol is a product of anaerobic respiration in yeasts and other microbes. Febreze is a water-based solution; ethanol serves as a drying aid to help the H2O evaporate quickly after spraying.

Polyacrylic Acid and Hydrochloric Acid

When mixed with water, these acids form solutions that can literally neutralize odors—they bring the pH levels of highly acidic smells (like BO) and highly basic smells (like rotten fish) back into a balanced, neutral, and unpungent pH range.


An antimicrobial agent, this prevents unwanted stuff like bacteria from growing in the can. This EPA-approved preservative is a toxicant, and it can irritate the eyes and skin in high doses. But it’s found in several green cleaning brands.


The main component of Earth’s atmosphere is here in compressed form to help deliver a beautiful spray of mist from the nozzle. This is a friendly alternative to the ozone-depleting CFCs that were banned from aerosol cans in 1978. Plus, nitrogen gas isn’t flammable—although some of the other ingredients in Febreze are, so don’t go spraying it on a lit menorah or anything.

Jolly Pine Perfume Blend

Procter & Gamble isn’t saying what’s in this, and cleaning-product makers don’t have to disclose their scent ingredients. We do know that synthetic musks—a common class of compounds that can be found in fragrances—have sparked worries about potential endocrine disruption and wildlife toxicity. The industry tells us there is no need for concern regarding specific compounds that fall in these categories. Not to sound like an olfactory grinch, but maybe your safest bet is to go fragrance-free. Stink, stank, stunk!

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What’s Inside That Seasonal Febreze That Smells Like Pine