How to make your home smell good in Winter

How to make your home smell good in Winter

As we arrive at the coldest period of the year, it's a time when we want to hibernate and seek warmth and comfort from our environment. We can use scent to foster these feelings and support us through the chilly months. Diffusing essential oils in the home assists in creating an energising and cheerful mood during gloomy Winter days, makes our place more comfortable and also helps freshen and purify the air.

Berries in the frost

The scents of Winter

The Winter period lacks the vibrancy and variety of aromas compared to Spring or Summer. Scents are muted and less abundant, particularly in the natural world. Scent molecules move more slowly as the temperature decreases and smells both in our environment and inside our homes have less intensity due to fewer mobile aromatic molecules in the air.

Solitary leaf hanging in the cold winter sky, Melbourne, Lachlan Donald via Wikimedia commons.

To increase our sensory stimulation in a relatively barren olfactory season, we often turn to cooking and baking with the rich palette of aromatic herbs and spices for our smell fix, as part of our indoor life.

Winter stew

Our sense of smell is also affected during Winter by the drying effects of heating, colds and flu and a decrease in sensitivity of the olfactory receptors in our nose to protect us from cold, dry air.

When we smell things in our environment we integrate what we are also seeing, hearing and feeling on both a physical and emotional level. How we interpret these stimuli in their context contributes to what we experience as our scent memories or experiences of Winter.

Sense of smell in Winter

Assessing the scent of your space

Before using any type of scent in your home, it is important to take into consideration the odour intensity of the items and furnishings, the "base notes" of your space. We become accustomed to the scent of our home due to the process of olfactory adaptation, where our nose temporarily is unable to distinguish particular smells after prolonged and constant exposure to an airborne compound, so as not to overload the brain with redundant information.

To combat this, take a good sniff of your space after you've been out for most of the day and reassess its various scents.

Modern interior

The simplest thing you can do to improve the scent of your home is to open at least one window each day to let the fresh air in, particularly if you've been out all day or when it's a sunny day or after rain, especially in older homes. This allows sunlight to dry things out and an air flow to circulate around your home to ventilate and remove undesirable smells.

Pets, tobacco, cooking, mould and mildew can contribute to bad smells in the home. If there are any lingering bad smells in your home, determine where they are coming from and remove. Don't try to mask any bad odours because this only makes the problem worse. Place a bowl of white vinegar in the centre of the room, open any windows and leave for a few hours. Once the odour has been removed, then you can focus on diffusing the essential oil scents you want to enjoy. More recipes for odour elimination can be found in this article.

A view of the landscape from Mt Buller, Victoria, Australia, K.Tran via Wikimedia commons..
Winter season view at Blue mountains NSW, Australia, Ashishlohorung via Wikimedia commons.

Essential oils for Winter

During the colder months scent is a relatively simple and inexpensive way to add warmth, comfort and vivacity to our home, where we are spending more time in.

We tend to favour richer, deeper and more diffusive scents in Winter.

Using essential oils in a diffuser or vaporiser helps to moisten the air, which offsets the drying effects of heating and as a result, our sensing and experience of these aromas is heightened.

Aromatic blending tip:

Use the 30/50/20 rule when you're beginning to make up your own essential oil blends. This means use 30% of your top note oil, 50% of your middle note oil and 20% of your base note oil in a composition. e.g lemon 3 drops, cypress 5 drops, frankincense 2 drops.

As the essential oils evaporate at their different rates, the top notes are the first you notice, followed by middle and then base notes. Let your blend rest for 24 to 48 hours before use to mellow and allow the mixture to settle in - top notes lose any excessive sharpness and base notes become more prominent in your blend.

You may want to write down your feelings, impressions or scent associations and memories you have of Winter in a journal and then choose the essential oils that mirror your thoughts.

Essential oils for Winter

Essential oil suggestions:

Spice: ginger, cardamom, clove bud, cinnamon leaf, black pepper, nutmeg, coriander seed, carrot seed, bay laurel.

Spice essential oils really come into their own in the Winter months, adding a feeling of aromatic colour and energy to a space.

These oils impart warmth, dryness, movement, texture and layers to a blend. These scents are enveloping and nurturing. Think of them like the sensation of being enveloped in the warmth and snugness of a fluffy blanket on a cold Winter's night. They are evocative of hearty comfort food, harmonising with our need for tenderness, pampering and self reflection during this time.

Take care with those that are base notes and are very radiating e.g clove, ginger or cinnamon as too much can overpower and ruin an essential oil blend. Use these oils in either very low quantity or include them in a blend in tiny amounts.

Essential oil bottles

Balsam: vanilla oleoresin, opoponax (sweet myrrh), benzoin Siam resin, labdanum (cistus).

A balsamic aroma is a vanilla-like scent that has sweet, warm and smooth characteristics. They often act as base notes and add a soothing opulence and depth to a fragrance. There is often a resinous subsidiary note with these types of scents.

Vanilla has cozy, comforting intimations for many of us as it is an odour association with breast milk which contains extracts similar in smell and taste.

Labdanum imparts amber-like nuances to a blend.

Resin: myrrh, frankincense, elemi.

These complex aromatics function as base notes in a blend, adding incense notes and supporting and enhancing the snug and cocooning ambience of spice or balsamic essential oils.

Boswellia serrata, a frankincense from India, can be used to give a blend a smokier nuance, reminiscent of the scent of smouldering firewood and leaves. Boswellia carterii from Somalia adds a certain freshness with its lemony, pine-like top notes.

Essential oil burner

Citrus/Lemon scented: sweet orange, blood orange, tangerine, clementine, mandarin, lemon, bergamot, may chang, lemon myrtle, yuzu.

Citrus oils are cheerful and uplifting, purifying the air and infusing a blend with lightness and gentle warmth. They pair well with spice, balsamic and resinous essential oils, giving these heavier oils lift and sparkle.

Citrus oils can be useful in Winter when we feel heavier, slower and more melancholic.

Conifer: pine, black spruce, Siberian fir, balsam fir, cypress, juniperberry.

These oils are fresh, penetrating, invigorating, purifying and astringent. They bring to mind a Winter forest setting and the crispness of Winter air. On a symbolic level, these scents are a reminder of our ancient need for shelter and security, which was once provided by these forest trees.

Forest in Winter

Cineolic: eucalyptus, rosemary, myrtle, niaouli.

These diffusive scents are cleansing, decongestant and slightly warming, enlivening and energising a space during gloomy Winter days.

Essential oil diffuser

Herb: clary sage, roman chamomile, sweet marjoram, sweet fennel, lavender, rosemary, myrtle.

Herbal oils are applied for their warmth and gentle spicy nuances in a composition. They also reflect the nourishing casseroles, soups and pies we crave during Winter, fragrant with herbs and spices. Herbs are also useful to give a touch of freshness and a clean aesthetic, especially lavender in blends with heavier oils.

Winter soup

Wood: sandalwood, cedarwood Atlas, amyris, rosewood, ho wood (ct.linalool), cedarwood Virginian.

These oils serve as base notes in blending, bestowing strength, mellowness and sweetness. If you prefer a drier, more powdery wood scent choose Virginian cedarwood which has some fixative properties.

Winter country landscape

Floral: jasmine ab., ylang ylang, white champaca (magnolia flower), geranium bourbon, rose.

Pick essential oils that have fruity, spicy or tropical nuances as middle notes in a blend. They are warming, moistening (except for geranium/rose geranium that is more astringent) and mood enhancing, with the added promise of Spring that's just around the corner. Spicy clove, cardamom or cinnamon complement rose, deepening and intensifying its aroma.

Earth: Use patchouli and vetiver to give an impression of density, texture and security. These anchoring base notes also have smoky aspects to them which suggest the perception of a smaller, more intimate space.

Special mention also goes to tea tree essential oil for its antiseptic properties. This can be diffused in a vaporiser although I prefer to use it in surface sprays or topically.

Essential oils for Winter blending chart
Essential oils for Winter blending chart

Essential oil blends

Here are some of my favourite diffuser recipes you can use at home or in the workspace for inspiration when creating your own Winter ambience.

Winter Warmer essential oil recipe
Winter Fresh essential oil recipe

Diffusing tip:

Key hot spots to place your oil burner or diffuser are in areas like entrances and exits, where people are moving through this space rather than remaining in it, and are more likely to sense and notice the aroma (remember olfactory adaptation) .

It also means you don't have to use as many drops in the diffuser to achieve the same effects.

Clean and Fresh surface spray recipe

To make this spray, add the essential oils to the water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Shake well and it's ready to go. Spray over surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom, windows or glass to disinfect and make them sparkle.

Always spot test in a small area on any surface first to make sure it won't stain or erode the surface coating. Shake the spray bottle before each use. Not for marble or granite surfaces.

Scentcillo essential oil blends

Scentcillo Tango and Oracle essential oil blends are ideal choices to make your home smell good during Winter.

Oracle essential oil blend uses frankincense with other rich, spicy scents such as myrrh, cedarwood atlas, patchouli and cinnamon leaf, balanced with the lightness and sparkle of the citrus clementine essential oil.

Tango essential oil blend intermingles the floral and fruity tones of ylang ylang with palmarosa and the uplifting scent of tangerine.

Scentcillo Winter Sale

Fill the bowl of your oil burner or diffuser with water and then place 6 to 8 drops of either Tango or Oracle blend.

Diffuse these blends to create a comfortable and homey hideaway and as an aromatic infusion of light and cheer to your space.

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Further reading:

  • How to Hibernate: hot tips for a warm as toast Winter. Houzz.
  • How to Create an Indoor Oasis (In the Dead of Winter). Houzz.
  • Fragrant Home: 13 simmering pot recipes. TipNut.
Scentcillo essential oil blends for ambient scenting.