Resources‎ > ‎


Specific fragrance-free products

Successful Groups & Events

Work (& Other) Accommodations 

Other Resources

Why does this matter? Accessibility.

Many people I know have medical conditions that can be made worse by the chemicals in many lovely fragrances. You very likely know more people than you may realize for whom fragrances can be a big problem. 

You may have heard of multiple chemical sensitivity, but did you know that fragrances can trigger exacerbations for people with asthma, migraine, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer/undergoing chemo, and other medical conditions? (I didn't.)

It's tempting to think people are just making this up because they don't like certain smells.  Sadly, this is not an issue of preference -- this is an issue of accessibility.  It doesn't matter if the person with the sensitivity likes the smell or not if it causes them pain, breathing trouble, or other neurological difficulties.  One person's choice to wear perfume, or someone using a cleaning product, at an event with someone with a chemical sensitivity may mean that the person can't attend the event at all, or that they have to leave. 

Important: it also doesn't matter if it's a natural fragrance.  Essential oils can be just as problematic as commercial perfumes.  Again, this was a new one to me.  Something to keep in mind. 

Many folk dance communities throughout the US have led the way in promoting fragrance-free events.  It works! 

Here's a good article about this. 

Please note, though, it's not the "smells" that make people ill, it's the chemicals.

New research shows the risk is real. Nearly 35 percent of Americans report one or more adverse health effects when exposed to common fragrant consumer products, like air fresheners or deodorizers, cleaning supplies and personal care products.

Anne Steinemann, Ph.D., of the University of Melbourne, Australia, explains, “These types of health problems include asthma attacks, migraine headaches… dizziness, seizures, and skin rashes.”

Dr. Steinemann led the research and says it doesn’t require a super sensitive nose to be impacted, physically or financially. Her study found, “Over 15 percent of Americans have lost days at work or lost a job just in the past year from exposure to common fragrant consumer products in the workplace.”

Fragrance sensitivity—or multiple chemical sensitivities—can even be considered a disability on a case-by-case basis, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Now, some companies are getting proactive. Dr. Steinemann says, “An immediate step would be to implement a fragrance-free policy.”

How on earth do I make an event or a space (including a workplace) more fragrance-free?

Would you like to make your event or a space accessible to people with chemical sensitivities, asthma, migraine, fibromyalgia, or neurological issues? 

Are you feeling intimidated by trying to make a gathering or get-together fragrance-free?

  • Start with the easy stuff, then work your way up.  
  • Talk with fragrance-sensitive people in your communities.  Ask them what the top two or three things are that you can do to make events or your space more accessible to them. 

There are two main areas where fragrances are an issue: personal care fragrances, and environmental fragrances.  

Personal care

The things that seem to cause the most harm are things that we put on that we don't rinse off or don't wash off, followed by the things that we do rinse off or wash off but that aren't dry yet. 

Easiest and most important: 

  • not wearing personal care products that contain fragrance -- either artificial fragrance or essential oils -- and using fragrance-free products instead
    • not wearing/using perfume or essential oils (this includes on your clothing) 
    • not wearing/using fragranced aftershave
    • wearing/using fragrance-free hair care products
    • wearing/using fragrance-free hand or body lotion
    • wearing/using fragrance-free sunscreen
  • not smoking
Before you put it on, please read the ingredients.  If they include fragrance, it's not fragrance-free. 

Also very helpful:
  • avoid fragranced products in laundry
    • use fragrance-free laundry detergent
    • use white vinegar, baking soda, or borax in place of fabric softener


To reduce environmental fragrances, use/provide fragrance-free products and cleaning products without artificial fragrances or natural oils.  

Easiest and most important:

  • fragrance-free hand soap
  • fragrance-free dish soap/dish detergent
  • toilet tissue and facial tissues that do not have perfumes
  • do not use any kind of air fresheners, rug and room deodorizers, scented candles, etc. 
  • do not use dry-erase markers.  Try fragrance-free markers on easels, or dry-erase crayons on whiteboards.
  • do not allow smoking indoors or near doors or windows
Also very helpful:
  • use fragrance-free cleaners, rather than fragranced cleaners 
    • use a solution of 1/3 white vinegar to 2/3 water in a spray bottle as a general cleaner for surfaces (works great on glass, too)
    • use baking soda or borax as a scrub cleaner
    • use fragrance-free products
  • avoid fragranced products in laundry/use fragrance-free products
    • use fragrance-free laundry detergent
    • use white vinegar, baking soda, or borax in place of fabric softener, or fragrance-free fabric softener
  • use fragrance-free cat litter if you have a cat/cats

Two important notes

1)  Beware of products labeled "unscented."  Many contain "masking fragrance," which can cause illness just like any other fragrance.  Always read labels!

2)  Please, do not, ever, ask a fragrance-sensitive person to smell something and tell you if it's all right for them.  To do so is asking them to risk becoming horribly sick.  A good first step is to read the label yourself, and then talk to the person about it.