Odorless Cleaning Products for the Scent-Sensitive Migraineur

Last updated: April 2021

For the scent-sensitive migraineur, finding cleaning products that won't trigger an attack can be difficult. In my years of searching, I've found some excellent products, both store-bought and homemade, that are free of migraine-triggering odors. Most are low in chemical risk as well, according to the Environmental Working Group's Guide to Healthy Cleaning. While I'm not strictly anti-chemical, I do wonder if it isn't the scent of a product I react to, but the chemicals that make up the product. Since I'm all about minimizing every possible trigger, I play it safe by checking EWG's database.

Seventh Generation's unscented products

Seventh Generation's unscented products are my go-to recommendation. I personally use their laundry detergent, fabric softener, dish soap, and dishwasher detergent. They are more expensive than conventional cleaners (though they are less expensive ordered online than purchased in a store), but are odor-free and low-chemical risk according to EWG's database.

Bon Ami and Bar Keeper's Friend

Bon Ami and Bar Keeper's Friend, both of which can be found at most grocery stores, are inexpensive, odor-free choices for cleaning all surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom, including toilets. Baking soda is also a good option, but requires a little more elbow grease. If your toilet has a special coating on it, check the manual to make sure it's OK to use an abrasive cleaner (I learned that the hard way).

Hydrogen peroxide and jojoba oil

Hydrogen peroxide, which you can dilute with water, can be used as a bleach or stain remover for white clothes and as a disinfectant. I put it in a spray bottle for cleaning up after prepping meat in the kitchen.

(Update 3/25/20: Hydrogen peroxide is on the EPA's list of approved disinfectants for use against COVID-19. Rutgers University recommends spraying it on a surface and leaving it for one minute before wiping it off. If you use it as a spray, put the sprayer in the brown hydrogen peroxide bottle instead of putting it in another spray bottle—light can reduce its effectiveness.)

Jojoba oil is an excellent unscented option for oiling wood and polishing leather shoes. It's on the expensive end, but I've found it for a reasonable price at Trader Joe's and from online sources. Mineral oil might be a less costly option, though I don't have firsthand experience with it. Cooking oils are not a suitable substitute as they will go rancid after a time and smell stale.

Homemade cleaners

Making your own household cleaners is easy and inexpensive as long as you can tolerate the smell of white vinegar or lemon juice. Annie Berthold-Bond's book Better Basics for the Home is a comprehensive guide to homemade cleaning products, though an internet search will also yield tons of suggestions.

Fragrance-free and unscented cleaners

If you're only concerned about odors and not chemicals, conventional cleaning products labeled "fragrance-free" or "unscented" are available at many grocery and big box stores. Although there are no legal guidelines for whether a product is called "fragrance-free" or "unscented," common wisdom is that "fragrance-free" is naturally without scent, while "unscented" means chemicals were added to mask the scent. In either case, it's best to smell them in the store to be sure you're OK with even a faint odor.

Which low or no odor cleaning products are your favorites?

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