In my bathroom closet right now, I have six bottles of perfume.
No, it’s not by choice. They were gifted to me over the years, remaining unused for one reason or another—scents that were either too strong, too flowery, or unused in favor of my signature scent.
And here’s the thing. It’s hard to get rid of perfume. As a hazardous substance, perfume should not be dumped down the drain or thrown out. It requires special treatment to properly dispose of it.
While there are ways to dispose of perfume properly, I’ve found the easiest solution is to upcycle it. Not only does upcycling transform an unused object into something new, it’s also the most sustainable way to use old perfume in line with the ‘reuse’ part of ‘reuse,’ ‘reduce,’ ‘recycle.’
How (and how not) to upcycle your old perfumes
1. Freshen Your Drawers
As a recent owner of drawer fresheners, I’m obsessed with having my clothes smell fresh and clean. Simply take a cotton ball or dried flowers and soak them in perfume before tossing them in your drawers, purse, boxes, and closets. When the perfume scent starts to fade, you can reuse the cotton ball or flowers and re-soak for a fresh blast of scent.
This DIY trick is not only incredibly easy, but also a luxurious way to start your day with the scent of lightly perfumed clothing.
2. Eliminate Shoe & Trash Odor
If you’re constantly fighting trash or shoe smells, upcycling old perfume can help reduce that scent.
Dab perfume on a newspaper and stick it between the trash can and the trash bag or right in your shoe. Repeat when scent starts to weaken as often as needed.
Alternatively, create a natural deodorizer by combining baking soda and perfume. The baking soda will absorb the smell while the perfume adds a sweet scent.
3. Add Some Luxe to Your Life with Scented Cards & Gifts
Growing up, I remember hearing stories of my grandmother spritzing love letters with perfume so it would smell like her when my grandfather opened it. It’s time to bring this trend back—upcycled style.
Spritz your thank-you notes, birthday cards, and letters with just a dash of perfume. Your loved ones will enjoy the fragrant scent along with your kind words as they open the letter. For business owners, try spraying your business cards for a personalized touch.
4. Host A Swap Party
If the scent just really isn’t your style, host a swap party instead. A swap party is a great opportunity to swap clothing, beauty products, and perfumes with friends and family. The more people you invite, the better the chance you’ll find someone who loves that exact smell. Make a list of the swappable items, so people can bring similar items for a cohesive event.
5. Create A Room Spray
Scent your room, linens, and blankets with a room/linen spray. Mix perfume, water, and 1 tbsp of rubbing alcohol and spray for a fragrant and expensive feel.
What NOT to do with Old Perfume
1. Don’t Use In DIY Beauty Products
Unlike essential oils, perfumes contain harsh chemicals that can irritate the skin when mixed into lotions, bath water, or other beauty products that are meant to hydrate the skin. If you want to DIY your own beauty products, opt for essential oils instead. (Just be sure to mix the essential oils in carrier oils like jojoba to reduce the chance it will sensitize your skin.)
2. Avoid Flammable Situations
While some articles encourage users to spray perfume on dryer balls or lampshades, this can be a major fire hazard as perfume is flammable given its alcohol base.
Stay safe by only spraying perfume on and around non-flammable objects.
Note: Avoid DIY heating rice sachet recipes that call for perfume. As a flammable liquid, heating perfume in a microwave is incredibly dangerous.
3. Don’t Use As A Disinfectant
Although perfume is alcohol-based, it does not contain the same percentages needed to create alcohol disinfectants. Stick to your regular cleaning products and save perfume for something else.
How To Properly Dispose of Perfume
If none of the above ideas work for upcycling your old perfume, review your local city’s policy for how to dispose your perfume – either disposing in the trash (if allowed) or a problem-waste drop-off center. Every city functions differently. When throwing out perfume, ensure that the cap is secured to avoid any leakage into the groundwater.
While sweet in scent, perfume can be sour to our overall environment and land when haphazardly disposed. Try to upcycle/swap your perfume as much as possible to minimize environmental impact.
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