Can Air Freshener Kill Birds? Let’s Find Out

It is an exciting feeling to have your pet bird home finally. Unfortunately, most pet bird owners forget the air quality the birds breathe. Are the air fresheners you use in your homes harmful to birds? 

Air fresheners can kill birds if you are using an aerosol spray or plug-in freshener devices. Inhaling the chemicals in the air fresheners can lead to seizures, paralysis, and death for avian creatures. Fortunately, there are safer options out there, such as natural oils, which have a pleasant aroma without harmful side effects. 

Keep reading this post for more information on how you can keep your house smelling fresh while keeping your feathered friends safe at the same time!

Can Air Freshener Kill Birds

Background Info about Birds and Toxic Fumes

Birds are sensitive to smells. In fact, back in the day, miners would use them as toxic fumes detectors in the mines. 

By carrying a bird or two and observing their behavior, they could easily conclude if the mines were safe or not. A bird can easily pick up such fumes and die almost immediately. In comparison, a human may inhale this poison for far too long without realizing it.

Thankfully, they do not do that anymore as they now have sophisticated devices to test for toxic fumes. These discoveries were heaven-sent because they got rid of such animal cruelty acts. And birds could live free and not be used as scapegoats anymore.

Which Kinds of Air Fresheners are Harmful to Birds?

You may be using various air freshener dispensers in areas such as homes and cars. 

Essential oil diffusers, air fan vents, nebulizers, aerosols, plug-ins, and so on are some examples. While many people would like to believe that all are dangerous, this is not the case. The most crucial point to emphasize is that the device itself is not harmful but rather what the device emits into the air.

You may use all or some of these devices to freshen up your space and not cause any harm to birds. And on the flip side, use them to dispense a particular scent and kill your bird. So what are these scents that are not bird-friendly?

Let’s find out by looking at different classes of scents.

Essential Oils 

Many people use essential oils for very many reasons. We all love them for their remarkable healing, calming, relaxing, and rejuvenating powers. And some are also beneficial to our feathery buddies. 

However, not all are safe for your dear pet birds. Some oils are fatal when the bird breathes them or some when they ingest them. All in all, here is a list that you need to look at:

Note: These are oils that you expel in diffusers, plug-ins, and mist dispensers.

Tree Tea Essential Oil

Tree tea oil is one of the deadliest essential oil for your bird. And that is because the oil is fatal to the bird on contact. One case of a year-old cockatiel turned deadly when the owner applied only three drops of this essential oil to the bird. And in just a few hours, the owner took the bird for medical attention.

There were cases of severe liver damage, slight renal involvement, and moderate neutropenia. Fortunately, the bird survived after two days under treatment. And this is because the owner was quick to react. Now imagine if you left the house right after? Wouldn’t that be devastating?

Peppermint Essential Oil 

Peppermint has a relatively strong scent, and that is why most insect, rodent, and even bird repellants have it as an ingredient. This is yet another scent that can harm your bird. 

Birds do not have a robust respiration system—thus, they cannot handle strong scents. And peppermint is one of the scents that they will not do well around. The same also applies to oils with a pungent smell like eucalyptus, pine, and arborvitae.

Citronella Essential Oil

Citronella is also another scent that has an overwhelming smell. And birds cannot handle that as well. They then become susceptible to a citronella scent because they have a very delicate lung membrane. 

So, when they inhale an undiluted essential oil, as concentrated as citronella, it causes them to strain, and eventually, they die.

Cinnamon Essential Oil 

Cinnamon, alongside other essential oils known as hot oils, can also harm your birds. In this category, you also find clove and oregano.

Aerosol Air Fresheners

Aerosols are air fresheners that you disperse into the air as tiny liquid droplets from a pressurized can. In most cases, they are a blend of chemicals that offer the atmosphere a specific scent. And more often than not, these chemicals are not natural at all.

For that reason, all scents under the aerosol group of sprays are harmful to your bird. These aerosols include canned air fresheners, spray deodorants, and hair sprays. Insecticides are also in this category of harmful aerosols that can kill or sicken your bird. 

So, if you must use any of these items, never spray the product in the same room as your feathery friend. You might be sending them to the grave before their time.

They are toxic because, at about 240 degrees celsius, the fluoropolymers inside these aerosols become vapor, thus releasing acidic fumes. And this is what poisons your lovely pet bird.


Incense also has a fantastic fragrance that humans find uplifting, but your birds might have a different story. And that is because as you are burning the incense, the number one pollutant you release is smoke. 

Since smoke is harmful to your pet, you are killing the bird. Whether the incense is scented or unscented, it kills your bird.

Scented Candles 

Candles also fall into the same category as incense, although they are less dangerous. And that will depend on a few things.

  • How far is the burning candle to the bird?
  • Is the candle scented?
  • What is the scent of the candle?

If the candle burns far from the bird’s cage, somewhere, the smoke is not reaching the bird, that is okay. If the candle is scented, then that might be an issue. And lastly, if it has an aroma of any of the fragrances we mentioned above, it is harmful. 

All in all, it is still better safe than sorry. So burn your candle in a different room from your bird.

What Air Fresheners Are Safe For Birds?

Although birds are pretty sensitive to aromas, there are still a few options that will keep them safe and still provide a beautiful home fragrance.

Essential Oils 

Only ‘some’ are harmful. And so this means that there are a few that cannot harm your birds. Here is a list of some of the essential oils that will not harm your feathery companion:

  • Frankincense
  • Floral essential oils: oils like lavender, geranium, ylang-ylang, jasmine, and rose oils.
  • Citrus essential oils: lemon, lime, grapefruit, bergamot, and orange oils


Potpourri is another safe option if you have birds in your home. They are a mix of botanicals, including herbs, spices, essential oils, and dried flowers. These blends of natural substances usually losses their scent with time. 

If you want to refresh potpourri, you add a few drops of your desired scent on the dried botanicals, and they will keep dispensing the divine scents along.

Aroma beads 

Aroma beads air fresheners are safe for birds as long as they never contact the beads or ingest them. Since they are usually very colorful rounded items, the bird might mistake them for seeds and nobble on them. When this happens, your bird may suffer significant organ failure or death. 

So to stay safe, if you must use aroma beads, use mildly scented ones and keep them in a container that the bird cannot open and eat any.

Things to Note About the Safe Air Freshener Options for Birds

Now, even though these three options are safe, you should still maintain a mild smell. A strong overpowering smell can still harm your birds. Another thing is to use soft scents, not like peppermint or pine.

Moderation and quality of scents are key to essential oils, aroma beads, and potpourri. This means that whatever you are using must be mildly scented. And secondly, the oil or scent must be from a natural source and nothing artificial. Also, ensure they are of the highest quality. This way, you ascertain that your bird will remain healthy and your space will smell divine.

Bottom Line 

Indeed all air fresheners do their job, but if it as the expense of your lovely bird, you better find alternatives. Luckily now you have three good options. It is good to be mindful of animals, and this is one way to do it. 

With all that knowledge, I sure hope you will make better decisions when choosing an air freshener next time: one that is safe for both you and your bird.

Read more:

  • Can Air Freshener Kill Fish
  • Grace Young

    I love candles! I have personally tried over 100 brands of candles. The total burn time of these candles is over 5000 hours. I also talk about essential oil diffusers and reed diffusers. Essential oil diffusers and diffusers are also an important part of the scent in my home.

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