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The City of Portland, Oregon

Neighborhood Involvement

Building inclusive, safe and livable neighborhoods and communities.

ONI Main: 503-823-4519

City/County Info: 503-823-4000

TDD: 503-823-6868

1221 SW 4th Ave, Suite 110, Portland, OR 97204

Access Tip of the Month for June: Be free – fragrance free

Access Tip of the Month

In this month’s tip, we celebrate fragrance free policies and practices—tips and tricks for being fragrance free, and debunk some harmful myths about this essential part of access for all.

baby fox, nose pointed, in a field 

*A baby fox in a field, nose pointed, enjoying the fragrance-free air*

Why be fragrance free?

Fragrances and scented products create experiences for people. Fragrance reminds us of a day at the beach or fresh apple pie, and it also covers up smells we would rather hide. Fragrance also brings difficulty breathing, migraines, and being unable to leave our houses for days.

For some of us, a fragrance-free policy helps us avoid a headache or the annoyance of sitting next to someone who has a different idea of what constitutes “enough” perfume or aftershave. For some of us, avoiding fragrances is critical to maintaining our health and well-being.

Because people have different responses to fragrances and scents, many spaces have fragrance free policies (including the City of Portland). The City of Portland has long recognized how fragrances and scents can impact people. And we acted, becoming the first US city to voluntarily ban fragrance.

Stinky myths about a scent-free world

Being fragrance free is different than being chemical-free. Today, we’ll focus on creating access by eliminating perfumes, colognes, aftershave, and scented lotions.

These products, along with air fresheners, scented cleaning products, and others meant to make a place “smell good,” can easily render any space completely unusable for huge groups of people.         

Changing habits is hard, and sometimes we cling to myths about why it’s impossible to be fragrance-free. Let’s look at some fragrance-free falsehoods.

  1. I’m going to smell. Nobody wants that. Being fragrance free doesn’t mean that we stop using grooming or hygiene products. It means that we stop using products with fragrance (including natural fragrance, like essential oils).
  2. It’s too hard! Not really. Fragrance free products are becoming popular, a wide range of personal care and cleaning companies are making fragrance-free versions of their products.
  3. It only helps a few people. Come on, now. Haven’t you ever been in an elevator or an airplane with someone who seemed overenthusiastic with their favorite scent?

Many people are made seriously sick by scents. Even when scent doesn’t harm us personally, we all have different ideas of what “smells good” and how much is too much. We all share public spaces. Being fragrance free supports us all.

How can I be fragrance free?

Now that we know the power of being fragrance-free, let’s get started! Here’s how:

  • Cut it out. Stop using perfumes, body sprays, and colognes in public spaces. If you have a favorite scent, enjoy it to the fullest at home or friends’ homes, if they can enjoy it too.
  • Check it out. The grocery store aisle for your favorite lotion, laundry detergent, or cleaning product. There might be a fragrance-free version right there—score!
  • Try it out. Never used fragrance-free products before? Try one—you might be pleasantly surprised. Here are some ideas to get you started.
  • Spread it out. Now that we are fragrance-free, let’s share the news with our workspaces and favorite community spaces. Fragrance-free cleaners and improving ventilation (instead of using cloying air freshener sprays) can make our favorite spaces more pleasant for everyone.