Natural Home Scents Using a Slow Cooker
I’ve always loved candles, not just for the ambience of a flickering flame in the dark, but also for the wonderful fragrance they can add to a room. Lately, however, the scents more often seem to be “off” to me – that is, they seem to smell of artificial ingredients, and the result is unlike anything found in nature. I still love the light they give, but I find myself craving ways to add more natural fragrance to my home.
Dinner Smells Delicious
A few days ago, I entered my house after an afternoon walk with the dog, to the most incredible, delicious, drool-worthy aroma. I had put dinner together in the slow cooker that morning, and a few hours later, the scent was heavenly. Bison short ribs were braising in a blend of coffee, cabernet, and rosemary. Believe me when I tell you, it smelled ah-mazing.
And the fragrance from that meal lasted into the night, long after our dinner was eaten and cleaned up.
Of course, this wasn’t really unexpected – slow cookers have long been known to spread the incredible aromas of the food simmering slowly inside of them. Just think of all the times you’ve walked into a home where the crockpot’s been on the counter all day…filled with pasta sauce…or chili…or homemade soup…
Was it possible, then, that I could find a way to use the slow cooker to fragrance my home in ways other than meal prep? Just to make the house smell clean and fresh and comforting? My curiosity was piqued. I’ve heard of stove-top simmer scents, but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of leaving my gas stove on for hours at a time. Could I do something similar, but in the relative safety of a crockpot?
Let the Experimenting Begin
I’m happy to say that based on research and a fair amount of experimenting, the answer is a resounding YES!
I started at the source, on the website for Crockpot, the best known brand of slow cooker. Sure enough, there were a few recipes for simmering scents right on their website. And very quickly, I found lots more on Pinterest and around the internet.
The most popular recipes seemed to focus on the more intense fall and Holiday scents, but I was really looking for more fresh, fruity, clean, summery fragrances.
I started playing with some of the recipes I found, and created some new combinations, too. Now, my home is constantly scented with all natural fragrance that lasts so much longer than most candles, and the process is far safer than anything with an open flame. And all it takes is a crockpot!
Basic Instructions for a Slow Cooker Simmer
Naturally, quantities will vary a bit based on the size of your slow cooker and how long you intend to keep it simmering. But, very generally, plan on:
1-2 pieces of fruit, sliced to expose flesh and create the maximum surface area that can be exposed to the hot water, resulting in a stronger scent. Fruit rinds, peels, and stems, and fruit that’s a bit overripe (but not to the point of being moldy) can all be used.
2-3 sprigs of herbs, stems and all
1 teaspoon of extracts – use these to enhance other scents, rather than to stand on their own
2-5 drops of essential oils – do NOT overuse essential oils as they can very easily go from pleasant to noxious to headache-causing! Start small, as you can always add an additional drop of two if desired.
2 cups water (or other liquid), enough to cover all of the other ingredients. You will probably need to add more water as it evaporates to maintain a consistent level.
Add all the ingredients to the crockpot and cover with water. I like to cover and set on high until the water gets hot and the fragrance has time to build, then uncover and turn it down to low to simmer for up to eight hours. Check occasionally to see if you need to add additional water.
And that’s really all that is required! Beyond the basics, it’s simply a matter of deciding what combinations of ingredients to use. Many of the simmers on the internet are geared toward fall and winter scents, but I really enjoy the freshness of citrus and herbs for more spring-like fragrances. To start you off, here are some of the more popular combinations or ones I especially enjoyed.
Recipes for Natural Fragrance Combinations
The Classic “Williams Sonoma” Fragrance – supposedly smells like the store: 2 lemons, 2 sprigs of rosemary, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cucumber Melon – fresh and seasonal: 1 cucumber, 2 cantaloupe melon slices, 2 sprigs of mint
Creamsicle – the smell of summer: 2 oranges, 1 teaspoon vanilla
Mojito – bright and refreshing: 3 limes, 1 bunch of mint, 2-3 thin slices of fresh ginger
Strawberry Lemonade – another warm weather classic: 2 lemons, 3-4 sliced strawberries, 2 sprigs of mint or basil
Summer Morning – a more floral scent: 1 lemon, a handful of rose petals, 2 sprigs of lavender, 2 drops rose essential oil
Tropical Cocktail – perfect for a party: 1 lemon, 1 orange, 1 cup pineapple juice, 1 teaspoon coconut extract
I enjoyed all of the different combinations I tried, but I think at this point the Cucumber Melon scent is my favorite. The aroma is just wonderful, not overpowering, but fresh and uplifting and comforting, all at the same time.
These recipes are fine to start with, but the real fun is when you start to combine ingredients into your own unique combinations. Let your imagination run wild! Alternatively, take a look inside your refrigerator, pantry, and spice cabinet to see what you find. If you enjoy the scent of an ingredient, most likely you can find a few other things that will work well with it.
Ingredients for Creating Natural Fragrance Combinations
Here are some of my favorite ingredients, that can be combined any number of ways:
Fruits: Lemons, Limes, Oranges, Grapefruit, Apples, Strawberries, Melon (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon), Cucumber, Cranberries, Pineapple
Herbs: Rosemary, Lavender, Basil, Mint, Thyme, Lemon Balm, White Sage
Extracts: Vanilla, Vanilla Bourbon, Lemon, Almond, Coconut
Essential Oils: All of them (maybe not all at once…)
Other Possibilities: Coffee (replaces the water), Cinnamon sticks, Lemongrass, Ginger slices, Rose petals, Geranium petals
Essentially, any fruits, herbs, liquids, oils, or petals that smell good to you would probably make a wonderful addition to a crockpot simmer! Be creative, and perhaps you will develop a “signature scent” for your home.
My crockpot now spends more time on my counter than in the cabinet, and I’m pleased to say it gets a lot more use! I hope you will try some slow cooker simmer scents and see how you like this natural home fragrance.
For more on natural home scents, you’ll want to read Home Fragrance with Essential Oils
If you come up with a wonderful new combination, please let me know – I’d love to hear about it!