Hacking a Glade Automatic Spray air Freshener

glade air freshener steps

How a Glade Automatic Spray air freshener works.  (and you thought it was just a simple cam!)

You may not have heard of automatic air fresheners made by Glade, but I assure you they do exist.  The whole principle behind one of these things is that a “normal” spray bottle of air freshener is pushed down at different intervals by some as-of-yet undetermined mechanism.  This device has incredible hacking potential for under $10 and, as a bonus, the included air freshener will be a nice gift for your wife/girlfriend/mom/check-out-girl.

Screw extractor

A small screw extractor makes quick work of these non-standard bits

Glade seems to have gone through some trouble to not let you hack their device, using “triangle screws” to attach the outer cover on, but they forgot that screw extractors, which are available at Home Depot or online, exist.  If the screw is really stuck in something hard – like steel – you’re supposed to drill a pilot hole first and possibly even use a tap handle.  This would work, but as these crappy triangle-shaped screws are only in plastic, I simply put the screw extractor into my drill, hit reverse, and they came out easily.

Remove the screws in blue, not the screws in red

Remove the screws circled in blue

Once you’re in the outer case, everything else uses standard Phillips head screws. To remove the plate with the motor on it, remove the screws pictured to the right circled in blue.  The screw on top is hidden by a gear, but the gears are held in place by the now-removed case.  They come off and are replaced easily.  The screws circled in red support the motor, so leave these alone.

button from Glade air freshener

Button after rivet removal

Once you have the screws off, you may be tempted to cut all the wires and remove the plastic housing.  That’s fine, but if you’re careful, you can preserve the button used to spray air freshener on command.  If you clip the plastic rivets holding it on, you can remove the button and be able to actuate your motor with no soldering.  Clip these rivets and remove the plastic holding the switch shown to the right on, then cut or wiggle the wires out and you’re one step closer to some hackable parts.

3 volt battery box hooked up with motor

everything removed and hooked up

After this you need to clip the leads going to batteries.  These AA batteries are wired in series, so you can replace them with a 3 volt source.  On mine, the positive side was the green wire and the negative was white.  Usually green is ground, but apparently not in this case.  Once I unclipped these wires, I then connected them to a 2 AA battery pack from Radio shack.

air freshener internal components with dimensions

A partial list of dimensions for the internals. The diameter of the bottom two holes is .165″; the top is 1.20″

You now have all the usable components free and ready to do whatever you had in mind.  One thing you will notice is that the gears do not stay on; they slip off since there is no longer a plastic housing.  I solved this by putting some 5/32 air line over the ends of the shafts that the large gears sit on.  Another solution would be to drill a small hole through a piece of plastic material and press fit or glue it on.  Possibly even a piece of the air freshener itself could be used.  I’ve put some dimensions for the guts of this device if you’re trying to get an idea of what it will fit into.

You have several options for timing from 9 minutes to 36 minutes, but the other option would be to hook your own controller to the wires leading to the manual start button.  A 555 timer would probably work or any sort of microcontroller or PLC.  For some projects using this air freshener, check out how it can be used to trigger a camera, or even make a crazy walking robot!

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  1. Trigger Your Camera Using an Air Freshener | - pingback on February 2, 2011 at 7:11 pm
  2. have you come up with any ideas to trigger the device more than every 9 minutes? i have the device but i am having difficulty figuring out how to hook it up to trigger every minute or so. could you be of assistance? i m not as well versed in the electronics as you obviously are and any help would be greatly appreciated. please email me if you have any ideas.

    • Hi Kevin,

      Yeah, I’ve thought about that myself, but haven’t gotten around to implementing anything like that (honestly, the device broke when I tried to put a hole for the viewfinder in, but that’s another story). If you have a microcontroller like a BSII or an Audrino, it could be hooked up to output (either directly or through a relay not sure) to substitute for the trigger button. A 555 timer woudl probably work as well or even a PLC. Hopefully that helps. I’m honestly a bit better at the mechanical side of things and hack around with the electrical stuff.

    • mai hiao

  3. Trigger Your Camera Using Automatic Air Freshener Parts | - pingback on February 17, 2011 at 6:34 pm
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  6. Would like to adapt mine to operate by remote command as opposed to timer. Any ideas how to do this? Any help greatly appreciated.

  7. Thanks for the new hack idea. I found that mechanical system hacking material is not that common like electronics one. If you please have another ideas of mechanical systems hacking or good link, please let us know.

  8. A Radial Engine Model (Made by Accident) | JCOPRO.NET - pingback on April 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm
  9. hi. does the glade automatic spray require electricity? do i need to plug it in? i’m doing a science project for school and my project requires an automatic spray. could this hack help me? i need to spray water to a certain object. i just wanted to know if it would work if i removed the parts from the actual case and move it to someplace else, but keep its automatic spray thing.

    • Hi – thanks for commenting!

      The sprayer requires electricity in the form of batteries, but will not need to be plugged in. Yeah, I think it would help you spray water on something. Here’s a very similar hack that I did not do, but seems to do exactly what you were looking at: Air freshener fertilizer pump. I don’t see why something like this wouldn’t work for water as well.

  10. Top Really Cheap Projects to Make from JcoPro.net - pingback on January 16, 2013 at 6:21 am
  11. I wanna make an gas/aerosol fueled flamethrower for my car, and i was thinkin if i can link it to a button that releases the gas and powers the spark plug at the same time. the reason is because the actual system used kinda damages the engine…

    can it be done?

    • Can it be done? Certainly, but I think you’ll need something different than this air freshener. The freshener runs at 3 VDC, where car spark plugs run at 12 (unless there’s something I’m missing). At the very least, you’ll need to hook a relay up to power the spark plug externally. I might try a different method.

      Should it be done? Probably not unless you really know what you’re doing and take necessary safety precautions in case something explodes/catches on fire.

  12. Do you have any idea why the settings are multiples of 9? Me and my mom where wondering and you seem to be the only person on Google that knows about the insides of this device 😛

  13. Hi
    The Glade “Sense & Spray” model SCJ-165 is easier to hack or, if you dropped it onto a stone floor as I did, is a good source of useful parts (frankly it’s worth buying for the motor alone).
    Just connect a pair of relay contacts across the pushbutton switch and away you go (I didn’t bother checking if it would work directly from TTL, but I suspect it would).
    Also doesn’t have ‘tri-wing’ screws, just plain old cross-head, and it’s cheaper.
    Hope that’s of some use…

    • Ha, yeah, you wonder if they’re not cutting profit margins very thin on these units to sell replacement cartridges. Using it directly from TTL is a great idea to try, would be much easier to hook up to an Arduino etc (if I’m thinking correctly).

      Thanks for the info, and thanks for reading!

  14. Is there an integrated circuit similar to the 555 in size that can work based on motion? More specifically some kind of motion sensor in the door jamb that upon opening and closing a door would signal the device to spray? The smaller and cheaper the device the better.




  15. Hi jeremy! I accidentally encountered your page while i was searching for a mechanism to automatically trigger a sprayer bottle. Our experiments in our lab involves manual spraying of substance into a substrate using an atomizer. A lot of time and effort can be saved if we can do it automatically. We also have limited amount of resources so i’m searching for the cheap and efficient way to do it. Do you have any idea regarding my problem? Thanks!

    • Hi, well, I’d definitely say that using an air freshener sprayer could be a good candidate. If you don’t like the timing of the spray bottle, you could hook an Arduino up to the trigger button, or possibly the motor with a relay. That would let you adjust the timing however you wanted. Or possibly a “Sense and Spray” model would be helpful.

      Here’s another related post that may give you some ideas!

      • thank you for you quick response. i forgot that it can be triggered manually. i’ll try to find if the product is available here in the philippines. last question though: do you think its torque is enough to trigger an atomizer? we are dealing with the type of atomizers with unpressurized content. i hope you understant what i meant. thanks again! if this work, i’ll acknowledge you in my future papers. 🙂

  16. How do i make it work every 10, 20 or 30 seconds?

    Thanks before

  17. Thank u jeremy ur a life saver! I’m presently workin on a project that requires an automatic sprayer that can spray objects within a range of 1m coverin an area of abt 1.44sqmetres. Can this device be helpful? Hw can I hack it tobe helpful? And can it spray for as long as 10seconds in every interval? Really need your help sir

    • Hi Caleb. Thanks for reading!

      This device would need a lot of modification to cover an area that large. I’d suggest some sort of gantry system, possibly controlled with an Arduino or other microprocessor. On the other hand, if you go to all that trouble, there’s probably a better way to get it to spray!

  18. I love my air freshener but the little redthing that pushes the white peice on the aresole can broke off. How can I fix this

    • Depends on the model, but if I was just interested in fixing it, at $10 or so, I’d just buy another one. Alternatively, some sort of repair putty might do the job.

  19. Hi do you think the mech could operate through 90 deg
    I want to hold up a softair target from flat to vertical
    would appreciate your knowledge and Input
    many thanks D

  20. Well this REALLY makes me feel like a member of a minority group. I am a WOMAN! I am here to make something and I don’t know how you can tell that your audience is primarily male, but I assure you I am not. I hope I am welcome :-). Thanks for the info!

    • That’s what Youtube says. Not sure how they can tell either – kind of scary the amount of data tracking that goes on. You’re definitely welcome; looking back at this post, it seems a little silly to go over my Youtube audience there – I’ll take that out.

  21. Hi is it possible to activate the spray after 1 minute and spray non stop till its empty?

    • Hmm, interesting question. If I were doing that, I’d probably hook an Arduino or something similar up to power the motor to do down, and not let it return for quite a while. Though if I remember correctly, these bottles spray a short burst every time they are pushed down, so in that case, you’d have to just keep cycling it up and down.

      I’d been a while since I’ve looked at one though.

  22. I would love to use a diy scent that is healthier. Any suggestions on refillilling an alternative spray bottle?

  23. hey there, I’ve some project like this too but with digital clock. the clock is fine. I’m using arduino nano to control the motor and 9v battery for motor. but unfortunately the motor got stuck and cant press harder a little bit. I’ve got the motor from another glade spray automatic and also the mechanical gears too. something that confuse me is how glade can operate(push) the spray can perfectly with only 3v power source, but mine is stuck even with 9v power source. Any suggestion?

    • Hmm, perhaps you’re not getting full power to the motor. Are you using a relay? Also, is it the exact same motor? Perhaps there is internal gearing in the original motor. Also, maybe there is some issue with giving it 3x the voltage.

      Let me know when you get it working; I’d love to do a post on it.

      • No Im not using a relay, just a transistor to keep the arduino pin that connect to the motor safe. And also Im using the same motor and gearing from the original one

  24. Can you actually adjust the travel of the plunger that presses on the scent canister??
    Even using brand name refills, the plunger isn’t pressing down traveling enough to impact canister.

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