New survey reveals how we feel about smells

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Getty Images | Dan Kitwood

Would you be surprised if we told you smell is the strongest sense tied to memory? Or that your nose can detect at least one trillion different smells? How about if we said you can actually smell fear and disgust through sweat?

Believe it or not, it’s all true. So it’s pretty obvious that the way a room smells when you first enter it can give you a pretty strong first impression. Think: flowers versus last night’s dinner in the trash. It’s pretty clear which one you’d rather smell when you come home after a long day.

A spokesman from Clorox shared the results of a survey they conducted, which showed that 73 percent of consumers agree smell can have a major impact on mood—for better or for worse. In fact, 64 percent say it’s important that their homes smell good and 62 percent of those surveyed say a nice smelling-home makes them feel relaxed. Fifty-five percent said it also makes them feel happy.

Half of those surveyed even said the smell of someone else’s home is one of the top three factors that influence their perception of the home owner. (That’s right, we judge people by the way their house smells.) Just before smell is hospitality, followed by the cleanliness of their kitchen and bathroom, respectfully.

home bathroom photo
Flickr | ingridkreuz

A whopping two in three Americans (64 percent) also say they would feel embarrassed if a visitor let them know their house did not smell so great. Other reactions were shocked, irritated, unsurprised, angry or other. Interestingly, those who answered “other” said they would either feel grateful or thankful the guest let them know, or the total opposite and tell them to leave!

The top three least favorite smells in a home? Unsurprisingly, rotting food, bathroom odors and trash. When it comes to pet odors however, a bit of a generational gap is seen. Twenty-seven percent of baby boomers list it as a dislike, while only 16 percent of millennials are bothered by the smells our furry friends leave behind.

When it comes to the smells we all want in our home, fresh linen, lavender and vanilla round out the top three of America’s favorites. To get these smells, 60 percent rely on air fresheners, while 50 percent use candles and 34 and 33 percent use surface wipes and sprays.

lavender photo
Flickr | kath.zinn

But while smell is important, 72 percent of those surveyed say disinfecting is the main focus of their cleaning process. Which is why Clorox recently released a new line of disinfecting wipes and sprays with two experimental custom-blended scents: Hawaiian Sunshine and Tuscan Lavender and Jasmine. Deciding on these smells isn’t easy. A lot of work goes into finding the perfect scent.

“We know that consumers are excited by sensory execution across categories, and there is an emerging interest in scent and escapism. We took these insights and looked to create scents and products that both smell great and are effective cleaners,” said Rina Mussallam, research fellow, Fragrance Innovation, The Clorox Company. “Just the development of the fragrance for Scentiva alone took more than six months and included more than five creative fragrance iterations and upwards of 10 consumer tests.”

Data shows that scents have evolved over time from functional to sensorial. That is, we use smell to boost our mood and “escape,” even if just for a moment.

“Scents are becoming more complex and sophisticated, for example citrus is less singular and functional,” Mussallam said. “Now, it’s more modern with sparkling citrus and juicy fruity notes. Tropical fruits and berries are growing in popularity. They have mouthwatering, fresh picked and natural elements.”

berries photo
Flickr | Faith R

Mussallam says that while consumers say they want fresh and clean fragrances, that definition changes over time.

“It used to be citrus, airy and watery fragrances, but now fresh and clean includes fruity, floral and even some creamy notes,” she said. “Scents that evoke a memory and allow for self-expression also tend to be more popular. They are whimsical, fun and playful.”

Bad or good, there’s no denying that our sense of smell contributes to more than we may even realize. Sure, you wouldn’t be able to smell your trash can without it, but you’d also be missing out on all the wonderful smells we’ve grown to love so much.

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About the Author
Kaitlin Gates
Kaitlin is a freelance multimedia journalist with a degree in journalism and psychology. Along with Simplemost, she also writes for Don't Waste Your Money, where she loves finding great deals to help people save money.

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