The pervasive nature of smells is staggering to the human experience. Scents are ubiquitous and linger in the air throughout our waking hours. They are integral to the formation of youthful memories that are permanently imprinted in the mind’s eye for an entire lifetime.
It has only been over the course of the last few decades through many examples set by our chief perfumer that scent-marketers have harnessed the incredible impact that scent has on cementing brand loyalty and affecting human emotion and behavior. What does ‘clean’ smell like when it comes to modern household products? Aye, therein lies the rub, so to speak, although that famous bearded Elizabethan bard was not referring to the smell of clean in modern cleaning products when he wrote those famous words.
Still, it is a question the answer to which is worth considering. Pondering the issue, some might conclude that the smell of clean is like the smell of absolutely nothing at all. This should not be confused with sleight-of hand and other tricks of the magical trade. There is nothing mysterious in the definition of the smell of clean, but it does seem to be somewhat elusive, often relative and totally within the judgment of the nose of the inhaler.
The Smell of Clean Is Many Things To Many People
For many, clean is equated with the smell of chlorine bleach. For others, the scent of the outdoors after a thunderstorm defines the smell of clean. That scent is so attractive in fact, that the makers of one particular air cleaner describe their machine as a “thunderstorm in a box.” For others, the smell of clean air may mean something completely different. It could be the sweet smell of a fragrance, such as pine or cedar. Those who grew up or live in the Hawaiian Islands may connect the scent of fresh flowers with clean air.
Companies like ours that develop and produce scents for cleaning products whether for residential or industrial use, are faced with a particular challenge because the definition of the ‘smell of clean’ is very closely allied with the ‘feel of clean.’ They totally understand that even the most basic fragrance is a complex and delicate art form that must be painstakingly developed one layer at a time. To accurately translate the meaning of clean involves a definition that encompasses a wide array of customers, many product formulations and an awareness of macro trends and basic chemistry.
Consumer Demands And The Smell Of Clean
Companies that manufacture cleaning products are under greater pressure than in past decades to accurately translate the feeling of ‘clean’ for modern health-conscious consumers. The market is getting more and more complex and requiring more and more thinking outside that proverbial box.
One fragrance company executive on vacation on a Caribbean Island, in the hopes of keeping one step ahead of his competitors, ran out on the beach at different times during the day in the hopes of capturing that elusive fresh and clean oceanic smell for use in cleaning products. Such actions cannot alter the oncoming tide of consumer demands concerning the smell of clean, which are persistent, dynamic and often very fickle.
According to a fragrance expert, “Tropical aromas for fresh and clean smelling products…are still popular, but they are evolving, and the market is getting more sophisticated.” Other perfumers have stated, “Consumers may not know what a glacier-carved waterfall actually smells like. They’re fanciful. You want to evoke a feeling or emotion, like when you’re out in a meadow. It doesn’t have to smell like an actual meadow.”
The Evolution of ‘Clean’ In Household Products
The vast array of scents that evoke cleanliness are made possible by the myriad of advances and innovations in the world of chemistry. New surfactants (which cause liquid to spread out rather than collect in droplets) and solvents have not only increased cleaning efficiency over the years, they also are not as odorous as older formulas, which contained bleach and ammonia.
According to Amy Marks-McGee of Trendincite LLC, a creative service consultancy that specializes in fragrance marketing: “Cleaning products were once marketed as functional, and consumers expected functional, hard-working scents. Today consumers are looking for experiential scents regardless of the products they use…and are interested in greener and more natural ingredients.
In products promising ‘clean’ and ‘fresh,’ this translates into greener chemistry and the use of natural ingredients or fragrances such as herbs and flowers.” The process of creating a “clean smell” that sells into thousands of consumer products is not unlike the composition of a musical symphony.
At the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in 2010, fragrance designer, an executive perfumer spoke of his belief that a good fragrance design must coincide with the product’s ultimate application. He stated, “We’re talking about the harmonious mixing and matching of potentially hundreds of individual chemicals. Composers have their musical notes, and we have fragrance notes, three of them, that unfold over time to the nose as stanzas of a symphony to the ear.”
Relevant Global Fragrance Studies and Statistics
It was estimated in January of 2018 that by year’s end the global fragrance market would glean $70 billion. A recent international survey conducted by IFRA UK and the European Cleaning Journal (ECJ) indicated that fragrance is one of the most important factors for cleaning products. How fragrances influence consumer choices is also a growing trend, especially in the light of advances in health and wellness and the role fragrance plays in the perception of “cleanliness.”
According to researchers at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, a recent study indicated that a waft of citrus-scented cleaner has the capacity to boost moral behavior. The study entitled: The Smell Of Virtue, was published in the Journal, Psychological Science, and believe it or not, concluded that a few spritzes of citrus-scented cleaner can affect virtuosity.
In the words of assistant professor of organizational leadership and strategy at Brigham Young University Marriott School of Management and lead author of the study, Katie Liljenquist: “We wondered if you could regulate moral behavior through cleanliness and decided to look at olfaction and clean scents. And at some level, it does seem to elevate peoples’ core choices. These clean scents activate moral awareness.” Liljenquist further clarified that it was not the specific type of cleaning product that evoked the response, but rather the pleasant citrus smell it produced.
Dr. Alan Hirsch, neurologist and founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, was one expert who was not at all surprised to learn of the link between clean smells and good behavior. In his own words: “It goes along with literature in the past that suggests pleasant odors tend to induce positive moods… If people like the smell, it has a positive effect on them, whatever they’re doing. If they dislike the odor, it tends not to have that positive effect. Unpleasant odors, in fact, have been shown to make people more aggressive.”
What Does Clean Smell Like?
For our chief perfumers who have been involved in the business of scent creation for more than seven decades, the smell of clean is a piece of cake. Here are seven of their most popular scents that are used in a myriad of cleaning and household products.
Evoking the primeval freshness of a forest after a rain, this floral watery green fragrance opens with top notes of luminous, fresh citrus, succulent mixed berries and bright casaba melon. A green floral heart of sweet, cool and potent night of blooming jasmine, musky rose petal, clear, fresh water lily, green, aromatic fern and the delicate, rich and earthy aroma of wet forest moss follows. The scent finishes with fine sandalwood, deep, sweet and animalistic vanilla musk base.
The eternal essence of freshness and renewal so long associated with the salt air of the ocean and its delightful breezes is captured in this pure, green fragrance. The scent opens with a green, herbaceous buttery, water chestnut top note followed by a floral, fresh lily-rose heart note. The scent finishes with a delicate musky woody and earthy driftwood base note.
Recalling the gentle winds of summer and the cool breezes floating along garden paths in full bloom on long, sultry nights, this refined, fresh scent opens with a moist fresh top note imbued with subtle sharp citrus-apple nuances. A floral middle note of sweet, cool jasmine, aromatic rose, green, sweet cyclamen, clean, long-lasting muguet and lemony geranium follows. The scent completes with a powdery, woody, musky base note.
This alluring scent evokes starry nights of exotic splendor in far away, tropical settings. It opens with fruity top notes of invigorating lemon, soft and juicy tangerine, soothing grapefruit, exotic mandarin and ethereal apricot nectar. A middle note comprised of sweet, enchanting pikaki, refreshing water-lily and fruity, sugary frescia is followed by a base note of delicate and musky driftwood that completes the fragrance.
The sparkling, unsullied clean of a tropical rain-forest at dawn permeates this green fragrance that opens with the whisper of crisp, fresh natural air tinged with ozone. The middle note is comprised of sweet, intoxicating night-blooming jasmine, enduring and clean muguet and strong, smooth mossy greens. The scent finishes with a warm, rich, ambery, musky, earthy and woody cedar/twig like base note.
A fruity crisp apple top note opens this herbaceous scent that evokes a morning swathed in the invigorating coolness of autumn. The fragrance flows into a rosy geranium and clean lavender heart note and finishes with a strong, sweet musky, earthy, woody and warm ginger-root base note.
Fragrant whispers of the Orient pervade this full-bodied, herbaceous scent that opens with top notes of zesty lime, tangy and sweet orange, strong, grape-like muscadine and fresh, clean and energizing lemongrass. The scent flows into a heart note of uplifting lavender, tropical and fruity pettigrain and bold, green cyclamen. It finishes with a woody, sage-like base note.
The Future Of The Smell of Clean and Alpha Aromatics
The many fragrances that are infused in cleaning products as well as the products themselves are here to stay. Fragrance trends predict that the desires of the younger, more diverse consumer base of tomorrow will have a major influence on the ingredients employed in the household products of the future. Advances in technology and customization and taste are certain to alter the landscape of the smell of clean, but we are always prepared.
We have faced and surpassed many challenges over the continuous course of their operation, which has exceeded seventy years and have a commitment to seamless customer service. Our many customers come from all over the world and our unique personal visions are a primary business priority.
Our 85,000 square-foot Technology Center located a mere hop-skip-and-jump from the Pittsburgh International port is equipped with an extremely knowledgeable staff of perfumers, chemists and researchers and the most advanced cutting edge diffusion technologies that money can buy. This includes the latest innovations in gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, headspace analysis, distillation, extraction and quality control technology.
Led by our chief perfumer, Roger Howell (featured above), these diverse tools enable our teams to capture the true essence of natural products and ensure that fragrances are compatible with various bases. Our ongoing evaluations of raw materials guarantee quality, consistency and safety.
Many of our staff members have worked for Alpha Aromatics for well over two decades or more, and all are devoted to our company mission of providing the best perfumes and fragrances to be used for cleaning products and other industries as well, including personal care and cosmetics.
So if you’re a brand owner or coordinator, business development manager, product developer, packaging technologist, senior chemist or product development scientist, call our teams at Alpha today. Let our experts help you find your company’s own unique ‘smell of clean’ that will be like no other found anywhere in the world.
Final thoughts on good smells: Embrace good smells. No cost, no calories, no energy, no time. Just a quick hit of pleasure. ~ Gretchen Rubin
This blog was created and written with the insight and direction of our master perfumer, Roger Howell, our President and CEO, Arnold Zlotnik, and the Alpha perfumery staff. Learn more about Roger, our company’s mission our credential management, quality control team members and the passion behind our every fragrance creation.