In the fall of 2018, Alpha Aromatics, an international fragrance manufacturing company, tasked with creating and supplying scents “for some of the most respected and innovative brands in the marketplace,” was thinking about what clean smelled like.
“The pervasive nature of smells is staggering to the human experience,” they wrote. “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.”
How do you capture the essence of the thing that might not exist or that may not be altogether accurate. Everyone associates the smell of bleach with clean, but it’s also a deeply offensive smell to most people, and not something that makes you feel good. It is too clean, in fact, reminding you that something was dirty enough to require cleaning.
“Each day has a color, a smell.”
“Consumers may not know what a glacier-carved waterfall actually smells like,” another scent manufacturer writes. “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.”
You might also imagine that the complete absence of smell would be the ultimate in establishing a feeling of clean, but that’s now how our brains work either.
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.”
Alpha Aromatics came up with a list of their top seven scents, that were used in a variety of cleaning products to convey a modern sense of cleanliness.
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.
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 human behavior.
“It goes along with literature in the past that suggests pleasant odors tend to induce positive moods,” said Dr. Hirsch. “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.”
In today’s current environment, as the planet wrestles with the effects of a global pandemic and where clean can very easily be equated with safety, or the lack thereof, what something smells like, could very well be an important factor in establishing a sense of well-being.
Even with masks, our arrival into a lobby, conference space, anteroom, guest room, or restaurant is going to be judged at least in some part on all our senses, including our sense of smell. There are a whole range of obstacles to overcome, from dealing with open-air environments to ensuring we don’t overwhelm the senses, but it’s one of the aspects of the experience that is often neglected when it comes to “good design.”
We will continue to explore ways to offer both safety and privacy without inhibiting movement and lines of sight, but we also want to touch all the senses and delivering on the aroma of comfort and security should be in our arsenal of tools.
After all, a welcoming smell costs the guest nothing, adds no calories, expends no energy, and takes no time.
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