Smell - not to be sniffed at

4th of October 2023
Smell - not to be sniffed at
Smell - not to be sniffed at

Research has shown that, even at very low levels, a malodour present in a room can make the occupants feel more uneasy. A pleasant fragrance can make any environment feel better and increase the dwell time of its occupants. This is especially important in our own homes, care homes, retail spaces or hotels where a happy occupant is important. Angela Stavrevska, creative director and perfumer at CPL Aromas, tells us why.

Research has shown that, even at very low levels, a malodour present in a room can make the occupants feel more uneasy. A pleasant fragrance can make any environment feel better and increase the dwell time of its occupants. This is especially important in our own homes, care homes, retail spaces or hotels where a happy occupant is important.

In terms of cleaning products, their odour requirements are manifold. In the first instance, base formulations of cleaning products are themselves often quite high in odour themselves, so using a fragrance to draw attention away from this fact will help increase the appeal of the product itself.

Secondly, the product fragrance will not only make the process of cleaning more pleasurable, but it can often help to support product claims of efficacy. A cleaning product with an astringent citrus scent will feel more efficacious in use than the same product with a sweet, sticky, fruity fragrance.

Finally, the residual fragrance left after the cleaning process is also important. At this stage malodour counteractant technology will come into play and help reduce any unwanted malodours in a space, and a residual pleasant odour will make the environment feel more appealing. Getting the fragrance right is an extremely important part of encouraging greater use of cleaning products.

Washrooms with soap

The importance of hand washing with warm water and soap has been highlighted by public safety guidance arising from the coronavirus pandemic. However, health and hygiene have always been, and will always be, aided by thorough hand washing. Encouraging this basic requirement is therefore essential. A great smelling soap or hand wash in a washroom environment will definitely encourage better hand washing.

This is especially true for children and young people where these environments are often noisy, busy and not particularly engaging. Many public washrooms often have a cacophony of odours from the cleaning products used, the soap, the air freshener and perhaps the drains. This odour ‘noise’ isn’t conducive to a pleasant experience or encouraging taking time to freshen up and wash hands properly. Giving a more holistic odour atmosphere to a washroom space will make the experience much better.

Masking unpleasant odours

There are numerous products on the market that claim to mask many unpleasant odours. But these general ‘one solution fits all’ products don’t particularly work strongly across every single malodour type. If cooking smells are a particular problem, then a product that has been especially developed to counteract the smell of the unpleasant odour molecules in cooking smells will give a much better performance than an all-purpose malodour solution.

The sophistication of this category can mean that products may be tailored down to the detail of what food odour needs to be masked, be it stale, fried food, old fish or garlic smells. This is how CPL Aromas’ Aromaguard technology works – counteracting specific malodours to ensure product efficacy.

We have developed fragrances to mask the odour of unpleasant product bases (such as, in the personal care sector, the odour of DHA in fake tan products), as well as developing malodour counteractant air fresheners to work specifically in a major London bank’s washrooms.

Effect of ambient fragrance

The best way for building owners and occupiers to think about fragrance in their space is to ensure they start with a clean base. Good ventilation and plumbing, and not too many absorbent fabrics in a building will help keep malodours at bay.

Then, to build an ambience, you must ensure that the fragrance used isn’t particularly polarising and that the chosen scent supports the brand or corporate message you want to portray. For example, if you manage a ski hotel in the mountains, you may want the lobby to smell of a warm fireside, so as soon as people walk in, they feel warm, relaxed and taken care of. Alternatively, if you work in a modern, creative office space, the invigorating smell of fresh lemons or crisp green apples will add to the fresh, clean and vibrant ambience.

Fragrances inspired by natural environments are usually the least polarising and appeal to both sexes. But if you want your building to be memorable for any specific reason, fragrance can be used to support that message – a sumptuous luxury hotel could for instance be supported by a rich, ambery oriental fragrance. Somewhere inspired by the tropics could include heady, white flower scents and fruity notes. An urban city feeling could be supported by the smell of coffee and pastries. But care should always be taken with the fragrance strength: too high and it could feel intrusive and unpleasant.

Fragrances and psychological effects

The act of actively smelling fragrances is  very subjective in its nature. It is almost impossible to step back from a fragrance and analyse its quality and character whilst leaving aside your personal feelings for it. This is because the olfactive bulb, the part of the nose that picks up odour molecules, has a direct link to the brain’s limbic system. This system supports a variety of functions including emotion, behaviour, motivation, long-term memory and, of course, olfaction. Thus our sense of smell is intrinsically linked with our emotions and memories, which is why being objective about a smell is so difficult. Even perfumers struggle.
Due to the olfactory bulb’s close links with the brain, fragrance is known to psychologically and physiologically affect us and olfactory stimulation has been shown to modify blood pressure, muscle tension, pulse rate and skin temperature amongst other effects. But research remains quite limited to the types of odours tested and their effect on the general population.
For example, lavender oil has for many years been associated with relaxation. Electroencephalographic (EEG) results do tend back up this claim, although results are often quite varied. But general research doesn’t tend to delve deeply into the effects of individual chemicals found within the essential oils nor does it look at synergistic effects of many different essential oils and aromachemicals when combined, such as in a fragrance created by a perfumer. The complexity and
history of the person smelling the
odorant could also have an effect on the outcomes of research.
Stimulate or calm
I have already talked about how fragrance is intrinsically linked to emotions and is therefore very subjective, but do some odour materials give an objective outcome totally unbiased by emotion? Or will subjectivity always give inconsistency in results? Will a higher concentration of the odour have a different effect to a subliminal level, and what effect does exposure time have on the results? There is huge complexity involved in researching odour materials, and there are many thousands of odour materials that can be used in research. There is still much to be done.
Using some of the basic results of research can potentially help to make an environment more pleasurable or to help stimulate or calm its occupants – whether it actually does, or whether it is by placebo effect. Lavender can help create a calming atmosphere; citrus oils can help invigorate; gourmand odours can increase dwell time; mint can help focus; and green, grassy smells can help decrease fatigue and pain sensations, which might be brilliant in  gym or healthcare settings.
But the simplest thing that can be done is to make an environment smell more pleasant to the majority of users. A generally pleasant odour, even at a low level, can strongly impact  a person’s emotions when in an enclosed space. Taking this a step further into a marketing sphere, Martin Lindstrom, the author and brand consultant, found that brand impact increased by 30 per cent when more than one sense is engaged and by a whopping 70 per cent when three senses are integrated into the brand message.
A scent marketing study by Martin
Lindstrom concluded that up to 75 per cent of human emotions related to memory are triggered by smells. Studies have shown that scent marketing statistics are compelling. For example, people can remember a scent with 65 per cent accuracy after one year, while visual memory sinks to 50 per cent.
So, a great smell will encourage people to stay in a place for longer, have a more positive experience whilst there and walk away with reinforced positive memories of the space and of what happened there. Whether that odour is a carefully crafted iconic brand scent, or whether it is the smell of clean fluffy towels in a hotel bathroom, fragrance can definitely help customers bond with your brand as well as encourage enjoyment of using a fragranced product such as soap or hand cream, so aiding hygiene. The importance of smell is not to be sniffed at.


Our Partners

  • ISSA Interclean
  • EFCI
  • EU-nited