The Smell of Clean Part 1: Laundry

close up of folded orange and yellow towels

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

We all love the smell of clean clothes, fresh sheets and a warm towel right out of the dryer, but few people outside the industry know the science behind creating scents for laundry.  In fabric care, the smell of 'clean' is primarily driven by two olfactive components:

  • Aldehyde notes - that crisp, metallic cotton/linen smell that we all know, love and identify as 'clean' fabric
  • Floral notes - softer floral notes that add comfort and familiarity 

The balance of these two facets is what creates the emotional and olfactive connection to our laundry products 'working'.  Olfactively, laundry detergent and fabric softener work together very much the same way as shampoo and conditioner: one cleans, the other comforts.

  • Laundry detergent is mostly aldehydic with a little floral, reinforcing the 'clean' effect from a wash cycle
  • Fabric softener is mostly floral and slightly aldehydic, reinforcing the 'comforting' effect out of the dryer

Using these elements as a foundation, perfumers can then add other accents based on regional preferences, current trends or brand specific ideas.  In the US, consumers also prefer fruity notes, Asian markets like delicate florals and Europe tends toward woody chypre.  But no matter where you go or how you do laundry, you can bet that aldehydes and florals will be part of the process!

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