The Smell of Clean

Thanks to years of conditioning, the lingering scent of lemon or pine is really the only way I’m 100% sure that an area of my home has been given a thorough cleaning. Though the smell eventually dissipates, initially it’s a simple reminder that the germs in my home are killed dead.

That nod to cleanliness extends beyond my home as well. Stepping foot inside a public building that has recently been scrubbed delivers a nasal punch that assures me a cleaner has been used. For me, it’s an encouraging sign that the owner cares about patrons and their well-being. Furthermore, the harsher the smell, the more confident I am that a place is REALLY clean.

Unfortunately, it appears that the scent associated with clean may do more than just prove a surface is spic and span. Recent studies show that many scented ingredients in common household products, including cleaners and many cosmetics, could potentially cause harm to users.

For example, a 2010 study conducted jointly by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group found 38 potentially hazardous chemicals within 17 name-brand fragrance products they tested. Additionally, the average product they tested contained 14 chemicals that were not labeled on the product’s packaging. Many of the chemicals uncovered by the study have not yet been tested for safety, while others have been proven to cause adverse reactions to humans, such as damage to tissue and reproductive functions.

The implication is that the cost of adding a fragrance to a product could be more than many of us know.

But what about non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaners? Many might be surprised to find out that they work just as effectively as traditional cleaners. The noticeable difference is that these environmentally friendly cleaners have a different smell to them. Whether it comes across as softer, gentler or less harsh, these products don’t contain the same scent punch.

The angst for consumers, though, (we’ve heard this over and over in our research) is that the not-so-natural-scent-of-pine = clean. Without it, they’re worried the countertop they’ve just cleaned isn’t actually clean.

So how can the producers of these friendlier cleaners gain the trust of consumers who have come to rely on smell as proof of effectiveness? The answer isn’t as simple as “tell them they work.” And you can’t count on them to trust in a cleaner that smells like something ethereal, like “Autumn Moonlight.”

The solution is to provide them with a gentle change. Incorporating natural fragrances that are a nod to the scents that traditional cleaners are trying to mimic could get consumers on board. And an engaging, humorous campaign about “what’s in a smell” could help as well. Bottom line: the manufacturers that gently nudge consumers to embrace a new smell of clean could really clean up.

About the Author

Pat Lorentz

Pat is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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