Perfume of clean, what does it smell?

clean perfume evokes fresh and light scents, but how do perfumers manage to create this olfactory sensation?

Imagine the smell of fresh laundry drying in the sun, a dress rippling in the breeze, or freshly soaped skin. You’ll be able to smell the “clean” scent you’ve been looking for! The trend for “perfume of clean” has exploded in recent years, and more and more noses are trying to bottle this reassuring olfactory sensation. These fresh and light scents evoke many memories and are worn like a second skin. But what is behind these bottles with the scent of washing powder and soap?

The appearance of perfume with the smell of clean

From the household soap…

Usually, the scent of clean evokes memories of freshly washed linen. But long before the laundry we know today, sheets and clothes were cleaned with household soap. It appeared in the 12th century in the soap factories of Marseille and Toulon, in South of France. Its manufacture will be regulated and protected by the Edict of Colbert in 1688. This washing product integrates local raw materials, in particular pure olive oil from Provence as well as salt and soda from the Camargue. Originally, this kind of soap smells (almost) nothing! But over the years it will often be enriched with lavender or lemon essential oil. Two aromatic and citrus scents that will quickly become linked in the olfactory memory as a guarantee of freshness and cleanliness, with a little “vintage” side that reminds us of the washerwoman of yesteryear.

… to the modern laundry

After the Second World War and the consumption boom of the Glorious Thirties, the washing machine became popular and took its place in almost every household. Goodbye washing place and Marseille soap, hello liquid or powder detergent straight from the United States. The major industrialists first play on olfactory associations that recall the cleanliness and freshness of nature. They use essences of lavender, jasmine and thyme to perfume their detergent.

But for several years now, detergents have been moving away from these simple scents to much more complex accords. The perfume of clean must be strong enough and long-lasting on the clothes to prove to our unconscious the effectiveness of the product. With the appearance of synthetic molecules, industrials use white musks, powdery scents, and aldehyde notes. They also add floral and fruity ingredients to their formulas. Woody and amber accords are also used to “fix” the scents on textiles. All these odors are now directly associated in our olfactory memory with the scent of clean linen.

The emergence of a new trend

Perfumes often reflect the changes in a society. And the emergence of clean-smelling perfumes is once again testimony to this. After the power of the oriental wakes of the 1980s, the political and economic context of the nineties in Europe provoked a new need for security and sobriety. Gourmand perfumes will first seduce the noses with their comforting and warm perfumes. Then, the desire for freshness and unisex fragrances will appear. The 2000s will continue to evolve the compositions in this direction. Environmental concerns and healthy trends will push fragrances towards clean, neutral and comforting smells. Perfumes with fresh linen, cotton and soap notes have been on the rise ever since, as well for skin fragrances as for home perfumes.

The “perfume of clean”: reassuring and regressive wakes

So why are these wakes so successful? Because all these clean smells are settled in our memories! They evoke comforting and soothing sensations. These fragrances function as a refuge to calm the anxieties of an outside world in turmoil. Beyond the laundry taken out of the machine, the scent of cleanliness is often associated with the carelessness of childhood. It refers to the reassuring side of a home. Halfway between eau de Cologne and green fragrances, this type of perfume is also appreciated by noses saturated with powerful and omnipresent scents. Spraying a clean-smelling perfume on your skin is almost like taking an olfactory break while keeping a fresh and neutral scent.

Ingredients to create a clean scent

However, creating this olfactory sensation is not so simple, as it has many facets. The common denominators of these fragrances are usually freshness and musky notes, but many other ingredients can help “make a perfume clean”.

White musk

Musk notes are actually synthetic molecules, commonly called white musks, as opposed to animal musk. They manage to recreate an olfactory sensation of skin. It is a neutral, sensual and fresh scent at the same time. These shades are soft, flowery and cottony. They usually form the basis of a clean-smelling composition.

Powdery notes

With iris and violet, perfumes with clean scents are adorned with powdery nuances which evoke the odor of cotton. These raw materials also deliver floral notes that remind the freshness of air-drying clothes. They bring an elegant and refined aspect to the formulas.


It is a family of synthetic molecules, some of which, however, exist naturally in the peel of citrus fruits. They deliver a rather recognizable smell, with a metallic side (often referred to as “hot iron” to describe them). We also find a bursting, soapy and orange appearance.

Orange blossom

It’s a true olfactory madeleine of Proust! Its smell is very facetted with floral, waxy and powdery notes. Often used in these clean-smelling fragrances, orange blossom is fresh and regressive while delivering vegetal nuances. It is one of the preferred ingredients of perfumers in search of freshness.

Marine notes

In perfumery, cleanliness evokes freshness. This one can also be brought by marine notes which offer an impression of moisture and lightness. The nose can thus add to the compositions water fruits such as melon, which you will find in the eau de parfum musc.

Perfumers also play with citrus fruits for the freshness and woody or amber notes reminiscent of eaux de Cologne and their fresh effect.

Do you like fragrances with a clean scent?

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