What makes line-dried laundry smell so good?

Fresh laundry – crisp cotton sheets on a washing line – is often cited as one of our all-time favourite smells. But what exactly makes line-dried fabric smell so good, and which fragrances can equally evoke the immediate comfort we long for…?

The only time I’ve ever been to Amsterdam, it wasn’t to gawp at canals and clogs and cheese (or even indulge in legal cannabis bars), but to visit its industrial district, and the secret centre where most of the world’s laundry detergents and fabric conditioners are made.

‘We basically create the smell of people’s babies,’ one of the technical perfumers told me, ‘and if we even change the scent of their washing powder a little bit, we get so many complaints.’ They produced many thousands of possible options to fragrance people’s washing – from caramel (popular in Brazil, apparently) to chic multi-layered, musky perfumes. But the most popular of all (and one of the most technically challenging to re-create)? That freshly line-dried smell.

So what is it, beyond your choice of washing powder, that makes fabric smell particularly pleasing if it’s been dried on a line (preferably in a flower meadow, and hung while wearing an Edwardian broderie anglaise gown just prior to picking apples in the orchard, in my dreams, but we work with what we have.)

In a scientific paper examining the ‘Chemical analysis and origin of the smell of line-dried laundry‘, atmospheric chemists have published their analysis of ‘line-dried towels at the molecular level’, now they’ve discovered the exact source of this so-specific smell. Using cotton towels from IKEA, they washed them three times, then dried them in three differing ways: inside the office, on the balcony under a plastic shade and on the balcony in the sun.

Percy Harland Fischer – Washing on the Line (1867-1944)

Extraordinarily, they found that ‘Line-drying uniquely produced a number of aldehydes and ketones,’ Sylvia Pugliese – the leading researcher – told the New York Times – which are ‘…organic molecules our noses might recognise from plants and perfumes. For example, after sunbathing, the towels emitted pentanal, found in cardamom, octanal, which produces citrusy aromas, and nonanal, which smells rose-like.’

Fascinating stuff, and it got me wondering which fragrances we could reach for that could also recreate that feeling of sunlit cleanliness and comfort, bottled…

A whoosh of silvery, sun-dappled airiness shot through with ginger, mint, and leafy green notes, softening to powdery florals, cushioned by warm skin-like musk and vetiver. One to spray when you need to be reminded of lazy sundays and lie-ins and snuggling up in bliss.

CLEAN Reserve Warm Cotton [Reserve Blend] £82 for 100ml eau de parfum
spacenk.com

BJORK_BERRIES_FJALLSO

Yearning for an eco-luxury house with a Swedish mountain lake view? (Uh yes, always.) Bright cotton and bracing air’s evoked with ambrette seeds, freesia, spring magnolia, and soft musk. You’ll be yodelling from first spritz.

Bjork & Berries FJÄLLSJÖ £85 for 50ml eau de parfum
eu.bjorkandberries.com

Who doesn’t want to be wrapped in a whisper of white fluffy towels and powdery peonies? Effortless and uncomplicated, sooth cares away with delicate freesia nuzzling fuzzy peach, gauzy ylang ylang, sheer rose, wisps of incense and a cloud of creamy froth.

Cacharel Noa, £15 for 30ml eau de toilette
superdrug.com


Mandarin swathed in powdered sandalwood shavings, violet suffused in a cool fig milk and tonka bean draped with the feeling of washing blowing in the breeze. Think muslin curtains framing a perfect view, the deliciously cool side of a pillow against a flushed cheek.

Van Cleef & Arpels Bois Blanc £130 for 75ml eau de parfum
selfridges.com

Think: deliciously smooth, Egyptian cotton (high thread count, obvs) boutique hotel sheets, just-showered skin and roasted coffee beans sitting atop a warm snuggle of back-lit amber and the sexy hay-like muskiness of the base. For dirty weekends (but in clean sheets.)

La Maison Hedonique Samedi À Paris £135 for 50ml eau de parfum
lamaisonhedonique

So, next time you bury your nose in a freshly dried, fluffy towel, slip into deliciously clean sheets that were dried in the sunshine or spray yourself with a fabulously ‘clean’ smelling fragrance – consider if you can pick up these ultra-nuanced notes with your nose. The more deeply we analyse smells – especially those ‘everyday scents’ we think we know so well – the greater our understanding and the better our sense of smell ultimately becomes. It’s a washing-day win-win…

By Suzy Nightingale

Miller Harris shout-out for brand’s soap donations

Miller Harris have announced they’re donating hand wash, hand lotion and soaps to those most vulnerable in the UK – and are calling for other brands to join in if they can

In these unprecedented and troubling times, amidst much worry, people ARE doing good things. We’ve already highlighted how some beauty and fragrance brands are helping, and will be showcasing some more next week. But right now we want to join Miller Harris and their shout-out for brands to donate soap, where possible, to help the most vulnerable in our community.

We’ve just spoken to Sarah Rotheram, CEO of Miller Harris, and she explained this felt like a positive thing they could give back to the community – to ensure those most vulnerable – the elderly and the poor – can wash their hands. We know that soap and water and good hand hygeine can destroy the virus. We’ve been contacting brands ourselves, but we’d also like to post this shout-out so that if there are ANY brands out there who’d like to get involved…

In a letter sent to fellow brands, Sarah says:

‘Dear Friends and Colleagues.

LETS GET SOAP MOVING!

As the apprehension around the COVID-19 virus spreads globally, I felt compelled to write and try to help in anyway that we possibly can. Our thoughts go out to everyone affected, our friends in China, Asia and Italy who have been affected for some time, and everyone globally now feeling the shock of the virus.

We do believe that the pause on the world is here for a reason and to remind us we are ‘all one world’ and together is how we will overcome this pandemic. As you all know, I am a huge optimist and there will be a silver lining as the world emerges from this a different place.

We are seeing huge acts of kindness amongst the gloom of the news, and it is these acts of kindness that bring us hope. As a small business we are aware that the next few weeks and months will be a huge challenge for us and all of our staff and partners and we will look to work together through this crisis.

We are partnering with Age UK to address the demand in the most at-risk sector and whilst we await more detailed stats, what we do want to do is urge other businesses who can help, to act now.

As a brand we will be donating our entire stock of hand wash, hand lotion and soaps to those most vulnerable in the UK. Our soaps will leave the warehouse tomorrow to reach the elderly and we are asking other brands to join us. It will be a sin if soap is sat in warehouses rather than reaching people where it can be of some help. The most venerable in our society will be the most affected and the best advice is to wash your hands regularly, so we need to donate what we can and get soap to those in need.

If others join us we can make a much bigger difference.

Our larger beauty colleagues are generously giving to hospitals and assisting governments and often as a small brand we can feel that it is hard to make a difference. Collectively we can have a huge impact.

We are a small brand so have 11,000 units, but I am writing to other small businesses to request if you can join us in making a positive difference to lives. Its time to give back and I think as a community we can make a difference.

This week we have already donated soaps and shower gels to food banks, as they are also facing shortages of supplies as people stock pile. They need support. Again, I am writing to see if you can possibly spare some soap to these organizations that are caring for those in need in these uncertain times.

Please join me in donating generously, and lets get the soap moving. If you are able to help please get in contact with Emma, Laurel and SJ via [email protected] who will share logistical information and link you with Age UK.

Best wishes,

Sarah Rotheram
CEO, Miller Harris

If you are a small brand with stock to spare, or know of brands that might be able to get involved, please do share this information with them. Let’s all pull together in this troubling time and make sure the most vulnerable are helped.

By Suzy Nightingale

Cologne to Parfum: your easy guide to the strengths of scent

From Colognes to extraits, splashes to after shaves – there are so many differing types of fragrance categories now that it can be hard to tell one from another and where to begin. Read our handy guide, below, and get your nose in the know!
Descriptions like eau de toilette or eau de parfum are used to identify the strength or concentration of oil in a fragrance composition. These concentrations can vary from fragrance to fragrance (depending on how that particular brand like to blend their scents), but this is an average guide.

Extract/extrait/solid perfume – 20-30%

Perfume – 15-25 %

Eau de Parfum  (EDP) – 8-15%

Eau de Toilette (EDT) – 4-8%

Cologne (EDC) –  2-4%

Body cream/lotion –  3-4%

After Shave/Splash  – 2-4%

Soap – 2-4%

In general, the higher the percentage, the longer it will last on your skin, and therefore, the higher the price – but do be aware that different concentrations (Perfume, or Eau de Toilette, etc.) may sometimes have differing notes in them, and not simply be weaker or stronger. So when you like a fragrance, we suggest you explore it in all its different concentrations before you find your favourite…

Some people like to layer their scent types throughout the day – try starting with a refreshing splash of Cologne to get thoses senses revving, and then wear an eau de toilette for day time. As evening falls and you head out on the town, switch things up by adding a spritz of eau de parfum to leave a sultrier trail that will last as long your night does…
Is your nose twitching to find out more? See our brilliant FAQ section – there to answer your questions and set the scents out in plain English.
Written by Suzy Nightingale
 

Shakespeare’s in a lather with Heyland & Whittle’s commemorative Soap Book

Fans wishing to mark the #Shakespeare400 anniversary of the Bard’s death, may wish to make like Coriolanus and ‘Bid them wash their faces / And keep their teeth clean’ by presenting a loved-one with Heyland & Whittle‘s ‘To Beard or not to Beard’ gift-boxed commemorative Shakespeare Soap.

Shakespeare Soap Book SMALLDelightfully packaged in a book-like gift box, instead of merely including a leaflet describing the soap, Heyland & Whittle have allowed the muses to inspire them and written their own little homage – a playlet called ‘The Two Gentlemen of Castile’ – containing puns, quotations and clever quips for the discerning customer to persuse as they lather up, whether to shave or not to shave…

With natural moisturising properties and a vibrant citrus fragrance including essential oils, herbs and spices, whether they choose to shave or just wash and go, it makes a great gift for would-be whiskery thesps and bearded bibliophiles alike.

R887-3
The Commemorative Shakespeare Soap Book £12.00
Buy it at Heyland & Whittle

Written by Suzy Nightingale