Perhaps this scenario is familiar: You express enthusiasm for a fragrance, and a friend notes — maybe with a little smugness — that she doesn’t wear perfume. She’d rather smell “fresh and clean.”
Little does she know that the fresh and clean smell she likes so much is perfume. The bar of soap in her shower, the box of laundry detergent she bought last weekend, the spot remover she uses when kitty has an accident — it’s all scented and calculated to smell clean. These products define and perpetuate our idea of “clean.”
Soap? Musk and orange blossom practically define “soapy” these days, although the musk could also be hopped up with rose, linden, or grape-sweet lavender. Citrus, especially orange, often registers as clean. Pine smells clean, too. Think of Pinesol or the tree-shaped air fresheners dangling from so many rear view mirrors. Thanks to the calone explosion in the 1990s, the combination of ozone, melon, and cucumber often read as rain fresh. Air fresheners have ruined lilac for me for good. And then there’s powdery clean.
Besides industrial fragrances, whole perfume lines have risen dedicated to smelling fresh. Witness Clean. Dana Classic Fragrances Love’s Baby Soft line has their own brand of clean. (You'd think Fresh would be a clean fragrance line, but these are the people who brought us Brown Sugar.)
But what does clean really smell like? Clean sheets smell like cotton. Clean dishes don’t smell like old food. Clean skin smells like skin. (A clean dog still kind of smells like a dog but that’s o.k.) None of them in their natural state smells like a guest soap.
If you’re going to be surrounded by fragrance anyway, why pretend it doesn’t exist? Unless you deliberately want to play on the public perception of clean, why not move beyond the clean musk and orange blossom and choose something that fits your mood or expresses your personality? No matter how freshly scrubbed I am, I’m more likely to want to smell happy or smart or interesting than “clean.”
When you do want to feel fresh and clean, decide that what that means to you. Maybe it means lavender or cucumber. Or maybe it means nothing but a bath with unscented soap.
When you want to smell “fresh” and “clean,” what fragrances do you reach for?