Perfume Sample and Perfume Decant Making 101

Perfume sample and perfume decant, other people make them for swapping and travel, and you want to do the same.  Here’s all of the information on hperfume sample and perfume decant bottlesow to make a perfume sample and perfume decant, what decant supplies you need and where to get those decant supplies!  Those of you that already decant wildly for your friends or do bottle splits, etc., you get the day off today, or you can just add your own favorite suppliers and tips in the comments.  

What you need to make a perfume sample or perfume decant in general

  1. Containers – at least 1 ml size vials and 5 ml size bottles, though having 3 ml sprays are really helpful for a larger perfume sample swap or just taking some perfume samples on the road with you. You can do different sizes, but these are the ones most common for swapping.  If you are doing bottle splits, most splits have at least 10-15 ml minimums, so you would need those size bottles to do splits.  Picture over on the right of most of the sizes you’ll need
  2. Funnels and Bulb Syringes (Xanax is optional)  If you are a klutz or nervous or both, you’ll definitely want funnels and bulb syringes and a Xanax, though the bulb syringes are of minimal use for most perfumes because they are sprays where you cannot remove the sprayer. Xanax is helpful all the time for most stress life hands you.
  3. Electrical tape.
  4. Labeler and labels.

The biggest single problem in perfume decanting supplies is that you need to order a good number of bottles/vials at one time or suppliers will kill you on shipping and/or price. So if you’re ordering just a few, be prepared to pay for it. But if you only need a few, paying for a quantity that you can’t use or don’t need is ridiculous.  It’s far cheaper to buy a few if you know you won’t use up a lot of them than to buy cases that you will never use.

Favorite perfume sample and perfume decant suppliers

  • Madinaonline.com for sample vials. You’ll get killed on postage if you only order 100, but if you know you’ll decant enough over the next many years to justify a tray for $80 or so, that’s your best bet.   In defense of the suppliers, shipping glass gets expensive fast. Madina also has good 5 ml glass roll-on bottles as well as splash bottles.  Best Bottles also has great bottles at a good price, and it looks like they’ve now got some 10 ml spray atomizers too.  I’m not crazy fond of those plastic atomizers either, but they can work well enough, just be careful of cloggage and spray some hot water through them if that happens.  SKS Bottle has some great 3 ml, 5 ml, 10 ml glass bottles with sprayers.  You have to order 48 at a time, but that’s probably worth it if you plan to do any decanting at all.
  • Plastic atomizers, I won’t use them for long-term storage and since I never know what will be long-term, I just don’t use them. If you think you want to keep that scent around for a while, transfer it to glass. If it’s a short little trial thing, plastic is fine.  Accessories for Fragrances has great plastic atomizers, funnels and amazing customer service.
  • Larger spray bottles, 15 ml and 30 ml, right now SKS has some good 30 ml bottles, and you’ll probably need to go to Madina for the 15 ml bottles. I am not a huge fan of the Madina bottles, they can be prone to leakage.  I’d rather use the SKS and fill it half full..
  • Funnels and syringes, again, go back to Accessories for Fragrance, who has all of that sort of thing and has little decant kits, which is a great place to start for supplies for your first decanting experience.

As you start pricing things, you’ll get some idea of how expensive this decanting thing is. Anyone who does/has done a lot of decanting or bottle splits will tell you how labor intensive it is and how much supplies will wind up running you, not to mention overspray loss from a bottle.  So if you are thinking of doing bottle splits, factor in about 5-10 ml or more (some bottle sprayers are horrible for overspray and will have higher loss) per bottle loss of juice. There is nothing worse than doing a bottle split, and you get down to what’s left for you, and you don’t have enough juice to fill your own part of the split.  Factor in potential spillage, all the decanting supplies, shipping, etc.  As Robin said in her post, make sure you know what size the bottle is for sure.  I keep using the same ones over and over because once I’ve measured them, I don’t want to do it again.  For just swapping, this isn’t a big deal, but for bottle splits, it can become a big deal fast.

How to make a perfume sample and perfume decant

  • Labeling.  You want to get a label on the bottle/vial that won’t smudge, should stay on pretty well, and will stand the test of time.  Skimp somewhere else, but if you plan on doing any perfume sharing with friends, love them enough to provide them with a good label. This is Patty Pet Peeve territory, so just ignore the amount of peevish that permeates the post. A lot of people have samples/decants around for years, and there is nothing more frustrating than having a label you can’t read on a sample that you fall in love with. Anything missing a label or that is smudged, I throw away immediately. Who needs that heartbreak?  You can pick up a manual –  Brother Personal Labeler Machine  – labeler for less than $30. It may be manual and take some time to make each label, but it is well worth it.  If you plan to be doing a lot of swapping and sharing, invest in one that connects to your computer so you can store labels, one of the desktop models –  Brother PC Connectable Labeling System (PT2730)  – for a little over $60.  You can get the label tape there as well, which runs about $10-15 per cartridge, which is far less than the $20 that OfficeMax charges.  The bonus, you’ll be thrilled having a little labeler around to label everything else with. Trust me, your labeler will wind up being one of your favorite ancillary tools that you never knew you needed.  So make the label and put it on the size container you are decanting.
  • Filling the bottle.  This is where the nervous get more nervous. I recommend using some other spray bottle of something else you don’t care about to practice here, like water.  Not so many perfume bottles are splash. For those that are, then decanting is easy. Just get your little funnel, if you need it (not me, I go commando), put it on the bottle, hold carefully so it doesn’t tip over, dump in the perfume carefully, put the lid on the bottle/vial, and it’s ready to go. For sprayers, most of them won’t come off, so you have to spray from the perfume bottle into the vial or decant bottle.  For vials, you’ll have more problems with overspray than anything else, and I don’t recommend a funnel here, it will just make a mess.  Feel around on the vial for the open end, line it up with the the hole on the sprayer for the perfume bottle, and gently squeeze in enough perfume to fill it without overfilling, and then snap the cap on it.  As easy as that sounds, snapping that cap in firmly the first few times will give you a heart attack as you’re sure you will crush/snap the vial in two.  Just push, you have to, or it won’t go in.  I’ve snapped on hundreds of thousands of these, and I’ve had maybe five break over the last three years from just putting in the cap. For filling the bottle, this is the point where a funnel can be of some help to catch the overspray. If you don’t buy one, you can use some aluminum foil shaped as a funnel.  Just fill the bottle, then put on the lid/roll-on cap.
  • Securing the bottle.  If you are sending several vials at a time, and if one of them happens to be something particularly raunchy, think about putting it in its own teeny zip-lock bag (available at Uline.com).  For decant bottles, make sure to take a bit of electrical tape and wrap it where the bottle cap meets the bottle. This will keep the cap on and prevent almost all of the jiggling that sometimes occurs in transit that can cause bottles to leak.
  • Mailing. I use a padded envelope, which works well for sample vials and a few smaller decants. I’ve been using them for years to ship, and have had almost no breakage.

Hope this helps you all, and feel free to chime in with your own tips/tricks/suppliers/horror stories. The winner of the Iris Gris/Candide Effluve drawing will be announced on Friday.

Also, anyone living in Japan or going to Japan, I need you desperately to get something for me.  Drop a comment or click on the Conctact Us over there on the left if you can help me get a perfume only available there.

43 Comments

  1. Great post! I’m disastrous at decanting, so couldn’t do it w/out latex gloves, especially w/ spray bottles, which tend to leak all over the place. *Hate* decanting spray bottles.

    • I know! Why can’t they all be sprays? POTL and the Parfum d’Empire and Etas are the WORST sprayers. Those I’ve started to decanting into larger bottles just to minimize the overspray, so I can re-decant from pour-ons. Annoying, but necessary.

      I make a mess out of my hands too and am constantly washing them as I spill something else on them. It’s a mess. 🙂

  2. Thanks for all the great hints.

    Say, you know there’s this great place, the Perfumed Court? 😉
    I got some decanting supplies there and didn’t have to order 2 million pieces, only what I wanted! :d

    Seriously – that’s who I use for supplies – great service too!! 😡

    • Yeah, we do some supplies too, but we’re not the best price if you want more than a few since we have to pay retail for what we get. Essential supplies doesn’t have the best pricing either, but works really well for getting smaller amounts without winding up finding a storage locker for empty bottles and vials. 🙂

  3. Thank you, Patty! I feel I’m closer to daring to decant. But, like Elle, I’ll wear Latex gloves.

    I thought it was great writing strategy how you put electrical tape on your numbered list of “what you’ll need.” Who will be able to resist reading till the question it raises is answered? ^:)^

    • Maria and Louise — she got me too! I make samples and decants fairly regularly, though not “professionally” (as anyone who’s ever gotten samps from me can attest.)
      :d
      And I was reading, thinking … whoa … what are we going to do with the *electrical tape*?!?!:o

    • It’s really not hard at all. Just practice spraying water in first before you deal with the real stuff. Normally, the worst that happens, you get some perfume on your hands, which wearing the latex gloves prevents. I used to do latex gloves, but I was changing them out so often, I found it easier just to keep washing my hands. 🙂

      Yup, electrical tape. No residue on the bottle, it’s totally perfect.

      • Hmmm…I’ve started using the electrical tape to seal bottles at the neck to minimize leakage in shipping.

  4. Funnels make it all possible for me, even for little samps. Shaky hands here. Also-the gloves are nice for those of us that wear nail polish-it’s amazing how that stuff dissolves with enough alcohol on it.

    The electrical tape….heh, heh. Have a wild time with that, Maria, until Patty reveals the innocent truth.:d

    • How do you balance the funnel on the vial? That just seems so precarious! 🙂

      If I had to use a funnel, I’d never get anything done, just takes too long. Not sure what I’m going to do as I age and get really shaky hands. Hmmm…

      • I learned this from Nancy-I am using those little mini plastic funnels-minimizes side sprays for me.

        • Louise, that’s what I thought I’d do. My hands are shaky. (Looked for shaky emoticon but did not find.)

  5. I need one of those little labelers, just for fun. I’m one of those types who’ve added to your irritation, P! But then, I’m never gonna be a top ranking decanter – neither patient enough or tolerant enough – I bow down to you perfume court ladies ^:)^

    I mean, what’s strange is I have more scent now than I’ll ever use – I should start shifting some of it… But too lazy.

    And accessoriesforfragrance is GREAT. If only they did glass atomisers and stuff.

    • Lee, they do have glass atomizers! Even 5ml ones (which aren’t listed on their site, BTW). If you e-mail them, they’ll get right back to you and send you a paypal invoice through e-mail if you order that way.

      And on yesterday’s post, I wouldn’t say that Lann-Ael is particularly feminine. It’s a breakfast gourmand, you know, oatmeal, vanilla, milk, etc. Oatmeal’s unisex, right?

    • I’m having trouble thinking of an office supply whore like you without a label. It’s like a geek without a pocket protector. It’s just the most legal fun you can have, labeling everything!

  6. These things are always useful, so thanks for including them and elaborating.

    The thing is I am still searching for someone in Europe who does an online business of selling those sample glass vials or little plastic sprayers (they have to be leakproof though!). If anyone knows, please mail me or comment here.
    (Much appreciated!)^:)^

    • I find it bizarre that there isn’t such a place. I know a lot of our decanting supply orders are to Europe. It’s just bizarre. Hope someone decides that’s a good little business to undertake soon!

  7. Thanks for the helpful hints. I have only ever tried to refill a 1.5 ml vial from a spray bottle once. Yup, a leeetle bit of overspray. That experience alone with only one perfume, including how amazing my bedroom smelled for an entire day, makes me have to ask this question. Do you have a special room, table, corner, sink, disposable counter covering, outhouse or shed where you decant? Hundreds of perfumes daily…. now that’s layering! :)>- and most definitely ^:)^

    • Anne — I haven’t been to Patty’s, I am sure she has a dedicated area, but I have been to Nancy’s house (of The Perfumed Court) for some sniffage and was *amazed* at what a tight operation it is.

      She has a room that is basically dedicated to decanting (her bottles, supplies, labeler, table, etc.) and we walked in and — you couldn’t smell a thing. Seriously. My closet where I keep my personal frags smells more. She says if she can smell anything, there’s something *wrong.* Yeah, you’d think with overspray the room would reek, my bathroom does after I do something really strong. Hopefully she’ll chime in here with tips —

      hey, P, do you wear a particular outfit/lab coat or something? Do your shoes end up smelling like perfume? no, really!

      • My decanting room *reeks* today of Fissore Cashmere for Women. I was putting the cap on a 1.5 ml spray vial yesterday and cracked the vial. Sliced my thumb, shards flying. I also cracked two sample vials yesterday by pushing the little funnel in too deeply. I think hazard pay is in order.

        In general, I find that if I keep things tightly capped and in their boxes, you can’t smell the perfumes stored in my room. Like you said, if I do smell something, I know I need to find the perfume and make sure it’s properly capped.

        • I always open a window when decanting. Depending on the weather, I might also run a fan that’s aimed out the window.

          All my clothes stink by the end of the day. With the open window, it would be too cold to decant in the nude.

          • Wow, Nancy, you must be doing a brisk business with the Fissore Cashmere for Women! You just sent me a decant of that wonderful stuff. Glad you didn’t slice your thumb over mine. Healing thoughts to you.

    • I don’t think I’m as tidy as Nancy. I have one office I use for my regular day job and for decanting. I have tons of cabinets in that room where I store the perfume. Unless I’ve had some spills on my desk that I haven’t mopped up, there’s not an overpowering reek in that office unless I”m in there decanting, and then it smells quite lovely. 🙂

      If you open up any of the cabinets or drawers, you will get that sample box full of samples smell of just jumbled vague perfume smells, like potpourri maybe?

      • You know, this just made me think, I keep all my bottles, samples & decants in little boxes in my bedroom & no, it doesn’t smell. But some of those decants smell pretty strong & need to be double wrapped. SL Cedar is one of those. So was Chene. And now I have a Tubereuse Criminelle that smells up everything it touches; I have a CB Smokey Tobacco that does that too, and unless I’m wrong, it’s evaporating. Does that mean that the vials aren’t capped well? Or do certain perfumes defy the little plastic tops & sneak out regardless? Aside from finding a supply of spare little plastic tops, what can I do to seal them in?

        • I think once you transfer anything from the sealed original packaging to another, you risk some evaporation. Bottles and those little 1.5 and 2.5 glass vials should do pretty well because they seem to have a tight fit, and at most, just putting some electrical tape around the seal should fix that right up.

          Sample vials are something else entirely. I’ve gotten some batches that have great fits and some batches where either the glass or the plastic, some of them, seem a little off, but you can’t tell that right away. I usually just transfer them to a new vial or try a new cap and see if that fixes it.

  8. OK, I’ve read every word with open heart & open mind but nope, I’m gonna leave this to the professionals. I don’t think this is going to be part of my lifetime skill set. Seriously. I’d have to do my decanting in the bathtub, naked or I’d end up with reeking clothes & apartment. I even fear for the cats, who I’m sure wouldn’t appreciate smelling like Eau de Whatever. My blessings & appreciation to you brave steady handed souls who make it possible for the unskilled masses like myself to sample with ease 😡

    (Yes, I’m bookmarking this page – you know, just in case.)

    • It’s really not that bad! Sounds worse than it is. If you practice with water first, then it take some fear away. 🙂

  9. I have a few sources for purchasing things in Japan (proxy services). They typically charge a 10-15% fee. Let me know if you want more info. 😉

  10. When you all receive your decants, do you put the bubble-wrap packaging in your lingerie (okay, underwear) drawers like I do? I just can’t waste that ‘conglomerate’ smell that is SO enticing.<):)

    • Cathy- Yes I do! Also if the cute little drawstring bag smells especially nice… I put it in my linen closet.

  11. Perfect word, Cathy, “conglomerate” smell. Because I don’t like little sample vials, except for Montale aouds, I bought 50 small atomizers in the summer. Late one night, I decanted the little vials I liked into them. Goodness, the smell made me naseous. Just tipping over one vial into another made an insanely fetid odor. One of the reasons I love the perfumed court is that I can get samples in spray form. So worth it.

  12. Great post- always good to find decanting tools cheap.

    I decant practically everything into those 5ml samples I get from the Perfumed Court (after I buy a full bottle). I just find it easier to have the small spray bottles and if I feel like it I can grab one on the run, or if I’m going on a trip I can take a selection with me and not worry about those stupid NTSB regs.

    I do spray mostly (the 5mls are wide enough that you don’t lose too much) but I do a funnel for vials. I bought eons ago a refillable travel size CK one that came with a small stainless steel funnel that’s perfect for that and doesn’t hold fragrance like plastic does.

    My I’m rambly today

  13. You’ve got lots that I left out, not least the Xanax 🙂

    Great post.

  14. Tissues. Lots of ’em. That I could never be a surgeon is most definite but my hands aren’t that shaky. Still, in case that last bugger of a spritz does happen to cause the juice to jump up out of the vial, I always have tissues at hand to wipe the vial, which of course is promptly followed by a thorough washing of hands. My favorite bottle to decant from, btw, is Dior Homme — rather than spray heavily, the nozzle lets out spurts that are easily controlled. The worst – Hanae Mori PH and Bulgari Black.

  15. Sunburst Bottles sells smaller amounts (lots of 50 and 100) with quite reasonable shipping. I’ve never tried another company so I can’t say how the quality compares, but I haven’t had any complaints yet. They have very inexpensive 1.5 ml glass sprayers which I use for samples that need to be sprayed — I mail them too, but they don’t have caps, so it always makes me a bit nervous.

    Off to get some of the electrical tape today!

    Will TPC be selling Xanax in time for the holidays? :x;)

  16. I guess I’m the ubiquitous fool who is always rushing in, because I’ve been swapping frags with friends since high school. We’d buy cheap little perfume bottles at the Ben Franklin (yes, I’m old enough that they still had Ben Franklin’s when I was in high school lol), then each buy a bottle of the latest greatest perfume craze and divvy them up. We used a funnel filched from one of our mothers’ kitchens. All in all, it was a fairly tidy process, although the occasional brotherly complaint would be heard about the gag-making girly smell in the community bathroom. :d I’m glad to hear there is a much less declasse way to accomplish the same thing!

    I got in the habit of dropping my spent sample vials in one of my desk drawers at work. When I changed jobs — and offices — the young lady who took my place told me she loved opening that drawer because it smelled so pretty. Not a bad legacy, I think.

  17. I use parafilm to seal my decants rather than electrical tape. It’s clear and leaves no residue. Totally agree on the source recommendations – I buy glass bottles from madinaonline and plastic sprayers from Accessories for Fragrances – very satisfied customer.

  18. Very nice article Patty! Everything one needs to know. I wonder, though, could you explain why you dislike plastic atomizers for (longer) storage?

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