Pew, what’s that smell?

We’ve all had them, perfume accidents. You get a promising sample from your best perfume buddy, one she/he has been raving about for weeks. The notes sound spectacular, your friend assures you there is nothing else like it, you will smell like a slice o’ heaven, it will be love at first sniff, you Instead of just lightly dabbing it on, you dump it on your arm, thinking something that is so great, more is always better. Well… it’s not so great smelling right out of the vial. You’ll wait, it has to get better, your perfume pal would never like something this horrific, and you know that the real test is in the drydown, screw those top notes, they’re just the sprinkles on top of the cupcake.

30 minutes later… ohmygod, Becky, this isn’t getting better, it is getting worse, turning into something that is a cross between burning tires and a Toni home perm. You hold your stinking arm away from you, and you don’t care about the drydown, this is foul, your nose is in pain, there’s no way Anderson Cooper would ever hook up with you smelling like this (I don’t get the Anderson love, I don’t, sorry!), it must go.

So how do you get those stinkers off? I’ve tried soap, nail polish remover, just alcohol, makeup remover, and the only thing that’s ever foolproof gotten rid of a stink-bomb perfume is a hot shower, plenty of soap and a fresh set of clothes.

Someone asked me this question recently, and since I didn’t have any easy solution, I thought I’d ask all of you

  • SniffQ says:

    Rinse out LITTLE plastic or glass bottles (glass bottles have that little plastic tube and spray, and that’s what absorbs the old perfume oil) with a good quality vodka. High alcohol, no smell. Fill vial full, spray till empty. Fill again, let sit a few hours or overnight. Spray out. Leave open till dry. Do not use gin. Do not use flavored vodka. Do not drink rinse solution!

  • Katrina says:

    My comments disappeared for some reason :(( but here\’s the jist of it:

    for glass bottles, use gasoline or lighter fluid then rinse with rubbing alcohol or 70% ethanol. (or, jet fuel then ethanol) please do not use denatured alcohol. it has a lot of chemical crap on it that you do not want on your skin.

    for removing obnoxious scents on skin, what sniffQ suggested. Hope that helps!

  • SniffQ says:

    Waaay too late to have this work for you, but this ALWAYS works when I have a scrubber on. I cover the spray or dab site with chapstick, not gobs, just cover it. Leave it on for 30 seconds or so, then remove with makeup or eye-makeup remover. Then was with soap, dab some handcream on that poor wrist, and it will smell like. . .the handcream. Ready for something new in 10 minutes.

  • Emotenote says:

    As an update from my last note, I didn’t find a new way to get rid of the stink, but I did find a way to distract my nose until the memory was gone without adding to the anguish. I placed a small cotton ball on a little dish beside my bed and added a few drops of peppermint oil. I could smell just enough of the oil to do the trick.

    As a side question, I’d be interested in what fragrances you all recommend when the hormonal nose goes into overdrive but you still really want to smell a little something?

  • benvenuta says:

    Hmmmm… I`m surprised that the solid deodorant trick isn`t mentioned more… It always works for me. Cream deodorant like Secret Platinum cream is even better. I imagine it`s because it contains more fat.

  • Emotenote says:

    Thank goodness you asked this question, today I put on what I thought was a very small amount of lutens a la nuit, having learned from past experience that it stays around longer than skunk and twice as strong, even though I love the smell in small. I attended a big deal artistic seminar and thought I was going to up-chuck the whole way through. It was completely overwhelming. There was no chance to wash at all. I asked my seatmate if she could smell it and she said no. Must me hormones on my part.

    I tried the soap and water when I got home, then non-acetone nail polish remover. I could swear I can still smell it, even though the location itself is clean as a whistle. I think some of the molecules are stuck in my nose. Hmmm maybe I can cover it with fracas…

  • Karen says:

    Patty’s experience with perfume from a friend – “You gotta try this, you’ll love it” – reminded me of a funny poem I read in a cookbook about trying a recipe from a friend – with less than spectactular results:

    I didn’t have potatoes so I substitued rice
    I didn’t have oregano so I used a different spice
    I didn’t have tomato sauce so I used tomato paste
    A whole can – not a half a can – I don’t believe in waste.
    My friend said “Try this recipe – You just can’t beat it!”
    I don’t know what is wrong with her, I couldn’t even eat it!

  • Teri says:

    I’ve had very good luck with a Perlier product — Avocado and Lemongrass liquid soap. I’ve used it for kitchen odors (garlic, fish, onions) and for when I spilled pine cleaner on my hands. I haven’t tried it for yucky perfume, but I’ll bet if it works for garlic, it’ll work for fragrance. And the up side is, you wind up smelling fairly decent, too – rather fresh and herbally.

  • Tommasina says:

    Agree with Sybil and Tom on stainless steel – though, for garlic, onions, and scrubber ‘fumes I tend to rub whatever body part is involved on the kitchen sink itself (where possible!): when cooking and if hands are already stinky, I don’t want to have to dive into the cutlery drawer (British English there – sorry: *silverware* drawer) and drip garlic water or whatever all over the contents. Laundry detergent, shower scrubbers, nail polish remover, etc., have never worked for me; but I haven’t yet tried coffee grounds. Intriguing. And I DO need sthg that works since it seems I have very weird chemistry and very little smells good on me – or even anywhere near what the notes / other people’s impressions suggest it should.

  • Katie says:

    I have the best luck using olive oil or mineral oil, followed by a quick swab of isopropyl alcohol (the kind you keep in the bathroom cupboards.) If you really are dealing with something high-powered, using brown sugar and olive oil as a scrub also seems to work for me. But usually just working the plain ol’ olive oil into my skin and then rinsing that off with soap and water usually does me just fine, and then the alcohol-soaked cotton ball to wipe up if there’s any last bit of smell.

    The stainless steel thing doesn’t really work for me, either.

  • BBliss says:

    Ha, ha, ha – hilarious!!! Love the tips, too because right now everything turns into a scrubber on me, except some old standbys like Eau de Merveilles and O de lancome. Actually, I’d like to take a scrubber to most other people too – hormones are in overdrive :-&

  • Patty says:

    Haus,I’ve never tried to resue them. Plastic I think is not easy to get the smell out of, but I would think that the glass could be, but I’ve never done it.

  • March says:

    Haus — to the best of my knowledge you can’t, although I’m going to invite Patty, the decant sales goddess, to address this further. I’m just speaking from my own lame, cheapskate experience.

    I’m surprised about the decant bottles… here in the good ol’ USofA there are a gazillion suppliers selling endless sizes of vials and atomizers. The problem I run into is their minimum order requirements (so P usually just sells me some of hers at cost, since she’s a volume user.) Nobody online in the EU shipping that stuff to Germany?

  • hausvonstone says:

    a related question if you don’t mind – how does one remove perfume smell from (previously used) plastic atomizers or the plastic tops of sample bottles? i can’t readily get decant bottles, so i recycle, but i’ve tried coffee grounds and baking soda, and neither can vanquish violets. thanks for your suggestions!

  • Patty says:

    YOu guys all crack me up. I KNEW all of you would have some experience.

    I’m going to try the stainless thing and the Tide, I never had heard of that.

    No recent sample did this to me, just to answer that. Someone asked me recently, and I only had the hot shower solution, unfortunately!

  • tmp00 says:

    I second the “don’t buy the stainless thingy” vote- a spoon works well, but it has to be stainless. I also find that a handful of laundry detergent can work too. At least it did one my over-application of Eau Sauvage Extreme (a serious mistake, that one)

  • Victoria says:

    Tide! It worked to remove the remnants of civet tincture spillage.

  • violetnoir says:

    I have no suggestions–just dying to find out what in the heck that sample was! :d


  • sybil says:

    I’m a novice at perfume stuff, but a pro at getting rid of stink…
    1) You don’t need those stainless steel thingies. Just use a piece of flatware, like the back of a spoon, and rub it on the stinky parts. Under cold running water works best. (unless, of course, you’re the type of person owns only sterling flatware. Can’t vouch for that…)
    2) Coffee grounds (from brewed coffee) are unorthodox, messy and work very well to remove truly stanky odors, incl. fish and Star Boutique Vanilla Martini. Lemon rinds also work pretty well, but throw them out afterward, don’t use them for cooking!
    3) For truly desperate measures, try one of those enzyme based pet odor removers.

  • Giselle says:

    I recently have to de-funkify myself after trying DKNY red delicious. My husband said it smelled like a combo of Passionfruit punch juicebox and some nasty aerosol hairspray from days of yore. He likes most perfumes, so he is a good judge.

    A normal soap and water wrist washing didn’t work, and since I had a long hot bath BEFORE putting it on I didn’t want to go through all that again. Luckily it WAS just on my wrists, I filled the sink with hot water and patiently soaked and bathed my wrists, using unscented soap. I had to re-fill the sink (no lie) twice to get ‘fresh’ water. nice and hot, I let my wrists soak until all traces of the Hi Octane acidic stench was gone.

  • Nina says:

    I’ve slowly learned to be gradual about applying samples, ie wrists only to begin with. I don’t know how many times I’ve applied to all the usual spots with abandon, then spent hours trying to scrub my cleavage, my neck, my ears… But that going-beyond-critical-mass thing, boy does that ring true with me!

  • March says:

    Ack — scrubber!!!!! hahahaha — hey, is this a REAL example? What were you sampling?:-ss

    My approach:

    1) Enhancement (layer with Passage d’Enfer?)
    2) Burial (top with Opium, KJ new, Black Cashmere
    3) For scrubbers, I’ve tried almost anything in desperation. Robin at NST uses Liquid Tide, I believe. I usually have alcohol handi-wipes in my purse for the kids, and those work well. Lemon juice. Alcohol. Nail polish remover (desperation!) Soap and water works very poorly for me. Believe it or not: oil on a cotton swab or ball (I have used olive or almond for my skin).

    I’ve gotta get one of those stainless steel things… I cook with a lot of garlic and onion, and the smell stays on my hands forever.

  • Veronica says:


    From the ancient Egyptian: Nox (obnoxious) and zema (go away).

    Gasoline works. I wouldn’t recommend gasoline for professional fire-eaters at the circus or crack addicts, though. And you’d smell like you work at BP.

  • Elle says:

    I also use laundry detergent to scrub off stinkers. It’s much more effective than regular soap and usually gets a hideous scent off and restores happiness to my olfactory world. You can also cover the offending scent w/ unscented deodorant. I need to try the stainless steel fix that Kayliana mentions – I’ve heard great things about it.

  • Kayliana says:

    I just had this happen! I was wearing a Ormonde Jayne sample I recieved, I put about two sprays on my wrists and my sister goes “Oh god, what is that smell?” And I tell her proudly it’s Tolu from this english perume line I just discovered. She said “You know what you smell like? A substitute teacher…”
    First I was horrified and then I couldn’t agree with her more, on me it just smelled phony. So I did what I knew I had to do, scrub it. I used one of those stainless steel stones that gets garlic off and magically it worked?!!

  • Anne says:

    With only a small sample vial, I fell in love with Iris Taizo. When I got a larger decant I applied the juice ever so generously. More is always better, just like eating dark chocolate, right? Wrong, this perfume has a definite critical mass and I went way past that. Unfortunately that realization came after I arrived at work. What was I thinking? I work in a hospital so several full handfuls of alcohol prep pads later I smelled like Iris Taizo and rubbing alcohol but I could look around myself and see that at least that cloud had dissipated. Lesson learned.
    For those smaller at home sampling mistakes, a nylon net shower puff, shower gel and hot water usually does the trick.

  • Oscar says:

    Well..With all of praise for Aramis Havana, I had to buy a decant of it. I sampled it a couple of times, and didn’t find it that bad – not exactly good, but OK.
    So I decided to wear it to the school, and after an hour or so the spice-notes turned sour.
    A friend and classmate of mine asked why the hell it smelt Europris-noodles (veeery cheap and bad noodles). He continued to comment it through the day, so I tried to be as far away to everyone as possible, but those who have smelt it know how strong it is!

  • Amy K. says:

    If tomato juice works on skunk spray, maybe it will also remove other foul fragrances. I hope I never have to find out!