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Percept Mot Skills. 2005 Feb;100(1):135-41.

Odors and the perception of hygiene.

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University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Although certain odors, such as lemon, are commonly associated with cleanliness and positive hygiene, empirical assessment of such associations for other odors and attributes is generally lacking. Moreover, differences between men and women in such associations have not been established. In this study of lemon, onion, pine, and smoke odors, ratings were obtained from 142 men and 336 women (M age= 30.1 yr., SD = 12.3) for odor intensity, gender association (masculine/feminine), and the success, sociability, intelligence, cleanliness, and attractiveness of a hypothetical person whose clothes smell like the odor in question. Ratings of the pleasantness or unpleasantness one would attribute to each odor in various rooms of the home were obtained, as well as a specification of whether such ratings are influenced by laundry habits, e.g., whether laundry is smelled before or after washing. Numerous associations were found. For example, a hypothetical person whose clothes smell of pine was rated as relatively more successful, intelligent, sociable, sanitary, and attractive than one whose clothes smelled of lemon, onion, or smoke. Sex differences, as well as differences between people who reported smelling their own laundry, were also found.

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