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PRODUCTS : New Items From the Ol' Factory : Cleaners and Pesticides Scents Something New

October 01, 1994|KATHRYN BOLD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Does your house smell like Mom's home cooking when all you did was clean the bathroom? Like a bouquet of flowers because you sprayed for bugs?

Carpet deodorizers, air fresheners, toilet cleaners and bug spray have all been putting on new airs lately.

And while most consumers have become accustomed to Lemon Fresh Pledge and potpourri room deodorizers, many still doubt what their noses are telling them when they get a whiff of Vanilla Carpet Fresh and Country Fresh Raid.

One need only tour the local supermarket to catch wind of the trend.

Renuzit's Country Kitchen air freshener promises "the charm of cinnamon and spice," as if Mom had just finished baking an apple pie in the kitchen--or the bath. Airwick has introduced a line of Air Waves air fresheners in fragrances that conjure up idyllic country settings: "morning rain," "cool cascade" and "wildberry knoll." Arm & Hammer has a carpet deodorizer that's scented with something called "vanilla meadows," so the whole house will smell good enough to eat.

Even pesticides come out smelling like a rose. Hot Shot's roach and ant killer has a new "fresh floral scent," while Raid has introduced an ant and roach killer that smells "country fresh"--even while it's wiping out colonies of country-bred invaders.

Why are manufacturers of these chemicals encouraging homeowners to stop and smell the bug spray?

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Years ago the purpose of adding fragrance to household products was to mask or obliterate bad smells, says Avery Gilbert, a psychologist on the staff of Givaudan-Roure, a company that creates and produces fragrances in Teaneck, N.J.

"Once upon a time you just wanted the thing to work--to kill bugs, if it was a bug killer," Gilbert says.

Then product manufacturers caught on to consumers' love of potpourri. No longer were people simply stuffing a potpourri satchel in the back of a lingerie drawer. They were putting out entire bowlfuls of dried rose petals and orange peels to permeate their living quarters with scent.

"The potpourri was pleasant in itself. That got taken up through the air-freshener market," Gilbert says.

Soon came a wave of potpourri-scented air fresheners, window cleaners, carpet deodorizers, furniture polish and toilet ducks.

"Now the emphasis is on fragrancing the home," Gilbert says. "They've switched from coverage to mood-setting."

From the woodsy, berry notes of potpourri, manufacturers have devised more sophisticated scents that lend themselves to attractive packaging and colorful ads. Who can say what a "morning rain" or a "cool cascade" really smells like? But the names go nicely with pictures of rushing waterfalls and dew-covered fields.

"Now they create whole fragrance landscapes," Gilbert says.

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Scents aren't created in a vacuum; they reflect what's happening in society at the time they're made, says Annette Green, president of the national Fragrance Foundation, the industry's nonprofit educational organization in New York City.

Many "odorscapes," such as Pledge's "country woods" furniture polish, are designed to make consumers feel the outdoors can be purchased in a can because nature and the environment have been shown to be popular concerns in the '90s.

"Now the trend is toward outdoor, fresh, clean fragrances," Green says. "Consumers are in an environmental awareness mode. They're looking for products that speak of the environment."

Manufacturers plumb the depth of their consumers' psyches to come up with fragrances they'll like, which explains why Givaudan-Roure employs a psychologist along with its team of perfumers.

They want to know which fragrances will conjure up positive images. Vanilla is being used in Carpet Fresh and other products because studies have shown it has a calming, soothing effect.

"It's connected to cooking, mother and home," Green says. "It makes people feel comfortable."

Comforting scents have grown stronger because people perceive the world as more threatening and stressful.

"The '80s wore us out in many ways, including financially and sexually. People are just trying to turn down the volume," Green says. "There's a lot of fear on the streets. Home is our haven."

That's why some air fresheners smell like cinnamon.

"What fragrance is more comforting than cinnamon and spice? It conjures up images of home, Thanksgiving and Christmas," Green says.

People find comfort in food, so Wizard now makes an air freshener that smells like "woodland fruits," and Glade makes one in "fresh berries."

"Why fresh berries? It's safe; it's yummy, and there aren't a lot of people who hate berries," Gilbert says. "On the other hand, you're not going to find an air freshener that smells like broccoli."

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Sometimes manufacturers want their products to stink.

"In some cases you need to let some of the malodor of a product come through so it signals it's working," says Lisa Lewis, creative fragrance director of Givaudan-Roure.

A foul smell can also keep people from overexposing themselves to potentially harmful substances such as bleach or powerful insecticides.

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