Website Review:

Some of my earliest memories are related to smell. I remember the humid South Florida nights filled with the fragrance of night-blooming jasmine, going to church on Sunday morning past the orange processing plant, even the foul odor of the paper mills as we’d drive through Georgia headed north on summer vacation. While I’ve long lost other childhood memories (I only vaguely remember that my mother’s name started with an “M”), there’s something about aromas that sticks in your mind.

I think the sense of smell has this effect on us in part because it’s so hard to evade. You can avoid tasting dirt. You can avoid listening to the White Stripes. You can look away from the results of an auto accident. You can keep from touching your co-worker’s hair. But if you sense there’s something rotten in the air, there’s little you can do.

I’ve never understood why most people, when encountering a foul odor, choose to hold their nose. Our nostrils have evolved over the millennia into repulsive yet highly specialized passages designed to sort out the tiny molecules of stench we occasionally encounter. To breathe through your mouth instead of your nose in these situations is to bypass the elaborate network of filters that keeps offensive materials out of your body. Unless you have hairs and mucus in your mouth, you’re choosing to swallow these stinky atoms instead of plucking them discreetly out of your beak.

Attempts to scientifically quantify odor only began in the late 1800s, when Germany invented the “olfaktometrie” to analyze our sense of smell. Employing a panel of human noses as sensors, participants were presented with “sniffing ports” and asked to report the presence of odor. Ultimately, a measurement designated as the “European Odor Unit” was defined; it can today be used to determine the presence of not only Germans but the French and Dutch as well. There’s even an instrument known as the “nasal ranger” (see photo below) which will measure and quantify odor strength in the field, as well as get you arrested anywhere within 500 yards of a girl’s school.

Although an aroma’s strength can be identified, its quality is harder to pin down. Something called “hedonic assessment” attempts to place particular smells on a spectrum from extremely pleasant to extremely unpleasant, with data points along the way like “fragrant,” “caustic,” “disgusting” and “Burger King.” Whole industries have grown up around our desire to suppress or disguise particular odors. One such company is Glade, producer of sprays, infusions, oils and gels, and the subject of this week’s Website Review.

The homepage for shows gently floating icons representing berry, vanilla, spice, outdoor, floral and other scents, adjacent to a thirty-something woman reading a book and smelling her surroundings, her nostrils slightly flared in delight. When you move your mouse across her face, she asks “is ‘aah’ actually a word or just the sound of stress escaping from my day?” Depending on the chemicals in Glade’s products, it could also be what your doctor asks you to say as you’re examined for that mysterious pulmonary condition you’ve developed, though a recent report to the National Institute of Environmental Health Services seems to absolve the company.

Glade delivers its large variety of pleasant fragrances through several different media, but certainly the most advanced is the patented plug-in technology. First developed about 20 years ago, this marvel of unnecessary science gently warms a gel cartridge using an electrical outlet that might otherwise be wasted on less critical appliances like a refrigerator or home dialysis machine. Recent improvements to the design have recognized the explosion of electronics demands in the modern home with a plug-through outlet. The device has a little trouble staying hooked in place, however, inspiring the widely loved commercial jingle “plug it in, plug it in.” There’s also now a Plug-In that uses scented oil to treat larger rooms, like your basement or abattoir.

To address not only malodorous spaces but also those lacking a certain visual ambience, Glade has introduced out the Wisp flameless candle. The gadget combines continuous puffs of fragrance with a warm, flickering glow and virtually no risk of fire. This new offering is still struggling to gain acceptance in the marketplace, as evidenced by some of the questions the website attempts to answer, including “I don’t think my unit is puffing – what should I do?” and “can I turn the flickering glow off?”

The newest hi-tech advancement out of this SC Johnson company is the Sense & Spray product. Sort of a Wii for the redolent, it uses a motion sensor to detect the presence of odor creators and emit a blast of fragrance at them. Once this burst has been released, the device goes into a lock-out mode for 30 minutes, though there’s a manual override that can be launched should Uncle Phil decide he needs to return for another session on the can.

What I’d really like to see is a technology transfer with one of Glade’s sister companies, the makers of Off! insect repellant. They market a mosquito protection unit called the “Clip On,” which you’re able to strap onto your belt for a head-to-toe defense against biting bugs. Imagine being able to wear one of these that’s been crossed with the Sense & Spray – you could freely emit all kinds of stench during your daily activities and not to have to worry how it impacts your social life (not that I do anyway, but still). And having the added feature of a boost button that you could spritz at others would almost make this convenience rise to the level of a sport.

If there’s a particular aroma you’re looking for in any of the Glade product line, the website has a convenient “find-a-scent” feature, using one of those annoying word-prediction programs that guesses what you’re going to request and matches that to what they offer. So if you’re looking for “dog” smell you get “dewberry,” if you want “garbage” you get “garden,” if you want “office refrigerator” you get “orchid,” and “sewage treatment facility” offers you “stream, spa, strawberries and sweet pea.” Why would anybody want the smell of a spa?

Finally, I’ll mention a handy option that seems like just what we need is in this age of over-communication. Through the site, you can sign up for an automated reminder that your Plug-In or flameless candle could be in need of a refill. An email will be sent to an account of your choosing that Glade says “will let us help you keep that fresh, clean home feeling.” My concern would be that spam filters might wrongly think of this as a trivial communiqué and route it to the land of credit and appendage extenders. Surely it’s only a matter of time until the company enters the twenty-first century and instead sends you a tweet and a text message while automatically updating your Facebook page notifying your contacts that your house is starting to reek.

Nasal Ranger (not affiliated with the Lone Ranger)

Nasal Ranger (not affiliated with the Lone Ranger)


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Website Review:”

  1. delicate flower Says:

    Love it, love it, love it. Raised with 3 brothers and then birthing 2 hardy sons w/ a gaseous ex-husband… I could have used this contraption… on all of them

  2. caffeinatedmind Says:

    “To breathe through your mouth instead of your nose in these situations is to bypass the elaborate network of filters that keeps offensive materials out of your body. Unless you have hairs and mucus in your mouth, you’re choosing to swallow these stinky atoms instead of plucking them discreetly out of your beak.”

    When somebody farts, leave the ventilation of your nostrils open. Just pretend in your mind that the fart is one of those Glade scents. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: