Do You Suffer from Nose Blindness?

We’ve all got our fears.

Public speaking. Walking down a dark street. Swimming in deep water.

Me? Reptiles. Snakes, alligators, crocodiles. I don’t want to be within 100 miles of them. Retiring to Florida could be a problem.

But there is one fear I was not aware of.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “one of humanity’s deep social fears is that visitors will think their abodes stink to high heaven.”

And like many other parts of life over the past two years, COVID has made this worse.

“Covid has created a real smell-o-rama,” said Julia Merrill, consumer insights director at International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) Inc., a supplier to consumer-product companies. “Before the pandemic, the home was pretty much a family space. With Covid, it’s become the hub of life.”

More time at home means more trash, especially food waste. Then there are all those living-room exercise workouts (guilty as charged). With fewer social occasions and more home offices, people also are showering less. Even couch potatoes are spending their days in stretchy yoga pants and other attire made with synthetic fabrics, which hold more odors than cotton and other natural fibers.

IFF’s consumer research found that 67% of American consumers have experienced “more malodor” in the pandemic, Ms. Merrill said. Within that group, 61% said they needed home-fragrance help.

Procter & Gamble Co. , maker of Febreze odor eliminators and Tide laundry detergent, said 74% of Americans are concerned about how their homes smell, according to recent research based on surveys and interviews with consumers.

So it should come as no surprise that sales of air fresheners were up 10% in 2021 compared with 2019, while candle sales were up nearly 30% in the same period, research firm IRI found.

There is a science behind “odor events,” in P&G parlance, said Lindsey Mithoefer, communications manager for P&G’s North America air care unit. Cooking, for instance, releases millions if not billions of odor molecules, which eventually nest in couches and drapes. The molecules can easily recirculate in a house after a rise in humidity or if odor-laden fabrics are disturbed.

Talk about a good excuse for not cooking.

Linda Rendle, the chief executive of Clorox Co., which makes Fresh Step cat litter, said people are especially angsty about their pets. She jokingly gives part of the credit for olfactory sensitivities to rival P&G.

“You know those noseblind commercials?” she said, referring to a 2014 campaign to promote Febreze. The premise: People think their homes smell fine, but others are overwhelmed by a stink that a homeowner has become immune to. “It’s terrifying for people,” Ms. Rendle said. “They’re like, ‘Can you smell the litter box?,’ ‘Do I not smell it?’ ”

Here’s one of those commercials:

IFF uses a more technical term for the phenomena: nose habituation. IFF’s Ms. Merrill compared it with a similar phenomenon involving sound. “If you go to a concert, when you arrive, it’s super loud,” she said. “But about a half-hour in, you can hear everybody.”

I guess I never stuck around long enough if something was that loud. I could never hear the person next to me, no matter how loud they spoke.

Whether it’s called nose blindness or nose habituation, one thing is clear.

I now have an urge now to go out and buy some Febreze and scented wipes.

And speaking of concerts, there can’t be a more appropriate song to end this post with:

*image from Being the Titus II Woman

77 thoughts on “Do You Suffer from Nose Blindness?

  1. I think cat litter boxes are the worst offenders when it comes to stinking up a house. I don’t know how long it takes to get one’s nose habituated to that stench, but I worry I could die before reaching that point.

    Good song choice, by the way.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. With a pair of aging cats, we’re starting to notice ‘pet smells.’ I can only imagine what outsiders must smell when they walk in. Great, something else to worry about. Didn’t we have enough?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmmm the stats seem a little suspect. That’s probably because people haven’t been purchasing home deodorizing products as much during the pandemic. Sales are down, which means companies are looking for some other way to tap into your insecurities. As for the uptick in candles, it’s all because we want to cozy at home and enjoy that hygge life. Good post Jim.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it’s always hard to pinpoint what exactly causes an increase or decrease in sales, but I think you are right the people wanted to make their house a bit more inviting since they were spending more time in it…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Did anything cause that loss of smell? I’ve often thought that if was going to lose one of my senses, I’d pick smell. Did the loss affect your sense of taste as well?

      it’s time to put on your party shirt – the weekend is just about here 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think we become accustomed to our own smells. Often, I don’t notice that the inside of my vehicle smells until I haven’t been in it for a time. I go to the gym often and frequently get an enormous sweat going afterward. Air freshener certainly helps, but I need to remind myself to frequently change them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I smell everything. My husband says my nose should be registered with the FBI (or CSIS here in Canada). That means that I am always taking out smelly garbage before anyone else even gets a whiff. My house currently smells of roast pork. Something I prefer over scented products, which my over sensitive nose can’t stand. No fabreeze, candles or perfume for me thank you. Give me an open window.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I prefer an open window as well. But I do like the smell of some candles now and then, but it seems like I am allergic to most of them…

      maybe you could get a job with Febreze!


  6. I think I am smelling what you are selling. This also works on pleasant fragrances. That is why our air fresheners never seem to last as long as advertised. The real trick, as shown in the video, is how do you tell someone without offending them?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think we definitely get accustomed to our own smell but at the same time I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I mean using a bit of deodorant or scented candles etc isn’t a bad thing but I don’t think it’s something we need to feel insanely insecure about. Everyone has a specific scent depending on your lifestyle, what you eat etc. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I feel like companies are trying to milk the nose blindness thing to sell more products lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think companies are always playing on our insecurities as a way for us to buy their products. And you are right, everyone has their own smell. And I’ve only met one person whose body odor was so bad it made me gag a few times…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think you’re right. There must be a paranoia around home odours. The other morning, in one TV ad break, there were ads for 3 different products to get rid of, disguise bad odours and make your house smell nice. I don’t think we need them, I hope!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I never worried about that until I had dogs. Then I obsessed over it.

    When I was house-hunting, I walked into more than one house that reeked. There were a few I couldn’t get past the foyer. I can see why this has become a fear for some. (I think it should be a fear for more people.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sur eour dog gives our house a certain smell, but it’s not a major concern of mine. But I have been places where the small is overwhelming – hopefully our house is not like that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. House smells…I can smell a mile off…my windows are open all the time and the dog lives outside it is so warm I am guided by my daughter who is asthmatic and animals set her off quicker than anything and she has no problem in my house…so I hope nose blindness isn’t a problem but I am always checking 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like to keep windows open as well, but we can’t do it all year. SOmeone told me that having the windows open raises the humidity level in the house, and could cause some damage to woodwork…


  11. HI Jim, I have never heard of this phenomena but I am well aware of it. I didn’t realise it had a label. In South Africa, with reasonable weather most of the year, this is less of a problem as people can open their windows and doors and air their houses. In cold climates where houses are shut up to keep the cold out, this is much more of a problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is so interesting.. I have many thoughts…
    1. I actually can’t smell..
    2. Due to #1, I have always ALWAYS been UBER paranoid about my own body smell (feet, armpit, breath, etc) because I have NO idea if I smell bad.. (also because I can’t smell, no point in wearing perfume, I do SHOWER before I leave the house though so hygiene is not a problem)
    3. When we were looking at homes to buy, my husband couldn’t believe there were homes that looked great but the SMELL was horrendous and asked our realtor why on earth do they not clean it before showing the house and her response was pretty much nose-blindness!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. does your lack of smell affect your sense of taste? and I can see how you would be extra diligent in trying to control odors.

      and I guess that’s why people should bake cookies and light canfles when they are trying to selll a house

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So I get asked that a lot and my answer always is, I have no idea lol I don’t know what it’s like to eat with a sense of smell.. However, I do tend to like foods with a lot of flavour.. Like spicy etc… Italian food is mostly herb-based and I tend to need more flavour than that! 🤷

        Liked by 1 person

      2. thanks for responding; it seemsl ike you must have some sense of taste!

        I just never thought of it that way. Perhaps someone who once had their sense of smell and taste and then lost their sense of smell might have better insight into such a possibility…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s quite complex… I feel the effects of things like bleach and nail polish remover but I can’t actually identify or differentiate between different smells…

        We’ve actually done blind taste tests before and simple flavours were difficult for me to identify bc I couldn’t see them…. 🙄🤔🤔

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Interesting post, Jim. My husband and I are sensitive to different smells. What is okay to him, it’s not okay to me. What is okay to me, it’s too much for him. Between the two of us, we reduce the odor to the minimum. I’m allergic to fragrance so I save money from buying any air freshener. I walked out in the middle of a tour in the perfume factory in Paris. My husband doesn’t like being stuffy, so he opens the windows a little even in the winter to have fresh air coming in. I’m not allergic to pats but I can smell them. My husband doesn’t like pets at all. Are we exempt from nose-blindness?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it seems like between you and your husband, you’ve got every potential source of nose blinness under control!

      many fragrances bother me as well, but some of them do smell nice.

      and I siwh we lived somewhere where we could keep our windows open more often…


      1. When I sing in the choirs, oratorios, etc, the conductors made it clear that no body should wear perfumes or colongue during the performances. Someone who is allergic to it may feel sick and interrupt the performance (such as having tearing eyes).

        My daughter in Portland, OR, doesn’t have the windows open in the winter ❄️.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No, the music wouldn’t drown the coughing. It’s not polite or acceptable to cough during the music. People try to suppress it. We take cough drops with us. My daughter almost cancell going to see the Nutcracker with my granddaughter when she had a cough. I told her to give Autumn the cough medicine before the performance. It stopped her coughing for a couple hours.

        We clear the throats when the orchestra pauses in between the movements. The director starts the next movement When the audience stops coughing and quiets down. 😁😄

        Liked by 1 person

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