P&G regularly surveys consumers about the sort of fragrance they want on their laundry products. When testing the variants of a fragrance, we ask consumers to smell products directly from the container as well as washed items. P&G then goes further, inviting people to use new detergents in their homes. How does the fragrance perform over the wash cycle? What is it people want from laundry detergents and fabric softeners? Careful listening is one step on the path to designing the perfect perfume. Time and again, consumers say that what they want is more staying power for the fresh smell on fabrics. Consumers feel that the freshness factor drops with each stage in the laundry cycle. Ideally they want the fragrance to keep on working, especially at two key points or moments of truth when storing clothes and when wearing them. A wardrobe full of fresh-smelling clothes is enjoyable. Wearing such clothes boosts confidence and gives pleasure.
Getting the ingredients to keep working in our clothes after drying and in-wear is a tricky challenge for our perfumers. This depends on the ingredients staying power. For instance, how well does it withstand heat and water plus detergent, or sunlight, if hung outside to dry will it dissolve away or evaporate? When clothes are washed, water and detergent carry away the more soluble parts of the fragrance, and when clothes are dried perfume ingredients evaporate. In conventional perfumes, this mainly leaves some of the heavier ingredients (the base perfume notes) on the fabric, giving the clothes their traditional fresh smell. The challenge at P&G is to extend the range of perfume ingredients that stay longer on the fabric leaving a noticeable fresh scent.
Traditionally, higher levels of perfume were used in the laundry detergent to boost freshness on dry clothes. The downside was that the scent of the detergent itself became too strong and turned people off. This led to the search for more balanced compositions that made the level of fresh smell pleasant during all stages of the laundry process.
One exciting development in P&G perfume science is pro-perfumes. The pro-perfume technology works like an anchor that retains the perfume that is otherwise washed off the fabrics. The freshness releases slowly over time and magically materialises on your clothes when it is needed. Researchers are currently extending the range of freshness characters delivered by pro-perfumes. In just 10 years P&G has filed more than 100 perfume patents, many of them relating to the delivery of longer lasting freshness on dry laundry.
Another breakthrough in perfume delivery is controlled freshness release via encapsulation of substantive perfume particles. Here the freshness is locked up in microcapsules that slowly dissolve in the wash, releasing it on damp and dry laundry.
P&G has also created a fabric softener, Lenor Stayfresh, which helps to neutralize unpleasant smells. The key ingredient, cyclodextrin, works by hooking up with unpleasant odour molecules and deactivating them. This perfume science technique was first used in Febreze, a spray used for eliminating bad odours on fabrics. By getting rid of unpleasant smells, Lenor Stayfresh helps clothes keep their just-washed fragrance and delivers real in-wear freshness.