General Question

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Why do bad odors seem to linger much longer than good odors?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (25249points) June 23rd, 2010

It seems to me that pleasant smells, like those from someone baking sweets or from an air freshener or even perfumes/soaps don’t last nearly as long as unpleasant odors like urine or cabbage.

Is it just my imagination? Do stinky odors really linger for longer? And why?

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13 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I think it is perception. The good odors fade into the background faster in your perception. Because biologically, recognizing bad odors is a safety mechanism.

sleepdoc's avatar

I know what you mean about the bad odors, it is almost like they can cling to the inside of your nose. But I think it is just how our brain works. I mean eating something that smells good normally doesn’t hurt you, but lots of bad smelling things will.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

That makes sense.

cazzie's avatar

@sleepdoc has it again. Bad tastes and odours are wired in us to warn us of poisons and ‘bad stuff’. It probably doesn’t help that the bad odours are created by some pretty determined stuff. (the waste products of bacteria for example) So, they are there to warn us not to eat something, usually. The bacteria waste or oxidization is a biochemical result. Sometimes wastes can have a sulphur content that is not only horrible to the nose but it’s also ‘sticky’ chemically, and will hang around.

Things that oxidise the waste are your friends. Try baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.

(essential oils can help, but most only cover the stink. I’m a soapmaker. I help clean and make things smell good.)

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@cazzie very informative answer, thank you so much :)

KatawaGrey's avatar

I wonder if it also has something to do with the strength of the smell. Even really good smelling stuff can irritate the nose if it’s very strong.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@KatawaGrey I thought about that, also. My husband is one of those people that can’t just spray an air freshener once. I get sick after he sprays anything because he just goes overboard. But it fades. Really quickly.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie: Those kinds of things are also probably designed to fade fast. That way, you use them more often and have to go buy more. As for natural stuff, I’m not sure. I think @cazzie and @sleepdoc nailed it.

MaryW's avatar

Anything that irritates us lasts longer.

mollypop51797's avatar

Because you get used to the good smells, but your nose doesn’t like the bad smells, and probably won’t get too used to it too soon.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

lol @MaryW isn’t that the truth.

Ponderer983's avatar

I agree about the perception. The bad smells annoy us so we dwell on it and be come very conscious of it, making it seem like it lingers fro longer. Whereas good smells we notice and then sort of take them for granted and they fade into the background.

amazonstorm's avatar

Perception. That and bad things tend to get on your nerves for a long time, so a bad odor might linger in your head for a while… especially if you don’t know what it is.

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