Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Best and worst smelling chemicals?

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guaguanco - 14-12-2003 at 16:13

My favorites: piperonal (heliotrope) and vanillin. I just love those smells.
Worst: Thiophenol; just a foul sulfury smell. Phthalyl chloride; a nasty acrid smell.

Haggis - 14-12-2003 at 16:32

Yea, vanilla is pretty good.
There are two chemicals I've encountered that I absolutely do not like. One is butyric acid. The stench of vomit.
The other is pentene. I don't know what it was about it, but it nearly made me throw up. I had to leave the room while working with it before.

Ramiel - 14-12-2003 at 18:39

Paraformaldehyde is a nasty one. It has an awful harsh industrial type smell... oh, and it burns all the way to ground zero. I literally fell over when I got a whiff of this - reflexively to get away from the smell!

Oil of Wintergreen is probably my favorite.

Darkfire - 14-12-2003 at 19:04

Wintergreen and vanilin are my top two, im not sure about worst.

Polverone - 15-12-2003 at 09:29

Dimethyl sulfide is pretty bad. I like the smell of xylene, toluene, and gasoline. What is it that's in gasoline that makes it smell so wonderful? It almost smells good enough to drink.

gritty_cryst - 15-12-2003 at 10:06

I've smelled a few of the sulfide members like everybody but not any seleniums or telluriums. Supposedly certain members of all the group 6 elements (such as the hydrides) smell worse as you go down the table. Even H2O would probably smell if we hadn't evolved in it. Has anyone here smelled any seleniums and telluriums?

guaguanco - 15-12-2003 at 10:20

Originally posted by gritty_cryst
I've smelled a few of the sulfide members like everybody but not any seleniums or telluriums. Supposedly certain members of all the group 6 elements (such as the hydrides) smell worse as you go down the table. Even H2O would probably smell if we hadn't evolved in it. Has anyone here smelled any seleniums and telluriums?

No, although Shulgin repeats a story about a vial of dibutyltelluride that was dropped by a German chemist in a train car many years ago. The traincar had to be scrapped, since the intolerable odor couldn't be removed.

guaguanco - 15-12-2003 at 10:23

I once made S-allyl O-ethyl dithiocarbonate. It was an oil with an overpowering garlic smell.


gritty_cryst - 15-12-2003 at 11:34

That reminds me of a story I heard from a professor about a graduate student researching tellurium for his thesis. Nobody ever wanted to be around him.

vulture - 15-12-2003 at 11:35

What is it that's in gasoline that makes it smell so wonderful? It almost smells good enough to drink.

A blend of benzene, toluene, xylene and C8 alkanes.

unionised - 15-12-2003 at 16:02

Linalool is one of the nice ones too.
AFAIK the smell of petrol is largely due to benzene. I guess gasoline smells the same. At any rate, I wouldnt go sniffing too much of it.

chemoleo - 15-12-2003 at 16:06

HCN doesnt smell too bad either.... were it not for it's toxicity :D:D

Polverone - 15-12-2003 at 16:41

A blend of benzene, toluene, xylene and C8 alkanes.
No, I've smelled all those aromatics separately, as well as various liquid alkanes, and none of them approach the delightful scent of gasoline. I suppose it's a secret ingredient like the special addiction chemicals in Coca-Cola.

Magpie - 15-12-2003 at 20:51

Ah, the smells of the organic lab! It has always been like entering a magical world for me. IIRC allyl alcohol has an intriguing smell. Acetic anhydride was wicked yet intriguing. Pyridine was sickening. A professor said that he added one drop of pyridine to the ethanol bottle to prevent student theft.

ahlok2002 - 16-12-2003 at 10:31

amonia got the worst odor .......

itsme - 20-3-2004 at 14:23

Try the (mono)fluorothiophenoles before you decide on the worst smelling chemical substance - at your own risc ! Maybe you'll be banned from the campus ..


chloric1 - 20-3-2004 at 18:38

Hypochlorites have a peculiar pleasant acrid sweetness with relative purity. But becomes lacrimator with nitrogen based organics and ammonium salts.

As far as bad smells, Acetaldehyde had a penetrating fruity/paint thinner smell but I got just a small whiff and i had a hacking cough for the rest of the night. Read in Merck that it causes delayed pulminary edema! NASTY SHIT!

P.S. mixed NaClO with acetone and sulfuric acid.WHOA!!! The whole lot turned purple and it burned like pepper spray!! Chloroacetone??

[Edited on 3/21/2004 by chloric1]:o

[Edited on 3/21/2004 by chloric1]

tom haggen - 20-3-2004 at 19:32

I like the smell of nitromethane, butane, the smoke that comes off of steel when your drilling it.

Dislikes- #1 fish oil #2 sulfur, #3 bleach, #4 stale machine coolant, this horrible smell comes from bacteria.

[Edited on 22-3-2004 by tom haggen]

notagod - 21-3-2004 at 15:31

I read that 4-chlorophenylisocyanide should have one of the worst smells there are. All isonitriles is said to smell bad. Mixing strong hydroxide solution, a primary amine and chloroform will get you there. Don't know if it is toxic or so.

[Edited on 2004-3-21 by notagod]

[Edited on 2004-3-21 by notagod]

JustMe - 21-3-2004 at 17:16

In reply to gritty_cryst, I have had the great displeasure of encountering Hydrogen Selenide and Hydrogen Telluride. The former I made many, many years ago while in high school , avoiding the synthesis of Hydrogen Cyanide due to it's toxicity. Funny thing I found out later, that Hydrogen Selenide is 20x MORE toxic. I was young then, but I made it outdoors with a fan blowing the other way, dissoving it in water, of course. Nasty smell, like metallic sulfur (not really possible to describe).

Years later I tackled Hydrogen Telluride. Mixed powdered aluminum with powdered tellurium, heated the mixture to make Aluminum Telluride and reacted with very dilute Hydrochloric Acid. MUCH worse smell, and knowing the toxicity, I only made a minute quantity, outdoors again, anyway, I do not recommend it.

Strangely, I don't like wintergreen at all, but I like the fruity odors of other acid esters.

AngelEyes - 22-3-2004 at 04:24

Some of those alkyl esters have a peculiar, but very nice, smell. One that springs to mind is Ethyl Acetate (Ethyl Ethanoate - Pear Drops, yes?) - reminds me of school tuck shops...

Worst smells? Butyric acid and ammonia for sure, but how about thioethanol? I have heard that it's eeeevil....

unionised - 22-3-2004 at 15:05

Thioethanol, aka ethanethiol, is used as the stenching agent for gas supplies. It ranks as pretty rank.:D

Backyard Blaster - 27-3-2004 at 15:39

My favorite chemical smell has to be a rubber rejuvenator (M.G. Rubber Renue) used in electronics repair. 70% xylene, 20-something% salicylic acid, and traces of other stuff. Very aromatic, smells like wintergreen candy. Just don't breathe too much - I find it tends to make me dizzy and nauseous.
Worst odor? Hmm, do fecal odors count as chemical??;)
The worst chemical odor I can think of, I'm actually not sure of the name for it. I was using a butane powered glue gun one night, and noticed some dirt around the exhaust port. I reached for a can of dust spray (contained tetrafluoroethane, or something to that effect) and gave it a squirt while the gun was still operating. No fireball, but it produced a cloud of the most noxious smoke I've ever had the misfortune to inhale. One whiff left me choking and gagging, my nostrils burning, and my eyes watering. Took hours for the smell to air out. To this day I'm not sure just what I produced, but whatever it was, it was nasty!
I'm also told that if crazy glue (cyanoacrylate) - wet or dry - contacts a hot soldering iron, it will produce some nasty cyanide gas. I won't bother trying to prove that theory.

Mr. Wizard - 27-3-2004 at 17:33

I think the name for the fecal odors is Indole or the Indole family. Another sickening odor is from rotting flesh. The amine group(s) attached to a short carbon chain gives Cadaverine and Putrescine. Naaga pooey!

I think you might have made a little hydroflouric acid with your butane powered glue gun. When you run chlorinated hydrocarbons through a flame you make phosgene and hydrochloric acid, among other things. I'm not sure there is a fluorine analog to phosgene. Does anyone know? Anyway, the HF made by running the flourocarbons through a flame are bad enough, and just as poisonous as HCN. It sounds like you were lucky. These same acids (HCl, HF) are produced when a refridgeration compressor burns out and over heats. The acids have to be removed from the system by flushing and using a neutralizing drier.

[Edited on 28-3-2004 by Mr. Wizard]

BromicAcid - 27-3-2004 at 17:39

The fluorine analog to phosgene COF2 is Carbonyl Fluoride. :D

guaguanco - 27-3-2004 at 22:40

Originally posted by Mr. Wizard
I think the name for the fecal odors is Indole or the Indole family.

Skatole (3-methyl indole)
Ironically in very dilute concentrations it has a pleasant odor and is used in the perfume industry.

guaguanco - 27-3-2004 at 22:44

I remember on of the incidents that led me to change from a chem major to geology. I went into the chemistry building one day and was hit by an overpowering sulfury stench which had permeated the entire building. I went up to the 9th floor to see my teaching assistant. I found him in his lab eating his lunch. 'What smell?' was his reaction to my question about the stench.
I realized that chemistry as a career might not be a healthy thing...

[Edited on 28-3-2004 by guaguanco]

Saerynide - 28-3-2004 at 07:58

Originally posted by AngelEyes
Some of those alkyl esters have a peculiar, but very nice, smell. One that springs to mind is Ethyl Acetate (Ethyl Ethanoate - Pear Drops, yes?) - reminds me of school tuck shops...

Ethyl acetate smells nice :D Are we the only two who likes it?

Im surprised no one mentioned ethanol yet :D I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's something really nice about its smell.

thunderfvck - 28-3-2004 at 09:33

Skatole? This is the name of the poo-poo smell?

Is anyone here familiar with skat? Or scat, I believe it is spelt. It's pornography in which people spread shit all over each other and have disturbing orgasms. Not that I'm into this kind of thing but I was just wondering if this is where the name had come from? Because Scat seems pretty off-key for some kinky porn name.

Cadaverine? Putrescine? HAHA. Most appropriate names.

I love wintergreen oil. I'd bathe in it if it was harmless. I'm sure it'd also make a beautifully scented lubricant to accompany my scattish endeavors ;)


[Edited on 28-3-2004 by thunderfvck]

BromicAcid - 28-3-2004 at 09:49

Scat? Rember the "Scat Man" song popular in the early 90's? Now that's scat man!:D

markgollum - 28-3-2004 at 11:24

I like the smell of the di- and mono- nitro toluenes:D(smell a bit like almonds, sort of).
However, I really dislike formaldehyde, and the mixture of gasses that comes off a wet animal corpse, that is placed in an airtight container, in the sun. YUCK!.


Lestat - 1-5-2004 at 00:20

My favourite chemical smell? hmmm...burning black powder i think,

And the vote for the worst: Chlorine, the merest whiff of it knocks me sick to the stomach, even as a kid in swimming pools. eeeurrrghh!

The_Davster - 1-5-2004 at 19:24

Best: chlorobutanol, methyl salicylate, and burning blackpowder.
Worst: Chlorine, sodium hypochlorite solution, calcium hypochlorite and all acid fumes.

BromicAcid - 22-5-2004 at 17:53

I worked with nitrobenzene today, I forgot how good it smelled, I just wanted to drink it. Even though I did not smell it directly I still got a headache though. I guess nitrobenzene would be the best smelling pure compound I have worked with aside from vanillin.

As for worst smelling that's a hard one. Really, Cl2 has a somewhat pleasant aroma to it to me now and NaOCl really doesn't offend me in the slightest. I guess it would have to be something like putracine. Those amines resulting from decay in general. One time I had to climb down in a well to remove a rabbit that had fallen in a during the winter. I got to the bottom before I had to take a breath. By the time I got to the top I had thrown up all over myself. The stench although not insanely bad gave me an almost involuntary vomiting reflex.

vulture - 23-5-2004 at 05:46

Does anybody now the insanely bad smelling stuff that is in blue methylated spirits? It makes me wanna vomit...

Michal - 23-5-2004 at 06:06

Hmm vulture, over here the denatured ethanole doesnt smell pretty, but it is not making me want to vomit.

5 minutes ago I was using some 92% denatured alc. from Poland, and it smelled better, almost like hunny :D
(Think of all the poor children, hmmmm liquid hunny :P)

Hmmm, the skull now I look at it, it's almost like its smiling :o

Edit: Worst: NOx, Acetone
Best: Nafta (smells like a old engine)

[Edited on 23-5-2004 by Michal]

denatured.jpg - 75kB

Saerynide - 23-5-2004 at 06:13

Wow. Freaky pic :D

I love the smell of 95% ethanol, its so sweet and... I cant describe the rest :P

Acetone isnt too bad, until you take a huge whiff and hits you so hard you almost pass out.

Michal - 23-5-2004 at 06:26

Yeah your right, its not that bad....

But a week ago I was making Blackpowder (CIA) and the acetone was boiling away and I had the perfect idea to take a big snif ---> aarrrghhh it feels like your lungs/nose etc. get very cold :mad: and the smell is ... ehr... not nice :o

tom haggen - 24-5-2004 at 05:57

I have just recently decided that the smell of the smoke coming off of smoldering, wet HMTD is quite disgusting.

[Edited on 24-5-2004 by tom haggen]

madscientist - 24-5-2004 at 06:33

Liquid MEKP definitely has the weirdest smell.

My favorite is a toss up between xylene/toluene/gasoline, acetone peroxide, and HNO<sub>3</sub>. My taste for HNO<sub>3</sub>'s acrid odor was definitely an acquired one. :D

[Edited on 24-5-2004 by madscientist]

Cyrus - 24-5-2004 at 21:15

I love the smell of HCl, it is very invigorating ;) and the smell of certain kinds of epoxy- some smell like delicious cherry-flavored mouth watering gum drops. I was using lots of this variety and couldn't help sniffing the container several times. Mmmmm! Ahhh!

As for foul smells, SO2 and SO3
really are nasty, but I suppose I'll learn to like them.

Saerynide - 25-5-2004 at 00:51

HCl??!! My god.... You freak :P

efraim_barkbit - 6-6-2004 at 12:48

vanilline is supposed to be one of the best smelling, and
some mercaptanes to be the worst

I could post some "jam jar" synths if anyones interested... (ethylmercaptane and butyric acid)

[Edited on 6-6-2004 by efraim_barkbit]

blazter - 6-6-2004 at 16:47

Well, the best smelling chemicals that I've encountered so far would probably have to be chloroform followed by ethanol. Both have a sort of heady armoa that is impossible to describe or even characterize and makes me want to smell them even more to relive the sensation. Followed closely would have to be cumene hydroperoxide aka CHP, a chem I use at work when mixing vinyl ester resins. It's got a sweet, almost fruity smell, though it has a nasty habit of eating through the latex gloves we have to use and burning like hell when it does (I've learned to work fast and use 2 pairs of gloves).

Worst smelling ones would have to be the odor of SO3 when trying to dehydrate H2SO4, and the dimethylaniline that I use on the job. It's got the "amine like odor" that basically smells like concentrated urine. Also, its interesting to read the label on it, where it can be absorbed through the eyes, and causes cyanosis as a symptom of overdose (bluing of fingernails and lips).

bennator - 19-6-2004 at 19:58

The worst that I've smelled so far has to be 2-mercaptoethanol. Stupid disulfide link breaker. I also can't stand the smell of acetic acid.

With the exception of certain esters, I find that Acetone is my favorite smelling chemical.

NERV - 20-6-2004 at 13:30

Ethanol, Vanillin, Gasoline, acetone, and burning gunpowder are all smells that I find to be very good :D . HCl, pyridine, methylamine, and formaldehyde are some of the worst smells I have ever inhaled!

atombum - 21-6-2004 at 17:51

No one's favorite is ether? When not too concentrated that sweet odor is hard to stop smelling. :) First time I encountered the vapor, it smelled unlike anything I had ever known.
Phenylselenol is probably the worst. That goes right along the lines of the other posters who made mentions of selenide/ols and telluride/ols, both alkyl and hydrogen. These are probably the worst odors known. (isocyanides?)
The formaldehyde, HCl, and hypochlorites mentioned are pussycats. I'd wager anyone who places these types of irritant-type smells as the worst has never smelled a chalcogen derivative (S,Se,Te).

froot - 22-6-2004 at 07:44

worst so far: formaldehyde, ammonia
best: chloroform, dichloromethane, burnt nitrocellulose.
most rewarding: acetaldehyde, nitric acid, that sweet smell when I add toleune to nitrating acid.

I am a fish - 22-6-2004 at 08:21

Originally posted by froot
worst so far: formaldehyde, ammonia

In my opinion, formaldehyde and ammonia don't smell particularly bad per se. However, they both cause choking, which is what makes smelling them unpleasant. If it wasn't for their physiological effects, I doubt I would mind smelling either.

Blind Angel - 23-6-2004 at 06:11

2-Butanol (Sec-Butyl Alcohol) smelle very bad, i'm working quite a lot with it, it's our all purpose alcohol here. I'm currently trying to make ester with it, i hope they'll smell good.

The_Davster - 23-6-2004 at 22:01

On the topic of scents, I used to be able to smell methanol when I first started using. It had a distinctive smell. But now when I opened the bottle...No smell? Even when I pour a bit into a shallow dish and ignore the correct method for smelling chemicals, there is no smell. Need less to say I only smelled, or rather attempted to smell it, like that once.

Ramiel - 24-6-2004 at 01:11

I don't know of any methanol desensitization. I remember hearing that those methyl esters in sinus spray will ruin your sense of smell (you know, the gear you stuff up your nose and pump).

Come to think of it, who else likes the smell of blood? I have always enjoyed the scent - even my own blood noses smelled fragrant and pleasant. My work at an abattoir didn't dispel my love of the scent (in fact, after a dingoes breakfast and no lunch break, at the end of a 12 hour shift - those carcasses look miiiiighty appetizing!).

Anyone else?

[edit - spelink]

[Edited on 24-6-2004 by Ramiel]

atombum - 24-6-2004 at 07:40

To me methanol has about as much of a smell as water does, I was dumbfounded the first time I tried to smell it- I had always heard of at least some odor ascribed to it.
A specific inability to smell just this one chem as was suggested? I doubt it, it's probably a consequence of a lifetime of inhaling shit. The odor of methanol is already known to be faint, chemical exposures probably eliminated what little sensory ability for this substance we are born with.

Cyrus - 24-6-2004 at 13:55

Hmm, after using HCl a lot in one day, I could not smell it at all. It still stung the nose, but smelled like plain air. It could have been that my nose was clogged, but I doubt it.

Now I can smell HCl easily. Good.

Edit- does eating Gahhlic damage the nose? My friend has a very poor sense of smell, he blames it on garlic, and says his ability to smell varies inversely with the amount of garlic eaten.:P This is slightly OT I know...

[Edited on 24-6-2004 by Cyrus]

I am a fish - 25-6-2004 at 08:53

Originally posted by rogue chemist
On the topic of scents, I used to be able to smell methanol when I first started using. It had a distinctive smell. But now when I opened the bottle...No smell? Even when I pour a bit into a shallow dish and ignore the correct method for smelling chemicals, there is no smell. Need less to say I only smelled, or rather attempted to smell it, like that once.

Everyone knows that the "correct method" of smelling chemicals is for sissys. You should always place your nose in the container and inhale deeply. For better effect, warm the substance in question to just below its boiling point. I do it all the time... *falls down dead*.

thunderfvck - 25-6-2004 at 11:27


I have noticed that methanol has a fruityish smell to it. This has been routine when buying the 99.9% pure hardware store methanol. I like the smell and would drink it if I hated myself.

The_Davster - 25-6-2004 at 13:59

Yes, that was the same smell and source of methanol that I had. But now I can no longer smell that fruity smell.

Cyrus - 4-7-2004 at 19:45

I can still smell methanol, but I haven't used it very much.

Has anyone else lost the ability to smell HCl for a while?

Mr. Wizard - 4-7-2004 at 20:36

I can't smell ammonia anymore. My sense of smell is otherwise very good. A couple of intense exposures to the gas has left me unable to detect it, unless my eyes start to water or it irritates my throat. Has anyone else had this happen?

fangshengsky - 5-7-2004 at 06:02

First come here , it's great
I like Furanone , like some sugar

blip - 5-7-2004 at 14:05

<table bordercolor=000000 border=3><tr><td>Like</td><td>Neutral</td><td>Hate</td></tr><tr><td>ethanol - sweet but with a bit of "sting" like isopropanol</td><td>chlorine - filled my shed with it too much</td><td>blood - way too coppery</td></tr><tr><td>very dilute NO<sub>2</sub></td><td>hypochlorite</td><td>acetone</td></tr><tr><td>clorates and perchlorates</td><td>NH<sub>3</sub> - I use it often</td><td>HCl - used to fill my kitchen with it, sometimes deadening my sense of smell</td></tr><tr><td>nitric acid - made a small amount once with NaHSO<sub>4</sub></td><td></td><td>isopropanol - too stingy smelling</td></tr><tr><td></td><td></td><td>acetic acid - slightly sweet but overall very nasty</td></tr></table>
And of course I hate H<sub>2</sub>S.

Saerynide - 5-7-2004 at 20:15

Bloods smells like iron. We're not crustacaens which use blue hemocyanin ;)

unionised - 6-7-2004 at 15:03

What's the vapour pressure of iron at normal temperatures?
More seriously, I'm sure we are all familliar with the smell of copper ie the smell you get on your hands after handling copper coins and that sort of thing. Does anyone have any ideas what the (volatile) compound(s) is that gives this smell?

BromicAcid - 6-7-2004 at 18:13

Isn't it the copper reacting or altering the shape or proteins on the skin surface?

Or something like that ..... ;)

Cyrus - 7-7-2004 at 13:18

I always thought that the smell was H2S, IIRC there is always some copper sulfide on copper, which reacts with acids on the skin to make H2S. That is why old copper smells much more than new copper. I love this smell in small amounts.

[Edited on 7-7-2004 by Cyrus]

chemoleo - 7-7-2004 at 13:31

WEll, ever tasted a bit of copper sulphate solution? It tastes/smells exactly like copper pennies, or pipes.
Hence I think our nose has some receptors for divalent metal ions, of specific types. Iron can be detected too. But not lead, not Ca, I dont know about any others.
H2S? Nah, the smell of that is distinctly different. Also did you notice that this coppery taste/smell resembles slightly SO2? I wonder whether that's a coincidence.

Cyrus - 9-7-2004 at 10:24

Ah, the wonderful realm of tastes and smells...

I have desired many a time to taste some copper sulfate, and other chemicals, but have never worked up enough courage/foolishness to taste known toxins/carcinogens/etc. puposely. I'm not saying you are being foolish, I just do not know enough about toxins, chemicals, and their effect on my body to feel safe tasting some of them yet.

I still think it's very very small amounts H2S, but concentrated H2S does smell different indeed.

Would anyone else describe this penny smell as teeth-numbing? I can feel the smell in my teeth sometimes. Also, iron makes the teeth feel good...

[Edited on 9-7-2004 by Cyrus]

Saerynide - 9-7-2004 at 10:28

Speaking of tasting stuff, I just tasted H2SO4 today. It was a really dilute solution that was CLEAN and that I made from MgSO4, not drain cleaner crap.

It tastes bad. Very sour in a strange way, and bitter at the same time. :D


MadHatter - 9-7-2004 at 18:30

Love: Wintergreen oil

Hate: Mercaptan and Hydrogen Sulphide

guy - 9-7-2004 at 22:54

Isn't mercaptan what skunks spray?

Poop smells bad. Whas in it?
And garbage sometimes has this disgusting sweetish smell.

Michal - 11-7-2004 at 01:57

Originally posted by guy
Isn't mercaptan what skunks spray?

I dont know, but I do know that it's used to give gas (butane,propane etc.) a (disgusting) smell so you can detect leaks (so you dont suffocate/blow up your house :P)

chloric1 - 11-7-2004 at 17:24

Poop,solid waste, is a complex mixture of substances based on your diet. Usually it would be undigested proteins, cellulose, starches etc. The odor is caused from Skatole. This is a cyclic nitrogen compund related to indole. Look both of them up. Many proteins have sulfur and Hydrogen sulfide is present in farts too.

my taste in chemical smells

Hjalmar_Poelzig - 12-7-2004 at 04:01

My favorite smells are:

p-ethoxyphenol (reminds me of pistachio icecream, and it tends to linger too)

Absolutely horrible are:
1. pyridine ! (this sickening smell stays in my nose for hours without getting used to it)
chloroacetyl chloride
butyric acid of course ;-) (the anhydride actually smells much better by the way)

and... hot hexane, at first the fumes smell agreeable and a bit fruity, but they also stay in the nose and become sickening.

As a reply to vulture, concerning the bad smell of blue methylated spirits. I once used this as is in a dissolving metal reduction. When finished the smell was everywhere, in my clothes, in my hair, it surrounded me like a cloud and I became very nauseous. :o
I want to bet on it that there is pyridine or a derivative in there.

Cyrus - 28-7-2004 at 10:05

I just got a really good whiff of conc. NH3 gas. (By accident)

Add it to my list of favorite smells. :)
I know it's got to be bad for humans, but it smells/feels kind of like a listerine strip mixed with oil of wintergreen. Dilute ammonia is just annoying.

thunderfvck - 28-7-2004 at 23:55

Cyrus, you ARE joking, right?

NH3 blows me off my ass.

And someone mentioned that they no longer are able to smell HCl - yeeeeeeeeah yeah. I find it hard to believe something as potent as HCl is undetectable by le nez.

[Edited on 29-7-2004 by thunderfvck]

Cyrus - 29-7-2004 at 08:52

Nope, I like NH3.

As long as I only get 1 good whiff, after a few seconds it gets annoying.

I just have a wierd sense of smell I guess.

And yes, I lost the ability to smell HCl for 1 day. At first I thought that all of the HCl had escaped as gas, and that I couldn't smell it because the bottle just had water in it, which is not very reasonable, but then I did some test, I think tasting the HCl, and immediately decided there was some left. :P IIRC, I could still feel the corrosive effect within my lungs and nose, but there was no smell.

edit-- I know that it is hard to believe, but you'll have to take my word for it. I can't email you my nose. The one way to prove whether or not I am lying would be to have several sciencemadness members, including you, all deliberately sniff or use conc. HCl a lot for a few days, and then record their results here. :D The wisdom of that, however, would be questionable.

[Edited on 29-7-2004 by Cyrus]

maniacdoug - 24-10-2004 at 15:13

I decided to set fire to a small pile of sulphur the other day... It smelled great until I stuck my face over it and took a huge whiff...

Ouch - that made my whole head water :o

I also love the smell and taste of black powder. I have a nasty habit of eating it occasionally, and believe me, black powder farts are VERY potent... (I found my own strangely addictive though)

garage chemist - 24-10-2004 at 16:07

The most lovely smell I've ever produced chemically was the one made by adding a piece of nitrocellulose to hot 10% NaOH solution. It first dissolves and then it smells like fresh bread and fresh pretzels.
Try it out, it works. I've got no idea which reaction is producing that smell. I know that the NaOH should hydrolyse the nitrate groups to form NaNO3 and normal cotton.
But instead of forming cotton again, the NC dissolves completely. Any ideas as to what is happening here?

JohnWW - 24-10-2004 at 16:47

The reaction of ordinary cotton with a strong alkali is the "mercerization" of cotton, usually done with the fibers under tension. The process imparts a pearly lustre to it, increases its strength, and increases affinity for dyes. This was patented by an Englishman, John Mercer, in 1850.

If the nitrocellulose, with an excess of strong alkali above that necessary to hydrolyse the nitro groups, subsequently dissolves in the alkali, it may indicate alkaline hydrolysis of the cellulose further, into its constituent monosaccharide groups, or at least into oligosaccharides and starches. However, saccharides are usually hydrolysed by acids. Another possibility is the formation of a polymeric salt through the -OH groups which become charged -O- groups.

guaguanco - 28-10-2004 at 12:12

Originally posted by maniacdoug
I also love the smell and taste of black powder. I have a nasty habit of eating it occasionally, and believe me, black powder farts are VERY potent... (I found my own strangely addictive though)

You need to get out more.:)

A smell I like

chloric1 - 29-10-2004 at 08:46

THe comniation of lumber and Muriatic acid(conc HCl) is VERY pleasing to me. It has nice background odor and is pungent enough that you only want to sample sparingly!:P

garage chemist - 16-1-2005 at 08:47

I really like the smell of hydrogen phosphide, it reminds me of my first attempts at making phosphorus from sodium phosphate and aluminum powder (before I could buy red P).
The reaction was rather violent, but the residue didn't glow in the dark, there was a reddish sublimate on the glass though.
But on adding water, it smelled like PH3 very strongly.

Also, I totally like the smell of acetic acid. Its vapor is also an effective antidote when you've inhaled ammonia.

sparkgap - 16-1-2005 at 09:00

Damn. Smelled phosphine and lived to tell about it? Why not try arsine while you're at it?

Anyway, the best smelling chemicals for me are camphor, cinnamaldehyde, linalool and ethanol. The worst ones were the alkylamines I've had to handle in the lab...

UhhKaipShaltaBlet - 3-2-2005 at 12:23

I like vanila , Chlorobutanol , Acetone , Tuluole. And Acetone Peroxide smell. The worst - ChloroAcetone , Hydrogen Sulfide , HCl , NO2

Magpie - 3-2-2005 at 15:46

Don't put your nose up to a slighly warm flask of acetic acid/hydrochloric acid. :( You'd think I'd know better at my age.

JohnWW - 3-2-2005 at 16:35

I thought the worst-smelling compounds were H2Se, H2Te, H2Po, and, even worse, organic-substituted seleno- and telluro-mercaptans. Also very toxic, but the smell gives them away.

Darkfire - 3-2-2005 at 16:51

I bet H2O would even have a hell of a stink if we werent evolved in it.

neutrino - 3-2-2005 at 18:19

It think this thread is more about chemicals we have worked with and less about exotic super-nasty chemicals.

runlabrun - 4-2-2005 at 15:57

Darkfire: I think so to.... could you imagine the possibilities?

For me the worst would be butyric acid, i can stand most smells, so most of the mentioned compounds although i dislike the smell of i can stand them if i have to.... but vomit? come on now thats just rough....
The best smell would be ammonia for the fun value on repetition or vanillin... mmmm vanilla....


Synopsis - 4-2-2005 at 16:34

Sassafras oil smells great, wintergreen oil too is a good pick. Diethyl ether would my favorite solvent for that matter, I find it weird that none seems to like it as much. Someday I won't resist the temptation of taking a good sniff of the stuff ;). The worst thing I smelled would be hydrogen sulfide, cadaverin (1,4-diaminobutane, well named) and 2-allylsesamol. The latter really gives you an urge to vomit.

You must be kind of weird to like ammonia's smell. It stinks! And well, I pity you people that claims to like the smell HCl. Sounds more like a "I got the biggest dick" kind of talk. HCl *dosen't smell*, it burns! You can't smell it, with a negative pKA, it just reacts with all parts of your nose. Sniffing too much of it will make you unable to smell for the rest of your life...

Cyrus - 4-2-2005 at 17:17

I'm hurt, Synopsis. That cut me deep, man! :(

You obviously don't have a nose masculine or tough enough to handle and appreciate the smell of raw HCl! :D

Yes, I'm joking!

This post has not been edited.

[Edited on 5-2-2005 by Cyrus]

aludel - 5-2-2005 at 13:24

- ethanol (even better: a good single malt but that's a complex mixture)
- iodine

- good old H2S
- amyl alcohol/pentanol
- carbon disulfide
- bromine (although I like that in a weird way)
- How about kakodyl compounds As2(CH3)4 and analogs? I've never smelled them but any compound named after its smell must be overwhelming!

The stuff mentioned elsewhere, like certain tellurium compounds, is definitely on my whiff-list! If there is one thing hard to put to words, it's odour - you have to experience it yourself ;)

I am a fish - 8-2-2005 at 11:39

Originally posted by aludel
- iodine

- bromine (although I like that in a weird way)

Don't they smell very similar to you? I doubt I could tell the difference between the halogens by smell alone.

It is possible that you are merely used to smelling them in different concentrations? Bromine is much more volatile than iodine and so with similar conditions, far more of the vapour will reach your nose. The concentration of a substance can have a great effect on the desirability of its odour. (For example, many perfumes contain very small quantities of foul smelling substances.)

[Edited on 8-2-2005 by I am a fish]

JohnWW - 8-2-2005 at 13:40

indole is one such substance used in perfumes.

neutrino - 8-2-2005 at 14:33

Bromine and iodine smell very different to me. Iodine has this nice smell that is easy to smell at low concentrations. Bromine, on the other hand, doesn’t really have much of a smell. By the time you can smell it, it’s already stinging your nose quite strongly. This might, however be one of those things that anesthetizes your smell receptors at high concentrations (or maybe I’ve burned mine off by now).

Saerynide - 8-2-2005 at 19:12

I think they smell different as well. Iodine has a cleaner metallic smell (and it does kinda smell nice). Bromine is on the other hand, is nauseating and makes me wanna throw up.

Pyridine sticks

FloridaAlchemist - 11-2-2005 at 13:05

Pyridine stinks to high heaven:o

Skinflint - 11-2-2005 at 21:41

I don't appreciate the smell of iodine at all! Anyways, when I was dissolving steel wool in dilute HCl I took a wiff of the solution and was immediately greated with an absolutely horribly potent taste of rust in my mouth and in my sinus. I don't see how this was so awful, but It was by far my most unpleasant smell experienced in the lab. It was like drinking rusty water, but a hundred times worse. I still don't understand why it was so bad.

similarly I like the smell things that I have memories tied to like NH3, HCl, HNO3 and SO2. To most people these are revolting smells.

mycoguy - 17-2-2005 at 02:39

methane gas. worst, lol

neutrino - 17-2-2005 at 03:21

Methane is odorless. I think you’re thinking of the mercapitans they put in natural gas so you can detect a gas leak.
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