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Author: Subject: Best and worst smelling chemicals?
Jdurg
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H2Se/SeO2: HORRIFIC! They smell like rotted radishes mixed with rotted eggs. Thankfully, I only smelled small remnants of the gases that leached out of the freshly created red selenium I had made. The human nose is VERY adept at smelling these gases so in concentrations far, far below any toxic level you can typically smell them. However, they also numb your sense of smell so you need to ensure there is good ventillation.

Arsine: Smells like rotted garlic. Got a small whiff of it during my toxicology lab in college. Only a tiny little bit from when an arsine generator was accidentally uncapped outside of a fume hood.

Amyl Alcohol: Smells like rotted fish that got mixed with vomit.

Bromine: Smells like a skunk that took a bath in a bottle of bleach.

\"A real fart is beefy, has a density greater than or equal to the air surrounding it, consists of the unmistakable scent of broccoli, and usually requires wiping afterwards.\"
Douchermann
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Hmmm, Methylamine smells like hexamine but stronger, which smells like pussy (sometimes)

Best would have to be either nitrobenzene or nitrotoluene, Amyl/butyl nitrite, Ethyl bromide, or freshly prepared phenol

Worst:

MEKP. It got stuck in my drain and I smelled it for months in my basement (when I used to have my lab down there).

Boiled Urine - Getting the ammonium sodium biphosphate out of urine to attempt to prepare elemental phosphorus. I later learned that you need very hot temperatures haha.

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YT2095
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Alyl Isothiocyanate has to be one of the worst Ive encountered, it really pushes your limits between drop everything and run or be a Man and stay there.

the actual Smell isnt that bad, a bit like the heart of a cabbage, but the effect is well harsh!

think Horse radish or Wasabi paste.

\"In a world full of wonders mankind has managed to invent boredom\" - Death
Twinkies don\'t have a shelf life. They have a half-life! -Caine (a friend of mine)
woelen

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 Quote: H2Se/SeO2: HORRIFIC!

Jdurg, I have some SeO2 (from an old GDR lab), and it definitely is not a gas . SeO2 is a white crystalline solid and does not have a strong smell. It IS very poisonous though.

My worst smell is HN3. It is not the smell itself, but the effect it has on my body. It makes all alarms ring and whistle . When I smell some HN3, it gives a strong sense of fear/terror, which is not pleasant at all. VERY peculiar. I know many other bad smelling chems like NH3, Cl2, H2S, and many more, but the most striking of HN3 (at least for me) is the fear, which it induces in my body. However, when the smell is gone, then the fear also is gone.

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garage chemist
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Interesting! I can say that HN3 has a very comparable effect on me: it strongly accelerates my heartbeat about ten seconds after I've smelled it, and in larger doses also causes cold sweating. It smells pungent and stings in the nose, but also in the lungs. The stinging in the lungs is most alarming, as it still persists for some time even after the effects on the heart have worn off.

My new worst smelling chemical is pyridine. In very high dilution, the smell reminds me of my old chemistry set, which is very strange since it wasn't involved in any of the experiments.
More concentrated, the smell is just sickening.

The odor of pyridine is unbelievably strong. My mom complained of a bad smell when she was sitting in the garden (ten meters away from my garage) and I didn't even do an experiment with pyridine! I only briefly opened the bottle the day before to check the smell.
When I brought the bottle to her, she said that the smell was coming from it. I didn't smell any pyridine on the outside of the bottle, but she did.

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Magpie
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When I first took organic chemistry I was just amazed at all the smells. On the reagent shelf one day was some allyl alcohol. This had a heavy, seductive-but-repulsive smell which I never forgot. It is on my to-do list to synthesize it just so I can smell it again.

School labs all seem to have a similar characteristic smell to me. Especially the organic labs. I often wondered what was the root cause, if any. I think I know now: bromine and bromine compounds. They seem to hang around, probably imbedded in the glassware, and the woodwork.

The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem
Zinc
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My favourite smell is the smell of nitrobenzene.
ethan_c
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i had the fortune to get my paws on a fair amount of chloroform recently.
and BOY do i love the smell. call me nuts, but it's true. not concentrated, of course, but just the wafting odor of it.

i discovered this joy when i was putting stuff in the dumpster at work after the lab had dumped the glass jugs of the stuff we get from Fisher into the 55-gallon drums they are stored in. there was a small amount of evaporating fluid in each glass jug, and i try to scavenge the containers to hold various caustic and unpleasant chemicals i come across. you can guess at the rest of the story.

try it. honestly. you wont pass out if you're careful. you might swoon from happiness, however.
The_Davster
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Trans-1,2,cyclobutanedicarboxylic acid smells pretty good if you don't smell at too close a range, wafting from 4" away smells exactly like the powder from those 'pixie sticks' (I think, or some other similar candy). At closer range the sweetish smell is overpowering.

Jdurg
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Quote:
Originally posted by woelen
 Quote: H2Se/SeO2: HORRIFIC!

Jdurg, I have some SeO2 (from an old GDR lab), and it definitely is not a gas . SeO2 is a white crystalline solid and does not have a strong smell. It IS very poisonous though.

My worst smell is HN3. It is not the smell itself, but the effect it has on my body. It makes all alarms ring and whistle . When I smell some HN3, it gives a strong sense of fear/terror, which is not pleasant at all. VERY peculiar. I know many other bad smelling chems like NH3, Cl2, H2S, and many more, but the most striking of HN3 (at least for me) is the fear, which it induces in my body. However, when the smell is gone, then the fear also is gone.

My bad. I know that there was some combination of gases leading to the odor and didn't think it was just pure H2Se. Made the false assumption that SeO2 was just like SO2.

Azotic acid probably should induce a response of fear in you. That stuff is worse than hydrogen cyanide, if memory serves me right, in terms of ability to make you dead.

\"A real fart is beefy, has a density greater than or equal to the air surrounding it, consists of the unmistakable scent of broccoli, and usually requires wiping afterwards.\"
Vitus_Verdegast
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 Quote: Azotic acid probably should induce a response of fear in you. That stuff is worse than hydrogen cyanide, if memory serves me right, in terms of ability to make you dead.

IIRC, the LD50 and the mechanism of action (permanently binding to and inhibiting cytochrome c oxidase) were the same as for prussic acid.

Funny thing is that in many labs alkali metal cyanides seem to be stored under lock and key and its usage well watched upon, while sodium azide is regarded upon as just another common reagent.

 Quote: My new worst smelling chemical is pyridine. In very high dilution, the smell reminds me of my old chemistry set, which is very strange since it wasn't involved in any of the experiments.

When I was young I always used along with my chemistry set this hardware store type of denatured alcohol, which is coloured blue and contains pyridine derivatives. The sickening smell lingered everywhere in my room and stayed in my clothes for days.

Sic transit gloria mundi
YT2095
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NH2(CH2)4NH2 and NH2(CH2)5NH2

respectively called Putrescine and Cadaverine, Yes, the stench of rotting flesh.

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JohnWW
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How about some seleno- and telluro-mercaptans, especially highly unsaturated ones like allyl hydroselenide (C3H3SeH) and diallyl selenide ((C3H3)2Se)? They would have much stronger smells than H2Se, and the corresponding sulfur compounds. Also hydrogen telluride, noting that telluro-mercapto-compounds would be much less volatile than the S and Se ones. And I wonder about indole and skatole with added -SH and -SeH groups, and similarly substituted putrescine and cadaverine.

When I was doing Chemistry at university, in one year, 1969, I was employed as a part-time technician. One day, I accidentally loosened the cap, sealed with wax, of a bottle in a chemical storage room in the basement of the building which contained a mercaptan - ethane-1,2-dihydrosullfide, (CH2SH)2, I think it was. In spite of retightening the cap as I put the bottle back on the shelf, hours later there was a powerful smell of garlic, which led to a search for the source of the smell. I wonder if this particular mercaptan is, in fact, found in garlic oil, along with the main constituents, allyl hydrosulfide and diallyl sulfide.
garage chemist
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@Vitus: I wish I had ethanol denatured with pyridines!
Because its "renaturation" would consist in simply adding a small amount of H2SO4 until the smell disappears and distilling the now pyridine- free ethanol.
Pyridine is a basic compound and forms odorless salts with acids.

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Vitus_Verdegast
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garage chemist:

I saw this type of denatured alcohol in more than one EU country. I'm pretty sure they should have it in Germany too, it is called "brennspiritus".

My bottle says 85% ethanol, denaturants are methanol, MEK, pyridines and blue dye.

It's five times cheaper than the ethanol denatured with ether that I buy from the pharmacy, so I ought to give your suggestion a try.

EDIT:
I just acidified some spiritus w dil H2SO4 and the smell lessened alot but it's still not completely gone. It also turned colourless.

On a similar note I've heard that the lower alkali alkylthiolates also retain some of the thiol smell. Perhaps it is the same with pyridine/picoline salts?

[Edited on 14-7-2006 by Vitus_Verdegast]

Sic transit gloria mundi
len
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This is what the 'Hazardous Chemicals Desk Refernce, Fifth ed.' in our library has to say on hydrazoic acid:

Poison by intraperitoneal route. Mildly toxic by inhalation. A
severe irritant to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.
Continuous inhalation causes central nervous system
problems in humans (changes in EEG, somnolence, cough,
headache, change in heart rate). High concetrations can
cause fatal convoltions.

(on the latter point so can chlorine)

For comparison here's what it says on hydrocyanic acid:

A deadly human and experimental poison by all routes.
HCN and the cyanides are true protoplasmic poisons,
combining with the enzymes associated with cellular
oxidation. In cases of acute cyanide poisoning death is
extremely rapid, although sometimes breathing may
continue for a few minutes.
nitro-genes
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n-butanoic acid and pyridine are among the worst that we have in the lab...

In contrast to many people I do like the smell of DMSO though. It isn't because it is a particular good smell, but it resembles the smell of sea algae and plants, it reminding me of all the vacations at the sea we had when I was a kid...
Bromine
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ethly formiate smells pretty good to me. I think the worst is methyl merkaptane and i dont like smell of formic acid too, it is horrible.

[Edited on 8-9-2006 by Bromine]

franklyn
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Chemicals? We don't need no stinking chemicals!

I like the smell of cut lumber in the morning, newly mowed grass, citrus,
methylethyl ketone, Ozone, Ozium air freshener which is aerosolized
Triethylene Glycol and Propylene Glycol
http://www.walgreens.com/popups/s_image.jsp?id=prod1098956
http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brand...
Perifresh - http://www.dermarite.com/perifreshphoto2.htm
Don't know what the fragrance is but it is quite special

Methyl mecaptan is the denaturing agent included in natural gas to warn of its
presence before the odorless methane can reach explosive concentration in air.
Mercaptans have the -SH radical which can be smelled at far lower concentration
than anything else known. I've wondered what the chlorinated version CCl3SH
might smell like. Chloropicrin CCl3NO2 the chlorinated nitroform of methane is an
emetic inducing nausea and retching.

The sense of smell alone must be distinguished from other physiological effects
associated with a substance particularly those that are harmful. Repeated injurious
insult to olfactory receptors destroys the sense of smell so that one becomes not
just desensitized but devoid of the ability to smell altogether. The danger then is
in not having a forewarning of something in the air. Warfare chemical agents are
particularly insidious in this regard. 80 % of gas casualties in the first world war
were from phosgene inhalation. This is because it has a pleasant newly mowed hay
odor, and given the putrid smell of the trenches would be rather a welcome change.
The ethereal germanium smell of nitrogen mustard gas or the peach blossom odor
of Prussic acid gas ( hydrogen cyanide ) belies their ability to quickly kill you. This
was the method of choice used by Bulgarian assassins in the employ of the Soviet KGB.
Amyl nitrite itself rather sweet if administered with pure oxygen will expel the HCN
http://www.vectorsite.net/twgas1.html

For unmitigated vile stench nothing beats US military research
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/01/0107_020107T...
The importance and correct use of a gas mask is incisively conveyed to US army
recruits by subjecting them to riot gas. CN is chloracetophenone, Mace is CS
o-chlorobenzyllidene malononitrile , both are lachrymators hence are known as tear gas.
The next step up in unpleasantness would be DM or Adamsite which is diphenyl
chorarsine a vicious emetic ( vomiting ) agent. Escalation of effects from here on
results in maiming or death. The premiere blister agent is CX phosgene oxime , this
causes immediate stinging pain to all exposed tissue. Methyl isocyanate is similar
in effect but not as potent, accidental industrial release of this caused a few
thousand casualties in Bhopal India over 20 years ago.

.
Chemguy
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I like Ethyl acetate smell, it smells like sweet fruits, and when you smell it it kind of burns your nose but not in a bad way, like menthol lollies but sweet and fruity.

I hate the smell of bromine mixed with chlorine. So strong.

Jdurg
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I used to enjoy the odor of ethyl acetate, but after working in a lab for a few months where I used a ton of it each and every day my body became kind of sensitized to it. Now whenever I smell it I get a vicious headache.

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triphenylphosphineoxide
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^^^
I have the same thing with acetone. Once upon a time I loved its smell but after using it 5 days out of seven for three years it literally makes me nauseous.
12AX7
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They all smell like solvents to me. Methyl, ethyl, isopropyl alcohol; acetone, 2-butanone, ethyl acetate, diethyl ether, various alkanes (though ligroin smells distinctively of rubber cement rather than generic solvents), etc.

Tim

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5
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Most mercaptains send me running- ( although some nitrogen derivitives also have their moments.)
indigofuzzy
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I hope it's ok to post before I read all of these....

Best smelling chemicals: Methyl Salicylate, Vinyl, and whatever fresh copper clad circuit boards smell like
Worst: the jury is still out... whatever chemical makes old people smell stale and musky.