sugar and spice and everything nice - how to make the scent without the food?
April 20, 2010 10:01 AM   Subscribe

How do I create a vanilla sugar scent?

I've stopped using fabric softener, and instead am using vinegar (as a softener) and (for scent) spraying the clothes with homemade fabric scent (I put essential oil drops in water).

I'd love to reach the scent of vanilla sugar for my fabric scent. I've tried using vanilla essence, but it comes out smelling like a vanilla car tree (and I really don't like those).

I know that there are soaps that smell like food - so there must be a way to create food smells (without the food). How is it done? How do I put together a fabric scent that smells like vanilla sugar?
posted by mirileh to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can shop at someplace like Brambleberry, which caters to the boutique soap and cosmetics manufacturer and hobbyists. They have fantastic scents, and unlike most other suppliers, they have very small sizes. (The link goes directly to the fragrance oil I think you want.)

Vanilla sugar scent can only be created using fragrance oils. The oil may have vanillin in it, but to get the sweet "sugar" smell, you need the good chemists over at IFF.

Also, your best bet for getting scent in the dryer without using dryer sheets is to sprinkle a few drops of your essential oils or fragrance oils onto a washcloth, and throw that in the dryer with the damp load. Voila, home made dryer sheet.

Vanillin scents will spoil faster than many others; I recommend that you start with a small 1 or 2 ounce bottle and see how long it lasts.
posted by dejah420 at 10:10 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

dejah420, thanks for the links, though what I really want is to find out how to make the scent on my own.
posted by mirileh at 10:31 AM on April 20, 2010

Here's the reaction scheme for ethylvanillin synthesis.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

A vanilla sugar scent is an aroma compound consisting of vanillin and Ethyl maltol. As well, the compounds are put in a stable base which will preserve the aroma compounds, which are notoriously short lived otherwise.

Ethyl maltol is going to be difficult for you to procure, especially in small amounts. Chemicals like that are generally sold only to qualified chemists and in 55 gallon barrels.

The trick here is the sugar scent. If all you want is vanilla scent, then go buy some good madagascar vanilla bourbon (it's not a booze, it's a type of vanilla) and sprinkle a 1/4 teaspoon on a damp washcloth. If you got a fake vanilla scent with the stuff you used, the odds are it was imitation vanilla. (A surprisingly high-counterfeit ingredient...vanilla.)

My point is this: without a chemistry lab, a formula and a supplier, you cannot create a vanilla sugar scent for less that what it would cost you to buy it from a known, tested, and product-liability-insured supplier.
posted by dejah420 at 11:14 AM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Thanks again, but my question is really a DIY quest. I'm not trying to beat anyone, but make it on my own. If you can shed light on the matter, it would be great.
posted by mirileh at 11:27 AM on April 20, 2010

Ok...I just told you how it was made. vanillin, ethyl maltol, in a glycerin or similar base. That is the only way to get a sugar smell in a fragrance.
posted by dejah420 at 11:42 AM on April 20, 2010

Ethyl maltol is going to be difficult for you to procure, especially in small amounts. Chemicals like that are generally sold only to qualified chemists and in 55 gallon barrels.

Nahhhh... You can get a 100 g quantity from Sigma for $50 (it's even kosher!). I've never tried ordering from Sigma as a private individual, but I have friends who have started their own companies and they tell me that opening an account with them was easy. I don't know if you'd need to incorporate first or if they will sell to non-corporate entities.

You can get vanillin and ethylvanillin there, too.

Here's a guide to the synthesis of vanillin, starting from 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde. It involves a bromination step, so you're going to need a fume hood. Methods for ethyl maltol synthesis are under patent; here's one.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:52 PM on April 20, 2010

I've purchased from Sigma, and they did require my business tax id. Your mileage may vary.

It's important to note that if you decide to start playing with the ethyls that you wear a vapor-certified respirator mask (N95+). Seriously important. As well, your gloves need to be chemically stable/certified for working with those types of chemicals. Kitchen rubber gloves won't cut it. Also eye protection. Ethyls can be absorbed through the skin and soft membranes.

It's also important to note that the disposal of this chemical requires professional management, according to federal environmental law. The MSDS states: Dissolve or mix the material with a combustible solvent and burn in a chemical incinerator equipped with an afterburner and scrubber.

This is why manufacturers buy the oils already premade. Most of us do not have the lab facilities to manufacture fragrance oils, nor are we set up to dispose of the components.

Making your own seems like a very bad idea. It's a dangerous proposition, and I really, really, REALLY recommend against it, unless you have a very strong background in chemistry, and have a good safe area for working with aromatic compounds.
posted by dejah420 at 2:34 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

And for the record, I am generally someone who will help anyone with any DIY project, especially anything to do with soaps, fragrances, essential oils, etc. Distilling your own essential oil? Glad to help. Creating your own vanilla vodka for use in recipes? All over it. Making mineral makeup, hand crafted fabric softeners, organic hand sanitizers, real soap and melt and pour soap...hell, I'll give you my recipes.

But this? This is a bad idea.
posted by dejah420 at 2:37 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Melissa Oil (aka Lemon Balm) is an essential oil that supposedly has a sweet smell. It probably also smells lemony, but you could try it with natural vanilla and see if you get a sweet + vanilla odor. The lemon might work -- it could be like a lemon curd or custard.

Some more searching indicates that there are many essential oils that are described as smelling sweet, e.g. "owyhee" on this page, macadamia nut as described over here, Mandarin, and more. So maybe determining the sweetest smelling essential oil that has the fewest other notes would work for you; you could mix it with vanilla.

Perhaps someone who's smelled a lot of essential oils knows which one has the sweetest, sugariest smell. It's tough to tell from the descriptions. Where's that internet smell-o-vision?
posted by sentient at 6:08 PM on April 20, 2010

Also, looks like you can get 5 ml of ethyl maltol crystals for $3.00 from here.

The instructions just say to dissolve in grain alcohol and enjoy. (And everything online is true, so...)

This perfume making blog talks about using maltol.
posted by sentient at 6:37 PM on April 20, 2010

thank you, sentient! that is totally the directioin I'm looking for!
posted by mirileh at 11:22 PM on April 20, 2010

oy, direction not directioin ;-]
posted by mirileh at 11:25 PM on April 20, 2010

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