If I close my eyes and smell it I'm instantly happy.
October 4, 2011 5:42 PM   Subscribe

My German grandmother's laundry room always smelled amazing. Please help me figure out what it was that smelled so good so that I can surround my self in it.

I am an American but while I was growing up in Germany my babysitter was a sweet old lady who I called Oma.

In order to get to the back yard I always had to go through her laundry/mud room and it always smelled like some kind of soap. I would very much like to know what that soap was.

I have since lost contact with this delightful lady, so I can't just ask her (if she's even still alive.) I was hoping that the Europeans in the crowd would just know what this magic smelling substance is.

Details I know:

Oma and Opa lived in Sulzbach, Germany

Opa was a WW2 veteran, and I think Oma was a few years younger than him.

They lived in a rural house, not quite a farm but more rustic than urban.

The scent is very clean smelling. I've tried every "Clean Linen" and "Summer Cotton" fragrance candle, potpurri, and oil out there and I just can't find anything close.

In addition to knowing what this is, I'd really love to know where to buy it. I don't care if I have to save up to buy it! I have a deep emotional connection to this scent.
posted by TooFewShoes to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Probably not, but it's not just bleach, right?
posted by theredpen at 5:44 PM on October 4, 2011

Response by poster: Definitely not just bleach.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:49 PM on October 4, 2011

Lavender or sandalwood?
posted by Allee Katze at 5:51 PM on October 4, 2011

Have you smelled Persil? You might want to share an approximate year that you were growing up in Germany.
posted by Houstonian at 5:57 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Rose water?
posted by thatone at 6:01 PM on October 4, 2011

Seconding thatone and rose water: that was my own German grandmother's scent.....
posted by easily confused at 6:06 PM on October 4, 2011

Response by poster: Persil sounds promising. Any idea where I could find some in the States.

I was in Germany in the 80s.

It is not anything available as a simple scented oil or any other basic fragrance. I've tried 'em all.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:07 PM on October 4, 2011

Are you sure it's not a combination of things? It could be just one type of soap, but from the "clean linen" idea you had, maybe it's soap plus something like starch?
posted by xingcat at 6:07 PM on October 4, 2011

Response by poster: Also to clarify, this isn't what my grandma smelled like. She did wear something similar to rose water. This is the smell of the laundry room.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:09 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

might it be dreft?
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 6:15 PM on October 4, 2011

You can get Persil on Amazon. The lowest price is for a travel packet (5 loads for $8.99).
posted by Houstonian at 6:15 PM on October 4, 2011

Here's some more brands to try.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:32 PM on October 4, 2011

Here in Canada one can find Persil and other Eurosoap at import shops -- biggish Polish/German delis will sometimes have a little housewares section that carries European cleaners &c.

It's probably not it, but the first thing I thought of was Papier d'Arménie. It doesn't smell like soap but it's a 'clean' smell.
posted by kmennie at 6:43 PM on October 4, 2011

Nthing Persil. I have the same reaction to the smell - I think it smells fabulous, magnitudes better than the laundry soaps on offer in Canadian grocery stores. Oh, how I wish they would sell it widely in Canada!
posted by LN at 7:19 PM on October 4, 2011

Have you tried smelling linseed oil soap? It's old and traditionally found in European (including German) laundry rooms.
posted by sardonyx at 7:34 PM on October 4, 2011

Persil is a possibility, but I doubt it would leave such a noticeable smell (at least, whenever I use it in my washing machine, it does nothing to make my kitchen smell like Persil, nor do the clothes make my flat smell nice when they're drying on the rack). Coral or Perwoll, both used for hand-washing items that soak for a while, might be it a better bet.

I suggest you take a trip to Germany, head directly to a Rossmann or Schlecker store, and covertly sniff every cleaning product you can.
posted by cmonkey at 9:53 PM on October 4, 2011

I too think it's a combination of something like Persil and the starching product.
Persil is imported into the USA but according to wikipaedia

"Upscale German appliance manufacturer, Miele, acts as a direct importer of Henkel's Persil products into Canada and the United states, where they can only be purchased at licensed appliance dealers. It is marketed as a premium German import that is the "officially recommended" detergent for its washing machines. Due to this exclusive importation status and specialty positioning at appliance dealerships, it retails for up to $40/box CAD. Specialty importers also exist in the U.S"
posted by Wilder at 11:53 PM on October 4, 2011

I love the smell of ironing. Now I want to check out what Persil smells like.
posted by theora55 at 11:55 PM on October 4, 2011

Persil likely is involved, maybe Sil (stain remover, bleach) and curd soap aswell.
posted by wft at 1:04 AM on October 5, 2011

It could be spray starch. It's the smell I've come to associate with laundry rooms here in Norway. I have no idea what brands were sold in Germany when you were a kid, though...
posted by Harald74 at 2:16 AM on October 5, 2011

Harald74: you may have a point - Hoffmann's is a brand well known in Germany, and it's been around for ages!

(Sorry for the german language links... they're not available in english I'm afraid!)
posted by wft at 5:11 AM on October 5, 2011

I guess it was a fabric softener (Weichspüler). I'd bet on Lenor - there's a ton of varieties but maybe one of those.
posted by hat_eater at 5:21 AM on October 5, 2011

I'm gload someone else thinks of stuff like this. But... you might be out of luck with Persil anyway (if the UK version smells like the German one):

A change of perfume.
A rationale.

A few other things spring to mind: washing was often done at a much higher temperature in the 1980s, with 60C not being unusual if I remember, and tumble-drying much rarer, so you might need to try letting any laundry dry on an airer to see if it changes the smell.

I'm not sure if non-enzymatic washing powder was the norm in 1980s Germany, but I do know that washing smell of my early 80's childhood is captured by Fairy Non-bio a product which didn't even exist until 1989.
posted by cromagnon at 7:09 AM on October 5, 2011

Response by poster: You guys are awesome! I'm going to have to spend a little money and do a little sleuthing before I can mark best answers.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:20 AM on October 5, 2011

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