What's something that can overwhelm and negate your sense of smell?
February 5, 2018 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Basically I'm wondering if there's anything out there that, if you wore it close to your nose, has such a strong smell that it temporarily negates all other smells. But isn't like smelling salts where it's impossible to have near you for extended periods. Like garlic maybe? Does such a thing exist?
posted by rileyray3000 to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Vicks is pretty good at this. You can just shove it right in your nostrils.
posted by phunniemee at 2:19 PM on February 5, 2018 [17 favorites]

Do you mean like the trick of putting Vicks in your nostrils or mask when working with awful biological decay smells?
posted by cobaltnine at 2:20 PM on February 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Vicks VapoRub is commonly used for this. But I've also had good results from lavender oil (when someone had puked in the car and we had several hours left to go). Right below the nose, or in the nostrils if it's really bad.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:22 PM on February 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Tiger Balm - menthol seems to be the relevant ingredient
posted by The Toad at 2:24 PM on February 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Nthing Vicks. It's what is used in morgues and with decomp sites.

Also my grandfather drew the "modern" label for Vicks VapoRub from his draftsmen's desk at an ad agency in the Empire State Building in the 1940s.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:36 PM on February 5, 2018 [72 favorites]

The people at Nilodor talk a bit about this.
posted by clawsoon at 2:43 PM on February 5, 2018

In a Lush store or a candle store, employees sometimes suggest for customers to "smell their sleeve" between smelling candles or bath products. The laundry smell of your sleeve is meant to be some kind of olfactory palate cleanser that seems to help an overwhelmed sense of smell regain equilibrium.
posted by unstrungharp at 2:45 PM on February 5, 2018

peppermint oil is also commonly used for stinky situations in healthcare. put it on your upper lip, do NOT get it in your nose because it burns like a mofo.
posted by genmonster at 2:47 PM on February 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Perfume counters have coffee beans for smelling between scents.
posted by hydrobatidae at 2:59 PM on February 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

I once toured a tannery in Morocco; they had all the tourists hold a sprig of mint under their noses while they walked around. It wasn't as effective as Vick's might have been, but it definitely helped.
posted by whodatninja at 2:59 PM on February 5, 2018

Flight attendants use coffee when a plane is really smelly. I've heard of them rubbing paper towels dipped in coffee along the overhead bins - though this was years ago.
posted by Mid at 3:05 PM on February 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is also what urinal cakes (are supposed to) do.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:05 PM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

A dab of perfume right under the nose does the trick for me (although you have to be careful you're not allergic to the scent or you'll be miserable for different reasons).
posted by rpfields at 3:25 PM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's said that the stereotype of the cigar-chomping big-city detective came from the fact that NYPD detectives back in the day all smoked cheap stogies to overwhelm the awful smells of murder scenes.
posted by ROTFL at 3:36 PM on February 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

When I was pregnant and very sensitive to smell orange peel worked to keep me from (dry)heaving around trigger smells.
posted by lafemma at 3:38 PM on February 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Unscented Febreeze apparently prevents your nose from smelling, instead of covering up the smells with a different, stronger smell. I don't know if it's safe to use on skin, but you can spray it on walls. Available at your local big box store.
posted by wnissen at 3:40 PM on February 5, 2018

Peppermint oil.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:59 PM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I suppose you could try spraying Zero Odor spray on a cotton ball and sniffing it (I'm not sure this is advisable on health grounds), but what I do when I need sensory regulation for smells is to chew a strongly-scented mint gum (currently using Extra peppermint gum), as suggested on the Autistic Flappy Hour podcast episode about sensory issues.
posted by Lexica at 4:40 PM on February 5, 2018

The smell of rotten potatoes (on the order of 50lb+, and we're talking, real rotten. Closer to liquid than not) will overwhelm your sinuses and stick with you for the better part of two days.

Oh, and you'll probably barf.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:05 PM on February 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Vicks blocks pheronomes too. People put it around the nostrils of intact male animals for this purpose.
posted by fshgrl at 5:06 PM on February 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Skunk spray.
posted by littlewater at 5:30 PM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Intense manure odor, e.g. from a coop or barn that very badly needs a spring cleaning.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:36 PM on February 5, 2018

Honestly I think any scent that isn’t harmful at high densities qualifies. Smells seem to swamp each other easily, that’s why there’s lots of different good answers above.

It’s not like timbre, where you can hear one trumpet playing with a hundred violins. It’s more like you can’t read anything with a bright light shined in your eye, or for a few beats after being dazzled by a strong camera flash.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:49 PM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Having used it during my anatomy lab when the cadaver at the table next to mine wasn’t properly preserved and smelled of decomp for weeks, I can assure you that Vicks gets you about 95% of the way there.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:35 PM on February 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Nthing Vicks.
posted by amro at 6:58 PM on February 5, 2018

Hong Kong mothers swear by White Flower Oil, which works on a similar principal to Vicks and similar ingredients, but is more menthol and also a liquid and not a solid. It's available on Amazon or any Chinese dry goods store in the US. It got me through the super smeller phase of my pregnancy.

Ben Gay also does this, too.
posted by joyceanmachine at 4:16 AM on February 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

+1 Vicks VapoRub
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:16 AM on February 6, 2018

Burnt popcorn
posted by ctmf at 8:48 PM on February 7, 2018

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