For a project at school, a room where you can change the smell easily (in order to make you feel like you were on a mountain, in the city, or in a stable), I need some material which "stores" smell the best.

If any of you also have an idea how I can change the smell in a room the easiest way, that would also be good! (I thought of wool (with the smell) which gets blown from behind with a fan to "blow the smell" into the room.)

  • 1
    It is unclear what you are actually asking and trying to do, please refine your question to make it more clear.
    – MrPhooky
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 12:34
  • I hope you now can understand what I am asking.!
    – asparagus
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 6:00
  • Voted to reopen, might be the first question I've ever seen on this entire site that could legitimately call for a real life hack of some sort, and it's totally clear. Also +1 for the highly appropriate username. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 18:43
  • @asparagus Do you have to "store" all of the smells? For example, for some of the more "convenient" smells like, say, grass, can you use actual grass, or something that smells like it? Or do you have to capture it in something else? I.e. how flexible are your options? Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 22:43
  • I think I have to store all of the smells. Mixing some chemical stuff would be too complicated (I think) in order to "fool" the user that he can't differentiate between the "fake" and the REAL smell. But when it's possible to create a convincing smell, that would also fit. (I think that the problem here is that people easily recognize a fake/synthetic sell (real flower vs candle), or can it really be that convincing?)
    – asparagus
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 8:19

3 Answers 3


Smells are (sometimes complex) mixtures of chemicals, but I don't know anything about chemistry and don't have much advice there.

But, in general, your approach could be to try and find various combinations of things that smell like what you're looking for, possibly through experimenting. In some cases you might even be able to use the item itself. This is assuming you can't find a way to store smells (maybe somebody else will have an answer for that). For example:

  • Sometimes you may be able to get the actual item that smells. If you can find a container that allows air to pass through but not the material itself you can put a fan behind it. For example, put a bunch of grass clippings in a fine mesh bag (examples: strainer bags, filter bags, wrapped in cheesecloth, etc., or take a trip to the local fabric shop and see if there's a fine mesh fabric you can use). To enhance the smell:

    • Consider crushing, grinding, smashing, etc. the material, if applicable. For example, finely chop the grass, or use a mortar and pestle, or crush a bag of it under a rolling pin or something (or heck, run it over with a car), etc.
    • Store it in an airtight bag until you're actually ready to use it, to preserve the odors as long as possible.
  • In certain cases, such as if the item is a liquid, you may be able to boil it on the spot with a portable stove. For these types of materials you either wouldn't want a fan (let it fill up the room), or put the fan in a location that isn't going to interfere with the boiling. (Btw, if you're fortunate enough to have access to a good portable induction cooktop, nothing will beat that in terms of safety, convenience, and efficiency).

  • The thing I think you might have the most luck with is: Incenses, oils, and scented candles. If you have an incense or candle shop around, go check it out. All of these are very convenient to use, good at dissipating smells into the air, and most usefully, a lot of candles especially are already formulated to emulate certain smells. Incense is generally very cheap, candles unfortunately can get a little pricey sometimes. You'll want to experiment, possibly with combinations, to make sure the smell is accurate and also not too "fake" smelling or cloying (unless that's your goal). In this case a tiny fan (especially with incense) can help distribute the smell more quickly. Anecdotally, I've found that one of the biggest triggers for thinking a smell is fake is if the smell is too strong, so you may have to come up with a way to control its distribution, for example by venting in fresh air to dilute the smell, or by lighting a candle only for a short while, etc.

As for experiments, watch out for olfactory fatigue during testing, as well as drying out your sinuses. Also, you might want to have another person or two give you their opinions. Others' opinions can be valuable here. I'd structure any tests with other people by stating what environment they should imagine themselves in (or just setting it up around them) then asking them what they smell. For example: "You are in a cave in the middle of a forest, it is slightly humid, cool, and dark, you hear the sound of a stream bubbling nearby and the wind whistling past the entrance. Describe what you smell."

If you just say "Hey does this smell like grass?" you run the risk of severely biasing their response. If you just say "What does this smell like?" you may get some strange results as smells can get weird with no context.

Hopefully this gives you some good starting ideas, or is at least somewhat helpful. Sounds like an interesting project. Good luck!


Probably the faster way to distribute a smell into a room is to vaporize it.

Easiest I think, is to try to store it as a liquid and heat it, when needed to create gas out of it. Blow the gas though the room using a fan or hair dryer(extra heat) or something. Maye the room air-tight as possible (but think of oxygen.

Cool project, by the way


Something like this was done for the Odorama version of the John Waters movie Polyester and few a (very) few others under the name "Smell-o-Vision": the movies used a card distributed to viewers with their tickets, which contained several small "scratch and sniff" patches, with cue panels on the screen to tell viewers when to scratch and sniff a particular panel.

This worked surprisingly well (I've seen Polyester in this form), but the scratch and sniff panels aren't easy to obtain or produce (they use microencapsulated liquids to provide the odors). Something similar could be done with small vials of liquid scent, closed by mechanically or manually operated stoppers, mounted in front of a fan blowing into the room. On cue for a particular scent, open the matching vial, and voila, everyone in the room smells what they're supposed to.

To clear the scents before the next one, a combination of exhaust fan and a "neutral" scent like various commercial scent maskers could be used.

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