What's that stuff?
February 20, 2003 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Did you know what's behind that "new car smell"?
These apparently.
"What's that Stuff" explores the chemistry of everyday stuff.
posted by talos (12 comments total)
Styrene and phenol, the workhorses of modern Chemistry. (I'm an engineer at a phenol chemical plant.)
posted by The Jesse Helms at 6:46 AM on February 20, 2003

Wow, the information at What's that Stuff is really well presented. It's interestingly written, but not so technical (I am definitely not an enginner at a phenol chemical plant) that I glaze over like Neal Pollack reading about a potential war in Iraq.

I'm particularly enjoying the section about hair color, as changing mine is one of my favorite hobbies.
posted by jennyb at 6:55 AM on February 20, 2003

what is febreze? (™ ® etc etc) this stuff is great! didn't get your laundry done, and all you've got is a wadded up musty smelling shirt from last week to wear? febreze will fix you right up. college age aquaintences tell me febreze is more popular in the dorms than beer! i recently cleaned 6 months of accumulated pop cans and discarded fast food packages out of my tracker when it became obvious that something organic had gone south under all the mess. removal of the debris only made the moldy, dead-mouse-like stench worse. a few shots of febreze and now my vehicle smells yummy fresh. but how does it work? the "how it works" page on the website is about as useful as those old excedrin ads showing the cause of headache to be a small hammer beating the inside of one's skull. can any chemistry majors fill me in?

(procter & gamble, please remit via paypal.)
posted by quonsar at 7:39 AM on February 20, 2003

Also, how come used car dealers seem to be able to purchse concentrated new-car smell but Autozone and Pep Poys never sell anything but mango-banana-cherry?
posted by jfuller at 8:09 AM on February 20, 2003

Jfuller, Like you I would love to know the answer to your question. When I was growing up I knew this guy whose family owned a car dealership. He mentioned to me that they would spray an aerosol that did a good job of recreating that "New Car Smell".
posted by kingcatdaddy at 8:35 AM on February 20, 2003

Thanks for the interesting post. I followed it through to discover that I’ve been avoiding sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) in my shampoo because of an urban legend. It’s sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) that has a reputation for being overly harsh. Ah, I can scrub my locks safely now. Except … manufacturers put SLS in my toothpaste …
posted by win_k at 9:31 AM on February 20, 2003


Oh, wait - no it doesn't. Carry on.
posted by yhbc at 9:43 AM on February 20, 2003

Neat site - I didn't know artificial tanning creams worked through the same process that makes beer brown.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:46 AM on February 20, 2003

I'd like a can or two guv'nor.
posted by riffola at 9:54 AM on February 20, 2003

>… manufacturers put SLS in my toothpaste …

that's to make your teeth soft, silky and more manageable. Also reduces static cling.
posted by jfuller at 11:10 AM on February 20, 2003

Meguiar's car care products makes a vinyl cleaner that smells new-carish to me. The smell doesn't seem to last very long, though.
posted by allpaws at 11:17 AM on February 20, 2003

New cars smell like dead people.

No really. The best first date I ever had was in a cadaver lab (long story), and the cadavers had a very distinctive odor. A few weeks later I went with a friend who was car shopping. I was hit with a familiar smell when I stuck my head in to a brand new Saturn. The new car smell smelled just like the cadavers! I suspect the preservative used on the car's leathers and plastics is the same (or very similar) to the preservatives used on the cadavers.
posted by gruchall at 3:03 PM on February 20, 2003

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