Article by Michael C. Corrigan
Removing the 'Mask' from eliminator sprays Do scent-elimination sprays really work?
In response to the articles I prepared regarding activated-carbon hunting garments, a few readers requested that I prepare an article that would tackle whether or not scent-elimination sprays work to eliminate or reduce human odors. A few readers even requested that I explain how they work and what chemistry involved.
The problem that I ran into almost immediately had to do with finding out exactly what the active ingredient(s) are in the different brands of scent elimination sprays. It seems like every time a new cookie hits the market, the recipe for it eventually lands on the Internet.
You would think sooner or later a recipe for a scent elimination spray would become available to the average Joe. Well it just so happens that I have one for you, but before I provide a list of ingredients, I’ll try to explain how some of the scent elimination spray products work.
Unfortunately, the recipe of each product is a rather closely guarded proprietary secret. Without knowing exactly what the ingredient(s) are and their concentrations, I’m sure that I will never be able to provide a definitive answer to the question: “Do they work or not?”
However, I can say that odor-eliminating agents have been around for a long time and have been used heavily in the sewage treatment industry.
Baking soda or Sodium Bicarbonate has been used for years in several odor eliminating spray products. Type in the words “Odor Control” in your favorite Internet search engine and you will see that this is big business. There are many different compounds and formulas for sale that will control foul odors, through many different physical and chemical mechanisms.
One way to find out exactly what is in the many odor-elimination spray products is to do some reverse engineering. For instance, you can take the product to a local lab and have a detailed chemical analysis performed on it. Be advised, this could be costly, so I don’t recommend it.
However, this is what the makers of Xtreme Scents did prior to entering into the scent-elimination spray market.
The Extreme Scents folks set out to figure out what the other guys were doing, so they could develop a better product. What they found was that most (about 95 percent) of the odor-elimination sprays on the market primarily contain baking soda and water.
Baking soda, also known as Sodium Bicarbonate, neutralizes odors chemically.
Most unpleasant odors come from compounds that are either strong acids or strong bases, both of which are affected by baking soda. Baking soda simply deodorizes by bringing both acidic and alkaline odor molecules into a neutral pH, odor-free state.
Illustration of the chemical compound Triclosan. A few industry leaders, who are in the know, told me that some of the scent-elimination sprays marketed specifically for the hunting industry contain a bacteria-killing compound called Triclosan. Which scent elimination spray products contain this compound and which do not, I cannot tell you. I can tell you that Triclosan also is used in several products such as laundry detergents and mouthwashes.
The theory is if you destroy the bacteria, then you destroy foul odors before they can be created. The only problem with this concept is many of the scent-elimination spray manufacturers direct consumers to use the product on apparel only, and not to apply it directly to the skin.
In an article written about Triclosan and possible health effects associated with it, the author indicates: “The EPA gives Triclosan high scores both as a human health risk and as an environmental risk.”
So, users of scent-elimination spray products that may contain Triclosan should heed to warnings, which direct users not to spray the product directly to the skin. The article that I am referring to can be viewed at this web site page link: http://www.health-report.co.uk/triclosan.html
Killing bacteria on your clothing is good, but the majority of stinky odors produced are from bacteria on your skin. If Triclosan is the “sole” active ingredient used in a particular spray and must only be applied to garments, then I am tempted to say that it won’t be very effective in eliminating human odors. That is not to say that sprays containing Triclosan do not have a place in “helping” to reduce human odors as part of a product formula. Triclosan destroys bacteria, which are responsible for producing stinky odors, but Triclosan does not directly eliminate stinky odor molecules.
I was told that a few manufacturers also include a mild surfactant (i.e. soap) in their formulation. When you wash your hands with soap, you are effectively killing bacteria. Like Triclosan, surfactants help to control odors by destroying bacteria. Certain non-ionic and anionic surfactants will also “combine” with offending odor molecules to neutralize them.
2 H2O2 ----> 2 H2O + O2 (hydrogen peroxide ----> water + oxygen) One industry leader informed me that at least one product contains Hydrogen Peroxide. Hydrogen Peroxide --chemical structure H2O2 -- is a strong oxidizer.
The reaction that causes metal to rust is a form of oxidation. You’ve probably used a weak concentration of hydrogen peroxide to treat a minor cut or abrasion on your skin. Hydrogen peroxide destroys bacteria and oxidizes many odor-causing compounds. For example, hydrogen peroxide will oxidize odorous hydrogen sulfides, mercaptans, amines and aldehydes.
Hydrogen peroxide is a wonderful antibacterial and odor-eliminating compound, but it is rather unstable and easily converts to water. This is why the hydrogen peroxide contained in the little brown colored bottles you buy at the grocery store contains stabilizers (read the label). The stabilizers deter the decay of hydrogen peroxide to water and extended the shelf life of the product.
By now you might be thinking to yourself, “Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, water and soap: I can purchase this stuff anywhere and make my own odor eliminating spray.” If you are thinking this, then you spoiled the surprise. I’ve been making my own scent-elimination spray -- home brew -- for years, using these four basic, low cost ingredients.
Here is my scent-elimination spray “home brew” recipe:
ED NOTE: Though all of the ingredients listed below are considered basically harmless and can be purchased anywhere, the author of this article makes no guarantee that the end result of the mixture to be safe. If you want to make your own “home brew,” do so at your own risk.
1.5 quarts hydrogen peroxide (3 percent) NOTE: Do not use the product contained in brown colored bottles from the supermarket. 2 quarts distilled water 0.5 cup baking soda NOTE: I use Arm & Hammer brand baking soda 1 ounce of unscented laundry detergent NOTE: I use Sport Wash laundry detergent Mix everything together in a large mixing bowl and then pour into a clean, white-colored plastic bleach container. Don’t use a clear plastic milk jug. You will understand why as you read on. Also, let the container sit for a day or two with the cap off. Some oxygen will be released when the ingredients are mixed and the build up of pressure could blow the cap off. The contents must be allowed to equilibrate before tightening the cap. Fill spray bottles that you take into the field when needed.
Baquacil brand Shock and Oxidizer is nothing more than 27-percent strength hydrogen peroxide (read the label). It can be found at most swimming pool supply stores. Hydrogen peroxide slowly breaks down to water when exposed to light, so store your home brew in a dark place such as a closet. This is why hydrogen peroxide is often sold in brown colored bottles.
This next part is very important: Do not use ordinary hydrogen peroxide that comes in little brown colored plastic bottles. The stuff at the supermarket has stabilizers in it and contains a slight odor. Pure hydrogen peroxide is odorless. I purchase pure hydrogen peroxide from a local swimming pool supply store. Baquacil brand Shock and Oxidizer is the product I use. It comes in a one-gallon size blue colored plastic container. It is pure 27-percent hydrogen peroxide (no additives or stabilizers). You will have to dilute it with distilled water, down to 3 percent strength in order to use it in your home brew recipe.
This equates to nine parts distilled water and one part Baquacil product.
WARNING: Pure 27 percent hydrogen peroxide can burn or irritate the skin, so be careful.
A jug of this stuff should cost less than twenty dollars and should last for quite a while. In fact, one container should produce about twenty-six (26) batches of home brew. I spray home brew on my boots and apparel, on my hands and in my hair. It works great for deodorizing deer decoys! However, I do not spray it on my bow or other equipment. The home brew formula effectively kills bacteria and chemically deodorizes malodors and can also be used around the home for cleaning and sanitizing surfaces.
A few readers asked me specifically what my thoughts are on the Scent Blocker brand Carbon Blast Human Scent Eliminator spray. It is my opinion that this stuff is a gimmick and a misapplied spin-off from the activated-carbon garment theory.
Is that blunt enough for you?
This stuff is basically activated-carbon powder contained in liquid water (and possibly Triclosan). You are basically spraying activated carbon that is encapsulated with liquid water onto your clothes.
This is utterly ridiculous.
If you read my last two articles, which dealt with activated-carbon garments, you perhaps remember what happens when activated carbon gets wet (see illustration below).
Wet activated carbon cannot filter air borne stinky gasses. This is a fact. If Carbon Blast also contains Triclosan then it may still be a viable scent reduction product. That is if it isn’t totally adsorbed into the activated carbon that it is mixed with.
Regardless what the other active ingredient(s) are in this product, the activated carbon contained in this formulation effectively does nothing more than stain your clothes black.
This is probably the worst application yet for activated carbon that I have seen.
Do scent elimination sprays really work?
It is my opinion that most of them do work to a degree, depending on the ingredients and the concentrations of the ingredients.
A few readers asked me which brand felt was best.
Xtreme Scents offer a full line of scent elimination sprays and odor free personal hygiene products. I think perhaps the best scent elimination spray product for the outdoorsman on the market currently is the one produced by Xtreme Scents. I’ve had extensive conversations with the Xtreme Scents guys and they were very open with me about their scent elimination spray product. Of course they did not provide me with their proprietary recipe, but they did explain how their product works and they provided me with the results of independent laboratory analysis, which compared the effectiveness of their product and several other products on the market.
The Xtreme Scents product uses compounds that don’t mask, adsorb or oxidize odor compounds, but rather chemically “combine” with them. When the ingredients in the Xtreme Scents product combine with odor causing compounds, the result is a compound that is rendered odorless.
Some industrial odor control applications use compounds such as surfactants, calcium nitrates and ferrous chloride (FeCl2), which combine with many odor-causing compounds and render them odorless. The Xtreme Scents product may or may not contain similar compounds. I can tell you the Xtreme Scents product does not contain Triclosan and it is longer lasting than their competitors and the home brew formula. Whatever the ingredients are in the Xtreme Scents product, the independent lab results they provided to me clearly demonstrate that their product is indeed superior.
I hope I was able to address most of the questions from you -- the readers -- regarding scent-elimination sprays and I hope you are able to take some of the information here and add it to you knowledge base and your “bag of tricks.”
I wouldn’t recommend you drench yourself and leave it on your skin, if you leave any soap on you skin it will cause irritation. I mist my head and hands with my scent killer. The worst thing I’ve experience is dry skin.
In folks with sensitive skin it may even burn folks at 10:1 dilution. Dont soak your clothing with it until you test your mix in yourself!
So when you see "40 volume" peroxide at say a Sally`s hair salon store that is only roughly 12% peroxide. 27% peroxide is very dangerous stuff....be very careful.