Leading laundry equipment provider Miele explains how a clean smell can help the mood of care home residents by prompting fond memories.
How can a smell affect your memory? Do particular smells make you think of home, do they evoke feelings of safety and security? There has been much research in this area over the years by notable professors and psychologists that have linked smell to a wide range of different emotions. But the link between smelling clean and the reassurance of knowing that something is clean has never been more important than it is now as we continually face the negative effects of COVID-19.
Our sense of smell is more closely linked to memory than any of our other senses but it is highly personal. What can be a pleasant smell to one person can be awful to another, for example, farmyard smells might evoke pleasant memories for someone who grew up on or near a farm whereas most people would find these smells unpleasant or overpowering. As well as being closely linked to memory, smell is also highly emotive. The perfume industry has been built on the ability of a smell to evoke an emotional response.
But the perfume industry is not the only industry that strives to evoke positive memories with smell. The laundry industry has spent a lot of time, money and effort to create smells that evoke positive emotions and suggest to us that laundered clothing and other textiles are clean. Everything from your washing powder to your fabric softener contains perfume, all of which are designed to create a sense of cleanliness when used. There is a formula somewhere between the pungent smell associated with cleaning products such as bleach, and the subtle perfumed fragrance of fabric softeners, that provide the mental stimulus that signal to us that a product is clean. The new ProCare Tex range from Miele Professional provides this level of reassurance, particularly when coupled with one of their commercial washing machines.
The way that we form an association with smell may have something to do with the strong emotions we can experience when faced with that smell again. The olfactory bulb that processes incoming smells lies close to two brain areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory: the amygdala and hippocampus. None of our other senses pass close to these areas and it is likely to be these areas that are most responsible for triggering the memories that come with certain smells.
Jo Hemmings, Behavioural Psychologist says: “Our reaction to smell is associative – it is linked to our individual experiences, very frequently formed in infancy or early childhood, when we are our most impressionable to smell – and so we continue to have a strong conditioned auto-response – or trigger – to smells, good and bad, for the rest of our lives.”
The link between smell and memory is particularly important in the care sector where smells that are associated with clean are important to the reassurance an establishment can provide to its residents. A clean smell, something that we associate with hygiene, is reassuring, particularly at a time when anything that is less than clean could potentially be harmful to us. In a care home this could be the smell associated with clean clothing – a soft and clean smelling jumper or the clean smell of fresh bed linen.
A psychological link between a clean smell and imagined reassurance that the item is hygienically clean is vital. Jo Hemmings goes on to say: “Research has shown that not only does our mood improve around a clean smell – especially that of clothes, ambient air, towels and bedding – it also increases our pro-social behaviour – for example, we are more likely to help strangers, neighbours or friends as a result of the uplift in our mood. This clear link between a clean smell and our resulting mood and behaviour, both decreases anxiety and promotes self-care as well as giving us comfort, optimism and reassurance.”
Miele Professional recently launched its new range of Little Giants which gives customers in the care sector the complete reassurance that products washed with this equipment will receive the most comprehensive wash possible. To prevent the spread of infection, all models within the range have disinfection programmes which hold temperatures of 85 °C/15 minutes, 60 °C/20 minutes, and 40 °C/20 minutes – a hygienically clean wash every time.