How to make your home smell good in the Summertime

Palm Cove Queensland

In the Summer months, high temperatures and humidity can affect the way your home smells and how aromas are perceived and distributed in a space. Choosing the right scents during warm weather can help create a cooling atmosphere in your space, infuse your home with a Summer vibe or combat feelings of sleepiness and sluggishness during the often cloying heat of Summer.

Coastal house interior

Effects of temperature and humidity

Temperature can have a strong effect on aromatic stimulus. In the hotter months, with increasing heat and humidity, a greater number of odour molecules are mobile and therefore volatile in the air. As a result, things take on a greater odour intensity and we are able to smell a greater variety of aromas. Increasing relative humidity, however, also reduces the sensitivity of the nose. It is thought that the increase in air moisture dilutes the odour concentration as the vapours dissolve in the fluids of the nasal cavity.

As temperature and humidity rise, the increase in molecular volatility of substances means that items in your home can take on a stronger odour. Garbage therefore smells stronger in the heat and so too materials such as rubber, paint or linoleum. Smells can also be absorbed by and released from fabrics and wood with higher humidity levels.

Home interiors close to the ocean

Assessing the scent of your space

Before using any type of scent in your home, it is important to take into consideration the higher odour intensity of the items and furnishings, the “base notes“ of your space, in hotter weather. We become accustomed to the scent of our home due to the process of olfactory adaptation, where our nose temporarily is unable to distinguish particular odours after prolonged and constant exposure to an airborne compound, so as not to overload the brain with redundant information.

To combat this, take a good sniff of your space after you're been out for most of the day and assess its various scents. The simplest thing you can do to improve the scent of your home is to open windows and doors and let the fresh air in, particularly after the Southerly blows in after a very hot day. This allows sunlight to dry things out and an air flow to circulate around your home to ventilate and remove undesirable smells.

If you have identified any strong or overpowering odours, especially in the kitchen or bathroom, there are plenty of recipes here and here using inexpensive ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar and charcoal that you can use to neutralise any bad smells.

Summer scene

The scents of Summer

Summer invites a more relaxed and casual feeling in our homes and lives as heat and humidity gradually slow downs the pace. This is a time we often take extended holidays or have a staycation at home and entertain outdoors.

There is movement and aroma in nature as growth accelerates and reaches its peak or through Summer thunderstorms, while narcotic white florals such as jasmine, gardenia, frangipani, magnolia and stephanotis permeate the air with their scent trails.

When we smell things in our environment we integrate what we are also seeing, hearing and feeling on both a physical and emotional level. How we interpret these stimuli in their context contributes to what we experience as our scent memories or experiences of Summer.

Relaxing at home

Aromas for Summer

Using essential oil scents in our home can make us feel better about how our home functions and how we feel about where we live. The smell of your home is also one of the first things people generally notice.

Floral, herbal or citrus scented essential oils are generally a good choice for your home in the Summer season. These type of scents are generally lightweight, fresh and activating; cutting through heat and humidity to cool and refresh. These oils also serve to reflect and extend the fun, holiday vibe of Summer or the lushness of a Summer garden.

Diffusing your essential oils in an ultrasonic or cold air diffuser helps to moisten the air which minimises the drying effects of air conditioning as well as heightening your sensing and experience of these scents.

Summer lake scene
Palm Cove Queensland
Beachside pool

Essential oil suggestions

Citrus: These are your go-to oils in the Summer season. Citrus essential oils are primarily top notes in a blend, setting the scene and drawing you into an aromatic story.

Sweet orange, blood orange, tangerine or mandarin.

They have an uplifting and energising effect, suggesting the warm rays of sunshine while negating the brain fog of a hot day. These oils blend nicely with floral, herbal or woody type aromas.

Citrus oils that present with a "colder" tone e.g lemon, grapefruit, pomelo, bergamot, yuzu, cedrat and lime can provide a gentle cooling and activating effect during warmer weather, especially when partnered with earthy or woody essential oils such as cedarwood Atlas, vetiver or patchouli.

Lemon scented essential oils such as citronella, lemon scented eucalyptus, lemongrass and also kaffir lime leaf (combava) contain a high percentage of citronellal and are useful to diffuse in your space to keep mosquitos at bay.

Pair citrus with conifer oils e.g cypress, juniperberry, pine, fir, spruce, hinoki to expand their freshening and stimulating attributes.

Citrus fruit slices

Floral: rose, geranium, neroli and linden blossom C02 are great for daytime use. They can be used to complement any fresh flowers in your space, add a welcoming ambience if vaporised in an entrance or hallway and are overall mood enhancing aromas.

A few drops of neroli or the less expensive petitgrain (from the leaves and twigs of the bitter orange tree) can be added to water in a spray bottle and kept in the fridge to calm and cool as a room or body spray.

The rich, opulent smells of white florals such as jasmine and sweet tropicals like ylang ylang, frangipani or white champaca (M. alba) are best left for after twilight, especially when entertaining outdoors during the warmer months. This mirrors how these flowers in their natural state are at their most intense aromatically.

Ylang ylang essential oil contains naturally occurring aromatic compounds called salicylates, which contribute to its sweet floral aroma. Benzyl salicylate is the basic ingredient of the sunscreen Ambre Solaire, which was initially used in the composition for its sunscreen properties and was then later retained as people grew to like its smell. As a result, the scent of ylang ylang often produces odour associations with suntan lotions or scent memories of Summer as so many people have used sunscreens aromatised with salicylates or ylang ylang in their lifetime.

You can find 1st grade ylang ylang essential oil from Madagascar in the Scentcillo Tango blend.

Botanical scents for summer

Herbal: lavender, rosemary, sweet fennel, roman chamomile, sweet marjoram, clary sage, basil. Herbal oils are generally clean, tonic and invigorating scents suggestive of the plethora of fragrances found in a Summer garden. They pair well with citrus or floral essential oils . Use during the daytime to impart a light, airy and cooling ambience to your home.

Combining lavender, rosemary and neroli with a citrus and wood or resin oil forms an eau de cologne type of fragrance - a classic fresh and clean Summer scent. Coriander is also effective for a sprinkle of spice to this kind of blend.

Herbal essential oils, especially lavender, roman chamomile and sweet marjoram, are useful to support sleep during hot weather. Diffuse them thirty minutes before going to bed.

Peppermint essential oil is a star pick for hot and humid weather. Its cooling effect is actually not olfactory but has more to do with how it feels. This sensation is perceived via the trigeminal nerve that runs across the face and nose, which gives the smell of peppermint its temperature i.e cooling quality. Mix in with the damp, earthy scents of vetiver and patchouli and citrus bergamot and diffuse just as a thunderstorm or rain begins to prolong rain's cooling and restorative effects after a hot day.

Base notes: to ground and support your blend.

Vetiver, patchouli, sandalwood, cedarwood Atlas, rosewood, frankincense.

Essential oils for Summer chart

Scentcillo Greek Island and Shaman essential oil blends are suitable choices to diffuse in your space during long, languid Summer days.

The sharp citrus essential oils fuse with a woody base in Shaman blend imparting clarity, sparkle and energy to your home or work space.

Greek Island blend brings together citrus, floral and herbal scents to create a fresh, clean fragrance that is perfect to synergise with warm weather or to give a relaxed, expansive feeling to your surroundings.

Tips when vaporising your essential oils: To counteract the effect of sensory adaptation or olfactory fatigue to your choice of fragrance; switch the types of scents you use in your home from time to time, use different oil blends in different parts of your house and use your scent intermittently throughout the day.

Diffusing Scentcillo essential oil blends
Scentcillo essential oil blends

Further reading:

Breezing through summer: Keeping cool is easier than you think. Daily Telegraph.

10 key jobs to get your house Summer fit. Houzz.

8 tips for using colour and texture in your home this Summer. Interiors Addict.

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Summer foliage and frangipani watercolour
Tropical plant watercolour