What's the Most Popular Cleaning Product Scent on the Market?

Take a look through your own cleaning kit and the winner should be crystal clear.

cleaning products in plastic tub
Photo: Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

If you're curious about how natural cleaning products work or why baking soda is such a powerful ingredient, you've come to the right place. We'll explain the science behind some of the most popular cleaning methods and tools, so you can you clean smarter—not harder. Follow along with Clean Science to see which technique we break down next.

When you squeeze a lemon or cut an orange, you probably don't think, "Wow, that smells clean!" But when it comes to cleaning product fragrances, citrus ranks as number one; it's the scent we most commonly associate with an orderly home, say our experts. "The power of citrus in cleaning is tried and true," affirms Julia Merrill, the director of marketing and consumer insights at International Flavors & Fragrances, which creates all kinds of products. In general, the more exposure you have to a specific scent, she says, the more it can drive familiarity—and from a consumer standpoint, citrus has been on the top of the list across the cleaning category for quite some time.

Melissa Maker, a cleaning expert, author, and host of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube, also sees a link between scent and memory—one that explains why we so consistently turn to lemon-, orange-, lime-, and grapefruit-scented cleaning formulas. "When we smell something that reminds us of something else that is nostalgic, happy, or clean, we'll want to use it over and over again," she says. "A product that smells nice and leaves our home looking cleaner will linger in our mind. The next time we smell that product, it will remind us that our home is clean when we use it—thus creating a positive feedback loop." Ahead, our experts dive deeper into the citrus-clean connection.

Zesty Appeal

Whether it's lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit, products with a citrus scent account for nearly 20 percent of all cleaning products sold in the United States, says Merrill. A look at the household cleaners available in stores today affirms this: You will find citrus-scented multi-purpose cleaners, dishwashing detergents, furniture polishes, toilet-bowl sprays, disinfecting wipes, and more, to name a few.

Millennial Citrus

The citrus trend began in the mid-1980s, when pine-scented products ruled the grocery store aisles. The fruity fragrance was debuted in floor and surface cleaners. "Consumers accepted the new citrus-scented options for their kitchen and bathroom countertop cleaners," says Merrill, "mainly because lemon was closer to a food product scent than pine." The fragrance has evolved from a very singular, functional lemon note to a broader blend over the years, she says; the citrus options today are juicier, more sophisticated, and often combined with other fresh ingredients, such as mint and ginger. "We continue to see launches of new combinations with fruits and floral notes. Citrus is still going strong!"

Fresh or Faux?

While some citrus-scented products contain essential oils extracted from real citrus fruit, others don't have a drop of the organic stuff in them; instead they get their lemony smell from chemicals that closely match the real thing.

Honorable Mentions

Citrus isn't, of course, the only scent that people enjoy cleaning with. Pine and lavender get high marks, too, especially for floor and bathroom cleaning products, says Merrill. "We also see that herbal scents, such as eucalyptus, spearmint, and rosemary, have been growing on natural driven brands." Adds Maker, "Many people are appreciating more natural, minimal scents in lieu of heavier and more fabricated scent concepts."

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