The smell of line-dried laundry

My daughter smelling pentanal

You all have experienced that nice sensation of smelling line-dried clothes.

Have you ever asked yourself what is responsible for that nice scent you are smelling?

Now, thanks to Silvia Pugliese and collaborators we have an answer. The researchers washed IKEA cotton towels three times. The towels were then hanged out to dry a) in the office, b) on the balcony (of the chemistry department) under plastic protection and c) on the balcony under the sun.

All the towels were then placed in a plastic bag for 15 hours to collect all the volatile molecules which were produced.

The researchers compared the molecules released by the three types of towels, identified the ones that specifically were produced when the towels were line-dried.

They discovered that towels dried on the sun were rich in pentanal, ocatanal and nonanal. These three aldehydes are the ones responsible for the almond, malty, citrus and floral smell.

The molecules responsible for the scent of line-dried clothes

The UV light of the sun reacts with water and the fabric of the clothes (“oxidative photochemistry”) to produce the fresh pleasant smell of dried clothes.


Pugliese et al., “Chemical analysis and origin of the smell of line-dried laundry”, 2020,


  1. Oh. My. Goodness. I love that someone actually decided to do a study on this and publish in Environmental Chemistry. So cool! And as charming as the science behind petrichor. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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