Spicy Perfume

    Kids, how would you like to make your own bottle of perfume? If you don't use it yourself, it would make a nice Mother's Day gift...

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    You'll need a small baby food jar with a lid, some rubbing alcohol, and 15 whole cloves. Place the cloves in the jar and half fill the jar with the rubbing alcohol. Secure the lid and let the jar sit for seven days. When the time is up, test the perfume using your finger to dab a few drops of the alcohol on your wrist. Let the alcohol evaporate and then smell your wrist. Your skin should have a faint, spicy aroma.

    What's happening here? The alcohol dissolves the aromatic oil in the cloves. When the alcohol evaporates from the wrist, the scented oil is left on the skin. Rubbing alcohol is a dilute solution of isopropanol, or isopropyl alcohol, in water. Perfumes are made by dissolving oils from flowers and other aromatic materials in alcohol. See the March 1996 ChemShorts on "Sugar and Spice" for more information on spices. For example, cloves are small, round, dark brown, dried flower-buds grown in places like Zanzibar and Sumatra. The aromatic oil of cloves is called eugenol (C10H12O2 ). Cloves, like many spices, are used in cooking and baking to enhance flavors. Cloves are often used when baking a ham, for example. Perhaps some cloves are left over from your Easter ham that can be used for your Mother's Day gift!


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    April 1997


    Reference: "Chemistry for Every Kid" by Janice VanCleave, NY: Wiley Publ., 1989, p. 172.