by Liz Turner
So how did I find myself hanging with Denise Van Outen at the UK’s premier car event in the grounds of Goodwood House, home of the Earl of March? Well, it’s a bit of a shaggy dog story – a wet, smelly shaggy dog story.
The multi-talented Strictly star is bringing her self-penned one-women show, Some Girl I Used to Know to London in August. First, though, she’s helping to promote a crazy road trip, as part of a campaign for fresher-smelling motors by Febreze. And that meant a trip up the famous Goodwood hillclimb in the back of the ‘Febreze Car’ (actually a Lexus) with three fresh young men.
She told me: ‘I’m quite judgmental about other people’s cars. If someone has a stinky car, you don’t want to get in it. You learn a lot about someone from their car.’
Her own challenge is driving with four-year-old Betsy safely strapped in the back. ‘She has a biscuit and there are crumbs everywhere!’ she wails.
I thought of my poor sister-in-law, whose daughter vomited in the back of her brand-new car. Or the time I took the cat to the vet and heard a sound like a pressure washer coming from the basket. The car smelled of bad chardonnay forever afterwards.
Just Febreze it...
The PR team didn’t have to use the hard sell on me. I’ve been grateful for the well-known tip, passed on by a friend that I’ll now share with you. If you find a gorgeous original vintage outfit that’s too delicate to clean, you can often get away with ‘Febrezing it’ – with the fabric refresher spray.
Now the company is introducing the Febreze Car Vent Clip, to take away the lingering pong of spills, smoke, or poor car hygiene. The enthusiastic and brainy Pieter Hommez, of the R&D Product Research, Air Care Fabric & Home Care team explained how our noses trap molecules, which our brains then translate as smells.
Sadly, we pick up bad smells much more easily than good ones. So just a few stinky molecules will make their presence smelt in a sea of delightfully fragrant ones. Trying to mask a bad smell simply won’t work. And most sickeningly sweet, heavy air fresheners are enough to make a child throw up in the back anyway.
Febreze Car works by introducing another molecule looking for energy. It links to the stinker, changing its shape, so the smell is neutralised.
Pieter demonstrated using a jar of old fag butts and other undesirables, he dropped in a product sample and the difference was astonishing.
Once the nasty niff has been evicted, the clip introduces a small amount of light fragrance produced in partnership with perfume manufacturers. (Pieter promises all the top, mid and bass notes you’d get in a bottled fragrance.) The ‘flavours’ include Cotton Fresh, Blossom and Breeze, Vanilla, New Zealand, Rainforest Breeze and Citrus Fusion.
The price is left to retailers, Tesco will sell packs for £4 but currently has them on offer for £2.
To demonstrate the technology, three volunteers, Adine Curran, Daniel Page and Keiran McLeod will spent 18 days touring Europe in the Febreze Car equipped with its clip, while attempting tasks involving pigsties, wet dogs, sports kits and French cheese.
Denise enjoyed her trip up the hill with the boys, and told me ‘They’re really good fun’. She’ll welcome them home as either ‘freshness heroes’ or ‘stinky villains’ in a public Homecoming Ceremony on Saturday 12 July in central London. If you can make it along, you’ll be able to try your own ‘sniff test’ and enter a free prize draw to win a luxury weekend break.
You can watch the road trip webisodes on youtube.com/febrezeuk or follow the campaign on Twitter at #drivehappy
A recent survey by Febreze found:
1 in 5 British drivers (17%) regularly apologise for their car’s smell.
1 in 10 admitted they would drive past a loved one rather than have to face the embarrassment of letting them into their smelly motor.
(57%) of UK women would refuse a second date with someone who had a whiffy car.
A bad smell tops Brits’ list of turn offs when getting into someone’s car (42%) beating junk on the back seat (15%), bad music (11%) and an embarrassing make or model (5%).