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Life’s Funny

Pew Research

“Eau-de-toilette” takes on new meaning


By Maria Johnson

Recently, my husband and I visited some friends at their lake place.

It was a wonderful overnight stay, and our hosts, being generous souls, rolled out stimulating conversation, tasty food, delicious drink, thoughtful walks and — following the general story arc here — a bottle of Poo-Pourri strategically stationed in the guest bathroom.

I did not realize this at the time because I had no reason to “study,” shall we say, the small spritzer poised on the tank.

I did, however, recognize the distinctive Victorian-looking label when I saw a small bottle of Poo-Pourri in a store a few weeks later. Curious, I went home, hopped online and found a load of clever advertisements for the product, which bills itself as the World’s Best Before You Go Spray (

The lengthy ads — which are created by the company’s in-house team, Number Two Productions — feature a prim and proper English lass spouting potty puns and explaining how Poo-Pourri works: You spray the sweet-smelling oil in the bowl; then you go; then the film of Poo-Pourri on the water’s surface supposedly traps the odors; then you flush; then everyone comes out smelling like roses.

Or lemongrass.

Or rosemary.

Or cedar.

Or any of the fragrances imparted by Poo-Pourri’s “essential oils.” Hence the “Unconditional Stink-Free Guarantee.”

I shared this with my husband and pointed out that our lake hosts
had set out Poo-Pourri in their guest bathroom, which opened onto
a central hallway.

“Oops,” he said. “Didn’t notice.”

Which is fine. I guess. We’ll see if we get invited back. In the meantime, as a sometime hostess, I decided it would be good to test the spray, what with the holidays being right around the corner.

Most houseguests try to be discrete, thank God. They figure out, with remarkable accuracy, which bathroom is farthest from the family room. This is a gift to be treasured.

The exception here — and this is a real subtlety — would be going in the master bathroom. If you’re not immediate family, don’t go there. I can’t really explain why. It’s just wrong.

Anyway, up to this point the best coping strategies for guests have been using exhaust fans, opening windows, striking paper matches (which have become rare; thanks a lot, health-conscious bars and restaurants), and spraying pine-scented air fresheners that billow into adjoining rooms to announce: “Guess who just went in the woods — not?”

Now, apparently, the fog of guilt is unnecessary.

My husband, the engineer,- was doubtful about the effectiveness of Poo-Pourri. What about transit time before splashdown? What about other emissions? What about toilet paper — it isn’t really submerged, now is it?

Sometimes, being married to an engineer makes life challenging.

There was only one way to answer these questions. I trotted back to the home accessories store. Truthfully, I hoped to find Poo-Pourri’s Secret Santa scent, thinking that if I didn’t like it, I could give it away.

This holiday edition promised “a nostalgic warm blend of vanilla and cinnamon,” a cozy gift sure to embarrass the hell out of any recipient at an office party.

Hint: If your Secret Santa gives you Poo-Pourri, use it. This is similar to when a friend offers you a breath mint.

Alas, the shipment of Secret Santa had not arrived, which left me contemplating Tropical Hibiscus and Original Citrus, neither of which seemed indigenous to a home at the holidays.

I mean, if you’re trying to mask an odor, shouldn’t it be by spraying a more pleasant smell that’s already in the house? Something like Apple Pie, or Turkey Leg, or Yeast Rolls or Cabernet on the Carpet?

In that vein, I settled on Original Citrus because, being the last-minute housekeepers that we are, our house inevitably smells like Lemon Pledge and Windex when guests arrive — and Poo-Pourri is not yet available in the Ammonia-D scent.

Another reason Original Citrus appealed to me is because it contains bergamot, the distinctive ingredient in Earl Grey tea, and that made me feel classy. Marketing goal achieved.

The next morning, I gave it a whirl. I spritzed the bowl three to five times, per the instructions, lingered long enough to read the Poo-Pourri box, and violà.

My bathroom smelled like a lemon-scented sewage treatment plant.
At tea time.

The manufacturer seemed to anticipate this, as I now know from reading the box, which plainly states: “Use in a well-ventilated area.”

In other words: Cover up if you must, but give thanks when it hits the fan.  OH

Maria Johnson is allowed one column of potty humor a year, so you can breathe easily until 2018. If you absolutely cannot hold your reaction, contact her at

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