Why do I like the smell of gasoline?

As you’re already familiar with, here at Gas Answer we like to tackle the interesting topics. You’re probably introduced to the phenomenon of people enjoying the smell of gasoline. For all we know, you might even belong to that club. We reckon since you’re reading this text… Well, let’s try not to assume anything.

That’s right, some people love the smell of gasoline. Is that something unusual or strange? As it turns out – it isn’t! Many folks around the globe adore the smell of gasoline. While that might be too much of a statement, you’ll see why it’s not really too much.

Many folks like the smell of gasoline because it gives them a temporary high. Gasoline suppresses the function of the nervous system causing a feeling of euphoria. Also, this phenomenon can be associated with nostalgia. Certain scents have the power to take us back in time. Primarily, to our carefree childhood years.

In the text below, we’ll try to provide an answer to this conundrum. Keep on reading to delve deeper into the mind of folks that love the smell of gasoline!

Table of Contents

The supreme power of scent

How many times did a certain scent take you on a specific journey? It’s not hard to guess it happened a million times. You walk down the street and out of nowhere, as you pass by someone, you smell it. It might be a scent you remember from your childhood days or a perfume used by your first high school love. This happens quite a lot, doesn’t it?

You might wonder what is behind this phenomenon? In other words: why is scent such a powerful source of nostalgia? Let’s put the bad poetry aside, and talk facts.

The facts

Now, we’ll have to take a trip down memory lane. Our collective (unconscious) memory lane, that is. We’ll talk a little about the primitive man. No matter how much we think we’re advanced, there’s too much we owe our ancient predecessors. If you were to take a closer look, you’d see we’re kind of downgraded versions of them. But, let’s avoid pop-pessimism.

Back in the day (about 200.000 years ago), the first humans lived in a very dangerous world. Seems like it was yesterday, doesn’t it? Anyway, our primitive ancestors had to rely on their senses much more than we do. Some call the human’s ability to smell “the most primitive of all senses”. Its role in the survival of first humans seems pretty important.

We can assume our sense of smell saved more lives than our ability to see. Do we have some facts to back that up?

Contemporary research

Recent study results suggest we remember 35% of what we smell. The same studies suggested people remember only 5% of what they’ve seen. Not to mention we only remember 2% of what we hear. Those numbers can’t lie. Also, our readers might’ve intuitively put their sense of smell at the top. Even before we mentioned these facts, that is.

Now that we’ve mentioned why our sense of smell is the absolute king of all senses, let’s consider the main topic.

A girl smelling flowers. Wondering why some folks like the smell of gasoline? Keep scrolling.


Why do some people love the smell of gasoline?

Okay, so here we go. We’re going to try to answer the age-old question: why do people love the smell of gasoline so much? If you’re one of the gasoline lovers out there – you’re gonna enjoy this. We’ll show you why your affection towards gasoline smell is nothing strange.

Also, we don’t encourage anyone sniffing gasoline or something. Yes, it’s a pretty natural thing to love the smell of gasoline. Still, intentionally inhaling gasoline can damage your health. We’re talking about everything from minor headaches and nausea to serious illnesses. Additionally, the smell of gasoline present in your car could be a signal something’s wrong.

The not-so-secret ingredient of gasoline

Imagine there’s a fun little game called Can you guess the chemical? Shall we give it a try? Okay, we’ll give you some hints that will help you determine which chemical are we talking about:

  • During the 19th century, it was an ingredient of feminine hygiene products. Also, it was a key component of aftershaves and douches. It was banned later on due to its toxicity.
  • It has a sweet-smelling scent, very appealing to some people. That’s obviously one of the reasons we’re talking about it.
  • This chemical can give you a mild high, so to speak. It has a suppressing effect on our nervous system.

Alright, so that was that. Got something to tell us? If your answer is benzene (C6H6), you’re absolutely right! Benzene is the component of gasoline people have a thing for. You might remember it from your elementary school chemistry class.

What is benzene?

This paragraph’s for folks that liked to skip chemistry classes. Benzene is a colorless or bright yellow liquid. We probably don’t need to mention that benzene is highly flammable. Also, as we’ve mentioned, it has a very sweet odor.

Inhaling this chemical can be very dangerous to humans. Benzene is cancerogenic. Ironically, it’s also very attractive to members of our species. Nevertheless, one should try to avoid inhaling it. When that is avoidable, of course.

But, let’s also avoid using a serious tone here. We’re pretty sure most of our readers aren’t likely to go ahead and inhale gasoline on purpose. Anyway, have you heard about the famous French writer Marcel Proust?

Proust phenomenon (the romantic hypothesis)

Don’t worry, we won’t bug you with uninteresting literary trivia.
Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was a famous French writer, as some of you may know. His magnum opus, “In search of lost time” is one of the greatest literary achievements of the XX century. Anyway, in his works, he dealt a lot with the issue of nostalgia. Some experts note that his works were directly inspired by this human sentiment.

Now, the Proust phenomenon is…

Wait, what’s that got to do with loving the smell of gasoline?

We’re getting there, don’t worry. The Proust phenomenon occurs when a scent triggers some of our nearly-forgotten memories. In other words: it’s the ability of odors to take us back in time. It was named after Proust since he wrote a passage describing this feeling in detail. Although, his nostalgia wasn’t triggered by the smell of gasoline. It was, in fact, the smell of cookies dipped in tea.

It’s easy to connect the dots here. The smell of gasoline (benzene) can trigger some fond memories. It might be a family trip to the country or your father’s lawnmower working in the front yard. In both cases – you’re being instantly transported to your childhood.

Nostalgia is a powerful feeling and it can easily overwhelm us. We can even reach a point where the present no longer concerns us. Anyway, nostalgia seems like a good reason for folks to enjoy smelling gasoline.

Gasoline gets you high (the less romantic hypothesis)

As we’ve mentioned earlier (during the quiz), gasoline can get you high. Benzen, its key component, has the power to cool our nervous system. Also, it can trigger hallucinations and euphoria. Lastly, inhaling gasoline can have an anesthetic effect. This might be the reason why some folks like to smell gasoline.

How does it exactly happen?

As we said, benzene suppresses the functions of the central nervous system. That causes a temporary “euphoric” feeling. The process of inhaling benzene activates the mesolimbic pathway. The latter is also called “the reward pathway of the brain”. Anyway, when the nerves recognize benzene, the mesolimbic system releases dopamine. Dopamine is better known as the happy hormone.

Now, there’s no way we’re not saying it again: never should you inhale gasoline on purpose. Although a tiny bit of it gives you a mild high, anything more than a tiny bit can cause some serious issues. As we said, you expect anything from minor (or major) headaches to serious illnesses such as cancer.

Why do I like the smell of gasoline? – a quick recap

Alright, so that’s about it, folks. If you’ve wondered why people like the smell of gasoline, now you have your answer. A couple of answers, to be precise. Let’s see check them out briefly:

  • The Proust phenomenon. We use this term to describe a certain feeling. It occurs when a certain scent transports you back in time. The famous French writer dealt with nostalgia in most of his works. One can assume people like the smell of gasoline because it reminds them of childhood.
  • Gasoline can get you high. Benzene, the key element of gasoline, can give you a mild high when inhaled. It suppresses the central nervous system causing a feeling of euphoria. When our nerves recognize the smell of benzene, they immediately release dopamine. The latter is also known as the happy hormone.

Final words

Hopefully, now we’re closer to finding a solution to this conundrum. It’s really not that hard to imagine these two reasons making a winning combination. We have good reasons to believe both are right, in a sense. Anyway, whether or not you like the smell of gasoline – please avoid inhaling it!

One more thing before we leave. If you’ve got some issues with sensing gasoline smell on your boating adventures, visit this page.