Perfect for a Gloomy Day: What Does Rain Smell Like?

Perfect for a Gloomy Day: What Does Rain Smell Like

Are you a pluviophile who lives for rainy days? Then let us shower you with candles in its lovely and fresh fragrance. But what does rain smell like? Glad you asked! In this thorough guide, we explore the science and origins behind the wonderful and fresh fragrance of rain. And then, we offer up some of our favorite rain-scented candles that will have your home smelling as vibrant and lush as a rainy spring day. 

The Origin and Meaning of Petrichor 

Pluviophile is what you call someone who loves the rain. But did you know there is a word for the smell of rain too? Petrichor is a Latin translation conjured up by Isabel “Joy” Bear and Richard Thomas, two CSIRO scientists who first used it to describe the smell of rain in their paper Nature of Argillaceous Odour published in the Nature journal.

How did they come up with this word? Petrichor is derived from two Greek words: Petra, meaning stone and ichor meaning the ethereal blood of the gods. Together, this roughly translates as a divine blood in the stone. But how did Bear and Thomas come up with this translation? And why did they use the Greek word for “stone?” It’s simple, really, and all comes down to the science of why we can smell the rain. 

The Science Behind the Smell of Rain

Many people claim they can smell an approaching rainstorm — but how? Is it an imagined aroma we build up in our minds after seeing signs like the wind picking up or dark clouds rolling in? Or is it something more? Well, the science is in! It’s not your sixth sense or meteorologist insight, nor is it Mother Nature giving you a subliminal message. You can smell a storm coming and, yes, you can actually smell the rain! But what you are smelling isn’t necessarily the water droplets themselves. It’s a little more nuanced than that. 

walkway under trees canopy in park

According to Scientific American, the smell of rain comes from two main sources: the oxygen in the atmosphere (mostly notably, ozone molecules) and the scent given off by various surfaces the rain touches. That “oncoming storm” smell is quite distinct. While not everyone can smell it, those who can know it all too well. A full-on thunderstorm, complete with lightning bolts that give off electric discharges, can create a pungent and sharp scent in the atmosphere. Believe it or not, this sharp and zingy scent is ozone. Essentially, lightning splits the nitrogen and oxygen molecules into two atmospheric atoms. 

So how can you smell the ozone from all the way down on earth? As a thunderstorm rolls in, it creates gusts of air and strong breezes that carry down the ozone molecule scents from above. 

The second source of that rainy day scent derives from the rain touching down and permeating the earth or surrounding materials. However, instead of smelling the ozone, you are smelling the potent earthy geosmin. Whether it’s soil and plants in the country or cobblestones or concrete of a city street, the surfaces release odoriferous molecules and aerosols into the air. MIT captured these aerosols being released through a high-speed camera

Dry surfaces like a desert or dry grass often give off the strongest scent when penetrated by rain. This rain smell can be relative to your environment too! The smell of rain can be vastly different from a rural countryside to an urban cityscape. A soil filled with minerals and nutrients can give off an entirely different smell than a fern-covered forest or an asphalt road. 

what does rain smell like

What Does Rain Smell Like?

The chemical reaction that occurs when rain hits the earth — or anything for that matter — is what gives off that petrichor scent. Lightning, with its ability to give a downdraft of the ozone, plays a major role too. So what kind of aroma does this geosmin and ozone give off and what does rain smell like?

As mentioned, rain can smell like a lot of things, depending on where you are. You may know by heart the smell of rain better in the region that you grew up in, and it could be distinctly different from where you currently reside. However, at the end of the day, rain smells a lot like the earth. Mainly, wet earth with its nutrient-rich soil, minerals and more. Rain smells fresh, for the most part, but it can also give off a musky, damp quality. Now that you know what rain smells like, doesn’t it sound refreshing and invigorating? Luckily, Homesick appreciates this unique aroma too. We have even carefully crafted a specific scent note for our candles called “Rain” that smells just like petrichor. 

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The Best Rain-Scented Candles by Homesick

Feel like you might be a pluviophile and love the petrichor scent of rain? Then you will love any one of these rain-scented candles by Homesick! Below are our best Homesick candles with Rain notes, along with a few others that give off the electrifying, recharging fresh scent.

The United Kingdom Candle

Like the puddled cobblestone streets of London and the countryside, too, the United Kingdom Candle offers a petrichor that is, oh, so familiar. Top notes of rain mingle with grass and bergamot as mid notes of a soothing Earl Grey tea and scrumptious apple crumb transport you across the pond. Sweet base notes of toffee, vanilla and sugar offer subtle undertones to the United Kingdom candle that remind you of a public house’s sticky toffee pudding or a mince pie. 

homesick seattle candle burning

The Seattle Candle

Nothing says the rainy Pacific Northwest like the Seattle candle. However, instead of a hot cup of Earl Grey tea, this petrichor Rain scent goes along rather nicely with top notes of an earthy, dark-roasted coffee. Light this candle, and you feel like you’ve ducked into a downtown Seattle coffee shop to dry out from a rainy afternoon. Complementing the rain scent are pine needles and cedarwood that the Evergreen State is known for. With a hint of tart rhubarb and zesty lemon, this Seattle city candle is elevated to an amazingly fresh fragrance that anyone will love. 

homesick virginia candle notes

The Virginia Candle

When you light up the Virginia candle, you can almost feel the storm clouds and rain rolling across the Shenandoah Valley. With mid-notes of Rain Water and the sweet smell of honeysuckle blossoms, paired with fir needle and pine, this soft rainfall scent captures the scent of the Old Dominion state perfectly. From the Chesapeake Bay’s sandalwood landscaped coastline along the Atlantic to the clove and musky aroma of the Appalachian Mountains that stretches through the wilderness and the booming town of Richmond, the Virginia candle sums up this state rather well.  

The Kansas Candle

Skip a few states west into the midwestern United States, and you get a warmer, more sunny scent. The Kansas candle is infused with the smell of grassy plains and sunflower fields covered in fresh morning dew or the dry earth opening up after an evening rainstorm. Beneath the surface of the Kansas candle are soft undertones of pungent lime and lemon like thunderstorms breaking the ozone and the scent of fresh cotton, musk and amber lending a dry warmth to the moisture. 

The Book Club Candle

If you love to curl up with a good book on a rainy day, then the Book Club candle is for you! While it doesn’t have our signature Rain note fragrance, it is nonetheless the perfect candle for introverts, bookworms and anyone who simply loves a good excuse to stay indoors and read. 

the book club candle and beach cottage diffuser oil

With notes of a delicate woodsy balsam and sandalwood with a warm amber, the Book Club candle calls to mind a library filled with countless shelves of leather-bound books and the delicate paper between them. Top notes of a zesty orange and mid notes of spicy cinnamon carry the charming fragrance of the Book Club candle throughout the space with each turn of a page.

If you love the Book Club candle but prefer a flameless scent for your home, then be sure to check out our Book Club reed diffuser. Each of Homesick’s reed diffusers lend the same scent as its candle version, but with a four-ounce bottle of a handcrafted blend with essential oils. Non-toxic and free of harmful chemicals and synthetics, our reed diffusers make a perfect gift for just about anyone. To renew the scent and keep it fresh, simply flip the reeds every two to three weeks. Or save the scent for a rainy day and cap the bottle.   

Discover All of Our Fresh Scented Candles

The Galapagos Island Candle

When the wet season rolls into the pristine and paradise-like Galapagos Islands, it brings with it a tropical climate with daily rain and cloudy skies. If you are lucky enough to visit these remote volcanic archipelago islands of the Pacific Ocean, then you will adore the Galapagos Island candle. But you might love this Homesick candle even more if this isolated destination is still on your bucket list. 

With top notes of Rain Water, the Galapagos Island candle carries the subtle hints of woodsy and wild palo santo and moss reminiscent of its inlands forests and sandy coastlines. Sweeter notes of prickly pear, zesty citron and coconut give it that tropical feel as floral notes of Lily of the Valley offer a delicate and subtle aroma. 

homesick vancouver candle notes

The Vancouver Candle

Cool mountain breezes make their way through Vancouver, a British Columbian city that offers the best of everything: a salty sea air coming in from the Strait of Georgia met by the mountain air and rain of the Canadian wilderness. Just like this city on the harbor, the Vancouver candle brings a lot of earthy scents that are sure to invigorate you and lend your space a refreshing aroma. 

With top notes of Ocean Waters, Mountain Air and Rain combined, the Vancouver candle lends a wet and musky scent that mingles pleasantly with a zesty Citron. Mid-notes of Douglas Fir and Cedarwood lend a warm woodsiness to the scent, as base notes of Patchouli bark and wild Hemp elevate it ever-so-slightly. Last but not least, a base note of Hops completes the smell of Canada’s Craft Beer capital

The Montreal Candle

Another Canadian candle that offers a rain smell is the Montreal candle. With top notes of Rain and a scent that reminds one of wet cobblestone streets of this French Canadian city, it makes you feel like meandering through the Underground City in search of delicious treats. With a top note of a freshly baked baguette, you don’t have to look far. Undertones of a smoky tobacco and rosewood mingle with a warm vanilla and guaiac wood for an old-world city aroma. 

The Gone Hiking Candle

homesick gone hiking candle with wick

While there is not a Rain scent exactly, the Gone Hiking candle does transport you to a misty waterfall among moss-covered rocks that gives off an invigorating fresh aroma to a space. With top notes of Fresh Waters, combined with woodsy Pine and rich, fruity Cassis, the Gone HIking candle makes you appreciate nature in all its glory — even the falling rain and deep puddles along the trail. Notes of Sandalwood, Jasmine, Moss and Ivy complete the Gone Hiking candle. 

Rain and Other Fresh-Smelling Scents

What does rain smell like, exactly? It may not be the sugar, spice and everything nice that some noses prefer, but it’s petrichor does appeal to many pluviophiles. And if you enjoy the fresh scent of our signature Rain, then you just might like the earthy, floral scent of Lavender too. What does Lavender smell like? With a light and bright floral scent, Lavender candles complement a rain-scented candle quite nicely. Like a Lavender field after a rainstorm. 

Explore rain candles, Lavender candles and more at Homesick to find your signature scent.


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