Business

My smell, my soap: Japanese firm analyzes dirty clothes to concoct customized odor-killing solutions

Kyodo

With body odor being a concern for many during the scorching hot summer, a company in Fukui Prefecture recommends detergents and soaps that are customized to individuals based on an analysis of their clothing and possible causes of unfavorable odors.

Mikiya Uehara, 57, president of Benefit-ion, based in the city of Fukui, seeks to help clients “properly understand and accept their own scent,” while also offering them mental care.

“There is a tendency for young people, especially, to be overly concerned” about the smell of their body, he said.

Many people who are so paralyzed by the fear of having an unpleasant body odor that they have become reclusive have turned to the company for help, after dermatological and psychosomatic treatments proved ineffective.

The company receives up to 40 consultations a month, mostly from women in their 20s to 30s, although inquiries from parents with children refusing to go to school are also increasing, Uehara said.

Although in most cases their body odor is not significant enough to attract attention, Uehara says telling people who are self-conscious about the issue that it is “just their imagination” does not solve the problem.

“The first step to improvement is to objectively identify the issue and provide specific solutions,” he said.

For around 30 years Uehara worked in the textile and cleaning industry, and was primarily responsible for the removal of stains and smells from bridal wear.

Surprised that even a garment worn for a short time could become infused with various smells that require chemicals to deodorize, he started his own company in August 2015, seeing a business opportunity for household detergents customized to individual body odors.

Uehara’s company uses a gas chromatograph, an analytical instrument that measures the content of various components in a sample, at an external research institute to analyze T-shirts worn for 24 hours by their clients.

The analysis can determine what substances, out of around 300 causative agents such as ammonia and acetic acid, are found on the clothing, and the smell they produce.

Based on the results, Uehara then recommends detergents and soaps containing the ingredients necessary to suppress the odors for each individual. He also suggests lifestyle improvements, such as a better diet and exercise.

Feedback from clients has included positive comments; one customer said they were able to gain confidence and get a boyfriend, while another said they had found a part-time job.

“There is no greater joy than seeing them become more positive individuals,” Uehara said with a smile.

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