Perfume Left in Car? Is it Safe? Here’s What You Should Know!

I know many of us like keeping a bottle of perfume at hand. Often that means leaving a bottle in the glove box of a car. Hey, you never know when you need to dab some more, right! However, should we really leave perfume in a car? Is it even a safe thing to do?

Perfume should not be left in a car as it does not get an ideal storage temperature or protection from sunlight, UV rays, and humidity. A moving car vigorously shakes the bottle, speeding up the oxidation process and damaging the perfume. It is also a safety hazard as perfumes are flammable liquids.

That said, there are several other implications of leaving your perfume in a car that you should still be aware of. Here are a few things that you might want to take note of – 

Can you Leave Perfume in a Hot Car?

There may be occasions when you perhaps purchased a new perfume bottle from a store, and just happened to leave it in a car parked outside. So, you may be wondering – “Can you leave perfume in a hot car?”

Do not leave your perfume in a hot car for extended periods of time. The high heat, sunlight and UV rays will affect the delicate chemistry of the perfume. The fragrance will evaporate and lose its original scent. It might discolor and, if exposed to an ignition source, may even explode!

A car parked in the sun can experience extreme cabin temperatures averaging 116F (46C) to 200F (93C). While the ideal temperature for perfumes is however 54F (12C) to 72F (22C). So a car’s temperature fluctuations can rapidly deteriorate the quality of the perfume.

Even if you were to leave your perfume bottle for a short period of time (like a day or two) in a hot car, the perfume may still get damaged. However, the damage may perhaps not be noticeable. 

Thus, I would highly recommend that you try and prevent your perfume bottle from being stored or left in a hot car. 

Can Perfume Explode in a Car?

It is quite normal to worry about the safety of your car as well as the perfume, when it is left in a hot car. A common question that you may have is whether perfume can explode in a car!

Perfume can explode in a car. Although rare, extreme heat and change in air pressure can cause the air trapped inside the perfume bottle to expand and rupture the perfume container. This usually happens when the glass bottle is of a lower quality. 

Perfume explosion is, however, not a common phenomenon and the bottle or the container quality plays a key role in the process. Plastic containers usually melt and allow the gas to escape making it a fire hazard.

Perfumes are also flammable liquids. Aerosol based perfumes can, in fact, easily ignite if near a flame. 

Can Perfume Catch Fire in a Hot Car? 

Perfumes do not spontaneously catch fire – even in a hot car – unless kept next to a flame. 

The ethanol-water solvent used in most perfumes is a great diffuser, however, is also a flammable liquid. Pure ethyl alcohol has a flashpoint of  55F (13C). However, when it is mixed with water it creates an azeotropic composition that lowers its flashpoint (i.e a liquid’s lowest temperature of ignition) which is often below room temperature. 

If a perfume reaches its flashpoint and an ignition source is applied, a perfume will catch fire.

With the change in the quantity of ethyl alcohol to water the perfume’s lowest temperature of ignition will vary. However, as a rule of thumb, most perfumes have an alcohol percentage in the range of 60% – 90% so you will have a flashpoint below room temperature i.e. between 14C (57F) to 18C (64F).

Here is a quick reference table:

Type of PerfumeAlcohol (Content %)WaterFlashpoint Point (Approx.)
Parfum (Extrait de Parfum or Pure Perfume)60% to 85%Traces17.9C (64.2F) and above 
Eau de Parfum (EDP)80% to 85%2% to 3% 15.8C (60.4F) and above
Eau de Toilette (EDT)60% to 80%10% to 35%17.9C (64.2F) and above 
Eau de Cologne (EDC)70% to 85%5% to 15%16C (61F) and above
Eau FraicheTraces 97% to 99%84.5C (184.1) and above

Does Perfume Go Bad when Exposed to Heat?

Exposure to heat will cause perfume to go bad. A perfume’s molecular chemistry can be altered by extreme changes in temperature. A perfume may lose its top notes and smell dull or off. Direct heat creates a negative chemical reaction, and over time, the perfume will either evaporate or break-down.

Perfume is a delicate chemical balance between essential oils, ethyl alcohol, water and other blends. 

It is important to provide perfumes with a consistent temperature of 12C to 22C to preserve the fragrance. So ideally keep it in a cool, dry and dark closet and not a hot glove box of a car. 

I left my Perfume in a Hot Car. Is it Damaged? 

You can tell if your perfume left in a hot car is damaged by checking if it still smells of its top notes. Long term exposure in the heat and sunlight can ‘turn off’ a perfume and make it smell more like alcohol or vinegar. Damaged perfumes also look more oily, cloudy and are discolored. 

The top notes of a perfume are usually fresh, light or citrusy in nature. So, try to check if you can still smell these fragrances. If so, your perfume should be okay. 

Just a quick fact here: The ethyl alcohol-water diffuser used in perfumes is heavily dependent on external temperature and vapor pressure to maintain its balance. If it reaches a boiling temperature of 78.2C (which sometimes cars in the sun do!) the perfume will evaporate eventually. 

Yet let us be clear that a sealed factory-packed perfume bottle will not go bad in a few hours if left in a car. The packaging is usually pretty robust. You should, however, be concerned if you have left an unsealed perfume bottle with a loose cap. 

Another thing that you should make note of is whether your perfume bottle is only half full. If so, there may be a lot of air trapped inside the bottle enabling the heat and oxygen to evaporate the scent fairly quickly.

Can you Leave Perfume in a Cold Car?

It is not recommended to leave a perfume – even in a cold car – but rather store it a consistent temperature (12C to  22C) in a dark and dry closet. This is because:

  1. Sunlight and humidity react negatively with a perfume chemical composition.
  2. Constant movement and shaking of a car allow air to mix inside the bottle and accelerate the breakdown of the scent. It thus reduces the lifespan and quality of the perfume.

Though, perfumes left in a cold car for a couple of hours will be fine as long as you have kept them inside a dark glovebox.

Does Spraying Perfume in the Car Work?

Perfumes bind with the natural oils of our skin to produce that lasting fragrance. They usually last between 1 to 6 hours on an average when applied to our skin. 

However, the plastic of our car does not exactly provide that right surface to bind – it might just leave an oily residue. 

Of course, the fragrance might bind to the seat fabric or the natural leather in your car but the change in temperature in the car can either make the fragrance turn foul or just evaporate very quickly. It might also not be the right choice for the cabin air filter. 

It is better not to use a perfume meant for you as a replacement for your car perfume. 

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