Why Does Money Smell Weird? Explained! [3 Ways to Remove It!]

Why does money smell? What causes the distinct smell of money?

Money smells, you can almost tell it anywhere, even with your eyes closed. The iconic United States Dollar note is almost instantly recognizable – not just because of the picture placed in the middle, but for its famous smell.

Generally, money has a kind of whiff, while some folklore calls it a smell of success, a few others would argue that it’s a smell of greed, and no, the smell does not affect the value of money!

But really? Is there a scientific reason behind the way money smells? If you are like me, you have probably wondered why money smells and what exactly this smell is made of.

Read more to get all your answers.

Why Does Money Smell

Why Does Money Smell Weird?

The answer may surprise you – it’s not actually the money itself that smells, but the materials used to make it.

  1. Money is made of paper and cloth, which can absorb and retain odors. So if your hands are sweaty or you’ve been handling food, the odor can transfer to the money and make it smell bad.
  2. Another reason money might smell is because of the way it’s stored. If you keep your cash in a drawer or wallet with other strong-smelling items, like cigarettes or perfume, the money can pick up those smells.
  3. Also, the weird smell that money has can be attributed to some of the chemicals utilized during the production process. These chemicals include furans, aldehydes, and other organic acids among several other chemicals. These are sometimes classified to prevent any security risk that could stem from counterfeit dollars.

But that’s for notes. What about other kinds of money like coins? Contrary to what we think it is, the smell of coins and even old dollar notes do not only come from the chemicals used during the production process.

Instead, they come from a mixture of body odor, sweat, different kinds of perfumes, and even dirt that the money has encountered during different mediums of exchange.

What Is The Smell Of Money?

  • The smell of money can be said to be a mixture of chemicals that were used to make the money, coupled with ink, soap, and a base of cotton.
  • There is also a mixture of odors from wallets, purses, metallic cashiers, and some not-so-pleasant substances, for instance, the smell of cocaine. 
  • The mixture of scents and smell, i.e., the smell of money is a consequence of every hand it passes through. This might not come across as okay, because it becomes hard to see money the same way again. But it’s true!

There’s a saying that goes “money takes something out of everyone that uses it” and while this cannot be said to be exactly true, its smell might just be proving the saying right.

What Is The Smell Of Money?

What Does New Money Smell Like?

New money has a manufacturing scent.

It comes across as the original scent of money which is a mixture of newly configured materials made of fresh paper notes, oils used in the manufacturing process, aliphatic aldehydes, ink, and sometimes a down note of cotton.

The smell of new money can be likened to the smell of a newly renovated enclosed space or the smell of a freshly painted portrait.

New money does not come with all the body scents and odors of bacteria that accompany old money simply because it is yet to undergo exchange from one person to another. It is fresh and smells fresh.

What Do Coins Smell Like?

Recently, scientists have been able to discover the reason that coins give out their metallic and musty odor, which you can perceive after handling coins. You can also sometimes perceive this same scent whenever you touch metal objects. 

The discovery is that the smell that coins give is the smell of iron.

Ironically, this is the smell of a certain type of body odor that humans emanate from their skin after coming in contact with objects that possess iron. It is caused by the breakdown of oils present on the skin. 

It’s like smelling the coin is an illusion because you’re smelling a mixture of sweats and different body odors. 

Smell Of Money Quotes

Below are some quotes about the smell of money.

  • “Money is something that has always been spent on me. Funnily enough, I am not after the things that are beautiful. I am the daughter of my father. What excites me are the smell of uncultivated fields and a stove of burning wood” – Alison Moyet
  • “the smell of money is good, come whence it may” – Juvena
  • “Studios will go wherever they smell money. It is like sharks to the blood” – Don Bluth
  • “Ah, the smell of old money, bribery, and religion first thing in the morning…Smells like home, girls.” – Bethany Kris
  • “Money does not smell of the mire whence it came; it has the glorious scent of what will be” – Catulle Mendès
  • “Love cannot tell the smell of money, and money cannot tell the smell of love. But life can tell the smell of both and had value for both” – Unknown

How Do You Get The Musty Smell Out Of Money?

There are different ways to take care of smelly money, each with its merits. Here are a few that I gathered.

1. Bleach In the Sun

Peter Balke, a senior policy adviser for the Central Bank of Netherlands advises you to lay out your banknotes in the sun to let the ultra-violet light do it for you. He further advises you to keep your notes from hot water and strong detergents as they can damage the bills.

2. Use Warm Water and Hand Soap


  • Pump out a little hand soap with a nice scent into a small bowl of warm water and mix the solution together so the water can properly absorb the soap.
  • Take out the notes or dollar bills with the musty smell and lay them flat out. Ensure they are not wrinkled together
  • Soak the money in the solution of water and hand soap, then take it out almost immediately and let it lay flat on a paper towel.
  • Hold the dollar note down with your fingers. Then, brush the note gently from the middle to the other sides with the aid of a soft toothbrush or a sponged dipped in the soapy water and squeeze. Ensure your strokes are firm and short, avoid scrubbing because you can damage the ink on the note if you scrub.
  • Keep brushing the dollar note with firm strokes. Work your way up from the middle to the top. This reduces the risk of the notes getting torn.
  • Flip the dollar notes over and repeat the brushing steps gently as instructed. 
  • Soak the dollar notes briefly in a small bowl of ordinary warm water and let them lay flat in a paper towel so the water can dry out.

3. Using Cold Water in a Gentle Cycle

You can also clean your money in the washing machine using cold water as long as you use a mesh laundry bag and set it on the gentle cycle.


Money might have its own distinct manufacturing smell, but human activities have an impact on how money smells too. The same goes for coins too, the smell they give off is a result of sweat, body odor, and bacteria.

To get the smell out of money, you can use a mixture of warm water and detergents as instructed above, lay it out in the sun, or machine wash it on a gentle cycle with cold water.

Notably, if the bills are smelly and mangled in a nasty way, you can check with your local bank to see if they can exchange them.