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Swimmers' Lick Test for Chlorine

February 27, 2013

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Swimmers’ Lick Test for Lingering Chlorine


Swimmers have developed a crude but accurate way of determining the presence of chlorine on their hair or skin.  They lick their arm or hair and then sniff it.  For most swimmers, this test brings about the unmistakable smell of chlorine.  Here are some recent examples of what Twitter users have said about this test:

  • “if you lick my arm i smell like chlorine (i wish i was kidding)”
  • “If you lick a swimmer's skin it will give off the strongest smell of chlorine
  • “If I lick my hand throughout the day I can smell the chlorine from the pool”
  • “You know what..... I like the smell of chlorine, I like to lick myself and smell it....” 
  • “this is kinda awkward but, swimmers lick your arm and then smell it. IT SMELLS LIKE CHLORINE, IT'S LIKE FOREVER WITH ME LIKE SOME DISEASE”
  • “All Swimmers know that if you lick your skin, it will smell like chlorine.”

The swimmers’ lick test has been around for generations.  I can remember licking my arm in class after morning practice twenty years ago.  Just, four year ago, a Yahoo user asked “Why can you smell chlorine if you lick your arm after swimming?”  Here’s how he described the experience:

“My friends and I all were swimming today, and one of my friends told me (after I had showered) ... that if I licked my arm, I would smell chlorine from it, and if we all did, the room would smell of chlorine for a little while. Sure enough, I tried it, and it was true. Why does this happen, even after we've all showered?”

Notably, we used the Swimmers’ Lick Test to develop our first SwimSpray prototype.  As we were testing different formulations, I would give my arm a lick on the car ride home to see if it smelled like chlorine.  Since smelling like chlorine is a reliable way to determine whether I was covered in lingering chlorine, the smell gave me immediate feedback as to whether a particular formulation was working.

Once a particular developmental formula passed the lick test an number of times, we moved on to more sophisticated testing, such as chlorine indicators.  However, from time to time, I still like to confirm that SwimSpray works by giving the back of my hand a lick on the car ride home from the pool.  It’s a simple test that provides immediate, easy to understand results.  

Why do you smell like chlorine?

If you smell like chlorine, you are still covered in chlorine.  What you do with that information is up to you.  Personally, I like to wash the chlorine off of me by using SwimSpray.  But, I think some people really like the smell -- enough to deal with the dry, itchy skin, and damaged hair.



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