Know-how: Storing Your Perfume Samples

Cat in a boxAt some point my life was simpler: I had my perfumes in original bottles (and most of them in original boxes); samples that I owned were manufacturers’ ones, easy to store in those paper jackets and all fifteen or twenty of those could easily fit into a single drawer. And then it all started: ordering samples from the usual suspects, getting them at Nordstrom and swapping with other perfume addic enthusiasts…

While I was ordering samples or getting them only for those perfumes about which I knew, I could still keep a track of them and remember where I had what, which perfumes I’d tried and which I hadn’t. But then with some batch purchases, extras from swaps, random drawing winnings and my own decanting for traveling my samples box kept filling up and I didn’t feel in control any more. Everything that I got to wear would still be entered into the database and accounted for but many samples were ignored for months just because I forgot I had them or I couldn’t find them fast enough when I wanted to test one of them. It’s not easy to find the one 1 ml vial in a pile of a hundred of those, is it?

Using ammo boxes for the storage wasn’t my idea: I read about it on one of the blogs (NST, I think) in the topic on the perfume storage. But when I tried to look into that option I found quickly that I had no idea which size I needed. So I dropped the idea for a while. And then I realized I had a friend who was a member of a gun club. I brought him vials of the most common sizes and he helped me to choose the correct box size.

Ammo boxLast week instead of testing new perfumes, writing about them or reading your blog entries the day they were published (I got to most of them eventually), I was organizing my samples. At some point I might change the way I sort them and do it by note, perfumer or type, but for now I’ve just organized them by size first, then by brand and then by name. On the picture above, box on the left (B1) can hold fifty 1 ml short vials or 1.5 ml dab and spray vials or skinny 2 ml dab and spray vials. Box on the right (B2) can hold fifty wider 2 ml spray vials or 2.5 ml spray vials or, I’m not sure about the size, standard Nordstrom sample plastic spray vials.

My cat Rusty thought I went through the exercise just to empty the nice box for him to use – which he did immediately after I vacated it. Well, he tried to play The Prince(ss) and The Pea even before I took the last vial out of it but I didn’t allow him. Once he got in he slept there for a couple of hours. And then I reclaimed it for the next batch of samples that will be in there soon, I’m positive.

If you want to use that solution, here are links to the sizes of boxes I use:

B1: 50 ct (the one on my picture is this one, but my friend says it’s the same one), 100 ct.

B2: 50 ct, (100 ct)

I plan to investigate a proper size for 3-5 ml spray vials and when I find those I’ll post an update.

How do you store 8-10 ml decants in tall bottles that aren’t too stable on their own?

As always, feel free to post a link to your blog’s post(s) related to the topic.

Images: my own


27 thoughts on “Know-how: Storing Your Perfume Samples

  1. I love seeing how people organize their things! I might end up with this kind of boxes too. I just don’t like not seeing the label. But my system hasn’t worked for a very long time, so I might have to change it. A few weeks ago I took cheap Christmas cards and cut some rectangles that I folded in half, then pierced holes in one half, just big enough to hold 1 mL samples (the lid makes them not go through the hole). Very DIY. But then I could easily mark the sample holder on the top and in the front, either by house if I had a lot of the same, or by alphabetical order of house name. It was actually a great system, but now I realize that a few times in and out may rip the cardboard, and I would have to do way too much cutting and folding and piercing with all the new samples coming in…

    For my 8 mL decants, I used to put mine in a small Mason jar, the size is perfect. Now they’re just thrown in the same box as the samples… For the 5 mLs, since I don’t have many right now, I’ll probably simply put them in the caps of my shaving cream “containers” (how do you call that in English?), the size is good.


  2. Undina, this is a fantastic idea. I tweeted last week asking about this very thing (how do you store your samples and decants?)! Love it and so fantastic that they close. Look forward to what else you find. I had wracked my brain,even thought of chicken wire, or some type of mesh. I got a shoe box lid and punched holes in it and then stored them alphabetically by house then fragrance name.
    Blog of the month award to you :)



  3. I agree, great post! I store mine in two ways: for the small vial samples I have two wood blocks that have holes drilled in them. For the larger vials and decants, I use lipstick holders.

    What I like about your system is that it is very orderly, you have the spreadsheet to find where things are, and the box closes. Could you use a shotgun ammo box, I wonder, for the larger decants? I was looking last night at some of the links and it seemed like they might be big enough. I may have to investigate this, since it would be great to be able to stack the boxes, as well.


    • I loved your fiancé’s comment about the ammo belt, I think it was hillarious!
      My friend will investigate the right size for 3 ml and 5 ml vials (the one that will hold 5 ml most likely will not work for 3 ml because it will be hard to fish it out – it’s too short). And I have a couple of idias for small decants. I’ll post an update as soon as I try it out.
      I like the lipstick holder idea, I thought about it myself, so I will go to a store and take a look.


  4. Love the ammo boxes, and Rusty in the vacated box! I store most of my decants rammed upright into smallish lidless square boxes of a similar size to your containers, and just whack them in the fridge. The very tallest ones have to lie down, admittedly, or they would bang into the metal shelf. These ones have a shallow box of their own.


    • I was very impressed by your refrigerator. I’m not ready to get one yet but my vSO promised me a shelf in his (ok, ours) new wine storage cabinet. If it works out, I’ll need to come up with a system of getting my perfumes in/out there, decanting samples for daily use, etc.


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  6. How very organised! I have my decants/1ml perfume oil samples in little boxes. For my bigger decants and 5 ml perfume oils, I have a storage box with 12 compartments and a glass lid. But I have some major organising and labelling to do!


    • While your samples/decants are under the hundred they are more or less manageable in almost any storage format. But after a certain number and especially when you get some samples just by chance (extras sent in swaps, from the store, etc.) it’s easier to forget which ones you have and, which is even more important, where the hell they are when you want to try them.


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    • Since I published this post I’ve added labels (A-J) on the outside to better navigate through the printed list on samples and those boxes.

      I like what you use. What are those cases and where do you buy them?


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  10. Am rather new to the fragrance sampling world yet I managed quite a collection. I’ve been storing mine in shot glasses. The ones i don’t like are in dark shot glasses and the ones i like/love are in clear ones.


    • It works for a while – shot glasses, shallow vases with sand, salt or rice, boxes or cards with wholes in them. But once the number of samples goes into middle triple digits… nothing really helps :) (Well, not exactly true: ammo boxes + spreadsheets help; so should hanging jewelry organizers – but you’ve got the idea).


  11. Hi, Undina. As a follow-up: have you already found adequate storage boxes for the 3 ml and 5 ml vials? Thanks, I did buy the 1mm ammo boxes you suggested, they are great!


    • Helenne,

      Nothing for 3 ml vials – they are too short for any ammo boxes of the proper-sized sections, so I use small bags to put several vials in one (by house, for example), and then stand those in a carton box in the drawer. I found the size that works for 5 ml (I can look it up if you need), but since then I figured out that my 5 ml decants are those that I want to wear, not just store hidden away. So for 5 and 10 ml I use lipstick organizers inside the drawer.


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