Know-how: Decanting, Labeling, Packing and Shipping

This is a public service article. I’m sure that all experienced perfumistas (meaning “my regular readers”) know all that and then some. But I decided to put together in one post information I wish I had when I started sharing my perfumes with others (not that long ago). So for most of my readers it’s a post with pictures of Rusty helping me to illustrate my points.

If you plan decanting as a business there will be completely different rules, this post probably won’t help you.

Decanting supplies

Decanting Supplies

You might find useful to get 1-2 ml dab vials (for sharing your small samples, extraits or perfumes of which you do not have enough); 3-4 ml sprays for samples; 5 ml and 10 ml sprays for bigger decants. Pipettes might be useful if you plan to decant a splash bottle into many decants. Otherwise just get some straws from a coffee shop: it’s less convenient but it will do the job.

I know that some perfumistas prefer plastic bottles: they are cheaper and are safer to ship but if I have a choice I won’t go for a plastic bottle. I don’t know that for a fact but I’m afraid that plastic will dissolve a little and contaminate my sample.

Decanting: Rusty and Pipette

There are many places to buy bottles for decants. They vary by selection, prices and minimum order size.

Best Bottles: has better prices but require minimum $50 order (plus shipping; please note that shipping to a commercial address is cheaper).

Accessories for Fragrances: almost twice as expensive as those from Best Bottles but they allow smaller orders.

1 ml, 3 ml (with screw-on spray pump) and 10 ml are good at both sites, 5 ml decants, in my opinion, are nicer from Accessories for Fragrances.

Decanting: Rusty and Vials

If you have other favorite places for decanting supplies (and especially in Europe) – please share.


Labels are important. You do not think about them when they are alright but when they go wrong it might be devastating. Read Steve’s (The Scented Hound) story – though it’s a lot of fun to do a detective work guessing which perfume you’re testing, in general it’s better to avoid those situations.

There are many ways of making labels – from the simplest hand-written labels supplied with decanting vials, through printed on a printer (I saw some fancy ones with brand fonts/logos reproductions) all the way to those printed on label makers (functionality of some of those is just a mind-boggling).

If you do paper labels, it’s a good practice to put a transparent tape over it to prevent smudging during the shipping leakage or further use.

Decanting: Rusty and Labeling

I use a simple label maker similar to this one but I’m too lazy to learn how to do more styles (I got it used without documentation) so I just chose the font size and stopped there.

Preventing leakage

There is an assumption you should make: if a package with your decants flies it will leak. There are a couple of things you can do to prevent/minimize that.

After you make sure that a vial/atomizer is closed as well as it can be you’ll need a tape. Many perfumistas are using an electrical tape and it works just great. Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) wrote the Ode to it: The Unsung Hero Of The Swap Scene – Electrical Insulation Tape.

Decanting: Rusty and Tape

But black color bothered me so I found an alternative and for a long time I was using colored vinyl tape. The only bad thing about those tapes is that when a perfume leaks a little and you do not take the tape off after it arrives the tape might leave some sticky residue on the bottle.

Recently, thanks to Ruth Kaminski from Facebook Fragrance Friends Group, I’ve discovered an even better solution – a parafilm. If you’re not in a hurry, you can watch for the price drop (I bought it for ~$18). I suspect that package will serve me for years: all it takes is a really small piece of parafilm per a decant. You just cut it, peel a protecting paper, stretch it warming in your fingers and wrap around a vial. No leakage, no sticky residue. I plan to use it also for some of my samples/decants that I’m not using up too quickly to prevent evaporation.

Decanting: Tape

No matter what you use, just make sure you’re wrapping it around the place where plastic part connects with glass. If you wrap it around the place where a covering cap ends you will reduce leakage into the package but it won’t prevent a perfume from leaking into that cap and evaporating.

Packing and Shipping

Bubble wrap is your friend. Just make sure you are not trying to re-use the one that has been popped or lost air. Do not wrap too tight. Think about it this way: this wrap will protect only if with a pressure applied a bubble bursts before the conducted pressure squashes the vial.

Broken Vial

Vanessa wrote a post about bubble wrap as well: Another Unsung Hero Of The Swap Scene – Bubble Wrap.

For sending decants in/from the U.S. there are several options: bubble mailer envelope, small box (you have to have your own) shipped First Class Mail (you have to specifically ask for it, many post office clerks try to upsell) or Priority Mail® Small Flat Rate Box (box provided). Padded envelopes are cheaper in bulk from stores/online, not from a Post Office. You can also re-use those that have been sent to you. Sometimes I use small boxes from jewelry or from cosmetics inside a padded envelope to make it sturdier. Small box for priority mail are free and if you print your labels online it’ll be cheaper and will include delivery confirmation without extra charge. Decanting: Rusty and Bubble Wrap

Other Considerations

Summer is really not the best time to be sending any perfumes: think about storage rooms and mail trucks. Somehow I do not think they have a climate control. If you have to send it in summer try doing it on Monday or Tuesday so that it doesn’t spend a weekend at the storage facility.

Have I forgot anything? Please share in the comments.

Happy decanting!

Decanting: Rusty and Supplies 

Images: my own.


56 thoughts on “Know-how: Decanting, Labeling, Packing and Shipping

    • Actually, if you take into the account that those prices include shipping they are great: I think on large orders you can get the same number of bottles/vials cheaper from the site you’ve suggested. So if you say the quality is good it makes sense to check for each order from which site the quality you plan to buy is cheaper.


  1. I love this article! I’m really into decanting! I turn on some music and have a lot of fun while preparing decants.

    And OMG I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the cat interested in perfume decanting! Adorable!


  2. Thanks for the info. It’s always good to get helpful hints and reminders of things you might have forgotten, not to mention new supply sources. My Brother P Touch is blue. It’s a fun little gadget.


  3. You can tell me how successful my decants were ( I semi-followed these instructions). You should have your stash by the end of the week. I have a p-touch but the batteries were dead. Have fun deciphering my handwriting!!!


  4. Rusty is so cute :-D. And I was just thinking of doing a “How to” for decanting on my blog. But this post was so much more helpful than mine would have been. I’m especially grateful for the alternative to Accessories for Fragrance site and the tip about the parafilm.


  5. I remember the first time I received an (amateur) decant with a printed label. I was so impressed ! I consulted my swapper (MUA) and purchased a P-Touch. Not being very crafty. I had never even heard of a label-maker! Now you can’t wrestle the thing away from me!


  6. Thanks for such a helpful post for us “newbies”! I love the tips and the sites for supplies. And Rusty makes the whole thing look so much more fun!


    • You’re welcome. I think if it saves even one shared perfume vial it was worth writing because usually people share their favorite perfumes so it’s a pity when those got wasted.


  7. I now have the bottles (1ml, 5ml and 10ml from Best Bottles, and a fantastic 2.5ml size I ordered from Sonoma Scent Studio), oodles of bubble wrap, electrical tape, and I’ve kept every pretty bag I’ve ever received, but parafilm has been on my “need to investigate” list.

    Oh, and I REALLY want a label-maker. Archimedes now works at Staples and I get a 15% discount, should really talk to the boy about that.


    • You should get a label maker! Even the simplest/cheapest one will do! And you’ll be the first one to use it: decant bottles you use for your favorite perfumes get used much more than regular samples (since you re-fill them and carry in your purse) so these will benefit from better labels.

      I purposefully skipped bags, tissue paper, cards, etc. because it’s not necessary for safe samples/decants exchange so I didn’t want to impose “niceties”. But I’m trying to do something nice when I’m sending samples to friends.


  8. This post should be requiered reading material for anyone getting into sample/decant swapping :) And I’m very impressed with Rusty being such a great model. I don’t know how many photoes I took of my moms cats this summer and on nearly every one they looked away/ran away/puked/started licking their behinds just at the last moment…


    • Thank you, Sigrun. It’s not easy to take pictures of Rusty as well because he moves the way he wants to play without taking into the account where I need him to be in relation to the light and objects I’m shooting. But if I’m being persistent (or lucky) I can snap a picture good enough for illustrationg what I’m talking about.


  9. On Christmas 2010 I got a label maker out of my stocking — it was wrapped and had a label that said “this is something every perfumista should have.” My husband made me guess what it was, and for the life of me I could not. I knew it was not a bottle of anything. And I used tape, paper, and/or file labels to label my samples and decants. He was so smart!!

    Yes, decanting a lot and splitting bottles scares me. I’ve done it once and it went well, and now I am thinking about getting decants for some of the new releases — I am not ready for the FBs yet, but interested in 5 ml to get to know each other better :)


    • What a thoughtful gift! Wow. I’m impressed :)

      Buying decants (especially at cost) – is definitely a way to go. If you’re not sure you love the perfume or will realy go through the whole bottle decants are very useful. Unfortunately, sometimes I feel like I really want to get a bottle.


      • I have just written about this in a comment on Olfactoria post — I have just drained a small sample (not a real indicator for a bottle yet but definitely an indicator for a decant), but I may not give a flip if a bottle becomes available, I might just get that.

        Yes, more splits and more opportunities to buy decants at cost is lovely!

        And I was impressed with the gift too, that was my favorite thing to receive that Christmas!


  10. Couldn’t get it all in one comment.

    My cats are into decanting too! Esp. Robbie. He’ll get his wet pink nose into any perfume, any sample, any decant :)


  11. I loved this post! It’s so great that you condensed all this useful info in one place.

    Never thought to use parafilm (actually, never knew about it till now), but it sounds like it’s something to check out! I really dislike tape residue so this might be perfect for me :-)


  12. Great article. I didn’t know about Parafilm and label makers. Thanks also for the tip about covering labels in clear tape to protect them. I will do that from now on.

    I love Rusty’s paws! Another treat from me please.


    • Rusty’s paws are huge because he has an extra toe.

      I usually cover with a clear tape even samples from luckyscent though those are so small that usually I use them up before labels get worn out.


      • Oh my god, I knew I liked Rusty for a reason! Harleycat is also polydactyl; she has two tiny extra toes on each front foot (and an extra per back foot, but the arrangement is not the same.)

        Wow, Rusty! Not just personable, but ready to take over the world with extra toes!


  13. Excellent, Undina. Thanks for pointing out the importance of labeling, as even with the electrical tape that people put around their decants, perfumes leak and often totally obscure the writing on hand-written labels. Sometimes I wonder if the electrical tape doesn’t make things worse as far as leakage goes, because I notice that the decants I get from overseas that have the tape on it seem to leak more than those that don’t have it, but maybe that’s just been my experience.

    I learned something from your article too — I had never heard of parafilm. Will check it out.


    • I had problems several times with decants from Europe but I suspected those automizers, they all were the same (5 ml with white sprayer and silver cap). Tape might do only that much.

      One of my recent decants leaked a little on its way to Australia – despite parafilm. It might be that just a long flight does that. But it makes me worry about the bottle I used for this one. Now I’ll be watching those :)


  14. I loved this post, not least the extraordinarily cute pics of Rusty interacting with your decanting supplies! I should really up my game when it comes to labelling – I just about remember to sellotape over the sticky paper labels, but have not got into the realms of proper labelling equipment. I had also never heard of Parafilm which sounds like some kind of cunning shrink wrap-cum-cling film and another unsung hero in the making : – ) (Thanks for the links to my packaging posts, btw!) Best Bottles is vaguely on my radar but I am not sure if I have used it. I did try Madina (poor quality, super cheap, got caught in customs and I paid duty that offset some of the cheapness, whereas Accessories for Fragrance mark their packages as “gift” so they slip through the net. That is really important for us Europeans, as the customs threshold is a measly $25 or so. I did try a bottle supplier in Hong Kong (lovely metal purse spray-type atomisers, but they all leaked). Europe seems to be a bit of a desert when it comes to good stockists of decanting tackle.


    • I’ll be going back to Accessories for Fragrances, I think: quality/price is good.

      I think that a sellotape over the sticky paper label is fine for samples: the purpose is to survive the shipping and testing times.


  15. Thank you for an extremely useful, helpful explanation. I want to send samples of some of my stuff to friends and fellow bloggers but I am terrified of how to get things from an aerosolized/spray bottle of perfume into one of those tiny vials. I don’t have any funnel narrow enough to stick into the glass vials and things like pipettes won’t work. (Plus, it seems like such a waste of my vintage stuff to spray it into a large plastic funnel). Do you have any thoughts on how to do it? For now, I think I will just try to spray the perfume into those tiny, wide-lipped, plastic Sephora sample vials, since that is the most direct method and there would be no waste, but I would be grateful for any other tips that you may have.


    • First of all, I want to mention that after doing it several times you’ll feel better: most vials and sprays cooperate nicely if you are doing it not in a hurry. But there is one trick I use from time to time: I get a 3-5 ml decant vial with a screw-on top and use it to take my perfumes with me for re-application or traveling (I have such decants for most of my full bottles). When I need to make a 1 ml sample I just spray perfume into “my” bottle – it’s easier than into a small vial, – and then pour it from my 3-5 decant into a vial.

      But, in general, I recommend to use 2.5 – 3 ml spray vials for samples – even if you plan to put only 1 ml of perfume into it: it won’t be that more expensive but will make it easier for testing.


      • Dear Undina, thank you so much for taking the time to explain and to provide some of your tricks. I just placed an order with Accessories for Fragrance which encompassed a decant kit, the smallest funnel they sold, and 2 diff. sets of glass vials (around 2.5 and 4 mls) with screw-on caps. It’s a start. :) (Though the shipping…. ouch!) Anyway, now, I can send some stuff to Scented Hound and some others, even if the whole funnel thing still seems a little bit of a waste as a method. Thank you again for a hugely useful post which I will share with some non-blogging friends.

        BTW, on a complete side note, I adore your blog after having discovered it yesterday. I love how you approach perfume, the fact that you discuss other things, your penchant for stats and numbers, and most of all, the addition of your furry child. I’m tempted to bring my own fanged, furry one into the mix on my blog, except he’s considerably less dainty and I would never trust him near a vial of perfume! ;) All the best, K. or S.


        • Thank you, K. or S. ;) I’ve just started with your blog as well – so we’ll probably see each other around.

          I wouldn’t have trusted any amount of perfume to a big dog. But dogs are more obedient so you can probably trick him into posing for some perfume-related pictures.


  16. Awww, I love how “helpful” Rusty is! My kitty, Clyde, gets a perfume lesson every day. I try a sample every morning and he always sidles up next to me, sniffing the sample s.o.d., then ends up smelling like it all day. I like to imagine that he has sophisticated taste, but I’m pretty sure he won’t be happy until Serge comes out with a catnip scent.


    • Rusty likes (or at least doesn’t mind) most of my perfumes but from time to time he runs away when I test some of them. I’m not completely sure which ones he doesn’t like. My guess is: the ones with civet.


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