You saved up and finally bought that big bottle of perfume you’d been dreaming of for a while now. So you brought it back home, unboxed it, raved about it, and gave it a spritz… only to discover that the bottle’s leaking.
To say that this can be frustrating is a major understatement. Especially if you bought the perfume from a duty-free store at an airport that you don’t plan to visit again soon, or it happened to a bottle that you’ve owned for a year or two, and returning it is no longer an option.
You know that a perfume bottle is leaky when the atomizer gets wet and oily at the base. This can happen both when you spray it on you and/or as it sits in your dresser drawer overnight.
Perfume bottles leak because the seal between the atomizer and the bottle is defective or broken. When you come across a leaky bottle, you need to take action quickly. Otherwise, the juice inside it can go bad, oftentimes sooner than you think.
The reason behind it is simple: oxygen is perfume’s worst enemy.
When oxygen comes into contact with the fragrant molecules of a perfume, it combines with them in a chemical reaction we all know as “oxidation,” changing their chemical makeup and altering their scent.
The Earth’s atmosphere contains roughly 21% oxygen. When the seal between a perfume’s atomizer and the bottle is broken, this invites air in and promotes oxidation, which in turn hastens its expiry.
Wiping the bottle down every now and then and ignoring that this is happening in the first place won’t get you far, as it’s not solving the core problem.
So do one of the things below instead.
When you come across a leaky bottle of perfume, try to return it to the retailer you purchased it from. If, for one reason or another, that’s not an option, decant the perfume from its original bottle to an atomizer.
Return the Bottle
As a consumer, you have certain rights to ensure that the products you buy, large or small, bought in-person or online, are fit for purpose (that a scent contains the juice, and not a dupe of it, as advertised) and fit for use (that the bottle is intact and the liquid hasn’t expired).
Though these rights vary from country to country, the golden rule is that most retailers allow you to return unopened or opened and gently used fragrances as long as you’ve kept the receipt and within 30 to 90 days from your purchase.
Any self-respecting beauty and fragrance retailer, especially if you live in the U.S., Canada, or Europe, would (and should) be willing to replace a leaky bottle of perfume.
For shoppers in the United States and Canada, here’s our roundup of the return policy terms for some of the biggest fragrance retailers:
Sephora lets you return perfumes within 30 days to get a full refund or within 60 days to get in-store or online credit (this applies to standalone Sephora stores, Sephora at JCPenney, as well as Sephora at Kohl’s).
Ulta lets you return perfumes within 60 days, as long as you kept the receipt or you used your Ultamate Rewards Program card at checkout (the staff can trace back the purchase to your membership ID), you can get a full refund.
Nordstrom has no strictly defined time limits for returning products. However, in its returns policy, the department store chain asks that you treat them fairly, as they try to do to you, or they may not accept your return. So keep your receipt and try to return within 30 days or so.
Macy’s generally accepts returns within 90 days of purchase. Products purchased in-store must be returned in person; online purchases can be returned in-store or by mail, with shipping and delivery fees excluded from the refund.
Decant the Juice to an Atomizer
Suppose the perfume bottle began leaking a year or two after you bought it. You’ve probably tossed the receipt and used up at least ¼ of the juice, so a “timely” return of a “gently used” fragrance is totally out of the question.
However loyal you are to a retailer, the chances of them accepting a return in such a case are minuscule to none.
In such a case, the best thing to do is to decant whatever’s left of the juice from its original, house-designed bottle to a travel atomizer (for 15-30 ml of perfume) or a glass bottle (for 30 ml of perfume or more).
You’d normally use decants to determine if a perfume is full-bottle-worthy or not. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and decanting is pretty much the only way to salvage a scent with a leaky bottle.
Try Sealing the Leak With Laboratory Film
When you have no other option but to try and fix the original bottle, consider sealing the leak with laboratory film. Our pick is Parafilm M, a staple among lab chemists and science teachers.
Pat the bottle dry with the help of a cotton pad (the same kind that you use for removing makeup) or a paper towel, making sure that there’s zero moisture or oiliness at the top, where the atomizer meets the opening on the bottle. Then try to seal the leak as tightly as you can, pressing down on the film to help it adhere to the glass as well as the plastic or metal atomizer.
Treat this as your last resort; as diligently as you try to get this task done, you probably won’t manage to make the bottle completely airtight. Still, you will minimize the leak, buying yourself precious time to use up the fragrance inside it before it goes off.