Inhaling smelling salts is like letting off fireworks in your nasal cavity and then being possessed by a strength demon. While the experience is different for everyone, most users report a scorching, chlorine-like smell and then a rush of euphoria which rivals even the best pre-workout supplements.
Anyone who says they like the smell is either a liar or a closet junkie. The best you can hope for is that the product is tolerable and you don’t dry retch or worse – vomit prior to your lift. I’ve seen it happen and it isn’t pretty.
In saying that, I don’t hate the scent or the inevitable chemical taste that will trickle down your throat. The key to buying smelling salts is simple; get value for money, something easy to use, the delivery method that suits you and acquire it from a reputable source to avoid inhaling washing powder.
If you’re not scared off by this introduction to smelling salts then you are made of metal and a worthy consumer of just such a product. I’m guessing that you are also a competitor at heart and a fierce lifter in the gym. Read on grasshopper.
What the hell is smelling salt?
Smelling salts contain ammonia (which is the active ingredient) a small amount of alcohol and the spirits of fallen Spartan warriors.
*Caution: The last ingredient cannot be verified by scientific testing but I still suspect it is present given the effect it has on the human body.
Historically it has been used to revive the unconscious or those who have fainted. The chemical evokes a “flight” response from the body and when it works effectively the unresponsive person usually jolts awake, confused and angry.
Somewhere along the line someone realised that ammonia administered to a fully awake human being had some pretty interesting short-term effects. One of these effects is a rapid onset of adrenalin and an intense burst of energy – perfect for weightlifting (especially when shooting for new personal records).
The inhalation of the ammonia and alcohol combination gently irritates the membranes of the nose, throat and lungs to produce a physical response from the body. This is generally described as a rush of energy and strength.
The product comes in ampules, wipes or liquid (for smelling not drinking). Personally, I prefer the capsules for ease-of-use and the liquid form has the potential for leakage.
Each ampule is an easy, single-use product that you open, inhale and discard. It doesn’t get too much easier than that. The bottle of smelling salts can be finicky as you have to put it down without spilling it or put the lid back on.
That can be a little annoying when amping yourself up for a huge lift. Fine motor tasks are not really on the menu at these times. You want to shift a tonne of weight and focus on the lift rather than working out how to put a tiny little cap on a bottle.
Remember the surge in energy won’t last long. You have a 10-20 second window after you inhale to make the most out of your nasal lifting aid!
I simply can’t be bothered mucking around before a lift to use the bottles. Sure, a buddy can hold it under your nose for you if they are not busy doing their own routine but the ampules allow lifters to go about their business without any fuss.
The wipes are more expensive per unit and not as effective I find but will still give you a kick if used correctly. The ampules are simply cracked open like a peanut and held to the nose for instant inhalation.
How do I use this product safely?
This is the boring mum warning bit. As with all chemical-based products one uses there are precautions and rules for use. This product is flammable so do not use near a naked flame and don’t discard it somewhere that is exposed to elevated temperatures. And if you value your eyes, don’t get any in them.
Be gentle and a little cautious on your first attempt. Slowly move it in from about five inches away from your nose and sniff softly. Do not go Scarface and bury your head in the ampule or bottle as you will be in for a rude visceral shock.
The ammonia can cause a burning/irritation to eyes and skin, but the latter is much less common. Water is your friend, rinse the areas thoroughly and seek medical attention if the problem persists.
If you suffer any allergies, it is recommended to speak to your General Physician before undertaking this regime of kicking ass and taking names.
Lastly, do not swallow this substance. It is an inhalant only. It goes up your nose not in your mouth. Should you or anyone ingest it orally get your ass to the hospital immediately.
Following treatment for this, ask for a script for anti-stupidity pills and in future read the instructions more carefully.
The best smelling salt is Dynarex
Now, let’s get to the exciting bit. Which ones do I take?? Well that’s easy. Dynarex ampule capsules are the best smelling salts I have come across in terms of price and performance and are available at multiple online sites.
A Google search will suggest a heap of retailers so just do a little leg work to ensure you’re getting the best deal available.
Dynarex come in a 10-pack for $3.99 free shipping and contain 15% ammonia. They also come in bulk buy of 100 capsules and if you shop around you can snag these for under $20.
The capsules are super-easy to crack open and have an intense burst of ammonia that is sure to punch you in the central nervous system and have you crushing those heavy lifts.
Hang on for the ride, grab that weight and make it your bunny. The energy increase from a single cap is impressive and can make all the difference when climbing over stubborn training plateaus.
The squad that I attend various national and international competitions with Hoover these down with pure delight. They are available to buy in bulk and you can save some coin that way if your gym or squad place a single large order. You can contact dynarex.com directly also to organise larger orders.
Down to the specifications: Each ampule is 0.33cc (cubic centimeter) and has 15% ammonia and 35% alcohol but don’t panic, it won’t get you drunk or lead to a false/positive reading on a police breathalyser!
Again, don’t drink them and you will be fine. I cannot stress this enough as believe it or not, people have drunk these capsules before and immediately regretted it. Emergency medical care is essential if this happens. Last warning, I promise…
X-Gen ammonia cap is the runner up but only on price!
This stuff is dynamite too. Many a satisfied customer has belted down a nostril-full of X-Gen ammonia and gone “jizzed-up bull” as we call it, ripping the skin off a weight in their heightened state of beast mode.
Like our top pick, this bad boy can be found online but is a little more expensive than our premier product. eBay or Amazon.com will host a range of sellers who hold this product but it is around the $6 mark for a pack of 10.
The ampules are straightforward to use and crack openly easily. The payload is the business as there is certainly a good whack of ammonia in there to satisfy even the most hardened of lifters.
As mentioned, you can find these ampules around the $6 mark for a pack of ten, but that’s almost double what the top pick costs in small quantities and there is no real difference in products in terms of performance.
Short of doing a Breaking Bad laboratory-style test to see the exact percentages of ammonia in each brand, I am relying on trusted anecdotal evidence (or lived experience research data) here for the results.
Moving on to a different delivery method for those who may not like using the ampules. There are ammonia wipes available and there is a liquid form that we will discuss later.
These ampules have the same breakdown in terms of ingredients – 15% ammonia and 35% alcohol which is identical to the best pick Dynarex.
I have only recently stumbled onto these but they are also very good ammonia ampules. First Aid Supply is the brand and per unit, they are almost the cheapest on the market for non-wholesale purchases.
Problem is they don’t have free shipping like Dynarex.com. Hence why they are relegated to the bench like a pitcher having a forgettable night on the mound, walking batter after batter.
We tried these ampules and they are a carbon copy of the top two picks so if buying in bulk and your shipping distance is minimal, this could be a smart buy for lifters.
The ampules pop open without much effort and the payload is also impressive. They hold the common ratio of 15% ammonia and 35% alcohol so in terms of product performance it is on par with our performers.
Best of the “bottled beast” is Nose Tork
Nose Tork is very popular with lifters who do not rate the single-use ampules. It can work out more cost effective to buy a bottle with a large dosage of the ammonia smelling salts in it, but there are drawbacks to it also.
Firstly though, the good: Using Nose Tork is like inhaling Hercules’ manliness in one giant sniff. It is potent as hell but lifters should approach the inhalation with caution. I have seen regular human beings do some extraordinary things after chasing the white dragon out of a Nose Tork bottle.
It is a powerful performer and it is possible to inhale more than one ampule would provide as the solution is stored as a long-term use liquid. Each ampule holds 0.33cc of a millilitre whereas the large bottles have the equivalent of say 10 ampules in them when looking at the smaller bottles.
But alas, that is also its Achilles Heel. The larger amount of liquid can leak and spill, especially when you are charging around on an ammonia-driven lifting rampage. The bottle needs to be sealed tightly, correctly threaded and stored upright to ensure no spillage.
A little secret for you. There is always spillage when carted around in a gym bag. Eventually it will happen and you will not be happy. But if that’s an acceptable risk-to-reward ratio and you care about the amount of packaging and refuse the ampules create, then hats off to you and enjoy the rush.
It is not a pleasant smell that you would want on, around or near you on a regular basis so take care with the bottles should you choose this path. Price-wise it is on par with ampules and you can get your hot little hands on some for as low as $6 non-wholesale.
When broken down on milliliter per ammonia/alcohol concentration (which without a CSI lab is hard to do accurately) it does pan out to a similar ratio of
It will take a couple of attempts to work out just how hard to inhale and how far you bury your nose in the bottle. I would suggest hovering your honker just above the rim of the bottle and slowly drawing back to gauge the amount you are inhaling.
Once you feel that unmistakeable scorch you can regulate how much more of the ammonia to inhale. This comes down to personal preference, size of the lift and experience.
Now it is almost impossible to accurately measure the weight you are getting in each bottle of smelling salts from all brands. Some manufacturers release the amount they put in each bottle but the ampules are so much easier to assess if you are getting what you paid for.
The other issue becomes efficacy. After a certain amount of inhalations the bottles will run out of ammonia and alcohol and not have the same effect before a lift.
A bottle on empty will still retain the smell so lifters are encouraged to keep an eye on the contents. At least with ampules you know exactly when to replace them – when the last ampule runs out!
The Best smelling salt wipe is…
None to be honest but that is purely down to personal preference. The Safetec brand wipe is the pick of the bunch for those who aren’t keen on snorting ammonia in the ampule form.
This method achieves efficacy by merely inhaling deeply while holding it near your nose (but not on the skin).
The wipes appear to be much weaker when compared as a one-on-one with the ampule and much more expensive.
The Safetec brand of wipes will cost you about $6 plus shipping online, so on a unit pricing scale they certainly aren’t the most economical of the delivery methods. In terms of ease-of-use then I guess this rates highly but obviously it lacks the payload of the other products mentioned.
However the wipes do have some benefits though. Despite still being the weakest option, they are easy to store and come in flat packs for easy handling.
But really, if that is the best selling point than you can probably agree that the other products are a better fit for lifters. This may be an option for anyone who doesn’t have the strength to pop the ampules, but if that’s the case – you’re probably not ready for smelling salts anyhow.
Review the results
I love smelling salts. Everyone I know loves smelling salts. Every possible advantage there is most people like to take in terms of weight training. While I wouldn’t recommend using these every session, medical reports seem to indicate they are relatively safe for moderate usage in weightlifting.
Given the adrenalin dump and the surge in your central nervous system, I would save the ammonia caps for your heavier lifts and sessions. They are amazing, no doubt about that. Especially when combined with pre-workout and creatine supplements.
Look for value and shop around as there seems to be new suppliers popping up every week. Wholesale first aid suppliers are a great place to look for bulk buys and to save some coin. The ammonia salts do not require any special prescription from the customer or a reason for purchase for suppliers.
If you haven’t tried smelling salts and love to challenge yourself in the gym, then these could be a great new addition to your workout regime. If you are no stranger to the wonderful world of nose nitro, then charge on men and women of steel!
Ignore the less-than delicious smell and open up the muscle vents folks! It is time to take the next step in your journey to strength town, population you.
Smelling salts could just be the difference between surging past your previous best lifts and sitting idly by waiting for that magical day that you overcome your current training plateau. May your bars be bent and your lifts be huge!