Reviews Supplements

6 Best Smelling Salts in 2024

Unlock your full potential by engaging with our experts and community! Have questions about your fitness journey or looking for expert advice on weightlifting techniques? Don’t hesitate — leave a comment below and Daniel Arenas will provide a personalized answer and insights to help you reach your goals.

Torokhtiy is reader-supported. Some links are affiliate links, and we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. See our disclosure page for details.

Smelling salts are simple but effective stimulants used in various sports to deal with fatigue and enhance performance. If you’re looking to get some, but aren’t sure where to start, we’ll cover the best smelling salts to get. We’ll also explain how they work and who should use them. But first, our top smelling salts review.

6 Best Smelling Salts in 2023

Top 6 Best Smelling Salts Reviewed

  1. Ward Ayslym Refillable Smelling Salts – Top Pick
  2. AmmoniaSport Squeeze & Sniff Pre-Activated Salt – Runner-Up
  3. Zone Bear Down Steel Series Smelling Salts – Premium Pick
  4. Atomic Rhino Smelling Salts Ampoules – Ampule Formula
  5. Primed Smelling Salts Slim Pocket Capsule – Pocket-Sized
  6. AmmoniaSport Smelling Salts Pouches – Pouch Formula
ProductTotalEffectivenessActivation
Time
Effect
Length
Performance
Improvement
Price/
Quality
WARD SMELLING SALTS49109101010
Ammonia Sport (Squeeze Bottle)48.510109.5910
Zone48109109.59.5
Atomic Rhino471010999
Primed46.58.5109.599.5
AmmoniaSport (pouches)46910999
TOP PICK

1. Ward Ayslym Refillable Smelling Salts

Ward Ayslym Refillable Smelling Salts
  • Main Ingredients: Ammonium Carbonate ((NH4)2CO3H2O)
  • Product Type: Powder, Inhaler
  • Shelf Life/Product Lifespan: Up to 6 months
  • Volume/Quantity: 32g, hundreds of uses
  • Activation: Requires activation

Ward Asylum Refillable smelling salts take our top pick with ease. You can never go wrong with a tried and tested “don’t fix what isn’t broken” formula. Great for smelling salts aficionados and beginners.

This formula requires activation. In other words, you have to prepare it yourself. Pour the packet contents into the bottle, add a teaspoon of water (roughly 5ml), close the lid, and shake.

Luckily, you only need to do this once before you can use them hundreds of times. To use, simply shake the contents inside and release the lid to let the fumes out, then sniff. The product is made in Canada, ensuring superb quality control.

With your first purchase, you get a steel bottle to store the contents and one refillable pack. After that, you only need to buy refill packs — rinse the bottle and remix the contents.

The refill system is cost-effective, making these pretty affordable. The steel bottle is of great quality, with no fear of it cracking and leaking if dropped, and it’s environmentally friendly since you skip on plastic.

The bottle comes with a lifetime warranty, and Ward is happy to replace it at no extra cost if something leaks or cracks.

49 EXPERT SCORE

Ward Ayslym Refillable Smelling Salts – great for smelling salts aficionados and beginners, made in Canada, ensuring superb quality control.


Effectiveness:0
Activation Time:0
Effect Length:0
Performance Improvement:0
Price/ Quality:0

Positives:

  • Refillable, cost-effective
  • The bottle has a lifetime warranty
  • Made in Canada (strict quality control)

Could be better:

  • Requires manual activation (mixing)
RUNNER-UP

2. AmmoniaSport Squeeze & Sniff Pre-Activated Salt

AmmoniaSport Squeeze & Sniff Pre-Activated Salt
  • Main Ingredients: Ammonium Carbonate ((NH4)2CO3H2O), (C11H12N2O3), Apoaequorin
  • Product Type: Liquid, Inhaler
  • Shelf Life/Product Lifespan: Up to 6 months
  • Volume/Quantity: 1.07 ounces, hundreds of uses
  • Activation: Pre-activated

For our runner-up choice, we decided on AmmoniaSport smelling salts. Specifically, the pre-activated bottle version. Pre-activated formulas are especially great for beginners – they’re ready to use from the get-go, so you don’t have to mess with the bottle or contents and risk spoiling the product.

These are some of the best smelling salts for athletes due to their pre-activated formula and easy use. Just twist the lid, squeeze the bottle, sniff, and you're good to go.

ammoniasport
Photo by @ammoniasport

This makes them convenient for use on the lifting platform and the field when you’re resting and in need of a quick energy burst to hit the ground running again.

The number of uses depends on usage frequency, proper bottle closure, and duration of openness. With moderate consumption, people report hundreds of uses per bottle. Each bottle has a shelf life of roughly six months after opening.

Manufactured in a USA GMP certified facility, ensuring the highest health and safety standards.

48.5 EXPERT SCORE

AmmoniaSport Squeeze & Sniff Pre-Activated Salt especially great for beginners – they’re ready to use from the get-go, so you don’t have to mess with the bottle or contents and risk spoiling the product.


Effectiveness:0
Activation Time:0
Effect Length:0
Performance Improvement:0
Price/ Quality:0

Positives:

  • Pre-activated formula, instantly ready to go, no need to shake
  • Easy to use
  • Apoaequorin & 5-Hydroxytryptophan boost brain activity
  • Excellent quality control (USA GMP)

Could be better:

  • Single-use only package
PREMIUM PICK

3. Zone Bear Down Steel Series Smelling Salts

Zone Bear Down Steel Series Smelling Salts
  • Main Ingredients: Ammonium Carbonate ((NH4)2CO3H2O), fragrance additives
  • Product Type: Powder, Inhaler
  • Shelf Life/Product Lifespan: Up to 6 months
  • Volume/Quantity: 12 ounces, hundreds of uses
  • Activation: Pre-activated

Next up, the strongest smelling salts on the list: The Zone Bear Down Steel Series. This potent stimulant is made in collaboration with professional powerlifter Travis "Papa Bear" Rogers — hence the name “Bear Down”.

As you can imagine, these are excellent for experienced lifters familiar with smelling salts but not so much for beginners.

The formula of these smelling salts comes pre-activated and is immediately ready for use. Each batch of salts is packaged in roughly 10-ounce steel bottles, featuring quality packaging and intriguing bottle designs inspired by Norse mythology and calligraphy.

Among the six different options, there are pure ammonia-based ones and those with slight scent additives in the form of peppermint, eucalyptus, or a combination. Naturally, the pure kind will be the most potent, but the scented ones are easier on the nose.

Shake before use, wait 5-10 seconds, slightly open the lid to release the vapors, sniff, and you’re ready. As a premium option, these will cost you more upfront. That said, the strong formula makes them one of the best smelling salts powerlifting stimulants.

If you’re really into heavy lifting, have some experience with smelling salts, and prefer a strong kick, you’ll love them.

48 EXPERT SCORE

Zone Bear Down Steel Series Smelling Salts - the strongest smelling salts on the list excellent for experienced lifters familiar with smelling salts but not so much for beginners.


Effectiveness:0
Activation Time:0
Effect Length:0
Performance Improvement:0
Price/ Quality:0

Positives:

  • Comes pre-activated
  • Different formula intensities
  • Multiple scented options
  • Quality packaging, eye-catching bottle designs

Could be better:

  • Not recommended for beginners
  • Noticeably more expensive

AMPULE FORMULA

4. Atomic Rhino Smelling Salts Ampoules

Atomic Rhino Smelling Salts Ampoules
  • Main Ingredients: Ammonium Carbonate ((NH4)2CO3H2O), Lavender Oil, Lemon Oil, Nutmeg Oil, Purified Water USP.
  • Product Type: Ampoules
  • Shelf Life/Product Lifespan: As per expiry date
  • Volume/Quantity: 40 pieces per container
  • Activation: No, break and use

Atomic Rhino Ampoules are some of the best smelling salts for lifting heavy. Their effect is instant and strong and their use is convenient.

Smelling salts in ampule form are great because the effect is instant. As soon as you break them, the smell is released. Each ampule is single-use only - easy to use, and after you're done, just throw them away.

The package has 40 pieces, which, although limited compared to sniff bottles, is an easy way to tell how many you have left.

The formula is made in the U.S.A. and FDA-approved, ensuring excellent quality control. They’re easy to take with you since you can take out a single ampule at a time as you need it. The additive lavender, lemon, and nutmeg oils reduce the smell potency without diminishing the effect.

47 EXPERT SCORE

Atomic Rhino Ampoules are some of the best smelling salts for lifting heavy, their effect is instant and strong and their use is convenient.


Effectiveness:0
Activation Time:0
Effect Length:0
Performance Improvement:0
Price/ Quality:0

Positives:

  • Instant effect
  • Added scent oils make it more pleasant on the nose
  • Easy to use (break and sniff)
  • Easy to carry (single ampules)
  • Made in the U.S.A. (FDA-approved)

Could be better:

  • Each ampule is single-use only
  • Not as cost-effective

POCKET-SIZED

5. Primed Smelling Salts Slim Pocket Capsule

Primed Smelling Salts Slim Pocket Capsule
  • Main Ingredients: Ammonium Carbonate ((NH4)2CO3H2O)
  • Product Type: Canister, Inhaler
  • Shelf Life/Product Lifespan: Up to 6 months
  • Volume/Quantity: One capsule, use until spoiled
  • Activation: Requires activation

If you're a fan of pocket-sized supplements that you can easily carry in your duffle bag or backpack, Primed has the packaging for you. These may not be the strongest smelling salts, but they are still a great on-the-go solution.

The product comes unactivated and has a long-lasting lifespan when unsealed, so if you like it, you can stock up without much worry of spoiling. To activate the salts, open the container, add water to the lid cap, pour in, close, and shake. After that, they're good for roughly six months, as with most ammonia-based smelling salts.

The potency of these is intermediate, as advertised, so expert lifters may find them unfitting. You also might have to bring them closer to your nose for the effect to kick in. However, this does make them beginner-friendly. Apart from working out, they're great for boosting energy when fatigued at work or during late-night activities.

46.5 EXPERT SCORE

Primed Smelling Salts Slim Pocket Capsule - these may not be the strongest smelling salts, but they are still a great on-the-go solution.


Effectiveness:0
Activation Time:0
Effect Length:0
Performance Improvement:0
Price/ Quality:0

Positives:

  • Pocket-sized bottle
  • Nearly unlimited shelf life before opening
  • Inexpensive

Could be better:

  • Weaker effect than other salts on the list
POUCH FORMULA

6. AmmoniaSport Smelling Salts Pouches

AmmoniaSport Smelling Salts Pouches
  • Main Ingredients: Ammonium Carbonate ((NH4)2CO3H2O)
  • Product Type: Canister, Inhaler
  • Shelf Life/Product Lifespan: Up to 6 months
  • Volume/Quantity: One capsule, use until spoiled
  • Activation: Requires activation

Lastly, we have the AmmoniaSport smelling salt pouches. These are effectively the same as our runner-up pick, just different packaging formats.

Once again, manufactured in the same USA GMP-certified facility. The formula is pre-activated — simply rip the top, sniff, and throw it away.

Similar to ampules, pouches are also a “one-and-done” — a great choice if you don’t want to carry a full bottle, for example, when traveling for a competition. The packets are small and slim; they can fit in the pocket of your workout shorts, don’t take up space in your gym bag, and are overall easy to carry.

With 100 pouches per package, they’re also quite cost-effective, despite being limited by quantity.

46 EXPERT SCORE

Primed Smelling Salts Slim Pocket Capsule - these may not be the strongest smelling salts, but they are still a great on-the-go solution.


Effectiveness:0
Activation Time:0
Effect Length:0
Performance Improvement:0
Price/ Quality:0

Positives:

  • Instant effect
  • 100 packets (fairly low cost)
  • Easy to carry slim packaging
  • USA GMP-certified quality
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Could be better:

  • Many people dislike the smell

Subscribe!

The latest reviews of must-have home gym training equipment, apparel, and supplements that will enhance your performance and bring you new results.

What Are Smelling Salts?

Smelling salts are a chemical compound made from Ammonium Carbonate ((NH4)2CO3H2O). They initially appear as small colorless crystals that transform into a white powder when ground down, resembling kitchen salt.

When mixed with water, the compound releases a powerful smell, potent enough to awaken a person. Historical records trace their use back to ancient Rome, and since the 13th century, doctors have employed them to wake up unconscious individuals.

Smelling salts can be purchased over the counter at pharmaceutical stores. Although not mandatory, they can be a part of some first aid kits. Nowadays, they’re mostly marketed to athletes facing physical and mental fatigue.

For example, you can find packets of smelling salts for weight lifting at pretty much any gym supplement store. The two most common forms they come in are capsules (broken to release the smell) or small containers (open and sniff as required).

What Are Smelling Salts

Benefits Of Smelling Salts For Working Out

Now you know what smelling salts are. But is there any proven benefit to using smelling salts for working out? Here’s how they can help you lift more, throw better, or finish a run:

✅ Energy Kick

When sniffed, smelling salts trigger an inhalation reflex that immediately causes a deep breath. This sudden change in breathing can cause an immediate rush of blood, thereby delivering more oxygen to the brain and muscles — helpful when your energy levels are depleted from exercise.

Hence, the user can feel an “energy” kick, that suddenly wakes them up, which also raises awareness and heightens the senses. Unfortunately that alertness does not really translate - at least physiologically - to improved reaction time or power output. 

✅ Mental Prep

Some athletes note using smelling salts as a way to mentally prepare for their next feet. For example, powerlifters often use them before a big lift. One study looking at the effects of ammonia inhalation showed that, although it didn’t directly increase neuromuscular activity, it improved a person’s self-perception.

Sometimes, what an experienced athlete needs to perform in a sport — for example, lifting more weight — is a proper dose of confidence and focus, and smelling salts can sometimes help break down mental blocks.

That said, it should go without saying that we’re talking about feats within your immediate reach, such as an extra five pounds on your next PR deadlift. A whiff of smelling salts will not compensate for something you’re not physically prepared for.

✅ Lift Boost

Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: smelling salts are not magic powder that increases strength, power or speed, sniffing them won’t make you Superman. That said, the acute response — including increased focus and possibly higher heart rate — can indirectly enhance your weightlifting performance.

Side Effects Of Smelling Salts

If you follow major league sports on social media, you may have run across a short video of professional NHL player Ryan Reeves using smelling salts for athletes and having a strong physical response to them.

While the video itself is funny, it created a buzz online over what exactly Reeves was doing/sniffing and whether it was safe. From his instant reaction, we see his head immediately jerked back, the smell was displeasing, and it seemed to make him feel sick.

The head jerk is a common reflex you may have experienced without noticing. It's important to keep it in mind and be cautious of your surroundings. In Reeves's case, it was fortunate that there was nothing behind him to hit his head. Importantly, this head movement can be risky if you've recently had a head or spine injury, potentially reopening wounds or causing further damage.

Side Effects Of Smelling Salts

You may experience a physiological reaction including coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, or difficulty breathing. Some studies even linked prolonged exposure to ammonia with liver damage.

That said, these side effects only really occur from inhaling it too often and too much. Heavy use of smelling salts may lead to burning your nasal passages (inner nose), but that’s also not necessarily a side effect of smelling salts but rather overuse.

If that sounds a bit scary, note that even the strongest smelling salts are safe to use moderately. By themselves, used correctly (ammonia is still toxic) they don’t carry major health risks and aren’t addictive.

Who Should Use Smelling Salts?

Smelling salts can benefit anyone needing a sudden burst of strength and focus. For example, professional athletes use them during breaks to restore focus before returning to the field.

Weightlifters and powerlifters utilize them to heighten mind-muscle awareness before attempting significant lifts, such as a one-rep max (1RM) or competitive attempt. They can even be employed to power through physically demanding jobs.

However, it's important to bear in mind that smelling salts are banned in almost all combat sports. In cases of potential head or neck injuries, concussions, or internal bleeding, the head jerk induced by smelling salts, can exacerbate or mask existing problems. If there’s any suspicion of head or neck trauma from an impact, usage should be avoided.

Tips From the Champ

Due to the leg positioning, sissy squats can be extremely effective with a little extra weight or just body weight. To get an effective leg workout, you don't need to overload the movement much. Just perform them using the correct technique and temp.

Oleksiy Torokhtiy
Oleksiy Torokhtiy

Olympic Weightlifting Champion

Who Should Avoid Using Smelling Salts?

Since smelling salts work by way of sniffing and inhaling the fumes into your lungs, it should be fairly obvious that people with respiratory issues should avoid using them.

These include chronic diseases like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, etc., and temporary issues such as respiratory infections, flu, pneumonia, and similar. Additionally, people with strong allergies should check in with the doctor before inhaling anything that causes a knee-jerk reaction, not just smelling salts.

What To Look For To Choose The Best Smelling Salts?

Although they work on the same principle, not all smelling salts are the same. Getting the right kind is important for your comfort and safety. Here are some factors to consider:

1. Workout Goals

Consider when and how often you intend to use your lifting smelling salts. If you plan on using them frequently, then a refillable bottle might be the most cost-effective for you. If you plan to use them every so often, single-use packets/ampules that you can use one at a time to avoid spoiling.

What To Look For To Choose The Best Smelling Salts

2. Product Formula

The product formula of your smelling salts will determine the concentration and thus strength. Picking the right one shouldn’t be too hard, as manufacturers are pretty clear about which target audience they’re going for with branding and packaging.

However, a generally good rule to follow is to start with something lighter if you’re new — for example, the beginner-friendly formula of Primed Smelling Salts pocket capsules.

3. Activation Time

Once inhaled, smelling salts take effect instantly. However, ensure the formula is active initially. Breaking ampules or packets is generally sufficient. Yet, for packaged salts, prior activation may be necessary.

This usually involves filling it with water and shaking it. This can be challenging in the heat of the moment, so you’ll have to prep them in advance. Choose according to your preferences.

FAQ

What Smelling Salts Do Bodybuilders Use?

Bodybuilders typically use ammonia-based smelling salts which you can get at nearly any supplement store.

What Do Smelling Salts Smell Like?

Smelling salts smell of ammonia, which has a sharp, chemical smell. Commercially sold packets — for example, smelling salts for weight lifting — often have an added fragrance/aroma to douse the smell. These aren’t fully effective at masking the strong scent of ammonia but can make it more tolerable.

Is It OK To Use Smelling Salts Everyday?

If properly utilized, smelling salts won’t cause you harm, even if used every day. However, it’s best to avoid overusing them to prevent damaging your nostrils or developing an overreliance on the “kick” effect.

Conclusion

Those were the best smelling salts to get. The next time you need an instant arousal, get a whiff of one of these. We highly recommend getting Ward Smelling Salts, they work well and the refillable packaging is cost-effective.

Using smelling salts for working out, lifting weights, and playing sports is generally safe, but it’s also important to avoid overuse.

We’d like to hear from you as well. Have you tried smelling salts before (for working out or other purposes)? Also, what do you plan to use them for? Leave a comment to let us know and remember to keep in touch on social media for more fitness content.

Also read:

References:

  1. “Ammonium Carbonate," National Center for Biotechnology Information (2023)
  2. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Ammonium-Carbonate (Accessed Nov. 16, 2023)
  3. Amy K. Campbell, Callum E. Williamson, Lewis J. Macgregor, D. Lee Hamilton, “Elevated arousal following acute ammonia inhalation is not associated with increased neuromuscular performance,” European Journal of Sport Science 22, no 9. (2022), 1391-1400
  4. “Apoaequorin: What You Need to Know”, WebMD
  5. https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/apoaequorin-what-to-know (accessed Nov. 16, 2023)
  6. “Are Smelling Salts Safe?”, WebMD, Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD
  7. https://www.webmd.com/brain/are-smelling-salts-safe (accessed Nov. 16, 2023)
  8. P. McCrory, “Smelling Salts,” British Journal of Sports Medicine Vol. 40, no. 8 (2006), 659–660
  9. “What Smelling Salts Do to Your Body”, Cleveland Clinic
  10. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/smelling-salts/ (accessed Nov. 16, 2023)
  11. T. C. Birdsall, “5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor.” Alternative Medicine Review : a Journal of Clinical Therapeutic Vol. 3, no. 4 (1998), 271-280
  12. Xiangyin Zeng, Runze Liu, Yutao Li, Jianhong Li, Qian Zhao, Xiang Li, Jun Bao, , “Excessive ammonia inhalation causes liver damage and dysfunction by altering gene networks associated with oxidative stress and immune function,” Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety Vol. 217 (2021)

Why Trust Us?

With over 20 years in Olympic Weightlifting, our team does its best to provide the audience with ultimate support and meet the needs and requirements of advanced athletes and professional lifters, as well as people who strive to open new opportunities and develop their physical capabilities with us.

All products we select are primarily approved and tested by the Olympic Weightlifting Champion Oleksii Torokhtiy. Under his guidance, we provide honest and reasonable assessments of the products we review by checking their characteristics, packaging, design, comfort and durability features, and general product rating. We select products from only high-quality and trusted sports brands, thus vouching for their quality.

The product testing process is described in more detail here

Daniel Arenas

Author: Daniel Arenas
Weightlifting and Functional Fitness Coach, Educator

Experience: 7 years

Daniel Arenas is a passionate Weightlifting and Functional Fitness coach hailing from Venezuela. With over seven years of dedicated coaching experience, he’s made it his mission to inspire and guide individuals on their fitness journey.

View author’s page


If you have any questions/suggestions/any other inquiries considering product reviews, you can reach out to us via email – [email protected]

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *