It’s no secret that the bathroom is the room that most often has the worst odors. It gets dirty — and smelly — more quickly than other areas of our homes. What’s worse? Over time, we might stop noticing everyday odors in our home, going “nose blind” to them. But someone coming in for the first time might — and that could be pretty embarrassing. In order to save you the time of deep cleaning every time something smells more “off” than usual, our team of experts share how to make a bathroom smell good, fast using items you likely already have at home!
What (beyond the obvious) could be making my bathroom smell?
“The bathroom is a pretty high traffic area, from getting ready in the morning and evening to doing your daily ‘business,’” says home and lifestyle expert Jill Bauer of JustJill. But that’s not the only thing that contributes to the smells. “Warm moisture from showers and dampness on towels and rugs can lead to mold and mildew, giving off a musty, stale smell,” she says. Plus, bacteria in and around the toilet and sinks can also contribute to odors in the bathroom.
How to make a bathroom smell good without cleaning
Sure, you know that when it comes to significant odors stemming from dirt or mildew, you’ll need to scrub. But for everyday freshening that doesn’t involve cleaning or relying on artificial fragrances that carry health risks, these tips can’t be beat:
1. Add a pleasant scent to your toilet paper roll
One of the easiest ways you can make your bathroom smell good is by adding a few drops of essential oil to your toilet paper roll, says Bauer. To do: Simply grab your favorite essential oil and add a few drops to the inside of the toilet paper roll — every time someone grabs a sheet, it’ll release a refreshing scent.
2. Place a baking soda sachet in your trash can
To sink the stink inside a bathroom trash can, just drop a scented dryer sheet at the bottom of the can, since the sheets trap odors and leave a fresh scent behind. For extra-stubborn smells, DIY expert Chas Greener of ChasCrazyCreations recommends reaching for a little baking soda. Simply pour a bit into a coffee filter and tie it off, then leave it at the bottom of the can, under the trash bag. The baking soda “sachet” will soak up smells and slash humidity, warding off funk.
3. How to make your bathroom smell good: Freshen up your toilet brush
You may not realize it, but your toilet brush is often the cause of a lot of foul bathroom smells. Greener’s fix? After every toilet scrubbing session, sprinkle a layer of baking soda into a bowl or cup, then fill the rest of the way with water and soak your toilet brush in it. This will help sanitize the brush and keep things from getting pungent in between uses. After soaking for at least an hour, move the brush back to its stand.
4. Whip up a DIY room spray
A quick, inexpensive way to infuse your bathroom with an inviting aroma is with a DIY all-natural air freshener, says Greener. Simply fill a spray bottle with distilled water, then add 8-10 drops of lavender or vanilla essential oil, or 1 Tbs. of lemon juice or vanilla extract (Note: the lemon juice or vanilla extract sprays will need to be kept in the fridge so they don’t spoil). Then, screw on the spray bottle top, give the bottle a shake and mist the air with your new and natural room spray! (Click through to discover how to use lavender essential oil.)
5. Banish musty odors with a charcoal briquette
To get rid of musty smells lingering in the bathroom, just grab a few charcoal briquettes. “The carbon in charcoal traps odors,” reveals Joey Green, author of Last-Minute Kitchen Secrets. “It absorbs moisture to keep mold and mildew at bay.” Simply put a few briquettes in a jar or slide them inside a pair of old nylons and hang them in an inconspicuous spot. Just check that your charcoal is free of scents or additives. One option: Original Natural Charcoal (Buy from Amazon, $40).
6. Spray down your shower curtain after every use
Another common reason your bathroom starts to smell moldy lies on your shower curtain. And not only is the look of mold off-putting, but it can cause allergies and asthma. To prevent it from growing in the first place, spritz a daily shower spray, like Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day’s Probiotic Daily Shower Spray Cleaner (Buy from Amazon, $15.58) on your curtain and around your tub after every shower or bath. There’s no need to rinse off this spray, and it will keep things smelling good between deep cleans.
7. How to make your bathroom smell good: Enlist a toilet refresher
“Toilet-refreshing products like Poo-pouri are great at masking smells because of the scent from their essential oils and other fragrance ingredients,” says Gott. Plus, she notes that one bottle of Poo-pouri (Buy from Amazon, $7.60) will last quite awhile because all you need to do is spray just a pump or two into the water of the toilet bowl before going number two. The mist creates a coating on the surface of the water, which will trap in any smells in the toilet before they can escape into your bathroom and beyond.
8. Make your own room decorative deodorizer
Keep your bathroom smelling great by making your own freshener at home for pennies! To do: Add a few drops of essential oil to cotton balls, then set them inside an empty toilet paper tube, cover with cheesecloth and place in the bathroom. You can even decorate the tube with paint or tissue paper. Just add more drops of essential oil when the scent loses strength.
For more tips and to see some of the above ones in action, check out this YouTube video:
What *not* to use to make your bathroom smell good
A few odor-busting hacks making their rounds on social media sound effective, but actually should be avoided since they can cause damage to your plumbing or irritation to guests.
One involves pouring fabric softener down your toilet, which supposedly releases a fresh smell when it flushes. But plumbers warn not try this at home: While it might make things smell good, it’s not worth the damage it will do to your plumbing. The last thing you want to deal with a clogged pipe or a damaged septic system.
This TikTok from @kleentingqueen explains why you want to avoid it:
Another one: Spraying your hand towels with Febreze or any other scented spritz. The cloth will hold onto the smell and keep it in the air for a long time. However, if you have sensitive skin, those scented particles could irritate it when you dry your hands.
How to prevent smells in the first place:
The first line of defense? Keeping hotspots like the toilet and sink clean and your towels dry will help prevent the smells from taking over your space in the first place.
1. Properly wipe down the toilet and sinks to prevent smells
“Splashes from bathroom visits can build up underneath the toilet seat over time, so wiping down the top and underneath of a toilet seat with toilet paper every few days keeps any gunk and smells from building up,” says lifestyle blogger Lena Gott of WhatMommyDoes.com. While she notes that the sink doesn’t smell quite as quickly as a toilet does, it can look dirty when it’s used frequently from soap residue and hard water accumulation. To keep it looking clean and smelling fresh, she suggests wiping the sink and faucet down with a disinfecting wipe every other day or every few days at the least.
2. Let towels and bathmats air dry and wash them regularly to thwart mold or mildew
The mildew scent that comes from damp towels and bath mats is a major cause of bathroom odors, says Rebecca Benson of the modern home management blog UnexpectedlyDomestic. If you reuse bath towels, she recommends letting them dry out completely between uses on a towel bar to prevent odor buildup. Also smart: Launder bath towels after every few uses, and wash bath mats every 1-2 weeks, ensuring that they dry completely after washing so odors don’t accumulate.
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