How to Make Your Classroom Smell Good: Teacher Tips That Work

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Updated | 5 min read

Being an elementary teacher comes with many perks. One thing that I didn’t sign up for, however, was a stinky classroom. So when my fifth-grade room started to stink, I did the one thing I need to do most: looked for classroom air fresheners and other ways to make the classroom smell good again!

When you’re in your classroom for up to 10 hours a day, you really shouldn’t have to put up with a bad smell!

By the end of the year, I’d come up with a few tried and tested solutions! So, whether it’s from busy little bodies, musty carpet, or things just needing a bit of a freshen up, I have a few tips and tricks I’d love to share with you to help your room get smelling fresh.

How to Make Your Classroom Smell Good

Sometimes freshening up a smelly classroom can be a hassle, especially if it’s a large space or you have students with allergies to artificial air fresheners. Many districts have fragrance-free policies that make grabbing the bottle of Febreze a no-go.

To help you out, I’ve put down a few solutions – there’s something for any classroom, so don’t be afraid to try a few things and see what works best for you and your students.

Natural Classroom Air Fresheners

It may seem a bit obvious, but sometimes all your room needs is a bit of fresh air to get the dust, odors, and other air pollutants out of your smelly classroom. Open up the windows and doors, and let air circulate as soon as you get to school in the morning. The ventilation can go a long way toward a more pleasant-smelling space to work and learn.

Leave your doors and windows open as long as you like! If you have fans in your room, turning them on may help to push the stale air out that has gathered overnight.

If you’re still looking for something to help filter the air in your room naturally, think about getting some classroom plants. Certain plants are fantastic at absorbing nasty chemicals and smelly air (check out our favorite plants for the classroom!).

Educate Your Kids

Sometimes the smell isn’t coming from items in the room but from the students themselves!

As little bodies grow older, they tend to produce some…ahem…interesting aromas. Make sure you educate your students on proper hygiene, especially if they are approaching puberty. You can make talking about hygiene into a game to approach the topic lightly, but this can also be an important social learning activity.

Some things you may need to discuss with your students include:

  • The importance of regularly and thoroughly washing. It’s no good if Mom or Dad make them shower every day if they don’t actually scrub themselves clean!
  • Applying deodorant, especially on days when they will be completing physical activity.

Unfortunately, not every child has access to toiletries such as deodorant. Puberty can be a touchy subject for shy students as well. Keep some soap and deodorant handy in case you have a child in need, and always approach students about these issues privately to avoid embarrassment. You may also want to partner with your school’s nurse or social worker to provide students access to toiletries discretely.

It wouldn’t hurt to post a few reminders of good hygiene practices around the room while you’re at it:

Image of How to Brush Your Teeth - Poster

teaching resource

How to Brush Your Teeth - Poster

A poster explaining the proper way to brush your teeth.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: K - 3
Image of Washing Your Hands Hygiene Poster

teaching resource

Washing Your Hands Hygiene Poster

A set of posters highlighting the correct way to wash your hands to avoid spreading germs.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: PK - 6

Cleaning Up Your Classroom

An easy and efficient way to give your room a weekly blast of freshness is to ask each student to wipe down their desks and chairs once a week with some natural cleaner.

Provide your students with a mini spray bottle and a cleaning cloth on a Friday afternoon and watch them do the work for you! Your room will be smelling fresh for the week to come.

My favorite cleaner to use is citrus oil, mixed with a little water. This has the added benefit of removing any nasty germs left on these surfaces at the end of the week.

Add an Air Purifier

If you’ve got a case of serious stink, bringing in an air purifier may help get rid of the smells for good. That’s because unlike classroom air fresheners, purifiers actually pull pollutants like dust and pollen out of the air entirely, running them through a filter to cleanse the air.

These machines can get pricey – most owners spend $100 or so a year on replacement filters — so you’ll want to do your homework. The EPA recommends replacing filters every three months in order for a purifier to be truly effective. There are non-filter purifiers that can save you money on filters. These work by ionizing the air, but you’ll want to make sure you buy one that doesn’t release ozone and further damage the earth’s atmosphere!

Call Your Custodian

If you’ve tried all of the above tricks, and it’s still not working for you – it may be time to take some serious steps to eradicate smells.

It may be time to call in the janitor to find the exact source of the smell and help eradicate it with some deep cleaning.

If it’s been a while since their last clean, musty window coverings, carpet, or air conditioning vents won’t be improved with fresh air. On top of this, these smelly areas can also produce mold and spores that may have negative health effects on your students or yourself. If you think you have something musty in your room that needs a freshen up, ask the custodians if they’ve got any ideas for getting to the root of the smelly classroom issue. They may suggest something you haven’t thought of yet (clogged classroom sink?).

You’ll get your room smelling fresh as a daisy in no time!

What are your tricks making a classroom smell good?

Banner image: Aaron Amat/

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  • Etta Alston-Burgess

    Thanks for the helpful information. I am going to use it.

    • Emma (Teach Starter)

      You're very welcome, Etta. I hope you find something that works for your classroom! kind regards, Emma

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