It’s probably not a shock to you that the year I was teaching a class of fifth graders, my classroom turned seriously rank. The hot days were not my friend, especially on gym days! Sweaty kids, combined with an old, musty carpet sometimes left me gasping for air and reaching for the window latch (even in the winter). Even my students were complaining! I couldn’t deny it, I had a bit of a stinky classroom.

Being an elementary teacher comes with many perks. One thing that I didn’t sign up for, however, was a musty, smelly work environment. I needed to do something to fix it, and fast!

5 Hacks to freshen up a stinky classroom

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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 that 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.

5 Tips for a Fresh Classroom

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 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.

5 Hacks to freshen up a stinky classroom


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. For more information on plants in the classroom, read up on Plant Power | 5 Benefits of Plants in the Classroom.

Educate Your Kids

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

5 Hacks to freshen up a stinky classroom

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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 and 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 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:

Cleaning Up

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.

5 Hacks to freshen up a stinky classroom


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.

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 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!

Take Serious Steps

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.

Tips for Freshening Up a Stinky Classroom

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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 for freshening up a stinky classroom?

Banner image: Aaron Amat/Shutterstock.com

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