When was the last time you cleaned (and we mean really cleaned) your bedroom? After all, we spend about a third of our lives — and that’s just sleeping — in our sanctuaries, which experts say can be a hot spot for odors triggered by sweat, dirt, germs and other nasties.
"Bacteria is typically behind bad odors in the bedroom," explains Katie Derrick, scent expert and Founder of Fern and Petal. "These smells can also be caused by a variety of things, including shedding of skin particles, bad breath, and even what you ate or drank the night before!"
Derrick adds that moisture and high humidity in the summer can exacerbate these odors "as heavy air can trap them in spaces and make them smell more intense."
A sour, stale or musty scent may not just be unsettling, but unhealthy, as sources warn that some underlying causes — such as dust and mold — also have the potential to affect your lungs and other organs, leading to more serious issues down the road.
Whether you're looking to unlock the health benefits of a deeper clean or the soothing effects of an aromatic scene (after all, a good-smelling bedroom has the power to transform the mind, body and soul), you’re in good company. Read on as cleaning and scent experts share their favorite ideas and products — including natural methods and deodorizers — for creating the ultimate oasis.
What are common causes of bedroom odor?
Tanu Grewal, Chief Cleaning Officer at Pinalen, Cloralen and Ensueño Laundry, echoes Derrick’s sentiment about unwanted bedroom scents running the gamut from obvious to unseen. "Sometimes it may have a definitive source (like dirty laundry that’s been sitting in the hamper for too long or old food in the trash can that you can easily dispose of), but other times are a bit trickier to determine and banish the cause."
That said, if an odor is hard to track or seems to linger, Grewal says condensation is a common culprit. "Did you accidentally leave the window open during a rainstorm or manage to miss some residue when cleaning a drink up? Mold and bacteria thrive in wet environments — and when they are left to grow, so does the smell," she explains.
"If you have an air conditioner unit or mini fridge, check to ensure there isn’t built-up condensation on the surrounding walls or floors," she adds. "Carpeted rooms also tend to hold on to moisture and can muster up a scent if not regularly cleaned."
Why does my bedroom smell in the morning?
While unwelcome, morning odors aren't necessarily unusual, often the result of natural processes that occur within our bodies at night. "You may sweat under your blankets, drool or have a runny nose; due to dehydration, breath also tends to get mustier overnight," explains Grewal.
Derrick adds that morning odors can carry over from decisions made the night before. "Ever indulge in spicy food, smoky barbecued meats, or too many beers? What you eat and drink the night before can seep through your pores."
In this case, experts say washing your bedding more regularly can make a difference. According to Derrick, "simple acts like opening a window or installing a ceiling fan will also help get air circulating so bad odors don't have the chance to settle."
Why does my bedroom smell even when I clean?
Scrub down your bedroom and still sense a stench? Grewal suggests looking at your larger home layout. "If the bedroom is connected (or close) to the bathroom, it’s closer to bathroom odors and humidity zones like the shower and sink. If the bedroom is near the kitchen, you’re subject to food aromas and the kitchen trash, especially if there is poor ventilation between the two rooms."
Grewal notes that pets can prove another source of funky — and frequent — odors. "We all want to pamper our fur babies, but if they spend a lot of time in the bedroom, their fur, dander and occasional accidents can have smelly consequences."
Additionally, you may find that cleaning products are simply masking the problem instead of removing the source. "While they may have a potent fragrance, some solutions simply cover up the odor versus actually eliminating it," Grewal explains. "Be sure to check that the formula you’re using specifically mentions deodorizing on the packaging."
1. Choose fabrics wisely
Perhaps the best way to eliminate odors is to avoid them permeating in the first place. When sourcing bedding and curtains, Grewal suggests opting for cotton or linen, which are lighter and more breathable (allowing for more airflow).
"Bamboo is another material gaining popularity for its odor-resistant qualities, with many brands offering sheets and pillowcases made from the sustainable and stink-free fabric." You can also prioritize these fabrics for pajamas "to keep your body cooler and minimize sweat and odor buildup while sleeping."
LuxClub 6-Piece Cooling Sheet Set, Queen
Cosy House Collection Luxury Bamboo Sheets, Queen
Brooklinen Luxe Linen 3-Piece Sheet Set, Queen
H.Versailtex Linen Curtains
2. Wash linens biweekly
Experts suggest washing sheets, duvets and pillowcases at least biweekly to maintain good bedding hygiene. "A washable comforter is easier for making the bed, while a duvet cover is usually the same material as your sheets and can therefore be added to your everyday laundry load without added bulk or care," Grewal explains. "For the ultimate combo, look for a duvet insert that is also machine washable and clean the duvet biweekly and the insert monthly."
Grewal advises washing linens on the hottest temperature setting allowed for the given fabric (check the care tag for guidance), noting that bleach is optimal for brightening whites and eliminating germs. "If you’re nervous about the strong smell of bleach, scoop up a scented option or a hard-working detergent with a fresh fragrance. You can also add a fabric softener and scent-boosting beads to the mix to amplify the fragrance and keep your laundry smelling fresher for longer."
For gentler linens (such as curtains), Grewal says you can use a washcloth with cool water and a dab of detergent, scrubbing softly to work out any stains. "For more stubborn stains, you can use a spot cleaning stain remover with bleach. Just look for a chlorine-free option with color protection for any colored fabrics."
Seventh Generation EasyDose Laundry Detergent (Fresh Lavender Scent), 2-Pack
Ensueño Max Liquid Fabric Softener (Spring Fresh Scent)
Dreft Odor Eliminator and Fabric Refresher Spray, 4-Pack
3. Swap pillows routinely
Pillows are another common breeding ground for dust mites and other debris, so Grewal suggests opting for types that can be thrown in the washing machine every few months, ideally "tossing in a couple tennis balls in the dryer with them to fluff them back up afterwards."
If you’re prone to drooling, sweating, or sleeping with excessive skincare products (cosmetics should always be removed before bed), aim to give your pillows a good wash every three months, she adds.
According to Grewal, even with regular cleaning, pillows typically have a lifespan of about two years. "This can fluctuate depending on the materials and use they’re getting; if it’s feeling lumpy or has permanent stains, these are signs it’s time."
Beckham Hotel Collection Pillows (Queen), 2-Pack
Bedsure Cooling Bamboo Pillowcase (Queen), 2-Pack
Utopia Bedding Waterproof Pillow Protector (Queen), 2-Pack
Handy Laundry Wool Dryer Balls
4. Safeguard your mattress
The average mattress lasts 7 to 10 years (meaning it has ample time for dirt, drool and skin particles to prosper). According to Grewal, foam mattresses tend to absorb these things more quickly, acting like a giant sponge. "They retain moisture and soak up any little spill, accident, or stain, so adding a water-resistant mattress cover and cleaning your mattress regularly can help prevent mold and bacteria, while serving as another defense against germs and bad odors."
When battling unruly scents and stains, a little spot treatment can also go a long way. "Rely on the upholstery nozzle on your household vacuum to remove any surface-level dirt, paying close attention to seams, corners and any nooks and crannies that can hide loose dirt or dead skin," advises Grewal. “Then incorporate a simple solution of dish soap and warm water and rub directly onto the stain with a washcloth or sponge, using a second clean cloth, dampening with water and blotting the stain to rinse soap away and allowing time (ideally with the windows open) for the mattress to air dry.
Grewal adds that bleach is a good sanitizer, while baking soda is ideal for sopping up any remaining smells. "Sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda over the mattress and let it sit for at least 4-6 hours to deodorize and absorb any leftover moisture," she advises. "Then give the mattress another once-over with the vacuum to remove the baking soda. If you want an extra scent boost, wipe down the mattress with a dryer sheet before you make the bed."
SafeRest Waterproof Mattress Protector (Queen)
ECOS Liquid Dish Soap (Grapefruit), 2-Pack
Arm and Hammer Baking Soda Shaker, 6-Pack
Full Circle Plain Jane Natural Cellulose Sponge, 3-Pack
5. Keep dust and mold in check
As Grewal points out, "dust is basically a collection of dirt, hair, skin particles, pollen and outside debris and therefore not something you want to let sit around your house long."
She recommends dusting at least once a week to improve air quality and keep surfaces clean. "Do a quick sweep with a feather duster, then take a disinfectant wipe over all surfaces — and vacuum after dusting so dirt doesn’t just move from tables and furniture to the floor."
Like dust, mold — typically identified by sight or a musty scent — can be harmful if left unaddressed. The CDC recommends keeping humidity levels in your home as low as possible — no higher than 50%.
Try to keep your bedroom, rugs and surrounding areas as clean and dry as possible for maximum freshness and safety; proper air flow and a humidity meter can also help with ventilating and monitoring.
Pledge Everyday Clean Multi-Surface Cleaner Spray
Swiffer Handle and Heavy Duty Duster Refills, 14-Count
Black and Decker Cordless Handheld Vacuum
Bissell Allergen Lift-Off Pet Vacuum with HEPA Filter Sealed System
6. Improve your air quality
Experts say vacuuming often will help minimize dust and dander, while cracking or opening windows can curb odors and allow for more air.
"Install screens on your windows for protection from bugs and critters or hang airy sheer curtains for privacy," suggests Annie Elliott, Product and Design Manager at New Again Houses. "You may also consider attaching a dutch or french door to your bedroom for direct access to gorgeous views, sunlight and plenty of fresh air whenever you want it."
Grewal notes that an air purifier can be handy for those concerned about their outside air quality, preferring to leave the window closed. Similarly, a dehumidifier can be helpful for humid climates.
And don’t underestimate the power of plants! "Golden Pothos, snake plants, aloe vera and Queen Fern are natural air purifiers," adds Elliott. "Pick a few of your favorites, plant them in decorative pots and make them part of your aesthetic" for a beautiful, better-smelling space.
You'll also want to avoid using harsh chemicals and smoking in the home — especially in smaller areas — at all costs. "Cigarette chemicals are expelled into the air when you smoke," cautions Grewal. "Smoking indoors can contaminate the air trapped in your room, and the smell of cigarette smoke is difficult to remove."
Miulee 2-Panel Sheer Window Curtains
ToLife Air Purifier for Bedroom
Dreo Tower Fan for Bedroom
Dyson TP07 Smart Air Purifier and Fan
7. Deodorize your hampers
As Grewal points out, "laundry hampers can be sneakily stinky," a cesspool of sweat, dirt and germs that can fester and transfer to the hamper.
Experts caution against throwing wet laundry in the hamper and, when choosing a fabric hamper, opting for a machine-washable version or one with a liner you can clean with the rest of your laundry.
"Plastic hampers are just as easily cleaned with a disinfectant wipe or all-purpose cleaner (just give it a quick swipe or spray whenever you do a load of laundry," adds Grewal.
"If you have a wicker or wooden laundry bin, you can also use a disinfectant wipe or a pine oil–based solution which will leave the hamper both looking and smelling great."
Lysol Disinfectant Wipes, 4-Pack
Greenstell Laundry Hamper with 2 Removable Liner Bags
Songmics Laundry Hamper with 2 Removable Liner Bags
United Solutions Flex Hamper with Handles
8. Take out the trash
"Trash is an obvious odor source, particularly if you eat in your bedroom and discard food in your bedside trash," says Grewal. "The answer would be to keep trash out of your bedroom, but that's not always realistic."
Grewal suggests changing your trash at least every few days so odors don't fester. "Another tip is to get a trash can with a lid so that those unpleasant smells can't drift out and take over the entire room — and remember to clean your trash can, ideally once a week using a bleach solution or all-purpose cleaner."
Amazon Basics Round Trash Can With Foot Pedal
Glad OdorShield Small Drawstring Trash Bags (Beachside Breeze), 80-Count
Cloralen All-Purpose Cleaning Spray with Liquid Bleach
Febreze Odor-Fighting Air Freshener, 2-Pack
9. Deep-clean your floors
Floors tend to collect a lot of germs from foot traffic, which can meander into the bedroom and other places in the house.
"Linoleum, vinyl or artificial wood floors are ideal for cleaning; just mix dish soap and warm water in a spray bottle and wipe the floor down with a microfiber towel," advises Grewal. “I also like pine oil for a deep clean with a long-lasting fragrance, as it's gentle on materials but provides a reliable clean and smells incredible."
While vacuuming rugs can help with appearance, dirt and moisture buildup in rug fibers can contribute to long-term odors. "Thankfully, brands now offer washable rugs you can throw right in the washing machine," notes Elliott. "Not only do they allow for a quick resolution to spills and pet messes, but they come in a range of beautiful patterns, shapes and sizes and are also more sustainable, making them a wise investment for your home."
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap (Lemon Verbena), 3-Pack
Pinalen Original Fresh Pine Multi-purpose Cleaner
Bona Multi-Surface Floor Cleaner Spray (Lemon Mint)
Swiffer WetJet Floor Cleaner Starter Kit
10. Bring in the reinforcements
For scent-boosting benefits, experts recommend essential oils as a natural way to neutralize odors and create an inviting aroma.
"Tea tree, lemongrass and eucalyptus — either combined with water and used as a spray or in a diffuser — are among oils that are antibacterial and can help deodorize bad smells in the air," explains Derrick. "You can also put cedarwood essential oil on cotton balls and place them around your room to give it a rich woodsy smell, while repelling months from your clothes!"
Derrick relies on deodorizing room sprays to help keep odors at bay. "For example, our Horizon Room Spray works well to cut through the bad odors and kills bacteria with its blend of lemongrass, ginger and peppermint. A spray bottle also adds versatility for deodorizing on the go."
Elliott leans into citrus for its natural cleansing properties. "A lemon-fresh scent is often associated with cleaning supplies because lemon is a natural odor neutralizer," she explains. "It can break down organic residue and neutralize alkaline odors, making it a true fresh smell hero."
She suggests adding a simple but elegant glass and reed lemon scented diffuser to your bedroom for a light touch of freshness year-round. "If you tire of lemons, especially in the fall and winter when seeking a cozier smell, try filling a glass jar with coffee beans and a candle. The beans also act as an odor neutralizer but with a warmer touch to your design for cooler months."
Fern & Petal Cedarwood Oil
Caldrea Linen and Room Spray (Sea Salt Neroli)
Williams Sonoma Meyer Lemon Fragrance Diffuser
Neom Medium Luxury Candle