18 chemical-free ways to banish nasty bathroom smells

Bathrooms. One small room, yet the source of so many unpleasant pongs.

Whether it’s from stale, mildewy towels or something even more embarrassing… Your instinct might to go crazy in there with an air freshener, but those with synthetic ingredients could be doing you more harm than good. Rather than purifying the air, they work by releasing a chemical such as methoxychlor, which coats your nasal passages with a film of oil or by deadening your olfactory nerves so you can’t smell anything. That’s right, it’s actually changing something in YOU rather than your bathroom!

Instead, try these natural solutions for a fug-free environment.

1. Put some air in there

Ensure your bathroom is well ventilated at all times. If you can, open your bathroom windows daily to let fresh air in. And while it may seen counter intuitive, keep the bathroom door open when it’s not in use to allow the air to flow in and out. Install extractor fans and use them whenever showering and for about half an hour afterwards.

2. How’s it hangin’?

Be sure to hang up your towels and bathmat daily. Nothing guarantees a moldy stench quite like balled up soggy towels in the corner of the room and a bathmat left damp all day. Your bath towels, face washers and hand towels should also be washed regularly (after every three to five uses), while your bathmat should be washed weekly. Wash your shower curtain when you notice a build-up of soap scum or mildew (and replace it altogether if it’s too far gone, shower curtains have a limited shelf life). Keep the shower curtain closed after use so water doesn’t collect in the folds. In a perfect world, the shower walls should be wiped down with a squeegee after each use. (I know, we’re dreamin’. But leave one handy so you might remember now and then.)

3. Hamper their style

If you’re prone to flinging off your clothes in the bathroom and leaving them in a pool of water, keep a laundry basket in the bathroom so you can throw dirty clothes straight in. Empty this regularly along with the rubbish bin in the bathroom, which is a haven for bacteria-laden goodies such as tissues, band-aids, nail polish remover pads, etc.

4. Banish the bottles

Shampoo, conditioner and body wash bottles can also be a breeding ground for bacteria, mould and nasty odours. Try to keep these off the damp floor, and wipe down underneath them regularly. Ideally, you should either keep them in a metal shower caddy (with sufficient drainage) or remove them from the bath/shower after each use (who really wants to do that?!).

5. Let the sunshine in

The sun is a wonderful (and free!) natural deodoriser. If possible, hang your towels, bathmats, hand towels and even shower curtain out in the sun regularly, rather than just rehanging in the bathroom. They will stay fresher longer and won’t get that musty smell.

6. Polish your pipes

Every month or two give your drains and pipes a good preventative clean to keep them clear of grease, oil, and hair. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup white vinegar, which will fizz up. Let stand for a few minutes to dissolve fatty acids and then pour boiling water down the drain to wash out any clogs.

7. Scrub your tub

Bath got a ring on it? For a non-toxic bath cleaner, add one teaspoon of liquid soap and several drops of an antibacterial essential oil (such as tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary, or peppermint) to one cup of baking soda. Add just enough water to form a paste, and use it with a sponge or brush to scour bathtub surfaces.

8. Free the wee

Boys. Wee smells. If you share your abode with these two, you don’t need us to tell you it’s a solid partnership. To banish the smell of stale wee from around your loo, make a paste with baking soda and freshly squeezed lemon juice (a natural disinfectant). Apply the paste liberally – better yet, get him to – to all the places around the toilet that get a lot of over-spray, especially the base of the toilet. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then spray it with white vinegar and wipe it down with a damp rag. Afterwards, spray the area daily with white wine vinegar to keep the pongs at bay between washes.

9. Number two damage control

We all do it. Even the Queen. But that doesn’t mean we want to smell it. Or anyone else’s (even the Queen’s). So let’s discuss minimising poo pongs, shall we? If you get in the habit of closing the lid before flushing, it will help to stop the smelly nasties spraying out into the air. As for the age-old idea of lighting a match? The sulphur dioxide created will confuse your olfactory senses and help to eliminate the odour – but we don’t recommend it! If you’ve got guests coming over and need an emergency cover, burning incense is a sure fire way to hide any embarrassing smells.

10. Try prevention rather than cure

Spray the toilet bowl water with a mix of essential oils before you do your business. The oils leave a protective barrier on the top surface of the water, trapping the pong and preventing it from getting out.

11. Bowl brilliance

Clean your toilet bowl by sprinkling some baking soda around the inside of the toilet to coat, then dumping a cup of undiluted white vinegar into the water. As it fizzes, use your toilet brush to scrub away.

12. Try some Coke

Speaking of fizz, another surprisingly effective way of cleaning your toilet bowl is to pour some cola down the loo. Leave for 15 minutes before scrubbing, then flush. Pristine porcelain! … Just make sure no one sees the bowl before you scrub or they may get concerned!

13. Natural air freshener


Try this recipe for a chemical-free air freshener. Combine 2 cups water, 1 tbsp white vinegar, 1 tsp baking soda and 10 drops of essential oil, such as eucalyptus, citrus or lavender. Mix and put into a spray bottle to leave in the bathroom.

14. Turn to alcohol

Another all-natural air freshener, this one uses vodka to soak up the smells. Mix three parts water with one part cheap vodka and 10-20 drops of essential oil and place in a spray bottle.

15. Lemon fresh

For the most easy and natural way to create a fresh-smelling bathroom, simply slice up some lemons and place in a dish.

16. Diffuse and conquer

Heat up a few drops of essential oils in a diffuser or vaporiser and it will scent and refresh the air naturally.

17. Use some flower power


Make a feature of fresh plants and flowers, such as jasmine, lilies, roses or lavender to keep your bathroom naturally scented.

18. DIY potpourri

Make your own potpourri using leaves from dried herbs or flower petals mixed with cinnamon. Put the mixture in a bowl and gently stir from time to time to release the fragrance. Sprinkle a few drops of essential oil to revive its scent.


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