8 things people with nice-smelling powder rooms always do

Keep the smallest bathroom in a home fresh by adopting these habits

green powder room with white sink
(Image credit: Future PLC)

A powder room should signal good hygiene all the time, so alongside looking clean it should also smell clean.

It can be a challenge to achieve, though, for reasons including its small size, the fact that there may not be a window, and because of used and therefore damp towels. All can contribute to aromas that are less than appealing.

Good ventilation along with correctly functioning plumbing and regular bathroom cleaning are prerequisites of a good powder room of course, but vital in addition is doing the things that people with nice-smelling powder rooms always do, and these are their secrets.

8 things people with nice-smelling powder rooms always do

Keeping a powder room smelling nice has two major elements. The first is regular and effective cleaning that banishes any mustiness or other odors. The second element is adding the aromas that will make it smell the way you like. Try these strategies to tick both boxes.

1. Adopt a regular cleaning routine

Blue wallpaper with rose bush design, white sink cabinet

(Image credit: VSP Interiors)

Effective and regular cleaning is crucial for a nice-smelling powder room. Otherwise, you would simply be trying to cover up malodorousness with fragrance rather than dealing with it then adding a pleasant scent.

Just like other bathrooms, a powder room is a humid room, and even though it won’t suffer the condensation a shower creates, for example, it does contain a source of the water that allows mold to thrive. As well as making the room look bad, mold can cause allergic reactions in some people, and it has a distinctive musty smell.

Follow the same routine as you would for cleaning a bathroom to ensure the room is always hygienic. ‘Clean the powder room on a defined schedule,’ advises Shari Cedar, vice president and co-owner of AK Building Services. ‘Be mindful of what’s in the powder room and the products being used to clean the bathroom (sink, toilet, floors, etc).’ 

Since many products are highly scented, you might want to stick to those that aren‘t fragranced to avoid an odor that’s too strong or a combination that won’t be pleasing.

2. Get to grips with grout

cloakroom with turquoise tiles and rounded white basin

(Image credit: Future)

One of the places mold often flourishes is on grout, so if the powder room is tiled, be sure to spend time on cleaning grout. Your favorite bathroom cleaner can be enough to get grout pristine, but if that’s not doing the job, opt for an alkaline cleaner like Spic and Span or The Pink Stuff (use a stiff brush to apply), or try Grout-EEZ for porcelain or ceramic floor tiles – all from Amazon.

3. Sanitize the sink

small powder room with blue painted panelling from dado rail, stripe wallpaper, marble vanity,

(Image credit: Kitesgrove)

Cleaning a bathroom sink thoroughly is also essential for a pristine room and you might need to include sink unblocking in the task if the drain is causing a funk. Hot water can do the trick in getting rid of the debris that’s causing a stink, but otherwise, you can clean with vinegar just as you would a kitchen sink. Alternatively, learn how to use a drain snake for speedy clearing. 

4. Wash towels on schedule

Bale of white towels

(Image credit: Christy)

Bacteria can multiply on damp towels and aside from the very important fact that it isn’t hygienic, it can cause a smell that isn’t nice. Wash towels weekly but take them to the laundry room sooner if they get very wet or have seen heavy use. 

While drying them outside will create a fresh natural scent, to keep towels fluffy use the dryer straight after the wash cycle. Alternatively, line-dry them, then put them in the dryer using a no-heat cycle to fluff up the fibers.

5. Pay attention to ventilation

Cloakroom with Curious Department wallpaper

(Image credit: The Curious Department)

Good ventilation is key to a nice-smelling powder room. Be sure to open the window to let fresh air in from time to time. An exhaust fan is also worth fitting if the powder room doesn’t have one and even if it does have a window since it won’t always be possible or a comfortable enough temperature to open it. 

‘An exhaust fan actively ventilates the room, and helps disperse humid air from the space,’ says Jennifer Ebert, digital editor of Homes & Gardens. ‘I’d always recommend one to keep the air in the space fresh and help prevent mold even though a powder room has a sink rather than a shower or bath.’

Jennifer Ebert
Jennifer Ebert

Jen is the Editor (Digital) of Homes & Gardens. Before starting this position, she had completed various interior design courses at KLC Design School, as well as working across Ideal Home, LivingEtc, 25 Beautiful Homes and Country Homes & Interiors as an interiors writer.

6. Stay ready for quick cleanups

Cloakroom with patterned wall and blue panels

(Image credit: Paul Raeside / Future)

It’s a great idea to have some antibacterial wipes ready. ‘Keep a stash for quick and effective solutions for maintaining cleanliness – they’re perfect for unexpected spills and mishaps that tend to happen,’ says Elizabeth Shields, operations manager of Super Cleaning Service Louisville. 

‘What’s especially great is that some of these wipes come with pleasant scents,’ she continues. ‘When you’re done, just toss them into the bathroom trash (make sure to use one with a lid), and you’ll keep any unwanted odors in check.’

7. Try a natural air purifier

Cloakroom with large sink and marble backsplash

(Image credit: Future)

Air purifiers are a high-tech way to a nice-smelling powder room, but there’s a simpler option you might equally like. Shari Cedar recommends using natural air purifiers, such as activated charcoal bags, available cheaply at Amazon.  ‘These bags absorb odors and moisture and can help the room smell fresh. You can place them around the room, especially near sources of odor, for effective results. Remember to replace them every few months for optimal odor control.’

8. Add appealing scents

best reed diffuser: a reed diffuser on a gold table

(Image credit: GettyImages)

As well as taking away the odors you don’t want, focus on adding the ones you do. Essential oils can introduce appealing fragrance. ‘Get a handful of cotton balls and pick your favorite essential oil like lavender, eucalyptus, or citrus,’ suggests Elizabeth Shields. ‘Place the cotton balls in a small bowl and add about 10 to 20 drops of the essential oil. Let them soak up the scent for a little while. 

‘Then, transfer these nicely scented cotton balls to a decorative jar, making sure they fit comfortably inside. Place it in your powder room to keep the space smelling fresh. When the fragrance starts to fade, you can easily add a few more drops of essential oil to revive it.’

Alternatively, opt for a diffuser. ‘One of our favorite techniques is harnessing the power of essential oils,’ says Lina DaSilva, owner of Toronto Shine Cleaning. ‘A few drops of lavender or eucalyptus oil in a diffuser, and you step into a world where cleanliness meets the calming, refreshing embrace of nature.’


Why does my powder room smell musty?

A musty smell is often a sign that there’s mold present in a room. Mold thrives in areas of the home with high levels of humidity and can grow in a powder room. Make sure to clean grout between tiles carefully as this is one of the sites it can colonize. Be sure, too, to clean the areas of the room that are sometimes neglected such as behind the toilet around plumbing fixtures, and around faucets. Clean any soap dispensers and other products around the sink, too.  

The routine that makes a powder room smell nice isn’t hard to adopt. ‘In the realm of cleaning, we often say that it’s not just about the sparkle you see, but the freshness you feel and the aroma that lingers, telling tales of a space that’s cared for, loved, and cherished,’ says Lina DaSilva. ‘Especially in the intimate, cozy corners of a home like the powder room.’

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.