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Co-Living Advice

OMG My Roommate Smells! – Here’s What You Can Do

“He stinks. So bad. Not even just your standard BO. But recently whenever he’s within 5 feet of us (which is frequently since he sometimes comes in our room to hang out and socialize) it smells like he rolled around in his own excrement.

I know he only does laundry bare minimum once every other month. And the guy doesn’t have that many clothes. How do I confront my roommate about his smell?? I don’t wanna be an asshole about it. But my god. It smells like he forgot to wipe after a mean deuce while also forgetting deodorant exists.”

Dealing with a smelly roommate like Reddit poster Aflaming_Squirtle? You’ll know how sensitive the issue is; you don’t want to offend the guy or girl, but you also don’t want to have to hold your breath every time they enter your shared space. And, once those sour scents start weaving their way into your sofa and other furniture, you’ll feel like there’s no escape.

Just ignoring the problem won’t make it go away and might cause you to not like your roommate. So, we’re gonna approach it like adults – mature adults who shower, do laundry regularly and appreciate the beauty of deodorant.

Combat the stink

Before approaching the issue with said roomi, we’ve got some clever de-stink tricks up our sleeve that may just work! Try the following approaches over the next couple of weeks and see if you notice a difference:

  • Use fabric freshener. Use Febreze and other sprays regularly on your sofa, bed, rugs, cushions, blankets…just about every fabric that can catch odors easily. The ingredients in Febreze deactivate odors or replace them with a pleasant fragrance, and could transform your apartment into something that smells like a spring-time garden – and less like a garbage disposal.
  • Leave out cartons of baking soda. Baking soda is cheap and absorbs all kinds of odors. Leave open cartons around your apartment or sprinkle some into the carpet and vacuum it up when it’s done its job.
  • Candles, reed diffusers and plug-in air fresheners. Scented candles and other similar products only mask odors, but they can instantly transform a room by making it feel homely and, most importantly, smelling pleasant. If you’re not keen on using those sorts of chemicals, burning essential oils can have the same effect.
  • Keep the windows open. When you’re at home (and New York’s famous winter hasn’t hit too hard), flooding your home with fresh air will purge bad smells and act as a natural deodorizer.   

Just tell them

Sometimes, things get so bad that no amount of baking soda can eliminate the nasty smells that now circulate your apartment. When this happens, you’ve got an awkward (but necessary) conversation ahead. The key is to approach the issue delicately, and there are a couple of conversation-starters we recommend; the one you choose should depend on your relationship with your roomi.

If you have a close relationship and you see your roommate as your buddy, you could use humor to initiate the talk. Try something like:

“Hey Joe, you do know we have a shower in the apartment, right? We also have a laundry room in the building; I can show you where it is, if you like? Do you think you could clean up a little bit because the place is beginning to smell and I’m worried the cops are going to receive reports of a dead body in here.”

For new roomis or those that you’re not so tight with, you’re going to have to take a direct approach. Remember that they may not be aware that the smell exists, since people get so used to their own scent – so telling them could surprise them. This might work in your favor, as they’ll want to take steps to resolve the issue. Open with something along the lines of:

“Hey Amanda, I don’t want to offend you but I’ve noticed some bad smells in the apartment. I’m not sure what it is, but would you mind cleaning your sheets and clothes? I will do the same. Maybe we’ll be able to get to the source of the odor that way.”

Otherwise, offer them your new body wash or deodorant to try, or drop subtle hints like “I feel like this apartment smells really bad lately,” or “how was your workout?” If they haven’t just worked out, they might realize that they need to shower.
Good luck on your quest for a nice-smelling apartment! While you’re here, don’t forget to check on yourself to make sure you’re doing everything you can to be a good roommate too – a pleasant co-living situation works both ways!