How to make your dorm room smell good (and not upset your RA)

Not a naked flame in sight! 🔥

A pink, blue and yellow swirly background with a wax melter, room spray and candle warmer on it.
(Image credit: Future / Amazon / Beth Mahoney)

Besties, we all know that there’s something about adding your favorite scent to your dorm room that makes it feel a li'l more like home. The right home fragrance can create an instant sense of calm, while also freshening the air and preventing that awful stale college hall smell from creeping in. For most of us, our normal go-to is lighting our favorite scented candle.

But the chances are that if you’re living in a dorm, you’re probs not allowed to light candles. Because of health and safety, obvi. While the whole "no naked flames" rule makes total sense from a safety point of view, not being able to scent your dorm with all your go-to fragrances can feel a little frustrating at times. 

In better news, there are a whole host of other ways that you can add all of your fave smells to your dorm — all of which I personally tried and tested while at college and 10/10 recommend. 

If you're wondering what the best alternatives are to lighting candles, I’ve rounded my top picks up for making your dorm smell glorious.

How to make your dorm room smell good

1. Use room spray or air freshener

A simple and quick way to freshen up any space (including your dorm) is to use a room spray or an air freshener. Find the right solution to spritz and it can instantly uplift the room. When it comes to picking room mists, it’s a good idea to steer clear of highly chemical-based formulas, and instead opt for essential oil-based sprays. For room sprays, my personal go-tos include Aromaworks Room Mist and This Works Deep Sleep Spray from Amazon (which I know is made for pillows but it also works to freshen the air).

2. Treat yourself to an essential oil diffuser

NEOM Wellbeing Pod Luxe in Beth's home beside dried flowers

(Image credit: Future/Beth Mahoney)

This is a little bit more of an investment, but if you want to spend some of your decor budget on an essential oil diffuser, I promise you won’t regret it. They might come with a larger outlay than a scented candle but, in the long run, an essential oil diffuser will save you a heck of a lot of money, compared to buying candle after candle. 

3. Let in the breeze

Feel like your dorm is feeling a little stale? Aim to crack a window at least once a day and you should find that your dorm feels much fresher. Or, if you’re unable to open your windows, an air purifier could be another great option for cleaning the air and getting rid of nasty odors. 

4. Get a candle warmer

Okay, so you might not be able to light candles in your dorm, but there’s no reason you can’t warm them using a candle warmer instead. Candle warmers are a great way to enjoy scented candles without actually burning them, and BTW there are lots of srsly cute designs to choose from. I think this one from Amazon that I’ve been lusting after is super cute! 

5. Use a flameless wax melter

Another great option for adding fragrance to your dorm and making the space smell dreamy is to get some of your fave wax melts and an electric wax melter. I am obsessed with mine. I love how much longer my melts (and their scent) last when heated by a bulb rather than a flame. I melt the same ones again and again without losing any of the smell. This one from Amazon works great and is stylish, too.

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.