5 Candle Alternatives That Will Keep Your Dorm Room Smelling Fresh

With nearly 16 million students enrolled in college in the United States (via Best Colleges) many people are adjusting to the unique experience of dorm life. Living on campus is incredibly convenient and often required for first-year students, but it comes with an often-strict set of rules designed to prioritize safety and accommodate the quick turnover of residents year to year. No nails in the walls, no overnight guests, and for many, no burning candles or incense inside your dorm room.

While the "no open flames" rule makes sense considering the danger of a fire hazard with such a high density of residents, you may still be missing the comfort of your favorite scented candles from home — and looking for something to cover up the stench of your roommate's dirty gym clothes. Luckily, there are a few other options that will help you keep your room smelling fresh while still avoiding a write-up from your RA.

1. Essential oil diffusers

Everyone knows college is stressful, so why not bring the spa into your dorm room? Essential oil diffusers work by releasing water and small droplets of your chosen oil into the air, so there's no worrying about a flame or dangerous heated components, and you get the added benefit of customizing the type and intensity of your chosen scent. These oils have been used to improve mood, focus, and sleep as well, so different combinations can put you in the right headspace and help you relax after a busy day (via Healthline). Try out peppermint oil for a headache, lavender to relax, or chamomile to help with sleep. More research is needed to determine the actual effectiveness of aromatherapy, but a diffuser is still sure to freshen up your space.

Not a fan of the natural scents on the market? No problem. If you're looking for a more classic candle smell, most diffusers are also compatible with artificial fragrance oils commonly used in candle-making — anything from summery florals to pumpkin spice.

2. Candle warmers

If you're not quite ready to leave your Bath and Body Works collection at home, a candle warmer is a great option. Instead of lighting the wick, a candle warmer gently melts the wax either from the top or below to release the scent without a flame. According to Candleers Candle Co., warmers can actually extend the lifespan of your candle and prevent the wax from tunneling or burning unevenly.

If your dorm room, like most, doesn't have a kitchen, a candle warmer can also serve a nifty double purpose as a hot plate or a drink warmer. It doesn't get quite as hot as a traditional stovetop, but it can certainly help in a pinch. Just make sure you confirm that your dorm allows warmers, and keep an eye on any active candles. Even without an open flame, you're still dealing with a heat source and melted wax that can easily spill and cause burns or messes.

3. Room spray

Sometimes, you just need to keep it simple. That's where aerosol air fresheners come into play. They're an easy way to quickly freshen up your dorm room, and they're usually less intense than their plug-in counterparts. According to Student Room Stay, the average dorm room is only about 12 by 19 feet. Add furniture and a roommate, and you're working with an incredibly small space that heavier scents can easily overwhelm. A spritz of room spray isn't going to last very long or completely fill a space, but it can help you avoid a headache.

Another benefit is the cost. There are obvious differences in price between brands and quality, but a room spray is typically going to be the most inexpensive option on the list. Some brands even claim that their products both deodorize and add scent, stopping any unpleasant smells at the source instead of just masking them — an important factor to consider when you're living 10 feet away from another person.

4. Plug-in air freshener

For a low-maintenance option that releases scent all day, try a plug-in air freshener. These little devices act almost like a reed diffuser, carrying oil up from a glass or plastic vial and heating it to release a more powerful scent through the hole in the top. This happens continuously, releasing a little bit of scent at a time to fill the room without overwhelming it. Simply replace the vial when its running low, and you have a constant pleasant aroma to keep your room smelling fresh.

While they are convenient, plug-in air fresheners do come with a few health warnings. According to Indoor Doctor, most of these air freshener formulas contain phthalates, compounds that have been shown to cause disruption in the production of testosterone, reproductive issues, and respiratory irritation. Before buying, consider checking the label and going with a brand that has a cleaner formula to avoid any of these health issues and keep your environment safe.

5. Trash bags

While garbage is probably the last thing you think of when it comes to pleasant smells, scented trash bags can actually add a nice boost of freshness to your dorm and help mask any odors. The intended purpose is to cover up unwanted smells, but in such a small space, a scented bag can make a difference. Many trash bag brands have partnered with popular air freshener companies to produce bags that smell like vanilla, lavender, or even Fabuloso to give off that sparkling clean smell.

You may be missing your favorite candles when you're away at college, but thankfully, your room doesn't have to be smelly. There are plenty of alternatives to make your space smell like your own without relying on a flame. Just always be sure to double-check your dorm's rules on what items are and are not allowed — a pleasant smell isn't worth dealing with an angry RA during room checks.