Make Your Dorm Room Smell Lovely Without Any Flames

Here are some fire-free options for a scent-loving college student—or anyone else who fears an open flame.

Welcome to What’s That Smell?, a monthly roundup of the newest and the best in home scent solutions, from a dedicated home scent enthusiast to you.

It’s back to school season, nerds. Those of you headed off to the dorms are likely making a last-minute grab for the essentials—linens, a lamp, a mini-fridge, a robe and a shower caddy, something illicit that you hope your RA won’t find. Not on your list, though, are candles, because open flames are cruelly and correctly banned by most college residential buildings. I know, it’s very sad and absolutely for your own good. So what is a collegiate scent lover to do?

Well, there are actually a number of ways to bring non-flammable scent into your dorm life—or your home life with children, or unruly pets. We’ve assembled a chic collection of them for you to peruse. So check it out, and we’ll see you around the Quad!

It’s pretty and scented

Michel Design Works Scented Drawer Liners

Scented drawer liners wake the senses and bring something special to the everyday.

Two things that are essential to making dorm living manageable are, one, a way to make the space not smell disgusting and, two, a way to make the space not seem completely devoid of personality. These drawer liners do both, adding a demure little touch of beauty in an otherwise barren space, i.e., the drawers that, before you, held the clothing of countless other disgusting young adults. Make it your own by adding a bit of paisley and a floral scent, and maybe also by giving it a good cleaning.

It’s showing off your good taste

Diptyque Roses Scented Oval

An ode to the muse of the garden. A bouquet of gentle, fresh-cut roses in a scented wax oval framed in a ceramic ring.

“Wow, why does it smell so good in here?” “Wow, wait—are your parents rich?” Just two of the many fawning questions you’ll receive after hanging your Diptyque scented oval. The scented wax has a throw too weak for large spaces, but it would be perfect for a dorm room, a bathroom, or a home office. It’s a fire-safe way to show off your candle snobbery (or the fact that you have rich parents).

It’s bright and refreshing

P.F. Candle Co. Sweet Grapefruit Diffuser

Ice cold lemonade. Dinner on the patio with your favorite people. Grapefruit, yuzu, and lemon.

P.F. Candle is a budget-friendly alternative to higher-end brands, without a big loss in quality. To brighten up a space, I’d go for their grapefruit scented reed diffuser; it has a good throw, and will give you a little hit of energy with every sniff. Remember to turn the reeds over every once in a while to kick-start the scent again. (And for those who dislike citrus-forward scents, I’d go for the “Golden Coast”—warm eucalyptus, palo santo, and sage.)

It’s the autumn air—inside!

La Bruket 181 Fragance Tag, Hinoki

Scented fragrance tag with a woody fresh and spicy scent of nutmeg and cedarwood that will create a unique scent experience in any room.

As we head into autumn, I feel it is an absolute necessity to be surrounded by autumnal scents at all times. We have to make the most of it while it’s here (and then we have to make the most of winter scents). This little fragrance tag in “Hinoki,” from Swedish skincare company L:a Bruket, is an easy way to bring the warm scent of spicy cedarwood into a small space. Hang it in your closet, or get one of those little Command brand hooks and hang it wherever.

It’s a little bit of a rule breaker

Mauri Candle Warmer Lamp

Constructed from high-quality glass, and boasting an elegant design, the candle warmers lamp is the ideal piece for elevating your interior decor. Plus, it’s smokeless and flameless, meaning you can enjoy a safe candle wax melt and fragrance emission without the risk of an open flame.

Oh my gosh, remember how you needed a lamp? Well this cute little ditty is also a candle warmer, meaning it’ll melt your candle’s wax just enough to release a scent but not enough that it will burst into flames. I’m not sure if you’re going to feel particularly rebellious for having a candle—even one you won’t light—in a space that is meant to be candle-free, but I have to imagine you’re going to be doing much worse stuff in there, too. Go to town, you’re young! (Please do not hold me accountable if you get kicked out of your dorm.)

It’s hotel turn-down service at home 

Brooklinen Fabric Refresher

Oooh, that’s fresh. Add a spritz of pure bliss onto fabrics that could use a little extra love. Only the good stuff in here. Hypoallergenic, with no: petroleum; artificial dyes; parabens; phthalates or phosphates. Tested by our trusted third-party labs.

This stuff is amazing—spray it on your linens, spray it in the air, spray it on your clothes, spray it on your rug, spray it everywhere you might want a bright, citrusy, vanilla-y, laundry-clean scent. My go-to move is to “turn down” my own bed, like I’m at a hotel—fold the covers down, plump the pillows, spray a bit of this fabric refresher, set a glass of water by the bed. Then leave the room briefly. When you come back —oh my gosh, what is this, a hotel? No. It’s just your down room or your bedroom otherwise. But it’s still nice!

It’s mysterious and beautiful

Apotheke Charcoal Reed Diffuser

Notes of cedarwood and sandalwood blended with smokey amber and oud come together to create a broody, full-bodied fragrance. Transform your space with Charcoal.

I love this scent so much. Maybe you live with someone who isn’t “into” fragrances, or maybe that person is you—if so, Apotheke’s “Charcoal” might be a happy compromise. It smells a bit industrial; cool and smokey with some wood and some … well, charcoal. I promise you’ll love it and if not you can send it over to me. The reed diffuser should last you around three months.

It uses cold air diffusion technology

La Bardot Scent Diffuser

Experience the ultimate scent diffusion with La Bardot’s advanced cold air diffusion technology, ensuring a consistent and even distribution of fragrance throughout your space.

I have to say, this is the best essential oil diffuser I’ve ever used. And I’ve used, well … I think four. Which doesn’t seem like a large number, but I think it’s large enough for our purposes. Okay??? It uses “cold air diffusion technology,” whatever that is, to periodically spray a silent little powerful spritz of whatever fragrance you choose into the air, and it works so well you’ll feel like you’re in some kind of fancy store or hotel lobby. And unlike other oil diffusers it doesn’t use water, so there’s no chance you’ll forget about it and come back to a mold infestation. This is the brand’s smallest size, which covers 250 square feet and plugs right into an outlet.

It’s Febreze, but fancy (and from a celebrity)

Homecourt Steeped Rose Room Deodorant

Our first-of-its-kind Room Deodorant has been clinically tested to reduce and neutralize odors (in the kitchen, bathroom, and beyond) while imparting lasting fine fragrance.

Did you know Courtney Cox had a home scent brand? It’s called Homecourt. (Get it?) This particular product is called a “room deodorant,” which is sort of a fancier Febreze. Give a generous spritz in the air when you walk into your room and know for a fact something terrible has just occurred in there. It’ll remove the odor and replace it with one of four possible Homecourt scents; I recommend “Cipres Mint.”

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