Please Help: Teenage Boy Room Smell

Dear the Internets,

I have a situation.

A dire situation.

And I need you.


The thing is, my teenage son’s room smells terrible.


Or, in French, which is the language of high drama, his room smells TERRIBLE.



Now, before I had a teenage boy child, I heard other parents talk about a teenager’s room smelling bad. It’s not like this is a surprise, you know? It’s just, I assumed they meant body odor.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to correct that misunderstanding. 


It is not – I repeat NOT – a B.O. smell I smell every time I’m in, oh, say, a 100 foot radius of this child’s room.

I WISH it was a B.O. smell because B.O. smells can be fixed with bathing and deodorant, but nooooooo. We are not that lucky, and washing does not fix this.

Instead, this smell is… I don’t know… the smell of hormones? 

The smell of hormones plus nervous energy plus angst? 


No idea. 


But I need a solution anyway.

A solution that’s NOT extreme like washing all the sheets and blankets and pillows and pillowcases every week, because I WANT to be that mama, but HA! That is not happening, friends. 

So I need a non-extreme solution, please, like moving my son into a tent in the backyard. 

Or to Tahiti.

Or moving ME to Tahiti.

Or buying some of that anti-hormone spray they sell at the pet store, except for teenage boys at a teenage boy store. 

Or heavy chemical fumigation where they have to wrap the whole house in plastic and we go stay at a hotel with a pool.

Or nose surgery where they remove my sense of smell.


This is a cry for help, y’all.

Help a mama out.

What’ve you got??

Sincerely yours,





P.S. To be crystal clear, this is no reflection on my teenage son. He’s doing nothing wrong, other than growing into a man like all the other teenage boys around him. Turning Into a Man is, of course, problematic in its own right with its emotional / hormonal upheavals, but it’s no one’s fault, per se, other than God’s. I am working on that problem, particularly as it includes a disturbing amount of sparse facial hair and the occasional straggly pit hair I’m supposed to marvel over, but I’m tackling that whole issue separately by sending emails to God. Now, I realize God is Very Busy, but I have yet to get EVEN ONE response to my multiple missives and concrete suggestions for improvement. Should God respond in the future to my email string titled “Adolescence. REALLY, GOD??,” you will be the first to know. ‘Til then, we’re on our own.


ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
  1. OMG so this is literally ALL young males and I’m not a crazy mom with a bionic nose!?!?Covid and now cold winter days are really going to test a ton of us parents on who will finally come up with the answer to this horrendous yet kinda hysterical issue. I’m borderline ready to soak this kids bed in essential oils, soak boy in tomato juice, then febreze boy before entering home and burn sage to ward off stink demon. But then I remind myself that maybe the silver lining is that one day he’s gonna have to deal with my old person smell and the lingering sent of moth balls and old lady stench

    1. Sorry stupid auto correct *** scent is what I meant… I think the smell has poisoned my brain. So spelling and grammar is gone out the window where the smell should have

  2. I have a 16 year old who likes to have friends over and most of the time they stay the basement. That smell of locker room, sports equipment, feet and farts always fills the air the next morning as in open the basement door. It’s like walking into a new world! Unfortunately I do not ha e any windows in the basement to air it out so I use a fan, candles, and Febreze. I tend to freeze out the family by opening up the main floor windows to air the basement out but it takes days! To add another factor to the issue, they are all athletes and tend to come over after practices or games.
    Please help!

  3. The only thing so far that I have found to help my 13-14 yr old sons room, is removing his shoes from the room and open a window. Candles and sprays help some, but he just has that smell to him too. I can smell it on the couch too. We’ve been out of town for three days and his room smells good right now, but I know in a day it will stink again. I’ve washed all bedding, pillows and curtains. We don’t even have carpet in his room. He bathes every night and shampoos his hair. Applies deodorant at least 2x a day. I thought about getting him aftershave just to smell good.

    1. My son showers/washes hair daily✔️
      My son uses antiperspirant/deodorant ✔️
      My son’s bed linens are washed weekly✔️
      His bedroom is air conditioned✔️
      His bedroom has an oscillating fan 24/7✔️
      His bedroom is sprayed daily with Lysol✔️
      I don’t know what else to try. Help!

      1. Also, no footwear or sporting equipment is ever in his room

  4. My teenage son keeps the window and door closed while he sleeps and plays games. That causes him, or anyone in that room, to sweat. Along with the putrid smell its the humidity that hits you upon entering the room. I find threatening the loss of wi-fi if he doesn’t keep the door and window open works a treat. Effective daily showering and weekly linen change would fix most of the problem for sure but how do you tell a teenager that, they know everything already!

  5. I’m a father with two teenage sons, ages 14 and 17. I’ve had these same similar experiences, but have found a method that has worked tremendously.

    Although I’m not a doctor, I am a parent and provide my thoughts and suggestions in this manner. I do believe that in most cases, particularly with male teenagers (i.e., ages 13 – 19 years old) as they mature and go through the evolution of puberty, their body chemistry and hormones changes, giving off a strong musky (locker room) type smell. This happens particularly at night and while asleep, as males perspire (sweat); including, the shedding of dead body cells (skin flakes) increases during this time, which heightens the release of these strong pungent odors, thus the sweat and odor gets trapped in to their clothing, bedding and all other fabrics.

    I personally suggest and recommend that teenage and young male adults wear a loose fitting T-shirt and loose-fitting underwear when going to bed. If possible during warm or hot evenings use air conditioning and/or place a fan near them to keep them cool at night. This practice will help absorb and contain the sweat while simultaneously preventing some if not most of the sweat and dead body cells from seeping in to fabrics, including preventing this foul, sweaty and musky locker room odor that offends all those who encounters their space or room.

    I would encourage parents to foster these practices at a very young age, therefore, the child(ren) are very comfortable with wearing clothing at bedtime.

    I hope this helps….

  6. OMG I’m going crazy with the same thing and my 18 year old son room. Everyday it smells like onions and I don’t know what else it’s just stinky. The only time it smells fresh is when I scrip his bed spray the mattress, spray the room and wash the sheets and comforter. The freshness only last about two days. When he’s not in school he’s always in there with the door closed playing video games. But I can tell when the door is open because I can smell the scent from his room through the house. Please someone come up with something.

  7. I believe the Fritos smell is the presence of bacteria and the pizza (fermented meat?) smells are diet related issues. These are actual hygiene problems that need solving on their bodies.
    I have a stinky 14yo and I feel so bad for them because it’s not their fault! We keep the laundry basket in the laundry and I have to remind him every day to hang up his towel and dirty clothes. He seems to like wearing the same socks for days (vom) but other than not washing his hair properly he’s quite clean and has a collection of deodorants he changes up. He and my father live at my place part time and they both have stinky rooms. I do find dropping a few of drops of lemongrass essential oil over the carpet after they leave clears the air extremely well. I also make sure I leave the door and window cracked open when they leave.
    My boyfriend’s bed get stinky especially on his side and I have to nag him to wash the sheets more often. When his diet is good this issue stops, but lately he’s been eating crappily and it’s smelly again so what they’re eating is definitely a factor!
    Unfortunately it’s just one of those things, but it was really interesting to read someone’s theory that the smell is designed to prevent inbreeding. I remember as a teenaged girl I never noticed the smell of my male friends bedrooms.
    I’m going to try borax, bicarb and lemongrass mix on the mattress and carpets, a cut onion on top of the wardrobe and airing all the pillows and blankets in the sun to naturally kill bacteria.

    Good luck everyone, and bless our growing boys!

  8. Thanks fo your help, ladies! I too, am dealing with the super stinky teenage boy issue! My son smells like sweaty socks, tortilla chips and butt! It’s so gross! I’m going to try everything you all have suggested. Amazon will be getting my $$ today!

    1. I am snort laughing at your description of the stinky stank because it’s TRUE!!!!

    2. Butt !! Omg same here and Yes it’s not their fault but when they have to be reminded to help combat the smell it’s pull your hair out annoying !!!

  9. All, please stop washing your son’s sheets (and anything) for him. Unless there is a disability or illness, he can do it himself.

    1. Unless he has already broken your $700 washer twice. In that case, he loads I turn on. He switches to the dryer, I turn on. He folds and puts away laundry!

      1. The same exact thing has happened to me. He is mildly autistic I think most teenage boys are if they have severe ADHD. Also still pees in the bed and can’t seem to wipe his butt correctly or clean self correctly. So you have the normal horrible ejaculate smell and body Oder. Yuck.

    2. Yes, my son is mentally disabled and I do find the Lysol liquid odor fighting additive does work on the sheets etc. but the bed itself I think is the tough thing to keep smelling fresh

  10. My 19 year old son’s room gets bad. I take dirty laundry out daily or he does. Change bedding and wash pillows bi weekly and once a month I sprinkle mattress with baking soda let sit a few hours and vacuumed and then I steam clean his mattress and air out room I will steam clean the fan and the filter to the AC I also will spray cloroxbleech spraying AC and let run airing g out room that works . I believe it’s a combo of body chances sweating the foods ppl eat now. Process food and grease and sugars . Healthy diet always makes things better. My son also when in his room weigher sleeping or hanging out will keep door closed so no air flow . He is super clean but it’s just life . My 11 year old son now has the worst BO smell I’ve ever smelled. His room is ok . But he needs dayly showers and lots of deodorant he is a sweater . My three girls no problem this far. Super sensitive girl parts and sometimes have an order but as long as I keep body wash n soaps for sensitive skin and they wash daily no problem. Some time just soaking in wanted is all they need. And I make my own laundry soap which is amazing. Onions absorb smells and bacteria and potatoes. Cut in halves and place in areas of roomsit will also help.

    1. The BO is from bacteria under his armpit. Only thing that takes that smell away is anti-bacterial soap before the deodorant, or else it will still stink

  11. This is not a smell caused by masturbating! Lol! These comments are so funny!

    I have a teen daughter – same thing – musty old gym socks smell mixed with a scent of, oh, what is it? Fritos corn chips? I have found it was caused by a few things – old laundry, keeping her shoes in her room, and not enough air flow in her closet (clothes are just CRAMMED in there). And also – we had to go wash each item in her closet because she’d just rehang worn items instead of washing them. My daughter is a hiker – so she’d com back from hikes and just hang up her slightly sweaty hoodie. Moisture plus a tiny bit of sweat – in a dark tightly packed closet? Not good!

    What you need is to make sure NO SHOES are kept in the room! Go through the closet and wash all items. Wash all sheets, pillows, comforters, mattress pads. Spray charcoal activated deodorizer on the actual mattresss. Then hang charcoal deodorizers in the closet and place all over the room! They sell them at Home Depot for water mildew smell removal.

    Then air out the room for as much as possible, weather permitting. If you have carpet, you may want to have it shampooed by a professional who you can ask to do heavy duty deodorizing (they have special stuff for pet odors, etc).

    And if that doesn’t help – well you’ll have to wait until he moves out!

    See how that works!

  12. I had a 17 year old female student rent a room in my place. I didn’t notice a smell when she and her parents came for the interview, but the day she moved in it smelled like she brought something vile and stinky with her. I wondered if it was some kind of pet odour on something she had brought from home from a very stinky dog (or barnyard animal). However, that wasn’t the case.
    I sprayed the room with Lysol and it dissipated the first day.
    However, that was temporary. Once she was in the room, the smell grew to a disgusting level. She kept her door closed all the time, so the room never aired out. When she opened her door the entire house was filled with a strong stench I cannot describe.
    She may have stopped showering and wasn’t doing her laundry, and was keeping food in the room. Now that she is gone, I have aired out the room and it still stinks. The smell isn’t as overwhelming as before….it doesn’t affect the entire house, but I can’t get her stink out of the room. I don’t think it’s the bed. I tried sniffing things. I had just bought a brand new and expensive mattress and box spring before she moved in. She was only there for a semester (4 months) and I don’t know how to make this room habitable again. I sprayed everything with Lysol, washed the floor, aired out the room, and it still stinks.

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  15. One product: Bad Air Sponge.

    You can get it on Amazon, it’s non-toxic, has no smell itself, and it *will* absorb a lot of those odors. I used it both on my teenage stepson’s room *and* on my incontinent great-aunt’s room, and once in my garage when we had a dead rat trapped in the walls and nothing could be done but wait out the stink. It worked like a charm in all those cases. (And no, I’m not shilling the product, so it’s not an advertisement.)

    That said, the root problem, I think, is twofold. One, my stepson just stunk for a couple of years. I don’t know what was with him, but he just did. I suspect it may have been a combination of body chemistry and just not showering as thoroughly as he should — but hey, there’s a limit to what you can do to check. I’d say put on a mattress pad as well as sheets and make him change them at least weekly. Teaching him to wash sheets and such is good life experience and it means you’re not having to get in there with privacy issues, since he *is* likely to be sensitive about um…what’s on the bed.

    About sixteen, though his BO started to wane, thank goodness. And then, he discovered bad cologne…heh.

    Good luck!

  16. There are different elements to body odor. This is body odor it’s just not the kind that you’re used to. Teenagers sweat every single day when they sleep. Their skin let’s out oils. They let out horomones. Even if they don’t pleasure themselves or have nocturnal emissions. How many days do you wear underclothes or shirts before you change them and wash them? Maybe three, max? Their bedding, their pillow case covers, their mattress cover, and all the stuff underneath that if they don’t have covers protecting them, all of absorb the sweat with these hormones and oils. The carpet absorbs it if they put their laundry on the floor. Teenage boy musk, if you prefer. But it’s still something that can and must be washed out. A week is already too long I’ve come to realize, as I house my 21-year-old nephew. I don’t know why he’s he only teenaged boy in our house that smells like this, but honest to goodness. Nobody noticed any smell until he moved in. And we haven’t gotten used to it.

  17. I suspect it’s mainly due to Wanking Off, and not cleaning Himself up properly afterwards. It’s ESSENTIAL that He showers or bathes properly afterwards!

    1. Yep. Most patents don’t want to think about this, but their child will eventually masturbate so they can get over it. It Is the worst smell mixed with other funky smells. Wash linen all you want, that stuff gets into the mattress and the smell is hard to remove,

  18. During my development, I noticed an unwelcome sent in my room. Boys self-sooth before sleep, much of the sent comes from the bed. So I put allergen case around my bed, I changed my sheets every other week. I have plenty of sheets! Use bed sheets to wrap the bed, so I sleep using two-bed sheets and blanket.

    I also made a point to bath before bed, and self-sooth before entering bed.

    My room does not have that sent unless I go without washing sheets and self-sooth in bed.

  19. My son is 27 and is very clean, however when I go in his room it smells like pizza or something. My family room couches also have this smell I too use sprays and his sheets are washed weekly. When I tell him, he does not notice the smell. I will try some of these remedies and hopefully something will work!

  20. One more thing…

    My daughter’s hair was stinky when she was a teenager. My hairdresser told me to have her use baking soda with her shampoo and rub it between her hands. IT WORKS!

  21. Try using a solution of 50/50 water and alcohol. Spray the bed, pillows, carpet, etc. It neutralizes the odor and you should end up with NO smell at all.

    I read online that you can use a 50/50 solution of vodka & water, but I thought, “Why waste perfectly good vodka?”. Turns out, it’s the alcohol in the vodka that does the work, so I just used cheap alcohol from Walmart.

    Hope this helps.

    Former step-mother of a VERY stinky 16 year-old

    P.S. Pay attention to anonymous up there ^. He’s not wrong!

  22. ToppCock seems to be working for my son.

  23. As i am a 16yr old boy. I’m pretty sure the smell is just hormones, but also it could be the fact that he is masterbating and he is not cleaning his penis properly. Expecially if he is uncircumcised the head of the penis is left in the musk of death! Try foods that will make his secretion smell more pleasant. I have tried many things, but pineapples seem to make the secretion have a sweet smell also make sure he clean his penis properly. You can get shampoo from Bath and Body that will not iratate the penis. You can also get a candle or some other in scent to make the room to smell better. Washing any fabrics is a must because the smell seems to stick to them well. Hope this helps! 🙂

    1. OH. MY. GOSH.

      I’m gonna hurl.

  24. I hope there is a cure. My stepson moved in with use 10 weeks ago. He is 23 and it’s the same thing. I can’t even be in my craft room (next too his bedroom) or the family room. It is absolutely making me ill. I make him wash all of his bedding once a week too, and there are air fresheners everywhere. Now, even the garage office smells that way (he is in there on his computer). It is vile and disgusting. He too showers and wears clean clothes daily.

    1. Wendy, when I read your post it was like I was reading exactly what I would have posted. UUUUGGGHHHHH!!!!

    2. Yes! Exactly! It’s not a lack of showering. My 18yo does his own laundry more or less weekly. Changes sheets occasionally. Uses deodorant, soap, shampoo. The smell doesn’t seem to be in his clothes or on his person or bedding. It’s just in the room and it’s overpowering and somewhat nauseating. It’s been this way for some years and is getting slowly worse. My son insists he can’t smell anything at all. HOW???? My husband describes it as stale doritoes and it does have an element of that but that’s not exactly it. But … we just moved and within 12 hours, his new room smells horrible!!!! Nothing moved into the room smelled. Same smell as before. No source that I can identify. No food in the room. Laundry just done. Sheets are clean. Amazon sells a product called Zero Odor that does help a lot (better than anything else I’ve tried), but I need more of something …

  25. I have been trying to figure this smell thing out and have come to accept that it’s just teenage boy hormones. My son showers twice almost every day. He uses powder on his junk to keep that dry and cool (jeez, I’m a single mom and have to address that lol). I wash his sheets every week. He has a memory foam pad and cover that get hosed down with Febreze every time we change the sheets. The cover gets washed every week. I also spray Febreze on the sheets/pillow during the week. One of our dogs sleeps in his room and it’s not her. I deodorize the carpet every week. I went so far as to get him black out curtains and a fan, in addition to the ceiling fan, to keep his room cool because he sweats so bad. The AC is turned down low so that I freeze but keep him cool. I feel bad that I got on him so much, thinking he wasn’t actually using any soap in the shower. The hormones are just so bad that they permeate through any good smell. This poor child. I just don’t want him to smell bad to others. Also have to add, he runs cross country, so that’s an added bonus to the smell, however amazingly…his feet do NOT stink. Thankfully!! I’m sure it gets better and I wouldn’t want to go back to puberty for anything in the world…poor kids.

    1. does the super cool room help? We, too, wash and spray weekly. Still to no avail. : (

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