No really, what is that smell?

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We know schools can really smell- whether it's someone's day-old snack, student's recess sweat, or the closet full of who-knows-what. The temptation is to mask all those smells with plug-in or spray air fresheners, but please don't! The problem is that those smells could also be coming from mildew under the sink, cleaners or sealants used by the custodian, mold above the ceiling tiles, or any other sources. If you mask the smell with something additional (like an air freshener), you're not only NOT getting rid of the problem but also adding to asthma triggers within the classroom. Air fresheners and other commonly used chemical agents, such as bleach-based cleaners, do not make the air better for students and teachers; they add other smells on top of an already bad situation.

Get Started

  • Use guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tools for Schools program to form an air team to keep track of issues within the school that may affect air quality.
  • Investigate the school’s classrooms.
    • Find out where the odors or leaks are coming from and report what you find to the facilities/ maintenance team.
    • Remove air fresheners, clear supplies from vents, ensure fume hoods are working properly, and review the chemical inventory in science classrooms or labs for possible hazards.
  • Educate yourself on green cleaning and the importance of healthy indoor air quality in schools.
    • Healthy buildings are critical for ensuring students and teachers have the highest quality learning and working environment.

Additional Resources

  • Learn about Green Seal green cleaning products.
  • Check out Healthy Schools Campaign Green Clean Schools for resources available for facilities staff for indoor air quality.
  • Browse the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toolkit for Safe Chemical Management in K-12 Schools.
  • Take the Green Classroom Professional Course. It breaks down the different aspects of building sustainability, including indoor environmental health and green cleaning, and identifies the effects they have on school occupants and the environment.