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What Does A Hospital Smell Like?


What Does A Hospital Smell Like

Hospitals are a place where people come to get help when they’re not feeling well. But what does a hospital smell like? You may be surprised to know that hospitals are generally not fragrant. 

The sterile environment, full of sanitized surfaces, does not lend itself to the smells we associate with flowers or freshly cut grass. Hospitals have a distinct smell of their own, and if you would like to understand what they smell like, keep reading.

What Does A Hospital Smell Like?

The smell of a hospital is something that goes beyond the limits of imagination. It’s what it smells like and why and where you are when you encounter this smell. Many people who have never been in one before often don’t know how to explain what they’re smelling or if there even is an identifiable odour. 

It’s common for people who have been in a hospital to associate that smell with being sick or injured, which can be a terrifying thought. The scent of most hospitals is going to include some combination of bleach and air purifier/freshener. 

These two items are very distinct on their own, but when you combine them, it creates a unique odour. There’s also going to be an underlying scent of sickness and bodily functions that command the strongest portion of this smell.

These smells are due to multiple factors, but one thing that is common throughout all hospitals is how clean they try to keep everything. The employees take pride in their work and want patients to feel as comfortable as possible. 

Unfortunately, this often means that they scrub the floors or walls with bleach before spraying some type of air freshener afterward to help cover up any germs left behind. Most hospitals use a combination of these two items and others like hand sanitizers and alcohol wipes throughout their facilities on top of regular cleaning. 

They want to make sure that every surface they touch is as clean as possible, which means that those smells will permeate through the air. When you’re in a hospital, it’s not only the smell of bleach and cleaning products you’ll notice, though. 

There can also be another distinct odour coming from patients themselves due to their sickness in many cases. In patients that have a fever, you’ll notice that their body can give off an odour because of the heat being emitted from it. 

Those who are not well enough to eat or drink tend to have horrible breath and sometimes even bowel movements on top of any other smells in the room coming from cleaning product residue.

These are all factors that contribute to the hospital’s smell. 

It’s not something you can easily describe unless you’ve been surrounded by it before, but many people can pick up on its distinct scent within minutes of entering a room or building. The smell of a hospital can vary depending on the time of day and who is working there. 

However, it has been said that some patients like to recognize scents that they associate with childhood memories. This can bring them comfort and remind them of a home-like atmosphere when they need it most.

Tips For Masking Hospital Odours

To help patients and visitors recuperate or visit loved ones, hospitals need to mask the hospital odours that come with these facilities. These smells include disinfectants and cleaners and may include sickness from those under care in a sick bay. 

By following some easy tips below, you can make your home smell like a happy place instead of a hospital:

  • Use baking soda to help absorb odours in the air and on furniture.
  • Place bowls of coffee beans around the room or hospital space for an added fresh scent.
  • Put drops of essential oils into the water, such as orange oil, which gives off a pleasant citrus smell that can also act as an anti-depressant. You can also use fragrance plants.
  • Use scented candles, like vanilla or cinnamon, to help diffuse an added scent in the air.
  • Place flowers around the rooms for pleasing colour and freshness, which can also act as natural deodorizers by absorbing some smells found in rooms with closed windows where ventilation is not good enough on its own. You may also choose to offer patients fresh fruit instead of flowers as they tend to release a lot of scents.
  • Use air fresheners or sprays to help cover up smells that have built up over time.
  • Ensure that rooms are well lit and decorated with pictures of nature to reduce anxiety levels. Pictures or art can induce good moods that can distract them from the strong smells.
  • Avoid giving patients foods such as garlic, onions, fish, cabbage and other strong-smelling items.

Try these tips the next time you are in a hospital, at home with sick family members, or just need to mask odours throughout your space.

Why Does The ICU Smell?

The ICU is the Intensive Care Unit which treats very sick patients. It can be a large university hospital, or it may even be in another health care facility such as a community clinic or nursing home. 

The staff are specially trained to deal with critical situations that require special expertise and equipment not available everywhere. Patients who need this level of care are usually very sick and fragile, so they need constant monitoring.

In the ICU, those patients are usually those that have been vital signs of being stabilized. In other words, these individuals may not yet be ready for transfer to a lower level of care or out of the hospital. The reason places like an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) smell so bad is that there is no regular turnover and cleaning of the rooms. 

When patients are sick enough to be in an ICU, they often require equipment that will remain with them at all times. This includes central lines or urinary catheters, which can contribute to a high bacterial load within their room. 

Because these individuals have compromised immune systems, it is very easy for infections to set in and quickly spread throughout the entire room. Bad odours in the ICU can affect a patient’s mood and overall health. 

Here are some tips on how to remove bad smells, so you don’t negatively impact your patients’ physical or psychological well-being and improve their recovery process:

  • Keep rooms clean and sanitized
  • Ensure that air ventilation systems, including HEPA filters, are regularly maintained
  • Use ozone generators or ionizers to sanitize the air
  • Use odour-absorbing materials, such as activated charcoal
  • Repair any leaks or spills that may cause bad odour

What Does A Hospital Look Like?

While the design of a hospital is determined by its use, many have distinctive features that are more common to one type or another. Some hospitals might look like large office buildings, while others could resemble warehouses from the outside. 

However, on the inside, they may all feature sleek modern decor with brightly lit hallways and clean white walls. Most hospitals have the main entrance where visitors and patients come in. Usually, there is also an exit on each floor so that people can easily move from one location to the next without going back down and around again.

In most cases, hospitals have large waiting rooms for those visiting or staying with their loved ones. They will usually offer seating as well as a television and sometimes even Wi-Fi access.

Hospitals offer plenty of services to their patients, so it can be difficult to navigate through all the hallways. 

Many people use maps or directories that are posted in the main lobby. Others might take advantage of hospital tours that provide information about each facility’s different departments and services.

The rooms in most hospitals are also the same. There are usually two small beds, a machine that monitors vital signs and an attached bathroom. Doctors will often go from room to room to provide medical treatment, so each patient needs their own space for privacy.

While some hospitals look very similar on the outside, they can vary greatly based on what type of care is available at different facilities. For example, there might be a hospital that specializes in cancer treatment and another for heart surgery. Hospitals offer many services to the community, but each one is distinctive regarding the design and amenities offered on the inside.


You might not want to think about it, but the hospital has a smell. It’s not just any old scent, though—it can be sterile and antiseptic or downright unpleasant for many people. If you have been in a hospital, then you know the smell. On the other hand, if this is your first time going to one, don’t be surprised when it smells like harsh chemicals and disease.

After reading this article and the tips we’ve provided, you should be able to mask that hospital smell. We hope these quick fixes will help make your time in a healthcare facility more pleasant, if not for yourself, then for those around you.

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