Dear 100 Hour Board,
I have two roommates, one who I share and room with and know very well, and the other we do not know other than this past semester living with him. His room smells awful and we have tried to drop subtle hints like buying air fresheners and the like. Every time he leaves his room door open it makes the whole house stink! How do we bring it up or fix the problem?
-Sick of it
Mitty wrote a pretty solid answer below; so you should definitely read that. I would like to share something that I learned recently that could perhaps be of use to you. In one of my classes last semester we learned about how to use supportive communication tactics to limit conflict. We went over a bunch of situations and they all followed this basic 3 step pattern:
- Describe the problem: Tell them that when they open their door their apartment stinks. Here you have to be careful with how you say it. Avoid judging and saying things like "you are stinking up the apartment" or "you always leave a mess". If you just state the problem without connecting it to him, you'll come off as less accusatory. It's also a good idea to avoid generalizing and saying that they never clean, or that they don't care about the other people living there. You should be honest and straight forward about there being a problem, but you can phrase that in a way that doesn't attack him.
- Describe how you feel: Tell them how the problem makes you feel. Again, you should be honest without attacking him personally. Maybe the smell doesn't bother him, or he might think that it doesn't matter because of all the air fresheners you use. You could also tell him why it's a problem i.e. you don't want friends to come over because the house smells. Don't use this as an excuse to lecture him or yell at him, but it helps if he knows how you feel.
- Ask him what can be done to resolve it: Instead of telling him "you need to clean your room" it would be better to ask him "what can we both do to help?". Phrasing it this way will show that you respect him and aren't trying to boss him around. He should be much more open, and his answer will probably "i'll take care of it". He might bring up something that you do that annoys him and then you can strike a deal. That's great. The point of this conversation isn't to make your roommate feel bad, it's to get the room smelling better.
I hope this helps. I'd recommend practicing out what you're going to say before you say it. Confronting roommates like this can be awkward, but if you practice it will go a lot more smoothly. We practiced using this model in class for some pretty difficult situations and honestly it helped a lot. I hope this helps you in your situation.
Just talk to him. Don't be rude about it, but subtle hints hardly ever work. Simply stating that the apartment as a whole has an unfortunate smell and asking for solutions from everyone could be a good way to fix the problem without hurting any feelings, but if that doesn't work, don't be afraid to take more pointed action. Ultimately, if your goal is to help the apartment to smell better for the good of all, that will come across. If you simply attack him you risk not coming to a solution.