Why Do Air Purifiers Smell Bad?

As a result of poor indoor air quality, many people try to improve the quality of the air they breathe.

Some homeowners install air purifiers to get rid of odors from the home. However, these odors can be traced to perfumes or other scents that emanate from the air purifiers.

So, why do air purifiers smell bad? There are a variety of reasons why air purifiers smell bad.

First, filters that are too dirty can cause them to have a musty smell. When an air purifier’s filters are caked with dust or other debris, they can emit a foul odor as they circulate through the air purifier’s ventilation system and release their trapped particles into the breathing air.

Another common issue for air purifiers is the development of bacteria in the filters and ventilation system. Bacteria can easily grow when airflow is restricted and filters are dirty or clogged.

Poorly maintained air purifiers can quickly become breeding grounds for bacteria which can have a very foul and pungent odor.

Why Do Air Purifiers Smell Bad?

It Smells like Burning

It is essential to keep in mind that poor indoor air quality can be harmful to your health and cause expensive repairs to your home’s mechanical systems.

This might be the factor that individuals who spend most of their time in the house or workplace tend to take air quality more seriously than those that barely use these places.

The UV light bulb is most essential part of HEPA filter as it sterilizes the air passing through the HEPA filter as light kills bacteria and viruses.

It should be noted that a HEPA filter does little to eliminate unpleasant odors and airborne particles.

If a homeowner begins to detect a chlorine odor coming from their air or appliances, they may want to consider investing in an air purifier to remove these hazardous vapors.

It Smells Like Plastic

When an air purifier is switched on, the coils will heat up and this heat needs to be eliminated.

When the plastic is first formed, it emits strong chemical smells similar to burning plastic.

Ideally, the plastic odor from air purifiers starts to diminish once the unit is up and running and the plastic has been heated by the fan and coils.

It Smells Sweet

A pleasant odor emanating from an air purifier is an indication that the home is receiving fresh air and is free from airborne particles and irritants.

The carbon filter has an almost unlimited life and so should the anion and ionizer filters, although manufacturers’ recommendations should be observed to ensure optimum performance.

This is not reason for alarm since companies allow some time for the smell to dissipate from the plastic before it starts to emit that odor.

It Smells Like a Wet Dog

When an air purifier begins to emit a wet dog smell, this indicates a serious malfunction in the system which may require professional repair.

Because of the nature of the substance, it will get filthy and need to be replaced from time to time.

If this fragrance is present, it most likely signifies that the purifier is exposed to a bad smell source in the home that has become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.

It Smells Like Chlorine

If an air purifier begins to smell like a chlorine pool, this indicates that a malfunction has occurred in the system or that the unit is not functioning properly due to excessive dust accumulation.

Ozone is a gas that is created as a byproduct of an electrical discharge process that is used to purify air.

Two of those molecules constitute the oxygen that humans inhale.

This third molecule has the misfortune of possessing two atoms of oxygen rather than the usual one atom, which makes it highly toxic and irritating to the lungs.

It may begin to smell like chlorine since ozone can sanitize the air by destroying harmful pathogens and bacteria.

The only time you should be concerned about ozone is when the odor becomes overwhelming or when it begins to damage home furnishings or produce other side effects that indicate a problem.

Air purifiers that release a healthy amount of ozone can be considered functional and harmless.

If the product has a strong chlorine odor, it is probably a sign that ozone has been released and too much ozone is being released in a short period of time.

What Should You Do If Your Air Purifier Smells Bad?

Move The Air Purifier

This is one method if you need to move your air purifier into another room or relocate it to another area of your home.

While the filter must be the primary concern, your air purifier’s housing must also be in proper working condition.

The idea is to relocate the air purifier to a room that is less likely to generate odors.

Place it in a “quieter” room such as a spare bedroom or a den that may be infrequently used.

This will guarantee that the air purifier’s fan motor will continue to operate less and last longer.

When the scent becomes overwhelming, turn off the air purifier and move it somewhere else.

Increase Airflow by Opening the Window

Increasing the airflow in any room can help your air purifier to catch more contaminants and odors while freshening the room at the same time.

You should begin by opening the room’s windows or door while you are away from your home.

This will assist to distribute the clean air and affect the odors quickly.

You may also boost ventilation by positioning the air purifier face-up on a bookshelf or table.

This will move air around your room allowing it to constantly circulate.

This is the point when you check the operation of the air filter to see if it needs replacement.

Replace The Filter

If your air purifier smells bad, most likely this is caused by dirty filters that have lost their effectiveness in removing unwanted airborne particles from the air in the room.

This does occur when the air purifier has to run for extended periods of time or has been left on for an extended amount of time without anyone in the house using the unit.

It’s normal for people to forget about these electronics and often they don’t even occur to them until the air in the living area is becoming stale and offensive to the nose.

This will never do when it comes to indoor air quality, so replace those filters now.

You must maintain and monitor your air purifier.

This is the only method to be certain that your unit is running efficiently and removing all of the contaminates from the air that you breath inside your house or apartment.

If the filter is not replaced, this can leave the unit ineffective and could possibly damage the unit in the long run.

Filter Cleaning

If the air purifier smells bad, it most likely needs to be cleaned to remove built-up dirt and grime on the various parts inside the unit and on the filters themselves.

These devices come with cleaning instructions that must be followed if they are going to be used efficiently and correctly.

A person who does not clean the units or does not read the instructions that come with the air purifier can sacrifice the unit and should not do so.

As the filter gets clogged up, it will stop working properly and eventually will need to be replaced.

Be cautious and plan ahead of time for replacement times so that you do not end up with an ineffective unit that is still running and wasting electricity and possibly damaging parts inside the unit.

Some models will warn you when the filter needs replacing so pay close attention to those signs.

These filters may be removed and washed using soap and water before being put back in the unit.

This should eliminate the odor while allowing the unit to continue to function efficiently once again.

If the device does not have instructions on how to clean the filter, use the information found on the internet or in books.

This will also keep the filter smelling fresh and clean once again and will allow it to work like it is designed to do.

Also Read: Can You Recycle Air Mattresses?


If your air purifier smells terrible, Clog it with anything you can find and then clean it.

Remove the air filter, wash it and then dry it thoroughly before putting it back into the device.

Replace the filter immediately if the unit makes strange noises or if it is not clean once again.

This should be the last step you take if the device smells but since this can sometimes mask the problem, you must still investigate the other steps before this one.

Many individuals forget to replace the air filter in the air purifier and this can lead to the unit malfunctioning or simply not working correctly at all.

If you stay on top of things, you should not have any problems, but if you do not take care of the air purifier on a regular basis, you put yourself at risk for a variety of problems.

Investigate this and you will notice a world of difference once the air in your home begins to smell fresh and clean once again.