Why Air Purifier Smells Bad: 8 Smell Types and Causes

If your air purifier smells bad and you need to know the main causes so that you can remove the smell, you have come to the right place.

An purifier ought to clean your indoor air, not make it smelly! But for any appliance that sucks air inside and then releases it, many things could go wrong.

That is why on this blog, we look at certain appliances and their most likely problems.

For instance, we looked at problems that your pure enrichment humidifier is likely to experience.

In yet another post, we looked at possible reasons for your dehumidifier blowing cold air, and the solutions.

In this short post, we look at why your air purifier smells bad; the different smells and what causes them.

Types of Bad Air Purifier Smells and Their Causes

Image of why air purifier smells bad

When your air-purifying unit starts making these nasty smells, you need to dig deeper and find out whether it is possible to stop them:

1. Air purifier smells like burning

For any appliance that runs on electricity, the smell of burning can happen and it can be such a big cause for concern. However, this does not always mean that it is burning.

The possible causes of the burning smell could include burning itself. Thus, if you notice that your air purifier smells like burning, first, unplug it.

Do not panic!

The dust that stays on the unit during packaging can smell like burning. Also, the smell could actually be the newness burning off.

But just in case it is a real burning smell…


Once you unplug it, smell the plug that goes into the socket. If it smells like burning, check the fuse. Smell the power cord. It is possible for a cable to burn and fall apart inside the coating.

Though rarely, the air purifier could actually be burning. If it is coming from inside the unit, you need to open it up and check it.

If the wiring was of poor quality, actual burning is possible.

2. Air Purifier Smells like Fish

If you think that your air purifier unit smells like fish, your olfactory senses are not failing you. It is indeed smelling nasty.

The possible causes for the fishy smell are mold and mildew growing on the filters. Yeast and bacteria are also notorious for causing such a nasty smell.

The remedy is to open up the appliance and check the filters. If your air is too damp and you do not run a dehumidifier, mold can certainly grow on the filters.


Change the filters as often as possible, of course depending on your air pollution. In some places, you might need to change the filters once a week.

If you live in Seattle or Florida, run a dehumidifier to maintain the required humidity level.

3. Air purifier ozone smell

If you have been asking: what does ozone smell like air purifier? It has a sharp and pungent smell, it is not exactly like ammonia or chlorine, but it is sharp.

Image of air purifier smells like ozone
New building materials produce a chemical smell

If you experience such a smell, just know that your air purification unit is discharging ozone. But please note that not all types of air purifiers produce ozone.

HEPA filter units do not produce ozone. Only ionizing air purifiers produce ozone gas. Ozone can cause coughing, breathing difficulties, chest pains and other side effects.

Possible solution

Open the windows and doors so that the ozone can dissipate. But that is counterproductive because then, the air purity drops.

Thus, it is just better to shelf the ionizing unit and get a HEPA filter unit.

4. New air purifier smells Like Plastic

If you have a new unit, it is quite alright for it to smell like plastic. After all, the casing is mostly plastic, so if it is new, it is going to have a plastic or chemical smell.

But that should dissipate with time. Depending on some things though, some may take longer to lose the smell.

Since the plastic odor is not harmful, we would say there is no need to worry about it.

5. Honeywell air purifier smells like wet dog

Image of air purifier smells like wet dog

If your air purifier smells weird, say fishy or like a wet dog, there is yeast, fungi, bacteria or mold involved.

Thus, if you notice that your unit smells like a wet dog, it means the filters have mold. When you switch it on and it starts sucking air inside and blowing it out after passing it on the filters, it is when you will experience a more pronounced wet dog smell.

When your air is too polluted and the humidity is high, grime and grease might form on the filters. This will cause a wet dog smell.

Many sources say that too much mold on the filters is the main culprit of the wet dog odor in your house.

So before you kick your canine friend out of the house on a hot summer day, smell the air purification unit to find out whether it is responsible for the odor.

6. Air purifier smells like dust

Since dust is one of the most common pollutants that you find almost anywhere, it is only logical to expect that some time; you will get a dusty smell from your unit.

Usually, this happens when the filters are too dirty and they are not doing their work correctly. If it has been some time since you last changed the filters, you will experience dusty air.

7. Vinegar odor from air-purifier

This is a weird odor from an air purifying unit, but some customers have reported it. Well, if you experience such a smell when the unit is new, you could be confusing the new chemical or plastic smell with vinegar.

In any case, it would be better to call the manufacturer or supplier because no unit is supposed to smell like vinegar.

8. Air Purifier Smells Like Smoke

If you notice the smell of smoke in the air coming from the purifier, there are possible causes. One of them is that the air going inside has smoke and so the unit is not doing a very good job. Maybe the filters are not removing the smoke from the air.

Dyson Air Purifier smells bad

Dyson Air Purifier smells bad

In the world of air purifiers, vacuum cleaners and hair dryers, Dyson is a very big brand name. However, as good as their air purifiers are, sometimes, they will fail to work as expected.

That is why we advise you to get the Dyson air purifier manual for your product. That way, you can diagnose some things on your own.

Their products are not cheap. For instance, they have the best air purifier for cigarette smoke, VOC and other pollutants removal. It can set you back almost $1000.

Dyson air purifiers are more advanced than those from other brand names. However, they still retain some of the basic features.

If you notice that your Dyson air purifier smells bad, check the filters. They could be dirty or it could be time to replace them.

Air purifier smells like cigarettes

There are air purifiers that are specifically designed for removing cigarette smoke. However, you might be wondering whether yours smells like cigarettes.

Well, it could smell like cigarettes if it has been used in a house with one or more smokers. Tobacco smoke has that habit of lingering behind on clothing and other surfaces. However, it should dissipate after some time.

If you smell the filters of the air purifier, they will smell like cigarettes if you have had smokers in the room. Therefore, if you think that your unit smells like tobacco, don’t worry. That and the smell of new plastic are common in air purifiers.

Final thoughts

If your air purifier smells bad or weird, you cannot use it comfortably since you want it to clean your air.

We hope that you can now tell what is causing these weird smells and how you can possibly avoid them.

Remember, to avoid some of these nasty smells from your air purifying units, you need to clean the appliance as often as recommended.

That way, you can note the condition of the filters and change them if need be.

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