Why does my humidifier smell weird and what should I do about it?
Cool or warm mist humidifiers are very good for increasing the humidity level in your indoor living spaces.
However, as we have seen in the past, they do have their own share of trouble. For instance, a humidifier can stop working after cleaning. We have also looked at the issue of Pure Enrichment failing to work at all.
And many more, including Crane humidifier not working.
Today, we shall look at the different types of humidifier smells and what they mean.
Why does my humidifier smell musty?
In addition to smelling musty, also check whether the humidifier has signs of mold, in the form of black, gray or pink slime in the tank.
The musty smell is actually caused by bacteria, mold, grease and gunk. It is an indication of just how much you have neglected the unit.
Unfortunately, if you continue running it, it will disperse the mold and bacteria with the mist and your family will inhale them.
Long exposure to mold can cause mold toxicity signs. If you have a baby in the house, this fungus can also cause serious mold exposure symptoms in young kids.
How to remove the musty smell
You will have to clean the humidifier tank with vinegar to kill the mold. You can also use bleach, but remember to never let it mix with vinegar because they form a poisonous gas.
Create a consistent cleaning schedule for your unit if you use it regularly.
If the odor is too much, especially for people who have large portable humidifiers, you could use an air purifier to remove the musty smell.
It smells like plastic
According to an explanation given by usa.phillips.com, if a humidifier produces a plastic smell when it is new, there is nothing to worry about.
This is called the smell of newness and it should disappear in a few days. You don’t need to do much about it.
Most electronics do have this smell when they are new. Mostly because they have been enclosed in air-tight spaces since manufacturer or since they were dispatched for shipping.
How to remove plastic smell
Just keep the humidifier in a space with enough air circulation or if you can live with the smell (it’s not too overwhelming), just leave it. It will disappear on its own.
If you use the humidifier for several minutes and then return it in the box it came with, it will still smell like plastic the next time you get it out.
Keep it in the open, in a well ventilated space, even outside if you want.
Why does my humidifier smell like fish?
The smell of fish from your humidifier is very close to the musty smell that we looked at earlier. It is caused by mold, bacteria and dirt.
If your humidifier has a filter, this is most likely the culprit. It has trapped bacteria, mold, grease and minerals from the tap water that you have been using.
Left for days, these things can start producing a nasty fish smell in your unit.
There is also another thing to consider … many times, the smell of fish in a place that has appliances means some electrical part is burning.
It could be a burning power cord or a blown fuse. Luckily, even though a humidifier might smell like burning, it does not always pose a threat of causing fire.
All the same, do check our article on Vicks humidifier smells like burning. You will see all the things to check.
How to remove the fish smell from humidifier
If you have checked and ascertained there is no burning, no blown fuses, sockets or power cords, try the following:
Clean the humidifier tank with bleach
Add a teaspoonful of bleach into a gallon of water, and add the water to the tank. Let it stay in the tank for 30 minutes, pour it out and rinse thoroughly.
The smell of fish will be gone. If it still lingers, repeat the process. If there are mineral scales on the tank, clean them too, scrub them out with a soft brush.
If you have been using demineralization cartridges, they too need to be soaked in the bleach-water solution, or replaced.
The same applies to filters. If you have a filterless humidifier, just clean the tank.
Why humidifier smell like mildew
A humidifier carries stagnant water. Now, when that water stays too long in the tank, it becomes stale.
When that happens, you start to experience weird smells. These come from the mold and mildew that forms inside the tank, from the stagnant water.
If your humidifier smells like mildew, well, it is because there is mildew inside the tank. Therefore, you have to clean it out.
Unless a unit is clean, even adding essential oils in the humidifier to mask the smell will not help. The mildew will still come out with the mist.
Also, remember, where there is mildew, there is likely to be mold.
How to remove the mildew smell
- Unplug the unit from power and pour out the water, preferably outside the house.
- Mix a spoonful of bleach with a gallon of water, add the solution to the tank, leave it 30 minutes
- Pour the water
- Try to reach inside the humidifier tank, scrub the walls of the tank with a clean brush
- Try harder to clean the evaporator belt if it has one
- Remember to clean the base with bleach-water solution. Ensure water doesn’t get into the circuitry
- Rinse the tank thoroughly, reset it on the back on the base, fill with distilled water and run it
Why does my humidifier smell like it’s burning?
There are a few causes of the burning smell from a humidifier. The most common one is faulty electrical, including blown fuses.
Take the plug out of the socket and smell it. Does it smell burned? If yes, you have a blown fuse.
Go along the entire length of the power cord, smelling it. If you smell burning, smoke or fish at any point, the cord is blown. It is just that you cannot see it through the insulating plastic casing.
Another reason for your unit smelling like burning is because of overheating electrical parts. Mostly, the blower motor is to blame for this.
If this happens, just switch the unit off, wait for it to cool down and then clean it thoroughly. Actually, most of these problems occur because of neglecting to clean the unit for too long.
Wiring issues in the circuitry could also cause a short-circuiting problem inside the unit. Generally, never take a burning smell from your humidifier or dehumidifier lightly.
How to solve
If you suspect there is short circuiting in the circuitry wiring, contact the manufacturer if the humidifier is still under warranty.
If it is not under warranty, take it to a local repair shop so they can have a look at it.
If it is too old, just get rid of it and buy a new one.
It smells like cat pee
Weird, but yes, sometimes a humidifier does smell like cat pee. If you have a cat litter box in the house, you will understand this kind of smell.
Your unit will smell like urine when you do not clean it or change the water frequently. It is a well known fact that a big concentration of the e Coli bacteria can have a pungent, urine-like smell.
Since the e Coli bacteria are all over the place, they can easily get into your humidifier tank. Because of the room temperature and the moist conditions, they find a perfect habitat to breed.
How to remove cat pee smell from humidifier
Once again, clean it often, after every use. If it has been in storage for some time, clean it before using it. This removes the smell of dust, kills bacteria and mold that might have built a home in the unit.
Remember, most of the smell-causing organisms in the humidifiers and diffusers are not visible. That’s why it’s vital to keep to a 3-times-a-week cleaning schedule.
Humidifier smells sweet
If you experience a distantly pleasant smell any time you switch on the humidifier, well, it is because it contains an activated carbon filter.
It is possible you could have bought it without being aware of this fact, but this is the age of advanced technology. Manufacturers are packing all manner of germ-capturing technologies into their products.
Usually, the filter has the activated carbon. It will not only capture bacteria, mold spores and minerals from the water, but it will remove odors from your mist. It also removes the heavy metals from your water.
The activated carbon is responsible for producing the pleasant smell.
If you have a Boneco ultrasonic humidifier, you can order the BONECO AOS Hydro Cell A200 Humidifier Filter with Activated Carbon on Amazon.com to use with it.
Some activated carbon filters are universal, but before you use one in your humidifier, find out whether the manufacturer of your unit okays it.
Conclusion: Why does my humidifier smell?
From this short post, you can deduce the following reasons for your humidifier smelling:
- Neglect – staying too long without cleaning the unit
- Not changing the water as often as is needed
- Using the humidifier without cleaning fresh from storage
- It is new so it has a plastic smell
- Bacteria, mold and mineral build up in the tank and the filters
- Wiring problems in the cord or in the circuitry
We hope this write-up helps. Mostly, apart from the burning smell, the rest are things you can solve on your own.