Why Does My Air Purifier Smell?

Air purifiers are built to filter out 99.7% of microorganisms in the air, including pollutants like dust and even gaseous pollutants such as carbon monoxide.

They are no doubt an excellent investment for improving your home’s air quality and giving it a sweet smell. However, at some point, they take over our homes with a smell that’s difficult to ignore.

If you are wondering why your air purifier smells the way it does, It could be a natural smell from the manufacturer, and it could be a sign of a potentially harmful issue.

Luckily, whatever the case may be, it’s nothing you can’t fix. This article will walk you through all you need to know to finally answer the question ‘’why does my air purifier smell’’ and how to eliminate air purifier smells in your home.

Before we begin, let’s go over the various air purifier types and their functions.

Types of Air Purifiers Best Suited For Your Indoor Air

HEPA Technology Air Purifiers

The High-Efficiency Particulate Air Technology Purifiers are arguably the most common air purifiers in homes. They are simple and operate on removing impurities from the air and releasing clean it after passing them through their filter.

These filters have holes that are less than 0.3 microns. Hence, they discourage the passing of air particles that are above 0.3 microns, which means that they effectively remove a large number of particles and allergens from the air.wss

Activated Carbon Technology Air Purifiers

These types of air purifiers have activated carbon filters that effectively remove pollutants from the air and eliminate recontamination. Their efficacy has been proven in removing water pollutants and protecting soldiers from chemicals during the first world war.

They are beneficial for individuals who react to chemicals such as formaldehyde, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and Semivolatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs) – common in smokes.

Ozone Air Purifiers

It’s difficult for some people to breathe in the presence of ozone smell (ozone is a gas that smells like the breeze after rainfall), especially if they’re asthmatic. However, ozone air purifiers are still used in some homes, and most times, they use ion technology for air purification.

Ionization Air Purifiers

These air purifiers ploy ion technology to remove pollutants from the air. Though they have no filters, they discharge negative charges that attract positive amounts of air impurities into the room, causing it to become heavier as more contaminants attach to it.

The combination of negative ions and air particles becomes too heavy to remain in the air, so they attach to a surface – window, table, mirror – in your home.

UV Technology Air Purifiers

These air purifiers are the only ones that can kill bacteria and viruses. Therefore, they are most effective when combined with a filter system.

UV air purifiers have a lamp that generates ultraviolet light rays. When air particles pass through the light, their genetic information is destroyed, killing them. However, UV light doesn’t affect air particles such as dust and pollen. A filter system in a UV air purifier will help to remove them.

Now let’s dive into why your air purifiers give off embarrassing odors.

Possible Air Purifier Bad Smells

The air purifier functions as a foul smell eliminator to deliver sweet-smelling savory air. However, there could be periods where the supposed savory air turns to an offensive odor. These odors draw a lot of attention, and homeowners in Spokane keep asking us why does my air purifier smell?

Well, there are various smells your air purifier may be giving, and they could be a result of the following:

Plastic Smell 

If you find yourself asking why does my air purifier smell like plastic? Some purifiers are made of plastic, and it’s common for new air purifiers to give off that plastic smell for the first few hours of working.

However, if the strong plastic smell persists after waiting it out, it may be due to the effect of heat melting the plastic. Therefore, you should stop the air purifier from working and give it some time to cool. In extreme cases, it could be a manufacturer defect, and you should consider returning the product to its manufacturer for a replacement.

Wet-Dog Smell

A wet dog usually doesn’t smell pleasant, and if it bears some similarities with the scent you sometimes get from your air purifier, there’s an explanation for that.

Dogs usually have some microorganisms on their bodies. These microorganisms leave micro excreta, a volatile organic compound, on the dogs. As a result, they let off an offensive odor when water molecules evaporate when water touches them.

In specific cases, your air purifier might have similar microorganisms present in the air, and when they’ve been held in your air purifier, these microorganisms leave micro excreta on the filter. So when water condenses and reaches your filter, the same odor escapes into your room.

Sour Odors

Sour odors from air purifiers usually come from activated carbon filter air purifiers or those that combine HEPA filters with activated carbon filters.

The large surface area of activated carbon filters contains some carboxyl and lactone (oxygen-containing) groups that readily react with impurities such as volatile organic compounds to form acetic acid under humid conditions.

When you perceive a sour odor from your air purifier, your activated carbon filter needs to be changed; and that happens about every 2 to 4 months.

Dusty Smell 

When the air purifier is used in a room with poor ventilation and specks of dust, it will absorb the dust from the air. So the next time you turn on the air purifier, it will spread a dusty smell across the entire room.

Caring for Your Air Purifier

Some of these factors can be corrected with just a few steps. However, some situations may require replacing your air purifier completely. Here are major steps to eliminate air purifier bad smell;

Check to See if Your Filters Are Clean

Basically, if you take care of your air filters, they will care for you. As such, the first thing you should do when your air purifier gives a foul smell is to check the filters. If it’s clogged and dirty, then you should clean it out for immediate effect.

Cleaning with a solvent

Solvents such as chlorine dioxide (ClO2) and Sodium chlorite (NaClO2) can be used to clean both the pores and filters of the air purifier. It will perfectly eliminate the damp dog smell and control fungi and other microorganisms.

However, not all air purifiers come with washable filters, so you’ll have to replace them to eliminate the odor from your air purifiers.

To replace your air filters using the DIY method, Remove the filters according to your manufacturer’s instructions and replace them with new ones.

When To Call a Professional

If, after replacing the filter, you’re still experiencing an unpleasant smell, it may be time to call in the help of HVAC professionals. As an expert HVAC service company in Spokane, WA. Hurliman Heating can troubleshoot the most common reasons for your air purifier smell and provide solutions to eliminate them. Contact us if you’re looking to find and resolve the source of your air purifier smell issues.


Proper maintenance of the air purifier will decrease the chances of foul smells emanating from your appliance. If the odors can’t be erased by cleaning and replacing the filters,

it may be best to dispose of such devices, and if your air purifier is still under warranty, you can contact your manufacturer for a replacement.

An air purifier helps with smell and should always add sweetness to the general atmosphere of any place. So, take time to maintain the air purifier well, clean out the filters regularly and check if the plastic is melting into the fumes.

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