Why Does My Humidifier Smell (11 Smells Break Down)

Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

You need a humidifier if you are an immuno-compromised human being. Your kid must need that because children have a weak immune system. Mayo Clinic says every house owner should buy a humidifier in hot and cold weather. A humidifier is much cheaper and more effective than a central heating system.

A humidifier can help you with preventing skin and throat irritation. But sometimes, you might have noticed that your humidifier smells like burnt plastic, musty, fishy, etc. Is not it? Why does your or my humidifier smell?

The humidifier smells because of bacterial, fungal, and mold growth inside the humidifier. Stagnant water also causes a musty odor in your humidifier. But you can get out of odors produced in your humidifier simply and easily.

In this article, I will share 11 typical humidifier smells and how you can get out of them without haphazard hassle. Stick around with this article.

Why Does My Humidifier Smell Bad?

Your humidifier smell for many reasons like –

Why Does My Humidifier Smell

Stagnant Water

When you are using the wrong water like tap water or spring water or keeping water in the humidifier’s tank for a long time, you will have a dusty odor in your room. Stagnant water contains sodium, potassium, and even lead, which releases an unhygienic smell from the humidifier.

White dust on the floor or furniture indicates that you use minerals containing stagnant water. So, you have to clean the water regularly.

Fungus And Mold Growth

Fungus and mold grow in a warm and moist environment. And, yes, stagnant water promotes their multiplication in your humidifier. Molds and fungus produce a musty odor you breathe.

Molds also spread out through the mist produced by a humidifier that can cause severe respiratory problems to young and older than adults. So, you should clean your humidifier water tank at least once a month.

Bacterial Growth

You are getting a funny odor because of bacterial growth in your humidifier. Bacterial growth occurs in water droplets that remain in the humidifier tank after washing it.

Rinse your humidifier with acidic and alkalic agents to kill acidic and alkalic bacteria. On top of that, you should wipe away water droplets with a clean towel.

Dirty Filter

Humidifier filters become dirty with minerals build-up. When the mist comes out of a filtered humidifier, the filter incorporates a foul odor with the mist. Eventually, you will inhale the musty or fishy smell.

However, if you use a non-filtered humidifier, you will not face this problem. Again, you should use purified or distilled water, whatever your humidifier type is.

Wrongly Sized Humidifier

Your humidifier mist-producing capacity should cope with your room size. If your humidifier produces excessive moisture in the room, the basement, wall, and window will be the groundwork for bacterial growth. Bacterial growth in the room causes a funny odor in the room.

So, you should purchase a humidifier that produces enough mist for your room, not less or not excess.

Why Does My New Humidifier Smell?

The new humidifier smells because it is made with plastic materials. It is a common and not a big problem. Over time, the smell will go away if you keep using it. However, if the plastic smell persists, you should check out what type of water you are using. Clean and rinse the humidifier tank. Allow using floral essential oil to reduce the bad smell.

How to Get Rid Of Smell From a Humidifier

The following management you can follow to get rid of the smell from a humidifier –

How to Get Rid Of Smell From a Humidifier

Use Distilled Or Purified Water

Distilled and purified water both are the same. Purified water is made from distilled water by following other strategies. These waters do not contain minerals, bacteria, viruses, molds, and other pathogens. So, there is less chance of growing molds and bacteria inside the humidifier and less chance of producing a musty and funky odor.

Besides, using distilled water helps with reducing white dust in your living room.

Use Bacteriostatic Treatment

This is an advanced strategy one might follow if he has to use tap water for his humidifier (you can also use it though you are using distilled water). Bacteriostatic treatment is the treatment that retard the growth of bacteria inside the humidifier. I might suggest you buy BestAir 246-PDQ-6 Golden Solutions. This treatment is cheap, effective, and easy to apply. So, grab it if you can.

You can mix 1 cup of white vinegar, three drops of tea tree oil, and half the teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide with tank water to combat bacteria and molds.

Change The Water Frequently

Changing water frequently helps with destructing the breeding space of bacteria and molds. You must not keep water in your humidifier because stagnant water increases the chances of bacterial multiplication. You must change the humidifier water daily.

Clean The Water Tank Regularly

If you change the water regularly but do not clean the water tank with a brush, you will have trouble with mold. Mold multiplies inside the humidifier and forms a colony. Now, you have to clean those colonies with a brush. Otherwise, mold comes out of the humidifier with mist, and your children breathe it. Your kids will be suffering from the respiratory issue.

Change The Humidifier Filter Frequently

A filtered humidifier requires changing the filter once a year. Because the humidifier filter is blocked with mineral build-up and produces a foul odor.

Should I Use My Humidifier If It Smells?

No, you should not use a humidifier if it smells terrible. As the humidifier smells because of bacteria and molds growth inside it, you will inhale bacteria containing mist. Eventually, you will face severe health disorders. Inhalation of bacteria and mold holding air causes suppuration, gangrene, and necrosis of respiratory tissues.

Should I Use My Humidifier If It Smells

However, in case of a burning smell, you must check the wire first and then decide whether you use it or not.

Maintenance Tips For Humidifier

These core maintenances you must follow to avoid undesirable odor and high efficiency for a long time –

  • Plug your humidifier line into the socket tightly.
  • Always pour out stagnant water before operating.
  • You must use distilled water.
  • Deep clean your humidifier once a week.
  • Wipe away water drops after cleaning; otherwise, bacteria and mold will grow.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my humidifier smell musty?

Your humidifier smells musty and mildew because of mold and fungus growth in it. Mold gives an earthy, dirty, rotten wood smell. Since stagnant water promotes mold growth in the humidifier, you should pour out stagnant water. Besides, you have to scrub off the mildew colony inside the humidifier.

Why does my humidifier smell like fish?

Your humidifier smells like fish due to barium and cadmium metals and chloramine compounds in the water. Besides, long-term water stays in the humidifier tank, causing a fishy odor. So, you have to use distilled water and thoroughly check the whole humidifier. Besides, electric burning makes the humidifier smell fishy.

Sometimes, lemon juice and floral essential oils in the water cause a sweet smell of a humidifier.

Why does my humidifier smell feet?

Your humidifier smells like feet when humidifier releases mist from stagnant water. On top of that, mold and mildew growth inside humidifiers release wet socks smell to the air.

Why does my humidifier smell like chlorine?

Using hard water containing chloramine causes the chlorine-like smell of a humidifier. Chloramine is trapped in the humidifier filter, so you should check out the filter first. However, if your humidifier is filterless, chloramine deposits at the bottom of the humidifier. You should rinse the humidifier with water 20/30 times.

Why does my humidifier smell like burning?

The burning smell of humidifiers results from overheating and electric cord burn. However, the new humidifier smells like burning for the first time. After a couple of days of use, the smell will go away. You should be careful when you get this odor from your humidifier. Because electric damage could be dangerous.

Why does my humidifier smell like pee?

Humidifiers smell like pee when there is a chlorine dioxide build-up in the humidifier. Keeping water for a couple of days helps build up chlorine dioxide in the humidifier. You should clean your humidifier as soon as possible.

Why does my humidifier smell like dust?

When you mineral-containing water in your humidifier, you will see white dust in your room. And, yes, white dust causes your humidifier to smell like dust. On top of that, when mold particles are released from the humidifier, a dusty smell comes out from your humidifier.

Why does my humidifier smell like ammonia?

The presence of ammonium compound gives your humidifier a smell like ammonia. Ammonia turns into chloramine, which then causes a weird smell. If you use drinking water that contains ammonia in your humidifier, you will face this problem. So, you have to ensure that you use purified water.

Why does my humidifier smell like vinegar?

Operating a humidifier with a vinegar solution in the tank causes the humidifier to smell like vinegar. You must pour out vinegar-containing water first, then plug your humidifier. Running a humidifier with vinegar irritates the throat and nose.

Why does my humidifier smell like a wet dog?

According to American Kennel Club, wet dog is caused not only by the dog but also caused by yeast and bacteria on the dog’s body. The smell of the wet dog is awful. This smell comes from the humidifier due to bacteria and molds inside the humidifier.

Why does my humidifier smell like plastic?

New humidifiers smell like plastic. Do not be panic about that. You can use floral essential oils to have a desirable fragrance. However, you must notice that the plastic smell will be eradicated from the machine within weeks.

How often should I clean my humidifier?

You should clean your humidifier daily. But, you have to do a deep clean once a week. Besides, you should remove the mineral build-up with a brush.

How to clean a humidifier?

Cleaning a humidifier is easy. You can follow the following facile steps to clean your humidifier in no time. Let’s go –

  • Turn off your humidifier by unplugging it from the wall outlet.
  • Add 1 cup of white vinegar or three drops of tea tree oil, or half the teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide with water.
  • Keep the solution for 30 minutes to lose mineral buildup.
  • Scrub every area humidifier tank with a toothbrush.
  • Empty the tank.
  • Rinse the tank and do it multiple times.
  • Finally, wipe out all residual water drops.
  • You can sun dry your humidifier tank. Sundry help with killing bacteria, especially pathogenic bacteria.

Is the Humidifier smell dangerous?

Obviously, a foul odor from a humidifier denotes that you are breathing pathogenic air. You are going to suffer from the air-borne disease. This condition triggers the symptoms of allergy and asthma. Besides, if you are healthy, you will suffer from flu-like symptoms.


You have gotten the whole idea of why humidifiers smell bad. Now, you have to avoid causes related to your humidifier smell getting. As always, prevention is better than cure. So, you should use distilled water, remove stagnant water, and clean the mineral build-up. Finally, keen observation of any difficulty is needed for a healthy and risk-free humidifier operation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top