humidifier smells musty

Why Does My Humidifier Smell Musty?

Humidifiers help increase humidity, especially in dry regions where heating is required in winter. They work wonderfully, but humidifiers can give off unpleasant odors like fish, feet, urine, plastic, and others over time.

Fortunately, this isn’t a severe problem and can be easily fixed. Stagnant water is usually the leading cause, but the variety of foul odors has many other reasons. So let’s find out more about why your humidifier smells musty.

Why Does My Humidifier Smell Musty?

If your humidifier smells musty, it’s a sign that you should change the filters or start cleaning it immediately. There are several reasons for a musty smell. First, you may notice that the humidifier smells bad or even worse or smells like feet. Mold has probably accumulated around the water tank or elsewhere in the humidifier.

The inside of a humidifier is dark and often doesn’t get airflow, which encourages the growth of these nasty fungi. They also prefer a humid environment, which the water tank provides in abundance. If you don’t change the water in it regularly, it stagnates and becomes a haven for bacteria and mold.

Every time you turn on your moldy humidifier, it releases mold spores and bacteria into the air. And those mold spores can harm your family’s health. Plus, mold spores promote mold growth in other parts of your home. Mold leads to lung problems, which are more common in children and the elderly than in people with robust immune systems.

Water deposits are also notorious for secreting foul odors into the air. Tap water often contains minerals such as sulfur and lead. These minerals gradually deposit on the inside walls of the humidifier and throughout the room where it’s used. So look for white dust on the furniture in the room where the humidifier operates to determine if water deposits cause the musty odor.

Some humidifiers even have an odor most reminiscent of a wet dog. The smell is associated with damp fur, but more likely is a buildup of bacteria and fungus in the fur. So, if certain types of yeast and bacteria are colonizing the tank of your humidifier, it’ll also emit an odor reminiscent of a wet dog.

The humidifier smells like plastic when you buy and use it the first few times. That’s just the smell of plastic heating up and outgassing for the first time. So if you smell something similar, don’t worry because it’s normal and humidifier likely is not on fire. After a few times of use, the smell will disappear.

If the humidifier isn’t new and leaves a burnt smell, there’s a higher chance that it’s damaged. Look around to see if you notice any burn marks or deformation of the plastic. There’s also a chance that the humidifier water tank is empty, so keep an eye on it.

How To Prevent Humidifiers From Smelling Bad?

When the humidifier isn’t in use, you should remove excess water from the tank and dry the inside completely to prevent mold growth. You can perform a surface treatment at home to prevent humidifiers from smelling bad.

Ensure you always unplug the humidifier because you must avoid accidents before you prevent bad smells. Pour two tablespoons of distilled vinegar or baking soda into the water tank. Let it sit for a few hours before brushing the sides with a toothbrush to clean it thoroughly. Then rinse the tank thoroughly to remove all residue and cleaning agents.

Now make a solution of equal parts water and bleach. After you put the solution in the tank, let it soak for about 15 minutes. Clean the outside and inside of the tank by dipping a cloth in the solution (wear gloves to protect your hands). If the humidifier still smells funny after proper cleaning, check if there is a filter that needs to be replaced.

Some humidifiers also have a separate compartment where you can put essential oils to make the humidifier smell good. Don’t put essential oils directly into the humidifier water tank because they won’t mix with the oil and clog the tank and the waterways through which the steam is released.

Prevent Bacterial Buildup

Bacteria give off a very unpleasant odor; if you allow them to multiply, the humidifier will give off a musty smell. So cleaning the humidifier regularly is the best way to prevent bacteria growth. Of course, you can also try disinfecting the water tank regularly with hydrogen peroxide or vinegar to eliminate any chance. However, before you take these steps, be sure to read the user manual. You can learn more about how to prevent bacteria buildup in my article about killing bacteria in humidifier.

Clean Humidifier Regularly

Remove the excess water after each use. Otherwise, it’ll stagnate and provide excellent conditions for the growth of bacteria and mold. Therefore, you should clean the humidifier with vinegar at least once a week to remove mold or kill bacteria. A toothbrush is also an excellent tool to scrub off mineral deposits. We are working on a humidifier cleaning guide.

Use Purified or Distilled Water

When you remove all minerals and nutrients, the water is distilled, so no minerals are deposited. These minerals and nutrients and the dark, aerobic atmosphere provide the growth conditions for mold and bacteria. So this is the best way to prevent a musty smell. You can learn more about the best humidifier water.

Make Humidifiers Smell Good

Have you ever wondered why there are many lemon-scented cleaners? Lemon is a fantastic ingredient to add to your humidifier’s water tank. It contains many natural cleaning agents to help prevent mold and germs in your humidifier. Lemons also add a pleasant citrus aroma to the air when you turn on your humidifier. Here you can read about making humidifiers smell good here.

Final Thoughts

Stinky humidifiers can be problematic, but if you clean them properly, your humidifier won’t allow mold or bacteria growth. So don’t forget to change the filter when it’s time.

Keeping distilled water on hand during busy weeks or months will save you from a musty smell. And for an interesting scent, you can try lemons. And if someone you know asks why their humidifier smells musty, you can advise them here!

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