Why Does My Air Purifier Smell

Last updated on Apr 19, 2022 FEATURED
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Air purifiers are becoming an integral addition to our homes. This is because they can significantly help get rid of most indoor air impurities. Some of these may include odors, molds, dust mites, dust, bacteria, and other airborne pollutants. However, sometimes air purifiers start producing musty smells. This has prompted most people to start asking themselves “why does my air purifier smell?’

Under normal circumstances, air purifiers are not supposed to smell. If they do, then there is something causing it. So, if you are currently experiencing this problem, we can help point you in the right direction.

In this article, we discuss reasons why your air purifier can smell and some potential solutions.

Why Your Air Purifier Smells

Image showing a girl covering her nose
A girl covering her nose

There are various reasons why your air purifier is smelly. However, to determine why your air purifier smells it is important to recognize the kind of smell produced. Below we have shared various kinds of smells produced by air purifiers and what causes them.

Air Purifier Smells, What Causes Them And Their Possible Solutions

Plastic Smell

If your air purifier is producing a plastic smell, the problem could be coming from new filters. This is a problem that is common among new air purifier units. Commonly experienced when you are using the unit for the first time. Basically, the plastic smell is usually related to the humidity levels. You should note that these air purifier filters are made of non-toxic PP/PET material.

If the air purifier is unused for a long time and exposed to high humidity levels, it will produce a plastic smell when switched on. However, this should take 1-3 days to disappear.

Is Plastic Smell Harmful?

According to Philips, the plastic smell is not harmful to your health. However, if it continues for more than 3 weeks, you should pause its usage and contact the manufacturer.

Possible Solution

You should let your air purifier run at maximum speed for about 48 hours nonstop. The smell should gradually fade off until it cannot be noticed. If it persists, then it could be a problem of burning. In this case, you should switch off your unit and contact the manufacturer. 

Burning Smell

Some air purifiers produce a burning smell. While this is uncommon, it is usually experienced by first-time users. At times, this smell is normal but should last for a few minutes. This is a problem that can result from many conditions. First of all, this can be caused by packaging materials left inside the unit. Also, it could be a wiring issue or component failure. If your air purifier wiring system is poor, it may cause heat, which can cause burning.

On the other hand, the burning smell might be a result of a malfunctioning ultraviolet C (UV-C) light lamp.

Is Burning Smell Harmful

Usually, the burning smell is an indicator of fire. Therefore if the smell persists for a few minutes, it may cause fire or burns due to overheating.

Possible Solution

First, you should ensure there are no packaging materials left inside. Some air purifiers come with wrapped filters and other components. So, as you unwrap the whole unit, also check inside for any left wrappers. 

If there are no wrappers inside your unit, then the UV-C light could be having a problem or there is a wiring issue. Here, you should stop using the air purifier and contact your technician or manufacturer. 

Distinct Chlorine Smell

Image showing pool water with chlorine
A chlorine smells like treated swimming pool water.

If your air purifier produces a chlorine-like smell, this could be caused by ozone. Usually, this smell can be compared to a chlorine-treated swimming pool water.

Some air purifiers use ionizers and UV light. When the UV light gets faulty, the unit may start producing ozone as a byproduct. Besides, some air purifiers generate ozone. This kind of smell can really be discomforting.

Is Chlorine Smell Unsafe

Yes, this chlorine-like smell can be harmful to your health since it is caused by ozone. According to the United States Environmental Agency (EPA), ozone can affect your lungs if inhaled. This can lead to shortness of breath, coughing, throat irritation, and chest pain. Therefore, if your air purifier starts producing a chlorine-like smell, there is a reason to worry.

Possible Solution

If your air purifier is generating a chlorine-like smell, you should disable the ionizer or UV-light function. Also, you should change the UV-light bulb. If the problem persists then you should consider replacing your unit.

However, if it is an ozone generator, it is important to stop using it. 

Wet Dog Smell

Image showing a wet dog
Wet dog

A wet dog-like smell is also one of the common smells air purifiers produce. This kind of smell is usually caused by microorganisms growing on the air purifier filters. Some of these microorganisms include molds, bacteria, and yeast.

This situation usually comes up as a result of failure to wash or replace filters on time. Also, it could be a problem of high humidity that favors the growth of microorganisms inside your unit.

Effects of Wet Dog-like Smell

By itself, this smell does not have a significant effect apart from making you uncomfortable. However, this smell is caused by microorganisms, which are harmful if inhaled.  Microorganisms such as molds, bacteria, and yeast can trigger an inflammatory response among some people.

Moreover, when inhaled, these microorganisms can trigger or worsen irritations, allergens, and asthma. Therefore, if your air purifier is generating a wet dog-like smell, you have to find a solution quickly.

Possible Solution

When an air purifier starts generating this kind of smell, it is usually an indicator of dirty filters. In this case, if your air purifier filters are washable, you should wash them and let them dry under the sun. This will help remove microorganisms that may be building up inside the filters.  Sometimes your filters might be worn out due to overuse. You should consider replacing them as well.

Additionally, you should ensure your room is not humid. If you maintain a comfortable level of humidity, you can hinder the growth of molds and bacteria inside the air purifier. 

Sweet Smell

Another common smell produced by air purifiers is the sweet smell. This is a common smell among new air purifiers with carbon filters. Usually, this smell is an indicator that the carbon filter inside your air purifier is working well.

Notably, this sweet smell may not last for long. This is because as the carbon filters absorb more pollutants, it loses the sweet smell.

Health Effects

This sweet smell has no significant effect on your health. Moreover, this smell may not last for a long time.

Possible Solution

This should not worry you as it will only last for a short while. As you continue using your air purifier this smell should disappear within the first few days.


In summary, air purifiers are supposed to help get rid of indoor odors. However, sometimes they can become a source of weird smells. Air purifiers can generate different kinds of smells. Each of these smells may be caused by different issues.

We hope the article has tackled the smell being produced by your air purifier. If you follow the advice provided, you will be able to get rid of any of the smells produced by your air purifier.

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