Why Does My Humidifier Smell?

Jonathan Lister

A humidifier is an asset for those seeking relief from asthma symptoms or dry, high altitude climates. These devices, while useful, require steady maintenance to avoid becoming fouled with odor-causing substances which can impact quality of life.

If a foul odor is emanating from a humidifier, the device definitely requires cleaning.

Bacterial Growth

Bacterial growth in your humidifier's water reservoir may be cause of the funny smell coming from the home appliance. If your humidifier is not cleaned properly, it can spread bacteria through your home when it's in operation and potentially get the entire household sick. According to the website for Aerias Air Quality Sciences, bacteria found in uncleaned humidifiers can cause severe health problems.

Fungus and Mold

Stagnant water in a humidifier can promote the growth of fungus and mold which can give off a musty odor. Mold and fungus pose an equal health threat to those who breathe the water vapor emitted when the unclean humidifier is in operation. Mold infections can cause mild to severe lung problems, which impact the young and elderly with greater frequency than adults with fully developed immune systems.

Water Deposits

Water contains a variety of minerals like sulfur, sodium and even lead, which can accumulate in a humidifier and lead to noxious odors. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you notice white specks of dust on furniture, which are located in the same room as a working humidifier, mineral deposits in your humidifier likely are to blame for the smell. If left uncleaned, mineral deposits can enter the air supply where they can be inhaled by you and other members of your household.

Maintaining Your Humidifer

According to the Mayo Clinic, your humidifier is only as good as the water you use in it. Distilled or demineralized water has little or no mineral content, which discourages the buildup of odor-causing materials in your humidifier. Cleaning your humidifier at least once every three days and keeping the reservoir dry when not in use is a key strategy to discouraging the development of disease and odor-causing bacteria, mold and fungus.