My Air Purifier Smells Like Wet Dog – What Should I Do?

When buying my first air purifier, I found a model that could eliminate dust and other contaminants from the air, including foul odors.

So, you can imagine the surprise when I turned on my air purifier one day, and it suddenly smelled like a wet dog.

Dogs are lovely creatures, and while there’s a lot to love about dogs, one of the worst things that come with owning a dog is having to smell a wet dog from time to time.

But isn’t an air purifier meant to prevent foul odors?

Those were my exact thoughts.

That’s why I decided to get to the bottom of why my air purifier gave off that scent and what I could do about it.

In this article, I’ll share what I’ve learned so you won’t have to struggle as I did when trying to troubleshoot this issue.

Read on to learn more.

Why Does My Air Purifier Smell Like Wet Dog?

Air purifiers that smell like a wet dog or fish probably have bacteria, mold, yeast, or fungi in them.

So, if that’s you, it might be time for you to clean or change your filters.

Typically, your air purifier will only smell like a wet dog if it has a moldy filter.

If you turn the air purifier on and notice that it emits a strong “wet dog” scent, it’s probably the filter.

This is because the fan sucks air from the room and pushes it through the moldy filter, which only serves to amplify the smell.

So, how does this happen?

One of the reasons this happens is if you put in a wet filter.

If the filter was damp when you put it inside the air purifier, it’s a prime environment for mold to grow and develop.

But sometimes, mold could just grow over time, especially if you live in a humid area.

And if you have a lot of pollution in your area, this could also be why your air purifier smells like wet dog.

This is why regular maintenance is essential if you have an air purifier.

Without regular cleaning and maintenance, your air purifier can capture grime and grease, which gets stuck on the filter and mixes with the mold smell.

If you turn your air purifier on one day and notice it smells like a wet dog, it doesn’t mean you have a broken air purifier. 

However, it does mean that your air purifier’s filter is moldy and dirty.

Sometimes, you have to clean the filter, and you’re good. 

But if a lot of mold has grown, you might want to change the filter.

What To Do If Your Air Purifier Smells Like Wet Dog

Now that you know why your air purifier has that wet dog-like smell, you may wonder what to do about it.

Luckily, troubleshooting this issue isn’t too hard; all it requires is time and elbow grease.

If you want to eliminate that intense and foul odor in your air purifier, all you have to do is follow these steps:

Unplug the Air Purifier

First, you have to unplug the air purifier.

It’s essential to remove it from any power source before disassembling it and touching the interior.

You want to be as safe as possible when doing this, so unplugging the air purifier is a necessary step.

Another precaution you can take is clearing the room, especially if someone has respiratory issues.

I recommend wearing a facemask to protect your lungs from the mold when you open the machine.

That way, you filter out any dust and mold spores that could fly out, affecting your overall health.

Wipe the Exterior

After unplugging the air purifier and fully prepping your space, the next step is wiping down the exterior.

Over time, dust and dirt can settle on the air purifier, even if it’s constantly turned on.

And since you’re already cleaning the filter and interior of the appliance, it won’t hurt to give the exterior a wipe-down as well.

To do this, you can use a clean washcloth. 

You can also use a slightly damp one, but make sure to dry the device right after.

Remove the Case

When you finish cleaning the exterior, it’s time to start the actual work.

The next step is removing the case and disassembling the air purifier.

When doing this, make sure to follow the instructions on the manual or search videos on YouTube.

Every air purifier has a different disassembly process, and it’s important to follow every step down to the last detail.

If you don’t disassemble the air purifier properly, you could damage the machine. 

So, make sure to proceed with care and caution during this step.

Check the Filters

The next step is to check the filters.

If you notice that your air purifier has a wet-dog smell or if you’ve never cleaned the air purifier before, there’s a high chance you’ll find a dirty filter.

If the filters are dirty and clogged, opening the air purifier can cause dust, mold, and pollen to fly out.

I recommend wearing a mask when cleaning your air purifier’s filters.

If you notice mold or dirt buildup on the filters, remove them from the air purifier and proceed to the next step.

Clean & Dry the Filters

If there’s only a bit of mold and dirt buildup on the filter, there’s a high chance you can still save it.

However, keep in mind that not all filters are washable

And if you want to save a bit of money, I recommend buying an air purifier with a washable filter.

If your model has a washable filter and pre-filter, simply take them out and rinse them with water.

Keep in mind that only the HEPA and pre-filter are washable. 

Carbon filters are not washable, and if you notice mold and a lot of dirt on yours, then it’s best to replace them.

One thing to remember when cleaning the filters is to dry them once you’re done.

The best way is by leaving them out for at least 24 hours so they can air dry naturally.

Placing a wet filter into your air purifier can promote mold growth and undo all the maintenance you just performed.

Additionally, wet filters can also damage the air purifier. 

So, if you want to keep your air purifier running for years, always dry your filters before placing them back inside.

If you can’t wait for them to dry naturally, you may try to blow dry them.

However, this is a risky technique as you might end up melting certain parts of the filter. 

So, proceed cautiously and use the lowest heat setting on your hair dryer.

Change the Filters (If Necessary)

Not all filters are washable. 

Most of the time, carbon filters aren’t washable, and you need to replace them every couple of months.

And if your air purifier doesn’t have a washable HEPA filter, you might need to replace this as well.

But, even washable HEPA filters won’t last forever.

If your HEPA filter is old and has gone through a couple of washes, it could also be time for a replacement.

But just to be sure, refer back to the user manual, as this usually has the lifespan of the filters written down.

Reassemble the Machine

After cleaning the filters and replacing the filters that are too old for washing, it’s time to reassemble the machine.

Again, do this carefully per the manual to ensure you don’t accidentally damage it.

How Often Should I Clean My Air Purifier?

Air purifiers will generally need cleaning every 3-4 months.

However, remember that it may vary depending on the air quality in your area and how often you have your air purifier on.

If the air is heavily polluted and you use your air purifier a lot, you may have to clean the air purifier more often.

But, if you smell a wet-dog smell from your air purifier, there might be mold inside the device.

The second you smell this, it’s best to clean your air purifier immediately to prevent further damage.


An air purifier emitting a wet dog smell can be a huge pain.

However, this is an annoying problem with a straightforward solution.

Most of the time, all you have to do is change or clean the filters.

And once you do that, you’ll find that the air purifier will work just as when you first bought it!

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