A white vent

Why Do My Vents Have a Bad Smell?

Solving Bad Smells in Your Vents

Unpleasant odors coming out of air vents is a common problem in many homes and apartments. Whether you have a bad smell coming from one vent in the house or every air vent smells musty, this issue can make it difficult to be comfortable in your home. In many cases, bad smells emanating from vents can mean that your HVAC system or ductwork needs servicing. Read on to learn common causes of smelly vents and to learn how to make vents smell better. 

Common Causes of Bad Smells in Vents

Before you can get into how to get odor out of air vents and ducts, you first need to understand what might be causing the problem. The following are common causes of bad smells in vents. 

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew are fungi that like to grow in cool, dark and damp places. Having an air conditioner that is too large for your home, setting your thermostat too low and leaks in the ventilation system can cause water to condense, creating moisture that encourages mold and mildew growth. Moisture left behind after flood damage is another potential cause of mildew and mold problems. 

If you have an air vent that smells musty, vinegary or like decaying leaves, you may have a mold or mildew problem. Not only can the fungus cause bad smells, but it could also pose a risk for breathing problems and allergies. In most cases, the solution to mold and mildew problems is thorough cleaning. You may also need to take steps to reduce the risk of moisture buildup in the future by setting the thermostat higher or having your HVAC system repaired or replaced. 

Clogged Air Filters

HVAC systems use filters to remove fine particulates from the air. Over time, the impurities taken out of the air accumulate on an air filter, reducing airflow. When this happens, the material caught in the vent may start to decay and give off odors. In some cases, the debris stuck in the filter naturally has a bad scent that you can smell when air moves through the vent. 

The most common cause of clogged air filters is not changing the parts frequently enough. Changing your air filters according to the recommended schedule is the best way to prevent clogged air filters and the odors they cause. 

Dead Animals

A rotten, pungent odor could mean that a dead animal is present in your air ducts. Mice and rats are the most common causes of this problem, but other animals like pigeons and opossums can also get trapped inside ventilation systems. If you suspect that a dead animal is the cause of the issue, call a professional pest control company or HVAC repair service promptly. Animals can carry viruses and bacteria that could make your family sick, so removing them as soon as possible is important for protecting your health. 

Can Smells Travel Through Vents? 

Smells can absolutely travel from one room through the air vents into another. Bad smells can happen due to airborne particles that travel in the air when you turn on your heating and cooling systems. Because of this, if you’re trying to determine how to stop smells from coming through vents in apartment buildings, it’s possible that the odors originate in your neighbors’ units. In this case, you may need to talk to your landlord if the odor removal and reduction methods we’ll discuss next fail to address the problem. 

How to Remove Odor from Air Ducts and Vents Using Dry Methods

To deal with odors on your own, try these methods. 

Clean and Disinfect Vents

Giving your vents a deep cleaning can reduce or eliminate odors in some cases. To clean: 

  1. Use a screwdriver to take off vent covers and wash them by hand. 
  2. Cover your supply registers with paper towels or plastic. 
  3. Use the handle of a cleaning brush to loosen dust from the sides of the vents. 
  4. Vacuum out dust and debris using a hose attachment. 
  5. Once the vent covers are dry, put them back on with a screwdriver. 

Change Air Filters

Most HVAC systems require filter changes once every three months. However, replacement schedules vary. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to find out when to replace your filter and what type of filter to use. The owner’s manual should also give you step-by-step directions to follow to remove the old filter and put in a new one. 

Use Odor Eliminating Products

Odor-eliminating products can freshen up rooms while you wait for other DIY or professional methods to work. You can place odor-fighting gels near vents or mount pods filled with odor-eliminating beads on walls near the vents. Lighting odor-removing candles and spritzing odor-reducing sprays can also help fight bad smells from vents. Just be sure to choose products that actually neutralize smells rather than covering them up with fragrances. 

When to Use Professional Services

In some cases, DIY solutions will work to eliminate bad smells from vents, but if odors linger, consider calling in the pros. Duct cleaning services can give your entire ventilation system a deep clean, accessing parts of the ductwork that you can’t. They’re a good option if you believe mold and mildew or a dead animal to be the cause of bad smells. 

HVAC maintenance services can be beneficial for bad smells of any type. Professionals can check your air conditioner and ductwork for any problems that might be leading to moisture buildup and replace air filters as a part of routine service. 

Take Action and Get Rid of Vent Odors

Now that you know how to get smells out of ductwork and vents, it’s time to take action. Try one of the DIY methods above or call a professional to service or clean your system. In the meantime, you can reduce vent odors in your home using Fresh Wave products. 

Powered by plant-based ingredients, Fresh Wave odor eliminators absorb unpleasant smells rather than masking them with chemical perfumes and are free of harmful ingredients, so you can use them with confidence. Shop the full collection of odor eliminating products today to find the right solution for your house or apartment.