Air ionizer Smell | Do Air Ionizers And Purifiers Emit Any Smell?

air ionizer smell fresh air

Air ionizers, sometimes called negative ion generators, are a type of air purifier whose goal is to make the air in your room completely clean and remove all harmful particles in the air. Consequently, one common question is if air ionizers produce any smell, and if so why? If you never had an air ionizer device before and did a bit of digging around you might have stumbled upon various forum threads in which people share their experiences, which differ quite a bit.

The most accurate answer is this: the only real “smell” you should sense after using an air ionizer is best described as a smell of freshness – similar to the smell of the air before thunder hits or after a thunderstorm. Why? In most simple terms – since negative ions remove even the smallest particles, they also remove any odor or smells. If we remove all odors and other harmful particles from the air, then nothing remains except clean and pure air.

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Air ionizer Smell and electric smell

air ionizer smell fresh air

We can almost smell this picture, can you?

At some point, you might have had or read about a completely different experience than what we described in the paragraph above. Sometimes people report of air ionizers having a very distinct electric smell. Other words that people use to describe this smell are: burnt electronics, electric spark, chlorine, and a burning wire. Why does this happen? This happens because many air ionizers emit ozone as a sideproduct, which gives it this distinct smell. This is most common for air ionizers that use a metal needle as the element of ionization. A metal needle will oxidize with time, releasing ozone in the process.

ozone burning electric smell

Typical ozone smell description in one photo, not very pleasant.

Ozone is great when we are talking about it in the atmosphere. Up there, ozone protects us from harmful UV rays. However, it is pretty harmful to us (more specifically, our lungs) if we are indirectly exposed to it. If you keep smelling the above-mentioned smells, you can be sure that your air ionizer is emitting ozone. If you are asthmatic, have children, or have vitamin C & E deficiencies, you must be exceedingly more careful because you can develop health problems from ozone even more efficiently.

Although the smell is usually all it takes to identify ozone, people can develop specific symptoms as well. These are coughing, tight feeling in the chest, throat irritation, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Why Does My Air Purifier Smell?

Air purifiers are commonly used in homes to create a healthy indoor environment by removing unpleasant odors, contaminants and harmful particles from the air.

However, some people have reported a downside of air purifiers, which is the release of bad smells from the device. This can create the same issue that the air purifier was meant to fix – unpleasant odors.

Why Your Air Purifier Smells

There are several reasons why an air purifier might emit an unpleasant odor:

  1. Dirty Filter: If the air purifier filter is dirty and clogged with dust, mold, and other debris, it can emit unpleasant odors.
  2. Poor Quality Material: Some air purifiers use low-quality materials that can cause odors, such as plastic or cheap foam.
  3. Bacterial Growth: If the air purifier is not cleaned regularly, bacteria and mold can grow on the filter, causing a bad odor.
  4. Heating Element: Some air purifiers have a heating element to improve air purification, but if it’s not properly cleaned, it can produce odors.
  5. Chemical Reactions: Chemical reactions between the air purifier and cleaning products, such as sprays or disinfectants, can cause unpleasant odors.

To prevent an air purifier from emitting odors, it’s important to clean it regularly and replace the filter when needed. Additionally, using high-quality materials and avoiding the use of strong cleaning products can help.

How to choose an air ionizer that will not smell?

Up to now, you have learned what an air ionizer smell should look like and what is the actual (opposite experience) of many people. So, how do you go from here? First, you must know the difference between an air ionizer, air purifier, and ozone generator. Seriously, many people mix these up. You must know that all air ionizers are air purifiers, but not all air purifiers are necessarily air ionizers. Also, air ionizers are not the same as ozone generators. This last one might especially be confusing since many air ionizers do produce ozone. We have written a separate post on the difference between air ionizers and ozone generators.

If you are choosing to buy a new ionizer, then your goal is, of course, to have that clean air in your room. It should smell like fresh air and not the opposite. Here are the main two things you should ask yourself when buying a new air ionizer:

  • Does the air ionizer produce ozone? If yes, then you will probably smell that in the air. It depends on the amount of ozone the air ionizer emits. The higher the amount of ozone byproduct, the more intense the smell. Remember that ozone is dangerous for health, even in very small quantities. For this reason, we would avoid it altogether, if possible. This is especially important for the above-mentioned groups that are more at risk.
  • How many negative ions does the air ionizer produce? In this case, the more, the better. We recommend at least 5 million negative ions per cubic centimeter per second. This is because there are a lot of harmful particles and odors in the air. So we need that many more negative ions to effectively remove air pollutants. More removed particles and odors = cleaner and fresher air. You can find more about this topic in our other post here.

These two small, but important details, can be the difference between a good and bad investment.

How to eliminate air purifier smell?

If your air purifier is emitting an unpleasant smell, there are several steps you can take to eliminate it:

  1. Replace the filter: The most common cause of air purifier smells is a dirty or clogged filter. If your filter is dirty, it can emit a musty or moldy smell. Replace your air purifier filter regularly, as recommended by the manufacturer.
  2. Clean the air purifier: If the filter is clean, the smell may be coming from the air purifier itself. Wipe down the air purifier with a damp cloth to remove any dirt or dust that may be causing the smell.
  3. Use activated carbon filters: Activated carbon filters are designed to remove odors and can be particularly effective at eliminating air purifier smells. Replace your filter with an activated carbon filter to remove the odor.
  4. Keep the air purifier in a well-ventilated area: Air purifiers need proper ventilation to function effectively. Ensure that your air purifier is placed in a well-ventilated area and not in a corner or against a wall.

In conclusion

Air ionizers are great, as they bring clean air and a fresh feeling into our homes. But like most things, the devil is in the details. That fresh smell can quickly turn into an unpleasant burning electric smell. Now you know that the main reason for this foul smell is ozone. Some air ionizers produce less of it, some more, and some none. It depends on the technology used, and mainly the element of ionization (metal needle, plasma, membrane, carbon…). Always read the product description for ozone levels!

Keep this small yet important detail in mind before your next ionizer purchase. Doing so will avoid the common mistake many people make before purchasing an air ionizer and later wonder what that awful smell is coming from their ionizers.

For this purpose, I have listed the top 5 best air ionizers for your home. I believe these are the best you can currently get while minimizing the negatives. Also, most of these on the list are ozone-free!

Get rid of the air ionizer smell

Do air purifiers give off a smell?

Yes, Air purifiers give off a smell when the ventilation is not proper enough. These issues are mainly caused due to the carbon filters present inside the air purifier.

How can I make my air purifier smell better?

To make your air purifier smell better, you should clean its air, HEPA, and carbon filters every month. By cleaning the air filters, you are making sure that there is no dust inside the filters, and thus, it will not emit any smell.

Is ionized air harmful to humans?

Ionizers can be dangerous to people’s health because they create excessive ozone. Although some manufacturers may say the ozone produced is equivalent to that in outdoor smog, studies have often shown that ionizers generate even more ozone.

Do ionizers get rid of smells?

Yes, ionizers can remove odors.

Is ozone safe to breathe?

No, ozone is harmful for health. Inhaling ozone can harm the lungs, even in small amounts it can cause chest pain, coughing, breathing difficulties and throat irritation.

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The author is an Air purifier expert with overall knowledge of air and ionizers.