Why Does My Honeywell Air Purifier Smell?

Why Does My Honeywell Air Purifier Smell?

The primary function of air purifiers is to remove foul odors and air pollutants from your environment or home. Manufacturers fit air purifiers is with specialized filters designed to remove impurities and allergens from the air. 

While an air purifier is one of the best ways to promote clean air and good health at home, an air purifier does require simple, regular maintenance to make sure it runs at maximum efficiency. 

Why does my Honeywell air purifier smell? Your Honeywell air purifier could smell if it is new, as it may need to run to get rid of dust or the off-gassing of new plastic. It may give off a more unpleasant smell if the filters get damp or become clogged with excess air pollutants.

 If you are experiencing an odor or smell coming from your Honeywell air purifier, it may be for several different reasons.

In this article, we will explore how to use and maintain your Honeywell air purifier, the different types of smells you may experience, and what you can do to solve the problem.

How Does My Honeywell Air Purifier Work?

Your Honeywell air purifier uses scientifically proven, patented air filtration technology to keep your home free of indoor air pollutants and allergens like pollen, dust, tobacco smoke, pet dandruff, germs, and bacteria.

Honeywell air purifiers work by drawing the air through a series of filters, which includes a carbon pre-filter and a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter (source).

These filters perform the task of removing the air pollutants and absorbing foul odors and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).

The fan sucks in air through these filters and pushes it back out through the top of the air purifier. For this reason, you should always make sure that the front and top of your air purifier is clear to ensure a free flow of air.

What are Volatile Organic Compounds? 

Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs are naturally occurring organic chemicals found both indoors and outdoors. These chemicals typically have very low boiling points, which causes them to be present as vapor in the air at ambient temperatures.

Familiar sources of indoor VOCs are household cleaning products, paint and brush cleaners, building supplies, nail polish remover, and even something as simple as a  permanent marker (source). 

What is a HEPA filter?

HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air, and a HEPA filter works by drawing air through a very fine mesh.

The primary material in a HEPA filter mesh is usually very fine fiberglass threads designed to capture ultra-fine airborne particles.

The construction of the mesh traps air pollutants such as pollen, tobacco smoke particles, dust mites, pet dandruff, germs, bacteria, and mold spores.

The technology was initially designed by nuclear scientists to trap hazardous particles in the air. However, HEPA filters are now widely used to purify the air in both the home and office environments. 

A HEPA filter is manufactured, tested, and certified to specific HEPA industry standards. In the United States, a certified HEPA filter must meet the standards which are set by the Department of Energy (DOE).

HEPA filters are guaranteed to remove 99.97% of all air particles down to a 0.3 microns size.

Using a Honeywell air purifier that uses a HEPA filter in your home will help remove most airborne pollutants that cause an allergic reaction or make asthma worse (source). 

For more information about filters and using the right filter size, read our article Can I Use a 1-inch filter instead of a 5-inch?.

Why Does My HEPA Filter Smell? 

Under normal circumstances, your Honeywell HEPA filter should not smell if you change your filter regularly.

However, if your HEPA filter does emit a strange smell, it may be because the filter has become overloaded with airborne pollutants, and you will need to clean or change the filter before the electronic filter change light has been activated.

Can I Wash a Honeywell HEPA Filter?  

If you’re wondering, “Can I wash my Honeywell HEPA filter?” no, you should never wash your Honeywell HEPA filter in water, and you should never use household detergents or cleaners. 

Despite not being able to wash your Honeywell HEPA filter, you are able to clean your filter.

To clean your Honeywell HEPA filter, gently vacuum it every few months to remove the dust particles and pollutants that have gathered on the surface of the filter. 

Never try to scrub or scrape the filter or use sharp objects to clean it, as these may cause damage to the filter (source).

A damaged HEPA filter will affect the efficiency of your Honeywell air purifier and will result in the need to purchase new filters before the required time.

After cleaning and replacing your HEPA filter into your air purifying unit, you will need to reset the Electronic Filter Check light.

To do this, you will need to press and hold the lighted button for a minimum of 3 seconds or until the LED light goes off. This process will reset the electronic filter check.

Why Does My Air Purifier Smell Like a Wet Dog? 

Image by Jay Mantri via Pixabay

That “wet dog” smell is very unique and unpleasant. Studies have shown that the wet dog smell itself does not emanate from your actual furry friend. The scent comes from tiny particles like yeasts, mold, and bacteria that live on your dogs’ fur. 

When, or if, your dog gets wet, these tiny particles produce bad-smelling compounds, which are exaggerated when the water starts evaporating from your wet dog (source).

We can apply this same reasoning to your air purifier. If your air filters have accidentally gotten wet or damp, the moisture could be reacting with the bacteria, yeast, or mold that has been trapped by your filter. 

The trapped particles that are causing that “wet dog” smell will become more pronounced when you have activated your air purifier. The solution is to clean or change your air filters.

Other Types of Smells You May Experience

An Ozone or Chlorine Smell 

Ozone has a clean smell, something like the smell after a thunderstorm or the chlorine smell of a swimming pool. Some air purifiers and all ozone generators produce ozone as a byproduct.

However, ozone is a powerful lung irritant, and symptoms of exposure to ozone may include coughing, tightness of the chest, and shortness of breath. Ozone-producing air purifiers have been banned for residential use in California (source). 

Honeywell air purifiers do not produce or emit any ozone, so you can be sure that the air in your home will stay safe, healthy, and clean.

A Sweet Smell

While no-one expects their air purifier to smell at all, sometimes you may notice a sweet or cake-like smell when you first use your new air purifier. This sweet smell is most likely coming from a carbon filter. 

Air purified through a carbon filter should have a very distinct clean smell and should be void of all odors. 

Sometimes there is a slight sweet smell that comes from the activated carbon itself. Most people describe this sweet carbon smell as having a “fresh smell.”

Carbon filters are well known for having a sweet smell when they are new. This sweet smell will go away with time, but it can also be a useful indicator of when to change the filter. 

In normal circumstances, you should replace an activated carbon filter should after about 3,000 hours of use.

Mathematically, this works out to about 125 days of continuous use, depending on the ambient air quality. Again, when to change your filter will depend on the air quality of your location.

Air purifiers with filter replacement indicators can help you identify an old filter and let you know when to replace it promptly.


The body of most air purifiers is made of plastic. Plastic, during the molding process, gives off a very strong smell.

The plastic smell emanating from your air purifier could be leftover residue from the production process. This smell should fade away with use over a short time. 

However, if the plastic smell does not go away, or if the smell gets stronger after running your air purifier a few times, the smell could be an indication that your air purifier is burning plastic. 

This plastic is a fire hazard, and you should switch off your air purifier immediately and contact the manufacturer for advice.  


Mild smells of burning coming from your air purifier are not uncommon, especially when it is new.

Your air purifier runs on electricity, which produces heat. That initial burning smell could be the result of the burning off of dust collected from the packaging or the off-gassing of new plastic trapped inside the air purifier casing. 

If the burning smell does not go away after a few minutes, it could be a sign of a more serious underlying technical problem. The problem may be due to faulty wiring or the motor overheating. 

Whatever the source, a burning smell that does not go away is a fire hazard. Switch off your appliance immediately and consult a technician or the manufacturer for advice (source).

How Do I Set My Honeywell Air Purifier? 

Honeywell offers a wide range of air purifiers designed and developed specifically for home, office, car, or commercial use. 

Make sure you choose the right model for your air purifying needs. Your choice will primarily depend on the size of your room. Additional features such as wifi connectivity, the type of filter, and the display will all play a part in your decision. 

If you are unsure about which air purifier model to buy, Honeywell can assist you with their unique on-line buyer’s guide.

Once you have decided on the model that fits your needs, you will need to determine where to place your Honeywell air purifier. 

As most of the Honeywell air purifier models are portable, they can be moved around the house to be used at different times or for various purposes. 

For the best results, they recommend that you place the air purifier in the room you use the most, or you could place it in the room that has the lowest air quality.  

If you suffer from asthma or allergies that keep you awake at night, running the air purifier in your bedroom while you are sleeping would be a good idea.

Your Honeywell air purifier will remove particles from the air, such as pollen, mold, and dust, that cause congestion. Cleaner air will help ensure that you get a good night’s sleep.

In addition to your choice of room in which you will operate your air purifier, where you decide to place it is just as important. 

You will need to place the air purifier somewhere where it can stand upright and where it is out of the way of foot traffic, and where it will not be easily knocked over.

Before using your Honeywell air purifier, always make sure you have read the manual to familiarise yourself with the different functions and settings. 

Your Honeywell air purifier comes with different settings or air cleaning levels. To get the most out of your air purifier, you should be sure to choose the right fan setting after switching it on.

The Allergen Setting

You can use the Allergen setting to remove allergens such as pollen, dust mites, animal dandruff, and other irritants from the air. It is a high setting that is most effective during the spring season when pollen counts are at their highest. 

The General Clean Setting

The General Clean setting is a medium setting, which is best used for your everyday air cleaning needs. 

The Germ Setting

The Germ setting is typically a low setting that is most effective when used during the cold and flu season. 

The Turbo Clean Setting

The Turbo Clean setting operates the air purifying unit at the highest speed. It helps you to combat bad smells and cleans the air quickly. 

To use the Turbo Clean setting, you must first select one of the above settings. After you switch off the Turbo Clean setting, your air purifying unit will go back to the previous setting you have chosen.

Other Functions of Your Honeywell Air Purifier

In addition to the different fan speeds, your Honeywell air purifier comes with other handy functions.

The Timer Function

Just like any other timer function, this function allows you to set how long you would like the air purifier to run. Different models have different timer length settings, but you can generally set the timer in one-hour intervals. 

The LED display will show the number of hours selected and will then count down those hours, displaying the number of hours the air purifying unit has left to run. Your unit will automatically switch off after the selected amount of time has run its course.

The Dimmer Function

The dimmer function allows you to adjust the brightness of the LED display. Your Honeywell air purifying unit will always switch on with the display setting on HIGH. This light may be a bit annoying if you are trying to sleep. 

The dimmer function has three different settings for you to adjust the brightness of the display: HIGH, LOW or OFF. 

Please note, your Honeywell air purifier will still run with the dimmer function switched to OFF.

The Electronic Filter Change Reminder

Most Honeywell air purifiers have two electronic filter-change-reminder check lights. One for the Pre-filter and one for the HEPA filter. These check lights will notify you when the filters need changing based on their hours of use.

In normal conditions of use, you should change the pre-filter every three months and the HEPA filter every twelve months (source).

However, if your air quality is poor or if it contains a high quantity of air pollutants, such as pollen or tobacco smoke, you may need to change the filters more often.

Final Thoughts

Deciding to purchase an air purifier is a step in the right direction to providing everyone in your family with safer and better quality air. Having cleaner air in your home reduces the risks of an attack for people who have asthma or other allergic reactions.

Using a Honeywell air purifier in your home is an excellent investment in your family’s health. An air purifier will help remove air allergens and pollutants caused by dust, mold, bacteria, and germs. 

Nevertheless, you cannot rely on your air purifier to remove bad odors alone. Regular vacuuming and cleaning will help reduce dust particles that may clog your filters causing them to smell. 

While air purifiers are designed to remove smells as well as other contaminants from the air, they do come with a unique set of smells that may include ozone or the off-gassing of plastic.

Some of these smells may come as a surprise when you are expecting no odors, but are perfectly normal. However, if you are experiencing a particularly strong scent that does not go away, switch off the purifier and contact the manufacturer.


I'm a Pharmacist and a passionate researcher into clean air and pure water for the home. I believe these 2 elements play a significant role in our health and overall wellbeing.

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