How to Remove Smells From Your Air Conditioner

Twin air conditioning units outside of a home.

An air conditioner cools and dehumidifies a room by channeling chilled air into a space. The overall temperature of the room drops as the warmer air is pushed back into the AC unit for further cooling. If the conditioning system itself emits a foul odor, that smell will permeate the room quickly. If your air conditioner emits unpleasant smells or if you have unexplained odors in rooms when you operate it, read on for tips on how to identify and eliminate them.

Identifying the Source of the Smell

The first step toward eliminating this undesirable smell is determining the underlying cause. Generally, foul smells in air conditioning systems are caused by one of four potential factors.

Dirty, Clogged System

In many cases, air conditioners that are dirty or clogged begin to emit foul odors. This is a primary indication that maintenance or repair is necessary. As an air conditioner or one of its components becomes clogged with dirt and other particles, it can no longer filter water out of the air well, and the excess collects in the system. This water may be stagnant and foul-smelling after a while. If the air in your home smells like dirty feet, this may be the cause.

Animal in Duct System

Due to the dark and isolated nature of central air duct work, they are a choice habitat for small animals. Under most circumstances, the ducts are blocked and animals cannot access them. However, if an animal gains entrance and then dies while inside the duct, it may produce a foul smell that permeates the room or even the entire house.

Engine Fluid Leak

If the engine or other component parts of the AC unit leak fluid, this smell can be transmitted throughout the home as well. These cases tend to smell like exhaust fumes.

Lingering Smoke

Smoke may get trapped in an air conditioning system or its ducts and can linger for extended periods of time in the air of a room or home. As it grows stale, the smell will worsen.

Eliminating the Foul Smell

Plan on having the system repaired and cleaned when dealing with any unpleasant odor. In many cases, this can be done at home for a minimal cost. If the filters or other components are dirty, they may simply need to be removed, cleaned, and reinstalled. They may also need to be replaced altogether.

If the smell is due to a dead animal, the only way to remedy the scent is to locate the body and remove it. This will gradually clear the air of the smell, but you may also want to install room air fresheners or use air freshening sprays in the meantime.

If you are unable to identify or remove the smell from your air conditioning system, or if you have any other questions, do not hesitate to speak with an air conditioner service company or the manufacturer of your system.