Do Bathroom Fans Remove Smell? (8 Great Alternatives)

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So you finish your business in the bathroom and are faced with a disgusting odor. Being a good person, you want to leave the bathroom nice and fresh for the next person. Could the bathroom exhaust fan actually remove bad odors from the bathroom?

The bathroom exhaust fan is very effective at removing smells from the bathroom. As soon as the fan is turned on the stale air is being replaced with fresh air and after a couple of minutes, the bathroom will be as fresh as before.

However, the main purpose of a bathroom fan is to exhaust moist air in order to prevent mold in the bathroom.

Although it does not remove the foul odors immediately. If the ventilation system is designed correctly it will take about 8 minutes for all the air in the bathroom to be replaced with fresh air.

As a bonus, a bathroom fan could be used to ventilate any room in the house that is being painted.

8 Alternative Ways to Get Rid of Bad Smells in the Bathroom

Although a vented bathroom fan is very efficient at controlling bad odors in the bathroom. There are many more ways to freshen up the bathroom. Some will aid the fan and help do the job faster and others can be used in place of the fan if your bathroom lacks a vented fan.

Two indoor plants getting sunlight

Ductless Bathroom Fan

This is a great alternative for bathrooms without showers and where there are no ducts installed. Installing them is very easy and can usually be done in less than an hour.

Related Article: Are Bathroom Fans Necessary

Ductless bathroom fans are very efficient at removing odors since this is their main and I would argue, the only job. Many people think that ductless fans remove moisture and help with ventilating the room but they are mistaken.

Here is an example of a duct-free fan from Amazon.

A ductless fan removes odors by circulating the air through a carbon filter. Activated carbon traps contaminants in its porous surface and only fresh good smelling air comes out the other side of the filter.

One gram of activated carbon has a surface area of about 32000 sq ft. So a typical 50-gram filter has more than 1.6 million contaminant trapping square feet. This is also the reason why they need replacing once in a while. When the porous surface is filled with contaminants it no longer filters air and should be replaced.

Here you can learn more about how carbon filters work

Be sure to read my article about Ductless bathroom fans if you wish to learn more.

Homemade Air Freshener

Most of the commercially available air fresheners barely mask the smell with strong chemicals and pollute the indoor air with dangerous substances. This can even be true with products marked “green” or “eco friendly”. NRDC’s independent testing discovered that 86% of tested air fresheners contained phthalates. Even the ones that were marked green or eco friendly.

Wooden craft letters forming "DIY"

This is why it is best to mix up your own air freshener and be sure that your are not poisoning your family with unknown chemicals.

Here is what you will need for the air freshener.

ItemDescriptionView On Amazon
Spray bottleMake sure you choose a bottle that will protect the solution from ultraviolet light. I would avoid plastic bottles as some essential oils can damage them.View
Essential oilIt is very important to use a reputable seller for this. I have linked to a set of 6 essential oils so you can experiment and see what you like best.View
AlcoholThis will help water and the essential oil mix together. Rubbing alcohol or vodka will do.View

As you can see it is possible to make an air freshener with just 3 ingredients, not dozens, like on the commercially available products.

Here is my go-to recipe to use in the bathroom to get rid of any unwanted smells 🙂

  • 3/4 cups of water
  • 6 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
  • 4 drops of tea tree essential oil
  • 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol

Be sure to experiment with different essential oils,quantities to see what you like best.

Baking Soda

Baking soda has a million different uses, one of them is absorbing odors. However, this is not something you would use after using the bathroom to freshen it up, rather something that you can keep in the bathroom at all times.

The reason why baking soda removes bad smells is because most odors are acidic. Baking soda has a very high ph level and is mildly alkaline. So it will increase the Ph level of the odor and this in turn ill neutralize the smell.

Harbor Point Mineral’s Baking Soda - Sodium Bicarbonate (50 lb)

This is why baking soda is very effective at removing the smell of vinegar after you have used it to remove mold from the bathroom.

You can leave a small bowl of baking soda in the bathroom and replace it once a week.

Lighting a match

Lighting a match after going nr 2 is in my opinion the most effective way to hide the unpleasant odor. Remember to throw the match in the toilet bowl so that there is no chance of an accidental fire.

Sometimes when I don’t have matches on hand I use a lighter to light a small piece of toilet paper. This works best if you light it up, let it burn for a couple of seconds, and then blow it out. There will be a little smoke and that will hide the smell quite effectively.

The only problem with lighting a piece of toilet paper is sometimes if you let it burn for too long it is very difficult to blow it out 🙂 So before lighting it look for a safe spot where to throw it if things get out of hand.

Why Does Lighting a Match Get Rid of Bathroom Odor

Lighting a match will not get rid of the bathroom odor, it simply masks it. Lighting a match produces sulfur dioxide which will cover the unpleasant bathroom odors until they have time to clear. By the time the smell of sulfur dioxide is gone so will be the smell you are trying to hide.

Bamboo Charcoal

This is quite a new product but it is very effective. It can be used all over the house and even in the car.

Bamboo charcoal absorbs both moisture and odors making, leaving your house smelling fresh and clean. Keep in mind that if your bathroom lacks an exhaust fan, it is best to start with ventilation, and if the smell still persists move on to more advanced things.

Bamboo charcoal product

One bag of bamboo charcoal last for about 2 years. It must be activated in the sun for 2 hours every other month.

Bamboo charcoal air purifier from Amazon.

Air Purifier

Air purifiers with activated carbon filters are also effective at removing odors. They not only freshen up the smell of the bathroom but also increase the air quality. This is especially important for people with allergies or asthma.

Air purifier consists of a filter and a fan. The fan circulates the air through the filter thus cleaning the air.

I have an article dedicated to using air purifiers in a bathroom. Head over there if you wish to learn more.

NoMO Air Purifier

This is in my opinion a very clever device, I have not personally used it but I have heard wonderful things about it. If the look of it does not bother you then this is something that would be very valuable in a shared bathroom.

The way it works is you mount it on the side of the toilet bowl and with a touch-free swipe you turn it on before you go to the bathroom. Since it is very close to the source of the bad smell it works much more effectively at removing bad odors than exhaust fans or air purifiers.

An duct-free fan has about the same working principle as NoMO. But since an air purifier is most likely at-least a a couple of feet from the source of the smell it has time to spread around the room.

NoMO Air Purifier for Bathroom - Chemical Free Activated Charcoal Deodorizer, Eliminates Toilet Odors and Smells

Now there is a much larger air volume that has to be filtered through and that’s why it takes much longer for an air purifier to get rid of the nasty smells.

NoMO Air purifier from Amazon.

Clean Your Bathroom Regularly

No fancy product or device will help if you simply won’t clean the bathroom. They can hide the smell temporarily but it will return after a short while.

Better Life Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner, 24 Ounce (Pack of 2) Tea Tree & Peppermint Scent

Related article: 6 Easy Steps To Choose The Right Bathroom Fan

The bathroom should be cleaned at least once a week, more often if the bathroom is shared and many people are using it.

Related Article: Sewer Smell When Running Bathroom Fan

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