Ventilating a bathroom without a window can be a tricky task. Unwanted moisture can be a severe nuisance and even dangerous to your health. Luckily, there are some simple hacks you can use to help aerate your windowless bathroom without breaking the bank.
Using an exhaust fan is the most efficient way to ventilate a bathroom that has no windows. In-fact the IRC(international residential code) requires an exhaust fan if there is no natural ventilation (3 sq ft window 50% operable)
The main trick to ventilating your windowless bathroom is to use every aerating tool to its maximum ability. To find out more ventilation hacks, and how to make the most of your aerating products, keep reading.
Why Is It Important to Ventilate a Bathroom?
It is important to ventilate a bathroom for several reasons. A bathroom that does not have ventilated air will lead to dank and musty smells. These odors come from moisture that builds up in the air. That moisture and humidity can then lead to mold.
If you are already dealing with mold head out to my previous article to learn how to remove mold with vinegar.
Bathrooms are a room in your house where moisture is likely to collect. This moisture comes from the steam of your shower. The steam and heat from the shower or from the exterior climate can lead to mold growth. This is especially true for small, cramped bathrooms.
Non-ventilated bathrooms can lead to severe mold problems that can then impact your health. But mold and mildew are not the only problems. Excess moisture in the air can cause damage to your walls, grout, and plaster. The extra humidity in your bathroom can also make your entire morning and evening routine a rather unpleasant experience.
By using underfloor heating, the risk of mold growth in the bathroom is significantly reduced since the surfaces dry before there is any chance for the mold to begin to grow.
Luckily, there are many ways to ventilate your bathroom, and some of them are extremely cost-effective. You don’t have to live forever with a musty bathroom. Here are a few solutions.
Purchase an Exhaust Fan
Windowless bathrooms can have a lot of built-up moisture in them. Built-up moisture will lead to mold and unwanted odors collecting in your bathroom, and overall, will lead to an unpleasant experience. But exhaust fans can help you solve your ventilation problems.
If you don’t already have an exhaust fan, or you are worried that yours isn’t working to its maximum potential, then consider purchasing one. An exhaust fan is a fan that will pull the moisture out of the air, helping to control moisture levels and eliminate odors.
Here I have a list of 8 super quiet bathroom fans. They are truly the quietest on the market today and I will keep this list updated.
However, it is important to keep in mind that you must size the fan according to your bathroom size. I have a quick guide here on how to do that.
What Do Exhaust Fans Do?
Exhaust fans are typically found in bathrooms or in the kitchen above the stove. They suck fumes, including moisture and chemicals, out of the air. If you don’t have a window in your bathroom, an exhaust fan is one of the simplest ways to aerate the space.
- Reduce humidity: exhaust fans will pull the moisture out of the air, reducing the water content in your bathroom and thereby ventilating your space.
- Prevent mold: Untreated moisture problems can lead to mold growth. Mold grows in moist conditions, so when there is too much humidity or water vapor in the air, mold may grow. This mold might appear in visible spots, or it might occur inside your walls.
A bonus of keeping the humidity this low is that it will deter pests like cockroaches from nesting in your home.
Due to various factors like humid climates, it can be difficult to reduce the indoor humidity in your home. Exhaust fans will help you reduce humidity by sucking the moisture out of the room.
- Eliminate odors: Mold and moisture will lead to odor problems. These can be rather unpleasant. To keep odors out of your windowless bathroom, an exhaust fan will work by sucking those smells up and out of the room.
- Help reduce airborne contaminants: To keep a bathroom clean and sanitary, harsh chemicals are often used. These can spread through the air, and oftentimes can be dangerous to inhale. Besides cleaning chemicals, any mold or toxins in your bathroom could be dangerous.
Exhaust fans will suck these contaminants out of the air in the same way that they suck in moisture and odor. To reduce airborne contaminants in your bathroom, it is a good idea to use an exhaust fan.
- Help prevent rust and mirror fog: Post-shower mirror fog, while not fatal or dangerous, can be unpleasant. Running an exhaust fan while you shower can help to reduce the foggy mirror effect.
- Reduce rust: An unventilated bathroom with moisture in the air can lead to rusting on any metal surfaces, which is aesthetically unpleasant. As moisture causes rust, an exhaust fan will drain the moisture out of the room, and help solve your rusting problem.
In my previous article about what are bathroom fans for I discuss this in more detail.
How Do Exhaust Fans Work?
Exhaust fans work by exhausting moisture and fumes from the room. Those fumes are then pulled through a duct system and expelled outside. This makes room for fresh air to replace the hot and moist air. Read more if you want a detailed description how the bathroom ventilation system as a whole operates.
There are some exhaust fans that have sensors, allowing them to automatically turn on if they sense any humidity or fumes in the room. Most exhaust fans, however, are turned on by a switch.
How Effective Are Exhaust Fans?
Exhaust fans are pretty effective. If your windowless bathroom does not have an exhaust fan, you may be able to look into your building code and speak with your landlord. Alternatively, you may have to install one yourself.
How effective the exhaust fan is will depend on the room you are trying to ventilate. A bathroom without a shower will be easier to ventilate. A smaller room also has less space for air to circulate, and the moisture will collect in denser amounts. In a large room, there is room for the air to flow, and thus the moisture will be spread out through the room.
The amount of air an exhaust fan can move will depend on the size and speed of the fan. Smaller fans can work just as well as larger fans; however, to generate the same amount of airflow, they would have to be rotating at a faster speed. Smaller fans tend to be noisier because of this.
When Should I Run My Exhaust Fan?
Whenever you run water in your bathroom, you are going to want to turn the exhaust fan on. Water accumulates in the air, emerging from the steam in your shower, and it will linger if it is not filtered out. Run the exhaust fan during your shower to reduce moisture, and leave it running for twenty minutes after your shower.
Be sure to keep the door open for those twenty minutes while the fanning is running, as unrestricted airflow will help to keep moisture out of your bathroom. If you happen to keep forgetting to use your exhaust fan, you can purchase a timer that will do it for you.
What to Do if You Suspect Your Exhaust Fan Isn’t Working
If your exhaust fan doesn’t seem to be working as well as it should, there could be a problem either with your fan or with your heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system. If the interior of your air conditioning or ventilation unit accumulates dirt, it needs to be cleaned.
Clean Your Vents
It is recommended to clean out your vents once a year, inspecting them to make sure that there is no mold or mildew building up. If you notice mold growing inside or near your ventilation ducts, consult a professional, as this could be a sign of more serious problems.
The material simply can not be cleaned effectively to eliminate the mold, and so in all likelihood, the system needs to be replaced. There are currently no antimicrobial cleaning products approved by the Environmental Protection Agency that will help clean your HVAC ducts.
Consult a Professional
A moisture problem in your ventilation system could be a serious issue. This could lead to mold spreading throughout your home. It is dangerous and unhealthy to breathe in mold, and any mold problems need to be managed immediately. It is best to consult professionals for help.
Make Sure That Your Fan Is Properly Vented
Most building codes today require exhaust fans to be vented through ducting that goes straight outside of the home. Most building codes also require exhaust fans in windowless bathrooms. Be sure to check your building codes and ensure that your building is up to code.
While today it is mandated that exhaust fans filter the air to the exterior of the home, in the 1970s and 1980s, ducting systems often released that air into the home’s attic, which then led to mold building up in the attic space—double-check to make sure that your exhaust fan is up to current codes.
Read my article about how bathroom fans should be vented to learn more.
How to Install an Exhaust Fan
If you need to replace an old exhaust fan with another fan, the task will be relatively manageable. You will be able to use already existing vent ducts and electrical work. If you are nervous about working with electrical work, it is important to consult a professional.
If you go ahead with replacing your van yourself, make sure to install your fan near the shower, but not near any existing air conditioning vents.
How to Clean Your Exhaust Fan
To clean your exhaust fan, make sure you first turn it off so that you don’t get shocked. This is a vital step. Then remove the fan’s cover. You can remove any debris like dust or cobwebs using a vacuum tube, and then wipe it down with a dry microfiber cloth.
Check out our guide to cleaning the bathroom fan.
If you notice mold growing inside and around the vent, this could mean that there is mold inside the ducts. At this point, you should contact a professional.
Use a Dehumidifier
If you use an exhaust fan and are not satisfied with the results, or if you don’t have an exhaust fan and need a solution that does not involve installing ducting for an exhaust fan, you can use a dehumidifier.
A dehumidifier is an appliance that controls the level of moisture in the air and reduces the humidity, essentially “dehumidifying” the air.
Types of Dehumidifiers
- Condensate dehumidifiers: This kind of humidifier uses a refrigerator to collect condensate or water. These humidifiers essentially pull the moisture from the air and turn it into water. Here is a dehumidifier from amazon that removes up to 9 ounces of water per day. Keep in mind that the water container needs to be emptied often.
You can purchase reverse osmosis filters that will then turn the collected water into drinkable water if you are looking for ways to reduce water waste.
- Absorption dehumidifiers: These dehumidifiers are also known as desiccant dehumidifiers. They pull in the moisture from the air, and the moisture then bonds with materials like silica gel. Silica gel is known to absorb moisture. This type is suitable for very small amounts of moisture and won’t be suitable for use in a bathroom.
How Do Dehumidifiers Help Ventilate the Bathroom?
Dehumidifiers draw moisture from the air and thus will keep water build-up from leading to mold and other problems. The water is pulled from the air and condensed, where it collects inside the dehumidifier as liquid water.
Be sure to empty your dehumidifier, as it can collect too much moisture. Failing to empty your dehumidifier could lead to mold growth within the appliance, which would be very counterproductive.
How Expensive Are Dehumidifiers?
This depends on the kind of dehumidifier you are looking for. Large industrial dehumidifiers can cost up to as much as $1,000 or more. However, it is unlikely that you will need a dehumidifier of that size to ventilate a small, personal bathroom.
On Amazon, dehumidifiers range from as low as $30 to as high as $1,378. There is a great variety of makes and models of this particular appliance. All of them, despite their size and shape, work towards the same goal of dehumidifying the room.
How Often Should I Empty My Dehumidifier?
How often you empty your dehumidifier will depend on the humidity levels in your home. If you live in a rather humid climate, you will want to empty your dehumidifier more frequently. This is because humid climates have more moisture in the air.
As a general rule of thumb, you will want to empty your dehumidifier between once every two days to twice a day. Keep an eye on the water level in your dehumidifier to see when it is getting full.
What’s the Difference Between a Dehumidifier and an Exhaust Fan?
An exhaust fan works by bringing in fresh air. If the air is humid, then the humidity levels in your bathroom will not change greatly. Exhaust fans are not as effective in humid climates.
Dehumidifiers help to condense the moisture in the air. They do not bring in outside air or circulate air. Instead, dehumidifiers condense and remove the humidity that is in the air. If you are running your exhaust fan and still noticing a problem with humidity, you might want to consider using a dehumidifier.
Install a Ceiling Fan
Another way to help ventilate your bathroom is through the use of a ceiling fan. While a ceiling fan will not draw moisture from the air in the same way dehumidifiers and exhaust fans will, they can still help to ventilate your bathroom.
Ceiling fans will circulate air and help to keep your windowless bathroom ventilated. Airflow for a ceiling fan is measured in cubic feet per minute, and typical ceiling fans range from 71 to 86 cubic feet per minute.
It is important to know that ceiling fans will only circulate air, and will not help to fully ventilate your bathroom. To achieve maximum results, run the ceiling fan with the bathroom door open.
If you are using heavy chemicals or dyes, be sure to leave the bathroom door open.
Install an Air Conditioner
Air conditioners will keep the bathroom cool. Air conditioners will blow cool air into your bathroom, keeping the temperature down and helping to relieve some humidity. This can help make your windowless bathroom more pleasant.
While air conditioners won’t bring the bathroom air to the exterior of the home like exhaust fans, they will help to fight mold and mildew by keeping the temperature of the bathroom to low.
Keep the Bathroom Door Open
A simple and costless way to ventilate your windowless bathroom is by keeping the bathroom door open. Allowing the air to flow freely and having fresh air enter your bathroom will help disperse the water molecules. This will allow for the moist air to exit the room through the open door.
Usually, opening the bathroom door will help the moist and humid air dissipate. If your home is overly humid, you can help reduce excess moisture in the air by opening windows near the bathroom.
Use a Regular Fan
If you cannot afford to replace your exhaust fan, consider using a regular fan. Fans help move the air in the room. To use a fan to its maximum potential, position it in the back of the bathroom near the shower and have it face the door.
Keep the door open while the fan is running. This will force the humid air out of the bathroom, where it will disperse in your home. If your home has a high humidity level, consider opening windows to allow the air to flow outside.
Open Windows Nearby
Opening nearby windows will allow for air to flow. Keeping your windows open will allow for fresh air to enter, and moist, humid air to leave. Ventilation is all about maximizing airflow, and the more opportunities for air to circulate, the better.
Make Sure Your Door Is Not Sealed
If there is no way for air to escape your bathroom, it will be easier for moisture to collect. Ensuring that your door as space beneath it is one way to help keep your bathroom ventilated. It is recommended that the space beneath your door is around ½ an inch to allow air to flow out.
Wipe Down Your Walls
After your shower, water droplets collect on the tile and tub. These water droplets will then evaporate into the air, thereby increasing the level of moisture in your bathroom.
To prevent this extra build-up of moisture, you can use a sponge or cloth to wipe down your bathroom tiles. This simple, albeit tedious task, can help reduce the level of moisture in your bathroom.
Dry Towels Outside the Bathroom
Another simple way to reduce the level of moisture in your bathroom is to dry your towels outside of the bathroom. Towels hold onto a large amount of moisture, and as they dry that moisture evaporates into the air.
When a bathroom is not ventilated properly, that moisture will collect and can cause mold, mildew, and other unpleasant smells. If your bathroom has a humidity problem, it is a good idea to dry your towels elsewhere.
Reduce Any Unnecessary Furniture
If your bathroom is full of cabinets, chairs, or other unnecessary furniture items, consider relocating those items. The humidity and moisture that accumulate in the bathroom after a shower can warp wood and rust metal.
Beyond that, a cluttered room creates obstacles for airflow, making it harder for air to circulate. By removing any excess furniture, you can help the air to have more room to circulate.
Other Ways to Remove Odors From Your Bathroom
If you have tried all of these steps yet still seem to have unwanted odors in your bathroom, there are steps you can take to remedy that. Dank and musty smells are certainly unpleasant, but some simple hacks can help freshen the odors.
The musty bathroom smells comes from mold, which can accumulate in an overly moist space. As mold grows, it releases a gas called microbial volatile organic compounds. The musty smell is not necessarily the mold itself, but a result of the chemicals released during the mold’s growth.
Mildew is a type of mold that looks like a patch of black, white, or grey fungus. Mildew grows in places with high levels of moisture, like showers. Luckily, you can treat mildew yourself.
The natural, chemical-free way to fight mildew is to use a spray bottle of lemon and vinegar. Focus the mixture directly on the mildew. Let it sit for a few hours, then spray again. Use baking soda and a sponge to scrub away the mildew. I have written a guide on how to do it if you need more info.
Be sure to keep your bathroom door open while you are cleaning!
Keep a Scented Candle in Your Bathroom
Keeping a scented candle in your bathroom, either on the counter or on a shelf, can help keep your bathroom smelling fresh. Some old bathrooms can have years of odors that can be difficult to fully eliminate. The scent of a scented candle can help to cover any unwanted odors.
Light a Match
This is a classic and simple trick to help mask unpleasant bathroom odors. Bathroom odors are not always caused by mold or mildew. There may be other more human smells attributing to the odors in your bathroom.
To remove those unpleasant human odors, light a match. Intestinal gas is created by food being broken down in our gut. The smell comes from hydrogen sulfide or sulfur. Lighting a match will ignite phosphorus that will then ignite the sulfur and remove the smell from the room.
Use an Odor Absorber
Odor absorbers, like activated charcoal, or baking soda, will absorb any odors from the air. Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been activated to increase its oxygen content. This makes the charcoal more porous, giving it more surface area with which it can absorb odors.
Activated charcoal is used to neutralize odors in the air. It is used for pet odor, mold, and human waste. Some people prefer charcoal and deem it safer than chemical odor neutralizers.
If you use an odor absorber like charcoal or baking soda, remember to change it out every few weeks, as they will absorb the bad odors and hold onto them.
Make Sure to Keep All Surfaces Dry
Keeping all of your surfaces dry will help to prevent any unwanted mildew or musty smells. Wiping down sinks, tubs, mirrors, and tiles dry and ensuring those surfaces stay free of moisture will help ward off the likelihood of any odors appearing.
Likewise, dry your towels and bath mats outside of your windowless bathroom to limit the amount of moisture in the room.
Windowless bathrooms can be tricky to ventilate. To recap, here is a summary of ways to do so:
- Run an exhaust fan.
- Make sure your exhaust fan is functioning correctly.
- Use a dehumidifier.
- Use a regular fan to circulate air.
- Wipe down excess moisture on the walls.
- Make sure your door has a crack.
- Open windows in your home.
Hopefully, you found some helpful hacks in this article to help keep the air in your bathroom fresh.
- Central Heating: Bathroom Exhaust Fans
- How Stuff Works: Bathroom Exhaust Fans
- EPA: Mold Course Chapter 2
- Wikipedia: Rust
- BUILD: Exhaust Fans
- Wikipedia: Dehumidifier
- Wikipedia: Silica Gel
- Home Guides: How to Ventilate Bathrooms
- United States Geological Survey: Evaporation
- Apartment Therapy: How to Make Sulphide Gas Smells Go Away
- The Mix Seattle: Ways to Improve Air Flow
- Molekule.Science: Musty Smells
- Hunker: How to Use Activated Charcoal to Eliminate Odors