Why Does My Air Conditioner Smell? 4 AC Smells to Look Out For

Why Does My Air Conditioner Smell

Your air conditioner is meant to keep your space smelling fresh and clean, so it can be worrying to find that it’s producing strange and nasty smells. Not only can this negatively affect your overall comfort and cooling experience, but it can also be a sign of a much more serious underlying problem with your unit. Fortunately, the smell of the odor can help you narrow down what could be causing it, so here are some AC smells to look out for!

Dirty Socks

Dirty Socks

If your unit is starting to smell like sweaty socks, then this could mean that your evaporator coil is dirty. When the evaporator coil hasn’t been cleaned in a long time, it can become clogged with dirt, dust, debris, and other impurities, which could then cling to moisture and make it a breeding ground for bacteria and germs.

If you want to clean your evaporator coil, then here’s how you can do it:

  • Step 1: After unplugging your air conditioner and letting it cool down, remove the cover of your air conditioner and locate the evaporator coil. If you have a hard time doing this, then feel free to consult your user’s manual for further guidance.
  • Step 2: Once you’ve found the evaporator coils, take a moment to inspect them for any signs of damage or corrosion. If none can be found, then proceed. Otherwise, call a professional to have it repaired.
  • Step 3: Use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to carefully remove any loose dirt or debris from the coils, making sure not to damage the delicate fins.
  • Step 4: After removing all the loose debris, it’s time to choose your cleaner. You can either go in with a commercial coil cleaner or create a soapy water solution by adding a few drops of mild detergent to some water.
  • Step 5: Spray your chosen cleaner onto the evaporator coils and let it sit for a few minutes to loosen up the dirt and grime. After enough time has passed, use either a hose or a spray bottle of water to rinse everything off, making sure to remove all traces of the cleaner. Leave it to dry completely before reassembling your unit and turning it on.

Musty Odors

Musty Odors from AC

If you’ve noticed musty odors coming from your unit, then there’s a good chance that there’s some mold or mildew growth somewhere inside. There are many reasons why an excess amount of moisture could build up inside your air conditioner, but all of this can create the perfect environment for mold and mildew to grow and thrive. It’s crucial that you address this as soon as possible to prevent it from spreading throughout your space.

After turning off your air conditioner and adopting the proper safety measures and precautions, here are a few things you can check:

  • Air Filter: The air filter removes various impurities from the air before it is circulated, but it can accumulate a large amount of dirt and dust and become clogged, especially with improper cleaning. This could disrupt the air circulation and increase the moisture inside your unit, leading to mold and mildew growth. You can soak the air filter in some soapy water before using a soft cloth or sponge to remove any stubborn bits.

  • Evaporator Coils: Just like air filters, evaporator coils can also become clogged with dust, dirt, and debris, which could compromise the cooling process inside your air conditioner and encourage the growth of mold and mildew. You can clean these coils by spraying them with either a commercial cleaner or some soapy water.
  • Drip Pan or Drain Line: The drip pan and drain line are both in charge of collecting and dealing with the condensation produced during the cooling process, but any issues with them can lead to this condensation building up and spreading throughout your unit. Take a look at these parts in your air conditioner and check for any buildup or blockages.
  • Air Ducts and Vents: There is a chance that the source of the mold or mildew is in your air ducts or vents. If you find any growths or spores, then it’s best to have them removed by a professional HVAC technician.

Chemical Smells

Chemical Smells from AC

If you’re smelling a very distinct and sharp chemical odor coming from your unit, then this might be a sign that there’s a refrigerant leak in your air conditioner. In case you didn’t know, refrigerant is a crucial substance that air conditioners use during the cooling process, which means that any leaks can compromise your unit’s ability to lower the temperature of the room to your specific preferences.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to deal with refrigerant leaks by yourself, so make sure that you call a professional HVAC technician to deal with them as soon as possible.

Rotten Eggs

A rotten egg smell coming from your AC could mean that there’s some decaying matter inside your cooling system. It’s very common for animals like rodents and birds to infiltrate your air conditioner, and when they die, the unpleasant smell produced by the decomposing bodies could be spread around your space by your air conditioner. Make an effort to regularly check any accessible air conditioner vents and ducts and call the right professionals to deal with them.

These are some of the most common smells that your air conditioner could be producing. While some of them may be easily addressed, the best way to stop them from returning altogether is by staying on top of your unit’s regular cleaning and maintenance. Professional HVAC technicians can not only deep clean your unit but also diagnose any issues before they become more serious. If you want to book one, visit

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