Bathroom Fans, Bathrooms, Ventilation

Will Bathroom Fans Remove Smoke, Smells & Odors?

Bathroom Fan Lg

Bathroom fans had been a trend for quite a while now and people can’t help wonder if they’re really necessary. They are advertised as a tool to make bathrooms fresh and well-ventilated but are bathroom fans really effective in removing smoke and other odors? A bit of research led me to this information:

Bathroom exhaust fans can help aid certain smells out of the house or space. While the main focus of a bathroom exhaust fan may not be to remove smoke, smells, and odors, it can help. Although, depending on what kind of smell and how potent it is, it can be harder to rely on a bathroom fan to remove it altogether. If they cannot do so because of how intense the scent is, you may have to start deep cleaning the bathroom fan.

If you’re contemplating buying a bathroom fan or if you have one but can’t decide whether to keep it or not, the next information you’ll be reading below will be very helpful.

What Do Bathroom Fans Do?

Bathroom exhaust fans have a lot of purposes. It is an excellent tool to have incorporated into your bathroom. You are constantly dealing with water in the bathroom.

Here are some examples of what your bathroom fan can do for you:

1. Moisture Control

One of the main purposes of bathroom fans is to make sure that moisture is controlled. Whether the water is in the shower, the sink when you are washing your hands, or the toilet when you are flushing, the water is everywhere. Besides the floor and walls where it splashes, water is also in the air, especially when you take a hot shower.

2. Help With Foggy Mirrors and Damp Walls

If you love taking hot showers, the humidity is terrible for walls, mirrors, and even the bathroom doors to some extent. It can cause wallpaper and some paint jobs to peel off, and that creates a bad look. Once the wallpaper starts peeling off, it creates a new danger zone for mold to grow in.

3. Decreases Mold Growth

If the walls coming off were not bad enough, a lot of moisture also causes mold. Bathroom mold is the most common because of hot showers and hot water running constantly. The mold appears on walls and ceilings. It can also create a dirty look and environment. The humidity caused by hot showers is what mainly could contribute to this.

4. Control Odors

It can also help with odors, harsh cleaning products, or smoke. The ventilation associated with the bathroom exhaust helps make sure most if not all of these odors are replaced with air that is being sucked inside.

5. Ventilate Out Unnecessary Contaminants 

Contaminants roam the bathroom air because it is where you need to use a lot of chemicals to get a deep clean thoroughly. Although now there are a lot of green options, some cleaning products still contain harsh chemicals. If inhaled, it could be harmful, especially if you have very young children in the house. Bathroom fans can help with these contaminants and make sure that the air you are breathing is free from those chemicals.

How Do I Get Rid of the Smell in My Bathroom?

There are multiple ways to get rid of any smells in your bathroom. First, you have to identify the source of the smell, if there is one. That way, you can target that space in your bathroom before going on to other areas. If there is not one single source that it is coming from, or it feels like the smell is everywhere, you might need to air out the entire bathroom

Airing out the bathroom can start out by opening the windows if you have. You can let natural air circulation do the work. But, sometimes, you may not have a window in the bathroom, or the natural air circulation is not enough to get rid of unnecessary smells. That is when a bathroom exhaust fan comes in handy to do its job of eliminating odors.

Do Bathroom Exhaust Fans Remove Odors?

Yes! Depending on the intensity of the smell, the bathroom exhaust fan can help with the ventilation of the air and help remove some odors. This removal of odors process is not necessarily quick. It may take some time before the air inside the bathroom is completely replaced with the outside air. Make sure that you turn the fan on in increments so that you do not overwork the fan.

Does a Bathroom Fan Remove Smoke?

Bathroom fans can remove the smoke, but just the fan may not eliminate the smell that gets left behind from the smoke. You may have to do a combination of a deep clean and the bathroom exhaust fan over a couple of days to get rid of the smoke smell.

Smoke smells are also very relative to what kind it is. Some people are also more sensitive to these types of scents, so just because one person may not be able to smell it does not mean someone else cannot. 

Some things you can pair with the bathroom fan to get rid of smoke and the smoke smell are:

  • Air purifiers
  • Regular fans
  • Air fresheners

Is it Okay to Leave the Bathroom Fan On?

It would be best to not leave a bathroom fan on for too long as this can cause many issues, including fires. In addition to being a fire hazard, keeping it on for longer than 20 minutes at a time is not necessary. 

You should turn the fan on after and during your shower and turn it off after around 20 minutes because you only need it to remove that excess moisture created during your shower. The bathroom fan usually can get its job done in that time.

It would be best to not keep it on overnight. One reason is that you are unaware of what is going on when you are sleeping, and there is not much more air the bathroom needs to ventilate out for that many hours. 

There have been many cases of the bathroom exhaust fan catching on fire because it has been collecting dust particles for a long time in its system. Then when kept on for longer than needed, it overheats because it is being overworked. 

How to Make Sure Bathroom Fan is Efficient

If you find yourself in a situation where you feel the bathroom exhaust fan is not doing its job, it may be because you have not kept up with its upkeep. Because the fan is essentially sucking in the air and exhausting it outside, the fan may take other particles in while it sucks in the air. 

These other particles may include dust particles, tiny hairs, and even small bugs. These particles can stop the bathroom fan from operating at its best because it is so full of all the particles that it won’t spin as well.

To make sure your bathroom fan is working as efficiently as possible, you need to clean it out the right way.

The way you clean the fan, cover it with soap and warm water after removing the cover from the fixture. If you also notice mold on the fan, you can add a bit of bleach to the soap and water mixture. Lastly, make sure the fan cover is completely dry before reattaching it to the fixture.

Types of Bathroom Exhaust Fans

Like many appliances and products for the home, there are many different types of bathroom fans to cater to every kind of house and person. Some come with lights, different colors, and different sizes. You also have to consider what floor your bathroom is on to figure out what kind of bathroom fan is the best fit. 

LightsThere are bathroom fans that come with lights, so you get a two-in-one situation. They may also come with a night mode light for comfort.
HeatersIf you live somewhere where it’s frequently cold, you could get one with a heater installed. This also helps if you get cold after getting out of the shower.
DamperDampers help keep the warm air inside
Adjustable SpeedAllows you to adjust just how fast or slow you want the air to circulate from your bathroom to the outside
Moisture Level SensorsDetects when humidity levels are higher. This turns on automatically when necessary. This turns off when it has completed its task
Motion SensorsThis turns on when it senses someone has entered the bathroom. This turns off after a certain amount of time when no movement has been detected for a while
BluetoothWith technology evolving, you can connect the bathroom fan to your smart device and even play some tunes

Many of these features are just the beginning of how you can have your bathroom fan customized to you. There are many decorative bathroom fans too. Some do not even look like a bathroom fan if you just glance at them. 

The next type of bathroom fan has to do with their placement. The most familiar bathroom fan fixture is on the ceiling. This is because it is easy to disguise it with a light or a dome fixture around it. The following common type is a wall-mounted one.

Depending on whether this bathroom fan is on the top floor of your space or bottom, it will be connected differently. The top floor will connect through the vents in the attic, where the bottom floor will connect to the side of the wall. 

Other Features

All bathroom exhaust fans will come with a choice of noise level and room size. 

The noise level is calculated in sones. Under 1.5 sones is considered a quiet sound level, 1.5 to 3.0 sones are considered a medium sound level, and above 3.0 sones is deemed to be at a loud sound level.

Rooms between:

  • 50 to 79 square feet will require a small bath fan
  • 80 to 99 square feet will require a medium bath fan
  • 100 to 149 square feet will require a large bath fan
  • Above 150 square feet will require an extra-large bath fan

You can also have a timer feature on our bathroom fan to make sure you never exceed over the 20-minute mark for keeping it on.

Why Do Some Bathrooms Do Not Have a Bathroom Fan?

You might have noticed that some bathrooms have exhaust fans, and some do not. A lot of this has to do with each community. Each community has its own rules and regulations pertaining to incorporating a bathroom fan. 

Some communities may only require a window of a specific measurement to be installed in a bathroom. Some may require a bathroom fan where you cannot only use a window to ventilate air.

Some also require that the air that is being rounded up by the bathroom fan is being sent to a specific place such as outside rather than somewhere else inside where it could be connected to someone else’s unit.

Another example of a requirement by the fan venting code could be a specific exhaust capacity. There could be a minimum requirement for the capacity of the exhaust fan.


Although the bathroom exhaust fan’s main focus is not to remove smoke, odors, and smells, it can help with those items. As long as you are keeping the bathroom exhaust fan with light in good shape, it will help your bathroom with moisture, contaminant, and odor control. It will keep your bathroom smelling good and keep it chemically free, which is better for you to breathe in.

Remember, for maximum odor removal, combine the bathroom fan with other remedies or options. Keep a window open, crack open a new air freshener, or even concoct your own recipe for keeping smells, odors, and smoke at its minimum!


Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.