Will a dehumidifier help a stuffy room?

This article enumerates the various ways an air dehumidifying device can help in a stuffy room. The various reasons for a stuffy room are discussed, followed by how those factors are kept in check by an air dehumidifier.

Will a dehumidifier help a stuffy room?

Yes, air dehumidifiers can prove to be of great help when it comes to alleviating the stuffy feeling one can get in an indoor environment.

However, dehumidifiers cannot get rid of the stuffy feeling completely on their own, so there are other solutions required which would help to get rid of the stuffy conditions for good.

What is an air dehumidifier

Have you ever wondered why your nasal passage feels irritated while breathing, or why mold and mildew growing in certain areas of your house.

These are all caused due to variation in the humidity levels of your indoor environment. Humidity is measured in terms of relative humidity (RH).

An optimal range of RH is between 30% to 50%. Anything above this promotes the growth of unwanted microorganisms such as bacteria and mold, while anything below this can make the air dry and cause irritation to the skin and respiratory passage.

Usually, climate helps to regulate humidity levels both outdoors as well as indoors. However, in certain seasons, the humidity levels may deviate considerably from the optimal range. 

In situations where the RH levels rise above the optimal limit, dehumidifiers come in handy. A dehumidifier takes moisture out of the air when it is too humid.

How dehumidifiers work

Dehumidifiers dry out the air. This is essential in certain seasons such as summer and spring, when the ambient humidity levels rise up to 60%.

There are mainly four different types of dehumidifiers, which include:

  • Refrigerative
  • Electronic
  • Desiccant
  • Ionic

A refrigerative dehumidifier operates by using a fan to suck warm air currents into its coils. Warm air condenses when it passes through the machine’s chilled coils, leaving condensation inside the dehumidifier.

As the condensation gathers, one droplet of water at a time, it falls into a dehumidifier-connected storage tank. 

Through the opposite side of the machine, cooler, drier air is sent back into your house. It is also the most commonly available type of dehumidifier.

The other common type of dehumidifier is a desiccant dehumidifier. This is a considerably more powerful dehumidifier, however it’s mostly used in commercial storage for medicines, food, and chemicals. 

It can lower humidity levels by 45 percent to 1%, however it does so by relying on thermal energy (natural gas or steam) rather than electrical outlets. 

Desiccant dehumidifiers employ chemical attraction instead of condensation to reduce humidity levels.

An air dehumidifier should be able to reduce the humidity in the air to 30 to 50 percent relative humidity. Many dehumidifiers come with a metre that monitors the relative humidity in the area where they’re installed, and you may adjust the humidity to the desired percentage.

What makes a room feel stuffy?

There are a few chemical species as well as biological components that are responsible for making the air seem stale. These include:

  • Water vapour
  • Mold and mildews
  • Tight packed houses
  • Poor ventilation system

Let us discuss these in more detail

Water vapour

In certain areas of the house, such as the kitchen, bathroom, basement, and so on, the humidity levels can be much higher in comparison to the other rooms of the house.

This is primarily due to the presence of water in the vapour form. In higher humidity levels, the air becomes heavier than normal, making it harder to breathe.

Furthermore, water vapour also promotes the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, mold, and mildew. These microorganisms further contribute to the odour, thereby making the air stale. 

Mold and mildew

Mold is defined as fungal colonies that grow in the form of multicellular filaments.

Most of them are harmless in nature and cause minor allergic reactions other than the odor, but some can have serious implications on health if inhaled.

Some of the most common species of mold in a typical household environment include Alternaria, Aspergillus Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Mucor, Penicillium and Stachybotrys

Mold growth usually occurs in a dark, humid, and cool temperature condition. Under such conditions, the growth of mold and bacterial microorganisms is favoured.

Certain areas in the house, such as basements, bathrooms, kitchens, and so on, harbor such conditions, thereby being an ideal spot for mold growth to take place.

Additionally, mold growth can also happen in other parts of the house during seasons in which the relative humidity levels are generally high, such as in summer and spring seasons.

Mold itself does not cause any apparent harm to human health. However, the spores that emerge from mold, which are basically the seed, are the ones that can be harmful to health.

Mold spores typically have an aerodynamic diameter in the size range of one to forty microns. Most of these can get filtered out by the barriers in the respiratory tract.

However, the smaller mold spores can evade the protective mechanisms of your respiratory system, and can reach the sinus chambers, where they cause irritation and swelling of the inner sinus linings.

Tight packed houses

Tight packed houses refers to the modern day construction of houses which utilises windows and doors that pack tightly i.e., have no gaps within.

While this is good in certain conditions, since it prevents the infiltration of outdoor air pollution in the indoor environment, as well as limits the heat exchange rate with the surroundings, especially in the winter season, it also causes poor air exchange rate.

Due to poor air circulation, the amount of free oxygen available starts to decline, while the humidity levels as well as the concentration of pollutants responsible for the stale air smell start to rise.

This effect is more pronounced especially in winters and monsoons, when the relative humidity levels are high and the temperatures are comparatively lower than the other seasons.

Poor ventilation system

Ventilation is an important feature in every house. Apart from the fact that adequate ventilation keeps the air fresh and prevents stale air smell, it also removes the indoor air pollutants by bringing in fresh outdoor air, while carrying the indoor air away.

However, some places lack adequate ventilation, which can happen due to various reasons. In such cases, the indoor air pollution keeps aggregating.

Furthermore, the levels of humidity can rise, due to which the growth of mold and mildew can also take place.

A common example of this is seen in basements which typically do not have a natural source of ventilation. Articles such as clothes, furniture, and walls are more prone to mold and mildew than the other rooms of a  house.

Air dehumidifiers help to mitigate the rise of humidity levels, but in such cases, other solutions will be required, since dehumidifiers cannot get rid of the pollution.

Other methods to prevent and minimise stuffy room

Other than an air dehumidifier, there are alternatives which also help to prevent the indoor air from getting stuffy. These include:

  • Opening windows and doors
  • Installation and regular maintenance of HVAC systems
  • Regularly cleaning your house
  • Using an air purifier

Let us discuss these in more detail.

Opening doors and windows

Opening your doors and windows for some time during the day helps to increase the air exchange rate with the outdoor air. As mentioned earlier, this helps to remove the indoor pollutants as well as the odor, while introducing fresh air.

However, it is important to check the outdoor pollen and mold count, since on days of high concentration levels, the smell will get further exacerbated.

Installation and regular maintenance of HVAC systems

HVAC refers to Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. Although in some places it is already present, it might be the case that certain places may not have it.

HVAC systems are especially helpful for places which do not have proper sources of natural ventilation, such as basements. They help to regulate the room conditions in a manner that prevents growth of mold.

However, one should also ensure that the HVAC systems are being maintained on a regular basis, since faulty systems as well as older units may sometimes contribute to the stale air smell.

Regularly cleaning your house

It is important to keep your house clean, especially surfaces such as beddings, carpets, or places where people usually are present.

Studies have shown that nearly 60% of total dust accumulated in the indoor air originates from outdoors. Within these dust particles, mold spores and other substances can be present, which cause indoor stale odor.

By regularly dusting surfaces and cleaning the house, there are lesser chances of accumulation of substances that give rise to stale air smell.

Use an air purifier

Air purifiers are devices that help to keep the air in an indoor environment clean. They not only remove pollutants that give rise to stale air smell, but can also remove the smell efficiently.

HEPA filters with an activated carbon filter as well as a germicidal UV light chamber are the best option for getting rid of the stale air smell in a relatively short amount of time.


Dehumidifiers can help in getting rid of the stuffy air from the indoor environment. One of the main reasons why stuffy air arises in the indoor environment is due to the excessive levels of water vapour, and the consequences that follow (e.g.: growth of mold spores, etc.).

However, some of the other reasons due to which the indoor air can get stuffy cannot be alleviated by using an air dehumidifier, thereby requiring alternatives such as improving ventilation, regular cleaning, and so on.


Should I also buy an air purifier?

Yes, you should also buy an air purifier. These devices help to remove the pollutants and odors present in the ambient air, thereby making the room less stuffy.

HEPA filters with an activated carbon filter as well as a germicidal UV light chamber are the best option for getting rid of the stale air smell in a relatively short amount of time.

However, it is important to note that air purifiers should not be used in high humidity conditions, as humid air is heavier than normal air, which causes overworking of the air purifier, thereby decreasing its efficiency.

Another reason for doing so is that the mold spores entrapped within the filters can start proliferating in there itself, which in turn can exacerbate the air quality.

Will an air dehumidifier get rid of the musty smell in the basement?

Air dehumidifiers do not get rid of the musty smell in the basement. However, these devices keep in check the sources that cause musty smell in the basement.

Basement areas are defined as enclosures placed directly under the building. These rooms are usually built below ground level, so they are prone to leakage problems, and usually lack adequate ventilation and heat. 

These factors play a major role in increasing the relative humidity of the room, which favours the growth of mold and mildews. 

This is where air dehumidifiers come in the picture, as they help dry out the air. These devices, as the name suggests, lower the humidity of the indoor environment, therefore keeping the air dry and hampering the growth of mold.

Other FAQs about Air Dehumidifiers that you may be interested in.

Will a dehumidifier get rid of the musty smell in basement

What is an air dehumidifier?


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