Reasons Why Your Evaporating Cooler Smells Bad

September 15, 2021


First and foremost, when cooling systems are mentioned the most common one that everyone understands is the air conditioner among other cooling systems like the evaporating cooling. As the name suggests, an evaporating cooling uses water to do its cooling operation of the air circulating in and out of the house.

To understand clearly the functioning of the evaporative cooler let’s take a step back and see the differences between an evaporative cooling system (also known as swamp coolers/ desert coolers) and an air conditioner. An evaporative cooling system uses water to cool the air coming in and out of the house while an air conditioner uses refrigerant as the fluid present in the air conditioning unit. Evaporative cooling systems, although should be maintained and taken care of, do not require as high maintenance as the air conditioning unit. This is one big advantage of evaporative coolers as they help one save a lot of money when it comes to maintaining the unit.

Evaporative coolers best work in open areas or places with access to a lot of fresh air and rarely will you find an evaporative cooling system working efficiently in enclosed spaces. Evaporative coolers can be fixed or portable but the fixed ones are way more costly to install than the portable ones. This type of cooling system is very energy efficient as compared to an air conditioning unit.

Just like any other cooling system, like the air conditioner, the evaporative cooling faces its fair share of difficulties as well if not well maintained. It is therefore very important to plan for regular maintenance and minor repairs of the evaporation cooling system by a professional technician.

Why Does My Evaporative Cooling Stink?  

  1. Unreplaced cooling pads

 As mentioned earlier, a swamp cooler works using water which wets the evaporating cooler pads. Therefore, as water goes through the moistened pads, it cools the air while increasing humidity levels in the room’s dry air. Since the pads use water,an evaporative cooling system might smell like it has a damp or a stale unpleasant odour. This can be due to the growth of mould and mildew in the cooling pads of the swamp cooler. At this point, the cooler emits a fishy-like smell.

  1. New installation of the evaporative cooler

When a swamp cooler is well installed, it allows complete evaporation of water molecules. This ensures pure, clean air circulation in the house creating a comfortable environment to live in. However, there is a probability that when the evaporative cooler is new, a tiny amount of aromatic molecules might evaporate alongside the water molecules which if not clearly defined, might be categorized as a slightly bad smell.

  1. Poor maintenance

Failure to change the filters, the evaporative cooler accumulates bacteria in it which contributes to a foul smell in the swamp cooler.

  1. Damaged evaporative cooling system

If you have done whatever needs to be done to have the swamp cooler up and running efficiently, but you still end up dealing with bad odours from it, then it is advisable to have your evaporative cooler checked by a professional. This might be because the issue causing the bad smell is greater than just changing the filters and the pads.

  1. Environmental surroundings.

Take for example a person who lives in places prone to catching fires. This person will most definitely experience a smoky smell coming from the swamp cooler. This is because some of the smoke particles get stuck in the pads. A similar scenario is a person who lives near the ocean side of the lake. This person’s probability of smelling fish in their house is greater. The reason being the air outside their house that is constantly drawn in.

Having known that one of the reasons why you experience foul smell in your swamp cooler is because of dirty pads or poor maintenance of the system we can learn how to clean the evaporative cooling.

HowTo Clean the Evaporative Cooling?

Before learning the whole cleaning process, one requires to know what equipment they will need.

-Whisk broom

-Wet/dry shop vacuum

-One-gallon white vinegar


-Scrub brush


-Lubricating oil

-One roll fibre padding

-Scissors or shears

This process is not hard and can be mastered easily to be done at home.

  • Disconnect the swamp cooler from the source- the swamp cooler runs by using water therefore in this first step one is required to just turn off the water source.
  • Open up the back of the swamp cooler to remove and set aside the old pads.
  • Open the drain plug and drain the water in the swamp cooler- another alternative for this is siphoning the water in the swamp cooler using a hosepipe.
  • Use your brush with stiff bristles and thoroughly clean the inside of your swamp cooler.
  • Using a wet/dry vacuum clean the dust inside your evaporating cooling system.
  • Take your white vinegar and pour it into the water reservoir. after letting it soak for approximately an hour, drain it into an empty bucket and thoroughly scrub the bottom of the reservoir. Rinse the reservoir with clean water and allow it to dry.
  • Use a few drops of your lubricating oil to lubricate the motor and the fans.
  • Now, unroll the fibre padding you brought and cut out new pads with the scissors. Install the freshly cut pads in the sides and the back part of the swamp cooler.
  • Turn the water on and let the water reservoir fill.
  • Attach the back panel securely to the swamp cooler.
  • Finally, turn the cooler on and check to ensure that the fan is turning properly.

Note: Draining, cleaning, and covering the swamp cooler just before winter is a life hack. Also, normalize installing your swamp cooler opposite an open window in the House for maximum air circulation.

How Often Should I Clean My Swamp Cooler?

Ideally, a full cleaning process should be done at least thrice a year. One time before the spring season, one time during summer, and one time at the end of summer. The water in the reservoir should be changed at least once a month and replaced with fresh water.











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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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