Dehumidifier Troubleshooting, Maintenance and Cleaning

Dehumidifier Troubleshooting, Maintenance and Cleaning

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When it comes to any small appliance, the key to assuring it lasts a good, long time is keeping up on maintenance and cleaning. The same is true of a dehumidifier. Of course, when something does go wrong, it’s also essential to know the best way to troubleshoot your dehumidifier, which means you have to understand what it does and what parts are most likely to cause problems.

What is a Dehumidifier?

Dehumidifier in a room

Have you ever gone somewhere and found that it feels a bit too damp or that it smells musty? What that means is that the humidity – the level of moisture in the air – is too high. The optimal humidity level in most places is about 40 – 50 percent, and when the amount of moisture rises above this, the environment can grow uncomfortable. You end up with strange smells, and often, this is related to the growth of mold and mildew that can be very unhealthy for you and your family.

A dehumidifier helps strip excess moisture from the air so that your area maintains a proper level of humidity that allows you to continue to breathe easily by keeping some of the moisture while taking away the negative effects of too much moisture. It utilizes an intake and coils that cool and condense the air to collect the moisture, then releasing the dry air back into the space. There’s also a filter to help remove dust and allergens from the air it takes in, both to assist in keeping the machine working easier and to make your air more breathable. Click here for our short list of recommended dehumidifiers.

The water that is removed from the air is collected in a tank that will need to be emptied on occasion so that it can continue to collect moisture and function as needed. This is part of regular cleaning and maintenance, both of which are going to be essential when it comes to keeping your dehumidifier running without concern for having to troubleshoot real issues in the future.

Cleaning Your Dehumidifier

We clean a great many appliances on occasion in order to assure they continue to perform for us. That includes the oven, the refrigerator, and all our small appliances that we wash with each use, like a blender. How would your blender function if you allowed food to remain caked on the blades after each use?

Caring for your dehumidifier is a similar responsibility. If you fail to clean the proper parts, you’ll find that it doesn’t function to capacity, and eventually, it might cease to work at all. Therefore, taking the time for a regular cleaning process of the few parts that require your attention can be extremely beneficial to you and your family, especially in the warm months when humidity is at its worst.

Portable dehumidifier collect water from air

Pay attention to the water collection tank. As mentioned above, you’ll need to empty this tank from time to time. If you let it fill up, the water collected will have nowhere to go, and you could experience leaks or end up with your dehumidifier shutting off.

But that’s not the only thing you need to do with the tank.Because there is standing water in it, you could end up with the build up of mold and mildew that is a concern with consistently damp environments. This would then be released into the air you breathe, which can be irritating to asthma and allergies and overall harmful to your health.

To avoid these circumstances, it’s a simple fix. Be sure to clean your water collection tank on a regular basis with soap and water or some form of disinfectant. This is a quick and easy process that allows you to rest easy and know that your dehumidifier – and the air you breathe – won’t be compromised.

Man working on mobile air conditioning unit

Don’t ignore your grilles. Your dehumidifier has both an intake and an exhaust, bringing in air and letting it out through these points. Each point has a grille covering it, and because of dust, dirt, allergens, and other particles in the air, these grilles can become caked with stuff. Again, especially with what gets coated onto the exhaust grille, you can end up breathing these things in with heavier concentration, and that’s very unhealthy.

But that’s not the only thing you need to do with the tank.Because there is standing water in it, you could end up with the build up of mold and mildew that is a concern with consistently damp environments. This would then be released into the air you breathe, which can be irritating to asthma and allergies and overall harmful to your health.

To avoid these circumstances, it’s a simple fix. Be sure to clean your water collection tank on a regular basis with soap and water or some form of disinfectant. This is a quick and easy process that allows you to rest easy and know that your dehumidifier – and the air you breathe – won’t be compromised.

dehumidifier cleaner

A general dusting of the entire unit when you dust the rest of the house can also help keep your dehumidifier cleaner and functioning better. However, these are the most important factors when it comes to the overall cleaning process for your appliance.

If the intake and exhaust are clean, you have a clear path for airflow into and out of the machine. And if you clean the water tank, you’re less likely to experience the growth of unwanted mold and mildew that could greatly compromise the air around you.

But there is more than cleaning involved in maintaining your dehumidifier. Making sure you keep up on maintenance overall is essential to assuring that nothing goes wrong with your device.

Maintenance of Your Dehumidifier

There are two parts to maintaining your dehumidifier. One involves checking and replacing general parts as necessary to avoid breakdown. The other simply takes a little common sense – you have to make sure you’re using the machine properly, since improper use can lead to poor functionality or none at all.


Make sure the humidistat is set correctly. The humidistat is the dial that sets your dehumidifier to the desired levels of moisture in the space.Ideally, humidity levels should stay between 40 and 50 percent.This provides comfort for you and your family as well as efficiency in how the unit runs.Don’t try to set the dial too low or too high, since this will compromise how the unit works as well as the comfort level of your environment. Check the dial from time to time to assure it hasn’t been knocked out of place.


Be aware of where you place your dehumidifier. Remember, it has an intake and an exhaust, and both areas need to be clear for proper airflow. It’s essential that you never set your unit too close to a wall.

In fact, try to maintain at least 6 inches between your dehumidifier and any blockage (especially walls) so that you don’t experience any problems. Without proper airflow, your machine can easily freeze up.

thermometer in hot and cold temperature

Pay attention to the temperature of the surroundings. For most dehumidifiers, there is a lower limit required for your thermostat, and it’s recommended that you never run one of these in a space that is less than 65 degrees Fahrenheit.If you have a circumstance with an application or need for a space that is colder than this, you’ll want to look into purchasing a specialized unit that is made to function in cooler spaces. Without maintaining the correct temperature thresholds, you’ll end up with a dehumidifier that burns up the motor and ceases to work.

thermometer in hot and cold temperature

Don’t cycle the unit on and off too quickly. Your dehumidifier has a compressor that can easily overheat if you allow it to turn off and on again too fast. If you find that your space is not getting dry enough when the dehumidifier cycles off, don’t turn it back on right away. Give the compressor at least 10 minutes to cool down, and then you can turn the unit back on and adjust the humidistat to change the settings overall. This will likely save you replacing your entire unit in a very short time.


Don’t forget about the air filter. Aside from the grilles on the intake and exhaust, the dehumidifier has an additional air filter that removes particles from the air, just as the coils remove with moisture from it.

This is similar to any other appliance with an air filter in that it can get clogged over time and compromise the performance of your dehumidifier.

While every unit is different, there will be instructions in the manual for your particular machine regarding the frequency with which the air filter needs to be replaced and with what sort of filter this should be done. Be sure to follow these instructions to maintain the integrity of your unit over time.

How to Troubleshoot Problems


Unfortunately, as with all things that are mechanical, electrical, or have moving parts, you’ll find that proper cleaning and maintenance don’t always keep things from going wrong. You may still have the random event that you have to troubleshoot. Because you’re working with a machine, it’s entirely possible that some problems may have to be assessed by a professional or expert.

However, there are several smaller issues you might be able to address yourself prior to taking that step. Here are some common issues you might run into with your dehumidifier and how to fix them.

My dehumidifier just stopped running

My dehumidifier just stopped running. The first thing to do is check to see if the indicator light is on. If so, you need to start by checking the water tank. Most dehumidifiers have a mechanism that will shut them off when the tank is full so that there is no spilling of excess moisture.

If the tank is full, empty it and flip the switch back on and try again. If the tank isn’t full, it’s possible the switch still flipped accidentally, and you can try to flip it back on anyway. This will often resolve the problem.

If the indicator light is off, you may need to check the circuit breaker to see if it has been tripped, and you may need to reset it. If this is the case, however, several other appliances on the same breaker for the same area of the house will likely also have shut off.

My dehumidifier runs but doesn’t take in any water

My dehumidifier runs but doesn’t take in any water. If you see that the water level remains low in the tank, that the machine shuts off too frequently, or that the air isn’t getting dry enough, you likely need to adjust the humidistat to a dryer setting.

By contrast, if you find that the machine is running all the time but the tank still isn’t filling up, you should try cleaning the filter to see if this is affecting the integrity of the machine. If nothing changes, it’s possible that the unit has a problem with the refrigeration system, and you may need to consult with a professional in a repair shop.

Take note that one other possibility is that the sensor on the humidistat may have been compromised in some way (in either situation). If this is the case, you can find out with an external sensor, and you may simply need to replace the sensor.

My dehumidifier is running but no air is coming out

My dehumidifier is running but no air is coming out. Inside the dehumidifier, there’s a fan that is used to both bring air into the unit and to blow it back out.

If your machine is running but there is no air coming out of the exhaust – and likely nothing being sucked into the intake – the motor on the fan is probably dead, having burned out. In this case, you’ll need to replace the fan inside the unit.

The coils in my dehumidifier are covered in frost

The coils in my dehumidifier are covered in frost. These coils are what help strip the moisture from the air that is sent back out into your space, and they are supposed to be cold. This chill condenses the moisture in the air to gather it so that it ends up in the collection tank rather than in your environment.

However, sometimes, the coils get too cold and form frost. This is often a sign that you’ve either located your dehumidifier too close to a wall, blocking its airflow, or that the temperature in the room is too cold for the unit. Either one can lead to your dehumidifier eventually freezing up completely and stop it from collecting water.

Turn off the dehumidifier and allow the room to warm up.

Stripping moisture from the air can definitely make it colder, and allowing the dehumidifier as well as the ambient environment to warm up can help defrost your coils.

Turn up the heat

Most dehumidifiers only need to be kept above 65 degrees, so check the specifications, and set the thermostat in the area so that the temperature doesn’t drop below the recommended level.

Elevate the dehumidifier.

Remember that warm air rises, and if you have your area set right on the edge of the temperature barrier for safe use of your unit, you might be able to make it work better if you elevate it into the warmer air over your head.

Automatic defrost mechanism

When purchasing a unit for a cooler space, make sure to buy one that has an automatic defrost mechanism, which shuts off the unit when it gets too cold and utilizes the internal fan to melt the frost before you have a very unfortunate malfunction.


If you take the time to learn what steps you need to follow for proper cleaning and maintenance of your dehumidifier, you’ll have a well functioning unit that keeps your space just dry enough for comfort for a number of years. These are just like any other appliance in that you have to actively take care of them to keep them functioning at capacity, and doing so extends their life so that you’ll rarely have to worry about replacement.

At the same time, knowing what can still go wrong and how to identify and fix some of the smaller problems is also essential to assuring you don’t end up frustrated and uncomfortable when it’s time to troubleshoot your dehumidifier and its particular malfunction.


It only requires a little time and effort on your part to learn about your particular unit, and even less time to follow the protocol for a clean, healthy appliance over time, and you’ll be much more satisfied with the product you purchased.

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