Bathroom Dehumidifier vs Exhaust Fan: Which Is More Effective?

Does your bathroom have a funky smell that doesn’t go away? Chances are you’re dealing with trapped moisture. Both a dehumidifier and an exhaust fan can help solve the problem. But while these appliances help remove moisture in the air, they do so in different ways. To help you choose the right solution, we discussed here a bathroom dehumidifier vs exhaust fan comparison. See which one matches your bathroom and personal preference.

Bathroom dehumidifier vs exhaust fan

Bathroom dehumidifiers

Advantages of bathroom dehumidifiers

Since bathrooms are moisture pits, it’s a no-brainer that you’ll benefit a lot from using dehumidifiers inside. It’s an excellent way to keep your bathroom dry and mold-free.

Here are some reasons why you should use a bathroom dehumidifier:

bathroom dehumidifier vs exhaust fan - dehumidifier inside a bathroom
Photo Credits – ProBreeze via
  • It’s suitable for persistent humidity. Bathrooms never run out of moisture, especially for households with large families. It can remove large amounts of water from the air, which an exhaust fan alone can’t handle.
  • It’s effective in fighting molds. Dehumidifiers are also excellent equipment in fighting mold buildup. Since it can remove moisture fast, mold spores won’t have the chance to spread and grow.
  • It delivers precise results. Bathroom dehumidifiers often have built-in humidistats. This allows for accurate humidity control, so your bathroom won’t be too damp or too dry. Also, the dehumidifier will automatically shut down or kick in depending on the humidity target you set.
  • Low maintenance. Compared to exhaust fans, dehumidifiers can run for long before it needs maintenance. This means convenience and less expenses on your part.
  • It can run for long periods. Many dehumidifiers nowadays have a set-it-then-forget-it design. You simply have to set a target humidity level, and it can work on autopilot. And since it’s used inside the bathroom, you can arrange a continuous drain setup, so there’s no need for you to empty the reservoir manually.

Disadvantages of bathroom dehumidifiers

While bathroom dehumidifiers are highly effective, it also comes with some downsides. Here are a few niggles that you should know:

  • Higher upfront cost. Compared to exhaust fans, dehumidifiers are no doubt more expensive. Homeowners on a budget may shy away from this option due to the steep cost. While cheap finds in the market may not deliver optimal results, especially for large and moisture-packed bathrooms.
  • It takes up space. Dehumidifiers will consume floor space, which is a bummer if you have a small bathroom. Homeowners with cramped bathrooms may consider using an exhaust fan instead.

Bathroom exhaust fans

Advantages of bathroom exhaust fans

installation of bathroom exhaust fan
Photo Credits – Stanley Tools

While exhaust fans aren’t as advanced as dehumidifiers, these appliances are tested to solve high humidity problems in bathrooms. Growing up, we have one of those wall exhaust fans with the same switch as the lights. It’s a traditional choice and for good reasons, including the following:

  • It’s cheaper! Compared to dehumidifiers, bathroom exhaust fans are way cheaper. Sure there are top-dollar options, but you can easily find decent models for under 30 bucks. Homeowners who aren’t ready to splurge will surely find this an attractive choice.
  • It works quickly. Exhaust fans expel moisture out of your bathroom instantly. You can run it while taking a shower, soaking in the tub, or simply washing your hands. When it comes to the speed of moisture removal, exhaust fans have the upper hand.
  • It helps remove malodors. Since exhaust fans move moist air out of your bathroom, it’s very effective in removing bad odors. This is very crucial when you’re doing toilet business.
  • It can be mounted on the wall. Even if you have a small bathroom, exhaust fans can easily fit in. These fans can be mounted on the ceiling or wall, so space isn’t an issue.

Disadvantages of bathroom exhaust fans

Since it’s an old solution, exhaust fans have a growing share of downsides. Here are a few that you should know:

  • It requires installation. Exhaust fans require installation, which can be costly depending on the model you purchase. If you’re not much of a handyman, you will spend more when hiring a professional installer.
  • It needs regular maintenance. Bathroom exhaust fans can get clogged with dust and debris over time. This requires periodic cleaning to ensure that it will remain functional. Such maintenance can be done at home, but some models may require professional servicing.
  • It doesn’t deliver accurate results. Unlike dehumidifiers, bathroom exhaust fans don’t have a humidity sensor. Your best bet is setting up a humidistat inside your bathroom, but it won’t yield the same results as a dehumidifier.
  • It creates negative air pressure. Since exhaust fans pump out the air inside your home, the air pressure on your house will be lower than the outside. This means that outside air will start to seep through cracks and crevices. The result is that your home will be filled with unfiltered air, and your HVAC system will have to compensate.
  • It could let bugs in. Since exhaust fans have an opening to let the humid air pass, it could also be a gateway for small bugs and critters. Don’t be surprised if you’ll see roaches and spiders inside your bathroom.

Which is more effective?

Both dehumidifiers and bathroom exhaust fans are useful. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of these appliances to know which one matches your needs.

If you’re leaning towards a cheaper solution, an exhaust fan will serve you well. It’s also easy to operate once installed in your bathroom.

However, if you want a more accurate way to control bathroom humidity, you’ll never go wrong with a dehumidifier. The only downside is the higher upfront cost and the fact that it will take up floor space inside your bathroom.

Overall, if your bathroom only experiences short bursts of moisture, an exhaust fan would be enough. But if there’s lingering moisture, a dehumidifier is the best solution.

But if budget and space aren’t an issue, you can have both of these solutions in your bathroom. That way, you can choose which one to run based on the season and the amount of moisture.

However, you should know that some apartments won’t allow the use of exhaust fans. So unless it comes installed in your unit, it’s best to talk to your landlord first.

My recommendations to manage your bathroom’s moisture level

photo of a large bathroom

Bathrooms can easily become a breeding ground for molds due to the presence of moisture. To prevent this from happening, here are a few of my recommendations that you can try:

🚿Hang your towels and rags

After taking a shower, you should hang all your towels, rags, and loofah. This way, the water will evaporate fast, and the items won’t be a harborage of molds. If possible, you should take your towels outside to air-dry or be soaked in sunlight.

🚿Wipe your bathroom glass

After taking a shower, you should wipe all mirrors, countertops, and glass panels. This will remove a lot of moisture, so your bathroom fan or dehumidifier will have less work to do. You can use a lint-free cloth or a squeegee to extract water on surfaces.

🚿Crack the door open

After using your bathroom, it will help a lot to keep the door open. This way, the moisture in your bathroom will dissipate faster. It will also prevent your bathroom from having a negative air pressure than the rest of the house.

🚿Repair cracking bathroom grout

It’s important to fix cracked bathroom grout as it occurs. It’s because the cracks will allow water to seep through and for molds to grow. This will make your bathroom smell bad, not to mention that the mold spores can make your family sick.

🚿Fix your drains

Another thing you should check is the drain of your shower. Make sure that the water flows properly into it. If there are pools of water left on the floor, you should wipe it dry or sweep it into the drain. Better yet, you should get your bathroom floor fixed, so there wouldn’t be any stagnant water.

🚿Use a shower enclosure.

Shower curtains are made for a very important reason: to avoid water from getting all over your bathroom. You can also have glass panels installed around your shower area to contain the water in one spot. This way, your dehumidifier or exhaust fan won’t have to dry a large area.

🚿Use desiccants

Activated charcoal bags and desiccants will also help remove moisture in your bathroom air. It will also help neutralize bad odors naturally. However, you should know that the effect of desiccants is only mild, and they shouldn’t be used as the main source of bathroom moisture.

🚿Opt for mildew-resistant paints

If you’re planning to remodel your bathroom in the future, you should add mildew-resistant paint to the list. This paint is formulated to resist mildew growth, so your bathroom walls will have extra protection. When used together with a bathroom exhaust fan or dehumidifier, mildew-resistant paint will help reduce moisture problems in your bathroom.

🚿Light up!

It takes two elements for molds to thrive: darkness and excess moisture. Since bathrooms are already moisture-prone, one thing you can control is the lighting. As much as possible, you should leave the lights on. You can also open the bathroom windows to let the natural sunlight in.

🚿Fix pipe leaks

Just because you’re willing to wipe pools of water in your bathroom doesn’t mean you’re going to let pipe leaks sit. Always fix leaks as it occurs, no matter how minor it looks. Aside from increasing the moisture in your bathroom, leaks will also take their toll on your water bill.

🚿Involve your family

It’s extremely important to brief your family on how to keep the bathroom clean and dry. This will save you from the hassle of cleaning and wiping every time someone’s going to take a shower. Besides, maintaining a bathroom with a large family can be time-consuming on your own.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can you run a dehumidifier and bath fan at the same time?

A: Yes, it’s a good idea to run a dehumidifier and extractor fan at the same time. The vent fan circulates the air so that the dehumidifier can collect as much moisture as possible. It will also speed up the dehumidification process while keeping the room cool.

Q: Where should a dehumidifier be placed in a bathroom?

A: It’s important to place the dehumidifier away from your shower. After all, dehumidifiers are electrical appliances, and getting soaked in water can result in deadly consequences. You can place the device on the floor or an elevated surface if it’s portable enough.

Q: Should I run a dehumidifier while showering?

A: You can run a dehumidifier while showering to keep the air circulation going. After your shower, turn off the unit and run it again after 20 minutes. This will help eliminate the remaining moisture in the air that escaped your shower area. However, never, ever put a dehumidifier inside the shower area.

Q: How can I dehumidify my bathroom naturally?

A: To dehumidify your bathroom naturally, you can use exhaust fans, bathroom dehumidifiers, and desiccants. You should also improve bathroom ventilation by keeping the window open if there’s one. Wiping wet surfaces will also help reduce your dehumidifier’s workload.

Q: Why is there so much moisture in my bathroom?

A: Since bathrooms have water sources, it’s no surprise that there will be excessive moisture inside. Lack of ventilation will trap the moisture, which will fuel mold growth and bad odors. Also, if your bathroom has a lot of cold surfaces like mirrors and tiles, moisture will be much higher due to condensation.

Q: Do ventless bathroom fans work?

A: Ventless and ductless bathroom fans work in circulating the air inside the room. However, it’s not the most effective when it comes to reducing moisture and removing odors. You’re better off using an exhaust fan or dehumidifier.

Final words

Excessive moisture is a long-standing problem in bathrooms. It’s crucial to maintain this moisture level to prevent bathroom mold growth and the formation of foul odors. You can use either a ventilation fan or dehumidifier to control your bathroom’s humidity levels. You can also use both for optimal results.

What do you think of this bathroom dehumidifier vs exhaust fan comparison? Share your thoughts below!