Air Compressor Odors

Good morning, Friends :~)

I have a moisture filter on my compressor. I know I can purchase a separate carbon filter unit, but
they’re expensive. Has anyone ever placed a compressed carbon block in the filter compartment as an
odor eliminator? Any other inexpensive solutions you’ve heard of?


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Hi Jeff,
all the compressors ive known and had, have a moisture trap on the outlet as part of the pressure regulator unit… Is that what you want to replace?
also what sort of odour is it?
It might be residual water in the compressor storage tank. does it have a water drain tap on its base? they normally should do .
Check all these first, then try and make up some kind of inlet filter using a container filled with activated charcoal, any thing would do like an old pressure cooker with a sealed lid easy to remove and clean out.
you would need to drill an inlet and outlet holes size to match the compressor inlet pipe. Feed the inlet down to the bottom of this and draw off the filtered air from the top. Cover the charcoal with say some old cotton sheeting.
Hope this helps.

Using a “old pressure cooker” to make a filter unit is like making a BOMB in your shop which can go off at any time…. Yes the alls may be thick enough but the locking cover is not able to hold back the pressure Most compressors can put out 120 to 150 PSI pressure… A pressure cooker is designed for 15 PSI.

At best this can be described has a half-cooked idea.

If you want to go down this road get a commercial filter housing and make a filter wit that


Just to add in case one is having trouble finding commercial suppliers here is one Air Compressor Filter - Compressed Air Systems, Inc.

I will add that mechanic or construction air compressor equipment suppliers may not have carbon filters

but dental / medical suppliers are more likely to have carbon filters

Of course it is a BOMB!! if
Geff puts it on the OUTLET!!OUTLET!! hes a master silversmith and wouldnt do that .
Just re read my post. I said INLET INLET!! ie the SUCTION!! side of the compressor which you should know is at atmospheric pressure or less.
you owe me an apology Kay. I was blessed with a 3year intensive to Bsc standard in the design construction and operation of the aviation industry. A tough world .
So I do know my technology.
Whats yours?

The problem I am willing to bet is that his problem is worn oil rings on a piston type compressor which is causing the odor, or water that has molded in the tank. In either case an inlet filter will not help and he will need an outlet filter. One other point which is frequently overlooked is that an Old air compressor tank that has rusted internally should be tested. Also if a tank does not have an ASME tag it should be replaced after 7 years. Of course no one does this until a tank ruptures and injures or kills someone and Workman’s Compensation (OSHA in the US comes down on them like a ton of bricks) ( 7 Years and ASME not needing periodic testing unless rusted and damaged are based on Quebec, Canada regulations, YMMV depending on jurisdiction)

That being said my apologies for having my eyes slide over INLET, of course you are correct and there would be no problem using any rigid container to filer the intake air.

I am a retired paramedic who cross trained in Industrial health and safety and worked in a factory employing over 1800 workers making locomotives (The old Montreal locomotive Works which sadly has been off shored), so I am very sensitive to safety concerns and trained to look for them needless to say. And am not some ‘hobbyist’ who thinks they are an expert in everything because it says so on some webpage


As has been stated, if the air going in doesn’t stink then the smell is coming from the air compressor so filtering the air coming in will do nothing.

Hi Kay,
thanks for your update. apologies accepted and this issue closed.

However im and you are still waiting on a reply from Geff, re what the smell is.
If its an oil based smell, then one should be able to tell that its compressor based. It depends on the compressor. if its a cheap and nasty recent import from china it wont have the life of say an old as in built in the 60’s 70’s industrial machine.
also depends on where the compressor is located.
In an outside shed? where something has died? or seriously damp? thats why i mentioned an inlet filter.
Finally good to hear that there are others with some solid industrial experience under their belts here on this forum.

Jeff…I looked thru your shop pictures to see if I could figure out what kind of air compressor you have. I did not see it. If it is a lubricated piston compressor, you could have oil getting by the oil wipers, mixing with moisture in your storage tank and getting a little nasty. Make sure to blow down your tank and get whatever is in there out. If the compressor is lubricated, you might change the lubricant. If you have a moisture trap on the outlet side of the compressor, see if you have oil and water there or just water. Be careful what you do on the inlet side. Compressors are designed to see a specific inlet pressure, usually local atmospheric pressure. The pressure drop across the filter is taken into account in this design. Adding the charcoal to the inlet side might change this calculation. Talk to the manufacturer and see what they have to say. My two cents from working for the Ingersoll Rand Company for eleven years…Rob

Problem solved!

Thanks for everybody’s help in this matter.

Rob, I have a Sears 25 gallon lubricated air compressor (not pictured in my shop views). I do blow down my tank at the end of every day it’s used. Since the compressor is about eight years old the seals could probably use replacing, which would encompass a rebuild. No thanks. I decided to call Granger and spoke with a terrific technical support person who recommended a secondary oil vapor absorbing filter. I then called Parker, a well-known filter company, and asked about this filter I found online: Pardon Our Interruption. I will be purchasing this model, and when the time comes will buy replacement filters which run about $160 for a box of eight. In speaking with the tech at Parker, she recommends filter replacement 6-12 months based on my compressor usage…

So, after an initial investment of about $170, $20-40 per year for filters is pretty cheap for an even healthier work environment.

Thanks again,


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Good luck!