How to vent a bathroom with no outside access: Alternative to an exhaust fan

Showers and hot water can create moisture and humid air. If you don’t remove this, it can lead to a musty smell and even (dangerous) mold. In most instances, it is possible to open a window or a fan is installed to remove this. In some instances, it is not possible to do this though. Let’s take a look at some other solutions so that you can even the bathroom anyway. 



Dehumidifiers are able to take the moisture out of the air. They collect water in a bin that you can dispose of later. They require electricity and are quite expensive. Overall they work pretty well. It is a great way to avoid mold or other nasty side effects of humid air. Most systems are pretty quiet. Just make sure that you install them far away from the shower or water as they can break when you spill water on them. 

A lot of dehumidifiers have a filter that you have to clean or replace from time to time. Be sure to get a system that is strong enough for a bathroom as a living room is a lot less humid.

Some dehumidifiers come with a drain that you have to run outside. If you have a nearby window, it is possible to use this to run the drain outside. You shouldn’t send the humid air from one part of the house to the other as you are just moving the problem around. 

Moisture absorbers

Silica gel

There are cheaper systems that use silica gel. It is a piece of plastic that contains these granulates. This absorbs moisture. After a few days, you have to plug it into an outlet to reactivate the silica gel. This requires some attention as the system won’t work when the silica gel is to capacity. Overall it is safe and easy to use. You don’t have to install anything. Don’t expect miracles from it though. If you take hot and long showers, this system won’t be able to keep up. Getting multiple of them can help but a humidifier works better.

Other systems use bags of silica gel and you have to throw them away after a while. These come with big plastic bins and can absorb more moisture. Some people try to reuse the silica gel by drying them in the sun but it is often better to throw them away and get new bags. They are not that expensive but you will have to replace them every few weeks. You also have to get the water out of the plastic containers. This needs to happen weekly as they can overflow.

There are also silica gel packets that come in plastic bags. These are easier to hang but are often too small for a bathroom. A shower can release a lot of moisture so you need something that can handle it and remove this as soon as possible from the air. Most moisture absorbers indicate the size of the room that they can handle. Make sure that you get something that is designed for bathrooms and also work for the size of your bathroom.

Baking soda

Some plastic containers use baking soda instead of silica gel. The systems work quite similarly. The baking soda attracts moisture and it gets released in the plastic container. It is odorless and easy to use. This works pretty well but not as good as humidifiers. It is comparable in price and performance to silica gel so the choice between them comes down to personal preferences as they are quite similar overall.

You can use an air quality tester to make sure that the air is clean enough for you and your family. Sensors allow you to monitor the situation to make sure that you are venting the bathroom well enough.  Some systems even send an alert when the air is not clean enough. This makes it easier to fix the situation.

Open the door to remove moisture

Opening the door after a shower can already help to remove some of the moisture. If there is a window nearby, you can use this to get some fresh air inside. The goal is to get air moving so that the moisture doesn’t get trapped inside. A moist environment can attract drain flies and other insects so it should be avoided at all costs

Run a fan

You can install a fan and try to hide the duct or drain by adding some drywall. This is quite easy to install as the duct is often flexible and you can just unroll it.  It can involve some drilling so if you are renting a house this might not be possible to do. A fan also needs electricity and a remote. Often this is activated when you turn on the light but it depends on how it is installed. Fans can last a long time so once they have been installed, they don’t require a lot of maintenance. You can clean the duct from time to time. 

Some fans don’t need a drain and are easier to install but tend to be more expensive.

Lower the temperature of your showers.

A lot of people enjoy taking hot showers. If you lower the temperature a few degrees, you will get a lot less steam. You can increase the temperature of your bathroom by turning up the heater to compensate for this. Your heater doesn’t release humid air so this creates fewer problems.  More recently some showers have even heaters installed into them. This allows you to reduce the water temperature and can remove the moisture problems. 

This can reduce the need for a fan. You can also try to take shorter showers. Most people shower too long as you just need a few minutes to get cleaned completely.    We have discussed a great shower routing HERE

To conclude, there are several ways to vent a bathroom that doesn’t have outside access. Some options only are able to remove a little of hot air whereas others can do more. These can cost quite some money though so you have to see what is possible in your situation.

The easiest fix is to take shorter showers that are less hot. Moist and damp air can lead to a lot of damage that can decrease the value of your property so it is something that needs to be addressed. 

Ventilation is essential in a bathroom. In some instances, there might be no outside access and you have to be creative. Make sure to check your local plumbing code to make sure that you can use these alternatives .

If you use appliances, you have to keep them a few feet away from the bath or shower. Check your local plumbing code to see what is needed. You also might have to install GFCI outlets in this part of the bathroom.

Inspectors can be really strict about ventilation in the bathroom so it is important that you pay enough attention to this. They might mention it in their inspection report if there is a problem with this. In this article, we have discussed some possible alternatives.