Naturally, fans create a bit of noise, but they shouldn’t be annoyingly loud or have a knocking, rattling, or grinding sound. If your bathroom fan is too noisy, it may have a problem. Luckily for you, most bathroom fans are easy to fix so that you can bring peace back to your restroom.
So, let’s get down to the details and identify why your bathroom exhaust fan is so noisy. I’ll give you some pro tips to help you figure out what’s going wrong and guide you through all of the repairs that’ll keep your bathroom fan as silent as you want it to be.
Repairing a Noisy Bathroom Fan
You can stop your fan from making noise by cleaning it, realigning the blades, insulating the motor, tightening loose mounting equipment, among other solutions.
The best solution to go with comes down to why your fan is noisier than it should be.
I’ll walk you through the steps and give you some pro tips along the way to help you get the serene bathroom fan of your dreams.
If you’re unsure what the issue is with your fan, you may want to consider working through each of these processes in the order they appear. That’s because they are rated from easiest to hardest, although none of them are so challenging that you’ll have to call a repair person.
As bathroom fan motors age, the oil that keeps them in good condition can wear off.
If your motor isn’t properly lubricated, it can make a squeaking or rumbling sound that is quite unpleasant to the ears. So, maintaining your motor is crucial if you want your fan to stay silent for years to come.
To lubricate your fan motor, you’ll need the following:
- A rag
- Small brush like an old toothbrush or microfiber cloth
- Some type of lubricant
I recommend using a spray-can such as the WD-40 Lubricant Spray (available on Amazon) to lubricate and clean your fan. I love this product since it’s easy to use the straw attachment to target noise-prone areas. It also drives out moisture and acts as a corrosion inhibitor to prevent rust.
To clean and lubricate the motor, follow the steps below:
- Turn off your fan.
- Unscrew and remove the fan’s external grill cover.
- Use a damp rag or other cloth to clean off dust, mildew, and other debris from the grill, fan blades, motor, and internal panels.
- Use an old toothbrush or microfiber cloth to clean the fine details of the motor, fan blades, and fan casing.
- Apply WD-40 to your fan’s metal components, such as the motor and fan blades, paying close attention to the joints between the fan and the motor.
- Replace the grill cover.
- Turn on your fan to see if the sound is better.
If the sound hasn’t improved, you may have another issue with your bathroom fan. Also, if you suspect that your exhaust fan is older than ten years, the motor may be so old that it can’t run smoothly.
Before you go out and buy a new unit, you might want to try some of these other tips and tricks. However, if all else fails, you may need to call a maintenance specialist or buy a new fan to replace your old one.
Over time, the fan blades might get blocked by debris or fall out of place, creating a grinding or knocking sound.
Fixing fan blade issues is simple, so don’t be afraid to do it yourself. To do it, you’ll need the following:
- A rag
- Some white vinegar or warm water
- A toothbrush (optional)
To clear and realign your exhaust fan’s blades, follow the steps below:
- Turn off your bathroom fan’s power.
- Unscrew and remove the outer grill cover.
- Use white wine vinegar or warm water and a rag to clean the grill cover.
- Gently scrub the fan blades and inner panel with a damp rag or toothbrush.
- Spin the fan blades with your finger while wiping the axel that connects your fan to the motor.
- Check for damage since you may need to replace the fan blades if they’re broken.
- If the fan blades are crooked or bent, gently push them back into place.
- Once the fan is clean and free of debris, replace the grill cover.
Sorbothane rubber absorbs the noise, making it an excellent material to use if your fan’s motor vibrates so much that it creates a buzzing or ringing sound.
Rubber will provide your motor a bumper that absorbs shock, keeping the fan’s natural vibration from clanging against other noisy materials. In addition, Sorbothane rubber is one of the best soundproofing materials on the market, so using it on your fan can make your bathroom a quiet, tranquil place again.
You may want to get Sorbothane rubber with an adhesive backing, such as the Isolate It! Sorbothane Sheet (Amazon). This ultra thin film will fit different applications and it’s easy to install.
To fix a motor that vibrates a lot, follow the steps below:
- Turn off your bathroom exhaust fan’s power.
- Remove the outer grill cover.
- Use a damp rag to wipe down your fan and its mounting to ensure that the adhesive sticks to the inner panel.
- Cut the Sorbothane rubber into small strips, ideally around 1 inch (2.54 cm) long by 1 inch (2.54 cm) wide.
- Adhere your Sorbothane rubber to the vent around the motor, being careful not to block the fan’s blades.
- Turn on your fan to check that the rubber strips don’t interfere with the blades.
- Replace the grill cover.
Sorbothane rubber is my go-to for almost any soundproofing application, so feel free to use it anywhere you want to cut out noises.
When the brackets and clips that secure your fan blades, motor, and other fan components to the panel are loose, they can vibrate, making a ringing, clicking, jingling, or buzzing sound.
Before going in with the screwdriver, you can quickly check if loose mounting equipment is your problem. To check, remove the outer cover and try to shake the fan. If it wriggles around, then you have found the problem!
To tighten your fan’s mounting equipment, follow the steps below:
- Turn off the exhaust fan.
- Using a screwdriver, tighten the screws around the motor, fan blades, and anywhere else you see a screw that could be loose.
- Replace the grill cover.
- Turn on the fan to see if the sound improves.
If your fan’s sound doesn’t improve, you might have a different issue like undersized ductwork or a misaligned fan blade.
If your exhaust fan’s air ducts are narrow, you may hear a whooshing, banging, or buzzing sound.
To enlarge the air duct, you can use an adaptor such as the Hon&Guan Straight Duct Adaptor (Amazon). These adaptors are excellent for bathroom fans and are also extremely easy to install. They increase the size of the duct, making your fan significantly quieter.
You may also want to use duct tape to seal the adaptor to the duct tubing and bathroom fan. I recommend the AmazonCommercial Standard Duct Tape. This product has strong adhesive bonds that can stick to a wide variety of materials and surfaces.
To install a duct adapter, follow the steps below:
- Turn off your fan.
- Go to your attic or crawlspace, where you can access your bathroom ceiling’s ductwork.
- Unplug the duct tubing from your exhaust fan.
- Plug the small end of the adaptor into your exhaust fan’s duct outlet.
- Plug the duct tubing into the other end of your adaptor.
- For best results, you can seal the tubing with duct tape.
If your bathroom fan’s ductwork is in the ceiling or inaccessible, you may need to call a specialist to access it. However, with the cost of repairs, you might as well buy a new exhaust fan for your bathroom that has a quieter motor.
If nothing else works, you can always replace your bathroom’s exhaust fan. If you want one that’ll be relatively silent, choose a fan designed for its quietness.
My go-to model is the Panasonic Whisper Value Ventilation Fan (available on Amazon). This fan stays silent for years, and it’s perfect for both small and large bathrooms since you can adjust the speed from 50 cubic feet (1.42 cubic meters) per minute to 100 cubic feet (2.83 cubic meters) per minute.
Panasonic has other options, too, like their larger and more powerful Panasonic Whisper Ceiling Ventilation Fan. In my experience, Panasonic’s silent fans are always long-lasting, noiseless, and high quality, so I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Of course, you could hire someone to install the fan for you, but once you learn how to do it yourself, you’ll be able to repair and replace your vent fan for the rest of your life. So, I highly recommend doing it yourself.
To install a new bathroom exhaust fan, follow the steps below:
- For safety purposes, turn off your bathroom’s power from the main circuit breaker.
- Remove the old fan, unscrewing it from the brackets that hold it in the ceiling.
- Open your new bathroom fan and remove the packaging, ensuring that there are no pieces of tape or small hardware inside the fan.
- Remove the tiny screws at the top of the fan unit on the side panels, where you’ll attach the fan to the bracket.
- Remove the fan’s junction box (the metal panel with the duct outlet and wire box).
- Remove the screw on the wiring panel to access the wires.
- In your bathroom or the attic above your bathroom, install the new bracket.
- Standing below the hole in your bathroom ceiling, hold the new fan up and mark how large it is with a pencil.
- Use a small hand saw (or, if you don’t have one, an old serrated bread knife works well) to cut along the pencil lines you just made.
- Feed the power wires into the junction box right next to the duct outlet on your new fan, then screw the panel back into the junction box.
- Use wire nuts to connect the wires in your new fan to the power wires.
- Connect your junction box to the duct using some duct tape.
- Screw the fan into your bathroom ceiling, ensuring that you have it aligned with the junction box.
- Attach the vent grill cover, and you are finished!!
For a video walkthrough of a Panasonic WhisperFit installation, which is similar to the WhisperValue, check out this helpful YouTube video:
Are Bathroom Fans Supposed to Be Noisy?
If you’re used to your bathroom fan emitting a roar every time you turn it on, you might wonder if there’s something wrong or if all bathroom fans are just loud. Well, the answer is that all fans make some noise, but if your fan is noisy, it’s probably just old or broken.
Bathroom fans are notoriously noisy, but they don’t always start that way. Though most cheaper and older bathroom fans aren’t designed for noiselessness, many modern fans are quiet unless they are in disrepair.
There are plenty of new fans on the market that are specially designed with noise in mind. If you want a completely silent fan, or at least one as close to silent as humanly possible, look for one that uses insulation and powerful motors to keep your bathroom quiet.
Still, most bathroom fans will create a small amount of noise.
Fans run using a motor that can create a humming, rumbling, or vibrating sound when it powers up. However, there are many ways to keep your fan’s motor from getting too loud. One of the best ways to prevent the vibration from becoming too noisy is to use insulation with rubber or silicone.
If your bathroom fan is older, it’ll likely be louder. That’s because, as the motor ages, it has to work harder to move the fan blades. Usually, when this happens, debris has built up in the motor, making it harder for the gears in your fan to turn.
However, if your bathroom fan is noticeably loud or drowns out all other sounds, it may be a sign that your fan is in disrepair.
How Loud Are Bathroom Fans Usually?
Generally, sounds are measured in a unit called a sone. Sones measure volume and frequency, which means that they consider how loud and resonant a sound can be.
According to the Home Ventilating Institute, a bathroom fan should function at 1.0 sone or less, the same amount of noise produced by a refrigerator or rustling leaves.
So, if your bathroom fan is much louder than your refrigerator or air conditioning system, the fan might need some maintenance or repairs.
Still, some exhaust fans are naturally noisy, so if yours has always been loud, you might need to replace the entire unit if you want to have a noiseless bathroom.
Why Your Bathroom Fan Gets Noisy Over Time
Generally, bathroom exhaust fans get noisier over time.
Several factors that can make your bathroom fan get louder over time include debris, lack of lubrication, wear on the motor, loose mounting equipment, or broken parts.
So, most of the time, a simple repair, cleaning, and relubrication can bring your fan back to mint condition.
Still, how can you tell what’s wrong with your fan? Well, usually, you can detect the problem based on the sounds that it makes.
Here are some of the most common types of noises your fan makes and what they mean:
- Rattling. If your fan is rattling, either it’s dirty, or the mounting equipment has come loose.
- Humming. Humming usually means that you need to relubricate and clean your motor. Otherwise, it can mean the ductwork is too small, or the motor vibrates too much for the mounting equipment.
- Vibrating, buzzing, or ringing. Vibrating, buzzing, and ringing are signs of loose mounting equipment or a small duct.
- Grinding or Knocking. Grinding and knocking noises usually mean that your fan blades are hitting some debris trapped in your exhaust fan. Otherwise, the fan blades might be out of line, causing them to knock against the inner panel or outer grill of your exhaust vent.
You may also like: How to Replace Your Exhaust Fan’s Light Bulb
Bathroom exhaust fans don’t have to be loud as long as you take care of them. If you suspect that your bathroom fan is in disrepair, you can always listen to the sounds it makes to try to diagnose any problems that might be causing a ruckus in your restroom.
Usually, a thorough clean, a relubrication, and a screwdriver will do the trick to make your fan silent again, but if all else fails, you can get a new unit designed for silence.
Here’s a recap of how to fix a noisy bathroom fan:
- Clean and lubricate your fan’s motor
- Clean and realign the fan blades
- Insulate the motor with Sorbothane rubber
- Tighten loose mounting equipment
- Install a duct adaptor for narrow ductwork
- Replace your bathroom exhaust fan