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Does a Pantry Need Ventilation?

A pantry is where you keep certain foods and ingredients for long-term storage, such as canned meats, canned vegetables, rice, dry beans, chicken stock, and bottled water. You might not think a pantry needs ventilation because of all the preserved and sealed food that you put in there. But you would be wrong to think that.

A pantry needs ventilation to control odors, moisture, and heat. If you live in an environment with a tropical climate, then ventilation is necessary to stop heat and moisture from accumulating in the pantry. Those elements can attract insects and mold.

There are a lot of different ventilation methods you can use for your pantry. The method that you choose will be dependent on several factors, such as the size, shape, and location of the pantry.

Passive vs. Active Ventilation

There are two ways to provide ventilation to your pantry. You can utilize active ventilation or passive ventilation.

In most cases, passive ventilation is enough, since the pantry does not require as much ventilation as for example a bathroom.

Active Ventilation

Active ventilation uses mechanical fans to exhaust air to the outside of the house. It is a system of ventilation that is good to use in rooms or spaces where heat and moisture build-up, such as bathrooms, garages, and pantries.

If you were to install a mechanical fan on the ceiling of your pantry, then it would help reduce the foul odors that form inside of it. Next, you need a way for the odors and air to circulate in and out of the pantry. That can be done with an exterior window or jump vent.

A jump vent is a type of vent that is usually found above the doors of the bedrooms. It helps balance the air temperature and circulation throughout the rooms of a home. Well, the same thing can be done with your pantry if you install a jump vent above its door as well.

Illustration of a jump vent, hvac.jpg

If you want to install a mechanical exhaust fan then check out my article on how exhaust fans should be vented.

Ductless Fan

If you do not have excess moisture in your pantry then a ductless fan will work perfectly. This will save you the trouble of running ducting and keep the installation much simpler.

Here is a ductless fan from Amazon. Keep in mind that they have charcoal filters that need to be replaced at regular intervals to keep the fan effective.

More info on ductless fans from my previous article.

Passive Ventilation

Passive ventilation utilizes natural techniques for providing air circulation, such as air currents and thermal buoyancy (Source). A passive ventilation system is designed to pull air out of the room and bring fresh air into the room. This can be done with a combination of exhaust vents and fresh-air vents.

In the case of a pantry, you would install exhaust vents on the ceiling to pull out the foul odors. Then you could have fresh-air vents installed on the bottom of the pantry to bring outside air inside. The two vents will circulate air in and out of the pantry. That way, the air can stay fresh and cool inside the pantry.

Render of pantry with exhaust vents and fresh air vents.jpg

Window for Ventilation

If your pantry was built near the exterior of your home, then you could create a window in your pantry for ventilation purposes. This is rather uncommon, though, because a lot of modern kitchens and pantries are built more toward the center of the home where there are no outside windows and doors.

To solve this problem, you could always build a custom pantry near the outside and install a window in it. A window for ventilation is a simple way to allow air to flow in and out of the pantry. You would simply need to open the window to let in air and close the window to stop air from getting inside.

Make sure you have a screen in front of the window to prevent bugs and insects from getting inside the pantry. Any food products that are not completely sealed and airtight will attract a plethora of insects from the outside. And trust me, there are bugs small enough to fit through the holes of a window screen. So, it is imperative to seal your stored food properly.

What is the Ideal Temperature for a Pantry?

A pantry is a place for storing dry foods and canned foods, including cereals and grains. Although these foods will stay good for a while, they will eventually spoil after they surpass their expiration dates. The best way to preserve the life of your dry goods is to maintain an ideal temperature in your pantry.

Temperature control is how you prevent bacterial growth from spoiling your stored food. It also helps preserve the quality, taste, and nutritional content of your meals as well. You will notice when food has spoiled because it will look bad, smell bad, and taste bad.

California Department of Education recommends that you store dry foods in your pantry at a temperature of between 50°F and 70°F. The ideal temperature is 50°F(Source). Because that is a cooler temperature and a more realistic temperature that can be maintained in a confined space like a pantry. You just need to have the right ventilation or air conditioning to make that happen.

It is okay if the temperature goes up to 70°F. Your dry goods should still last until their expiration dates. However, they won’t stay preserved for too much longer after that. Warmer temperatures will encourage bacteria growth and foul smells. Then you will surely have spoiled foods.

Woman's hand organizing dry goods on jar inside the pantry

It is recommended that you install a thermostat in your pantry to help regulate its temperature. Keep the dry goods on shelves rather than on the floor or near the walls. You can increase air circulation that way.

Should a Pantry be Dark?

The main reason why pantries are usually built away from exterior windows and doors is to prevent light from getting inside of them. Pantries are made to be dark because light brings heat into them.

As you know, heat would increase bacterial growth in your stored foods. Then your stored foods will spoil faster if they’re regularly exposed to light and heat from the outside. Therefore, it is better to keep your pantry dark as often as possible.

It can be a challenge to maintain the darkness of a pantry if you’re using an exterior window to provide ventilation to it. An exterior window will allow sunlight to enter the pantry if it is not covered correctly. Even if you have shutters or blinds on your window, heat will still pass through if it is warm outside.

In this case, keep your window shaded during the daytime while utilizing a secondary ventilation system in your pantry. Then, at nighttime, you can open the shades and window to let fresh outside air inside your pantry. The air is much cooler at night than it is during the day.

How Do I Keep My Pantry Cool?

Your objective should be to keep your pantry as cool as possible without turning it into a walk-in refrigerator. You can utilize a combination of ventilation, fans, windows, and possibly even air conditioning to cool down your pantry. It all depends on the size, position, and location of the pantry in your home.

An air conditioning vent is uncommon for a pantry, but you can have a custom vent installed for this purpose. It is recommended for people who have huge walk-in pantries with several shelves of food in there. An air conditioning vent would allow you to maintain the same temperature inside your pantry as the rest of your home. Then you don’t have to worry about heat and moisture building up in there.

Alternatively, you can take the cheaper route by simply removing the door to your pantry and leaving it as an open pantry. Then you can utilize the air conditioning from your kitchen to cool your pantry because there is no door to block the air from entering it. Simply remove the hinges of your existing pantry door and carry it away to your garage for safekeeping.

Open pantry layout connected to a kitchen with a big island

Lastly, the position of your pantry should not be close to your kitchen stove or oven. Cooking appliances generate a lot of hot air and steam, which can both flow into your pantry if it is positioned to close to them. It could actually be counterproductive to have a jump vent in this case because the hot air would flow right through the vent and into your pantry.

If you are building a custom pantry, then position it on the opposite side of your kitchen away from the cooking appliances. Otherwise, do not use a jump vent if the pantry is close to the appliances. Stick to the passive ventilation of exhaust vents and fresh-air vents. That is the best way to keep the hot air from the kitchen from interfering with the air temperature in the pantry.


As you can see, there are a lot of ways you can keep your pantry ventilated with cool fresh air. All that is required is some kitchen renovation work and a little imagination. If you like the idea of having a customized pantry, then you literally could have the coolest pantry on the block.

Related article: Pantry Door Sizing Guide

Related article: Pros and Cons of Corner Pantry

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