Mold is a type of fungus that can grow on surfaces and materials in damp areas.
Mold is present everywhere and is only a problem when it finds a moisture source and begins to grow. Then you have a problem.
When mold spreads, it releases spores into the air that can be inhaled which can then lead to breathing problems or triggering allergic reactions.
Although mold spores are naturally occurring, an excess of spores can trigger a reaction if they are inhaled over a long period. Or if they land in your eyes, nose, and mouth.
What does mold smell like?
Mold has a fowl, musty, earthy odor. The odor is stronger when the mold infestation is severe or spreading, but certain types of molds can even smell sweet.
What causes mold to smell? The type of material that the mold feeds on determines whether or not it will emit an odor.
For example, mold in wooden surfaces may give off a musty wood smell and mold in drywall will often have a mildew odor.
In some cases, becoming exposed to mold, for instance handling moldy items then touching your eyes, or mold growth coming into contact with your skin, can cause rashes which are sometimes mistaken for hives or another allergy.
When inhaled, these spores trigger allergic reactions such as hay fever and breathing problems such as asthma symptoms.
First and Foremost
If you have a musty or moldy smell in your home, chances are that you have some form of moisture related issue that is causing the mold to grow.
So, the first step is to find and fix the source of the moisture problem. Failing to do so will only make the mold continue to grow and the smell will remain and even get worse.
Steps to get rid of mold smells in your home
In order to get rid of mold odors in the house, first remove any wet material such as wallboard that has been damaged by water leaks or flooding.
Note: If the mold growth has affected large areas over 10 square feet, its best to use a mold remediation professional for safety reasons. The suggestions discussed here are for mold growth areas 10 square feet or less.
A respirator (to protect yourself from mold exposure), ensure you check with your doctor to make sure its safe for you to use a respirator. Using a filtering facepiece like an N95 mask can also be used.
• Rubber gloves (to protect yourself from mold exposure)
• A shovel (to remove wet, moldy materials)
• Contractor trash bags
• Detergent solution
• Eye protection (goggles work best because they keep dust and spores out of your eyes)
• High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum. These devices can filter and remove 99.97% of dust, mold, bacteria, and many airborne particles as small ad 0.3 microns.
To give you an example of how small that is, the size of a human hair is about 100 microns in diameter.
· While using all the safety precautions and your safety equipment, remove and discard all porous items that have been ruined by water damage. These include insulation, ceiling tiles, and carpeting.
· When removing these items, have a contractor grade trash bag in the area so you can place the items in the bag and not have to carry the items through the home.
· Use a HEPA vacuum to vacuum the surrounding area once the items have been removed.
· Clean all other surfaces in the room with a commercial cleaner or a detergent solution. For non-porous surfaces, you can use a bleach solution of 1 cup bleach to 1 gallon water to sanitize surfaces like tile, glass etc.
You don’t have to, but sometimes you may just need to sanitize the area after all the work has been done.
· After you have removed porous items and thoroughly cleaned non-porous ones, open all windows in the affected room for at least 2 hours. If you have carpeting or other flooring that has been exposed to moisture, it must dry completely before it can be walked on or vacuumed.
· Double check to make sure you’ve removed all the affected items. Leaving any behind will cause the odor to remain and mold can begin to spread again in your home.
After removing moldy items:
You can rent or purchase an air purification device – commonly called an air scrubber or negative air machine to circulate the air and capture any dust and fugitive mold spores that was disturbed by the removal activity.
These devices have the capability to remove mold spores particles and odors (when a charcoal type filter is used) from your entire home, not just one room at a time.
How to prevent another infestation in the house
When there is a water intrusion or leak in your home, steps should be taken promptly to prevent any potential mold-related problems that can arise.
The main objective is to fix any moisture problems promptly and then dry materials within 24 hours of them getting wet.
The dry out should be done quickly because when items remain wet for long periods, mold will begin to grow.
• Repair all plumbing leaks when they occur.
• Frequently inspect windows and AC vents for condensation.
• Ensure the air conditioning (AC) system is serviced as recommended by the manufacturer. AC systems help to remove excess humidity that can lead to mold growth.
• Don’t block air vents with clutter, drapes, or furniture. Blocking air vents can cause restricted airflow that will promote mold growth.
• Keep the air conditioning drip pans and condensate drain lines clean and free of obstructions.
• Maintain humidity levels between 30 to 50 percent.
• Clean and dry wet materials within 24 to 48 hours. Mold will begin to grow on items that remain wet for 48 hours or longer.
• Vent dryers, range hoods, and bathroom exhaust to the exterior.
• Run the bathroom exhaust fans during and after taking a shower (15-30 minutes post-shower).
• Avoid placing carpet in moisture-prone areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, and unconditioned basements.
• Frequently clean gutters to ensure proper water drainage.
House smells musty but no visible mold growth
I remember when we moved into our recently purchased house and we were told that we do not have mold at all.
However, the house smells musty which really annoys us that sometimes it is difficult for us to sleep at night.
We tried cleaning everything, but the smell of mustiness still lingered.
I found out through an environmental professional that there might be mold in one of the walls of my home. He said that moisture from a failed dishwasher hose has been fixed years ago which I know nothing about.
After he inspected, it was confirmed that there is indeed blackish stains on my kitchen wall behind and below the dishwasher. The inspector also checked around other rooms in my place – bathroom and bedroom – but did not find any trace of mold.
He told me that the most affected part is in my kitchen.
I was left with no choice but to pay for the mold remediation cost which 5 times the cost of a new dishwasher.
So, if you smell something like in your home and can’t find, search harder as its probably there. If you can’t locate the source, hire a professional to conduct an inspection.