Mold often has a musty, earthy, decomposing smell but doesn’t smell the same for everyone.
Furthermore, mold won’t smell the same each time it attacks your home due to differences in the species of fungus.
According to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), mold produces odor by releasing certain gaseous chemicals as part of natural metabolism. The microbial volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released are responsible for the smell of mold.
There are more than 200 of these chemicals.
The strong-smelling ones include:
☢️ Carboxylic Acids
☢️ Sulfur And Nitrogen Compounds.
Some of these chemicals have a pungent, waxy smell. Others have a ripe, fruity fragrance.
They often combine in different ratios, determining the smell of each mold species — that’s why mold tends to smell differently each time.
If you can suddenly smell something earthy, chances are it’s mold, but there may be other causes.
Here are some common household odors similar to mold to check for:
👃 Kitchen and bathroom garbage
👃 Wet or dirty laundry
👃 Food odors from the fridge/garbage disposal/dishwasher
👃 Pet odors
👃 HVAC problems
👃 Rodents or other pest issues
4 Questions to help you detect mold in your home
If you think you smell mold but can’t see it, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to any of them, you may have mold somewhere in your home.
1. Have you had moisture problems recently?
If there have been moisture leaks or floods in your home, mold might follow. Also, check for condensation and humidity around vents and windows.
2. Have you noticed allergic responses recently?
If you and your family members are showing symptoms of exposure to mold while indoors, you might have mold.
😞 Skin rashes
😞 Breathing difficulties
😞 Runny nose
3. Do you have peeling wallpaper or paint?
Mold growth on drywall or wood underneath can cause the deterioration of wallpaper and paint. So, instead of staying in place, they start peeling off and exposing the surface beneath.
4. Are your surfaces discolored?
The growth of mold may cause discoloration in walls, moldings and ceilings. Carpets recently exposed to moisture could also appear discolored due to mold. Also, check kitchen and bathroom sinks and cabinetry.
If you can smell something you suspect might be mold and answered yes to any of the above questions, it’s time to start looking for mold. Severe, smelly mold growth is likely to be visible — so the only way to be sure you have mold is to look for it.
Check these areas thoroughly:
❑ Crawl Space
❑ Laundry Rooms
❑ Underneath Flooring
❑ Air Conditioners
❑ Window Sills
❑ Fireplaces and Chimneys
5 mold removal and prevention tips
According to the National Institutes of Health, mold exposure may lead to the onset of asthma in children and infants could experience acute lung disease, lethargy and memory loss.
Research from the Institute of Medicine shows that exposure to the smell of mold for prolonged periods could lead to headaches, fatigue, dizziness and nausea. Inhaling the chemicals can also irritate your throat, eyes and skin.
The best medicine for mold is prevention:
- Wipe affected surfaces with bleach, white vinegar, or commercial mold remover.
- Scrub carpets and other surfaces using an anti-mold cleaner.
- Fix leaky pipes and roofs.
- Keep your house well-ventilated and dry.
- If you’re struggling with moisture, use a dehumidifier to remove it.
- Use an air purifier for mold once the humidity has been fixed to keep mold spores out to the air
If you have a variation of mold’s musty, earthy and decomposing smell, you may have mold.
You can prevent or reduce the growth of mold in your home by wiping surfaces with white vinegar, bleach solution, or a commercial mold remover. Scrub your carpets using an anti-mold cleaner and prevent dampness by fixing leaky roofs or pipes.
A dehumidifier can remove excess moisture from the air, which will help to prevent mold.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Basic Facts about Mold and Dampness. cdc.gov
- Cookson, M. (2023). How To Get Mold Out Of A Carpet. housefresh.com
- Cookson, M. (2023). Will A Dehumidifier Kill Mold? housefresh.com
- Environmental Protection Agency. (2022). What does mold smell like? epa.gov
- Wein, H. (2012). Household Molds Linked to Childhood Asthma. nih.gov