Most of us know that mold smell, but if you had to describe it to someone else, which words would you use to describe “What does mold smell like?” Typically, mold is described as having a musty or earthy scent. However, many odors smell similar to mold.
In this article, we will look closely at mold. We will examine what makes it smell, how it smells, other odors that smell similar, and how to identify mold.
What Makes Mold Smell?
If you detect a mold smell it is important to understand what it is that causes this substance to give off such a strong scent. The process of mold growth results from something called fungal metabolism. This activity allows the mold to grow and spread and as this happens, several gaseous chemicals are released. These are what give mold its smell.
These gasses are identified as Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (mVOCs). There are a few hundred of these compounds and many of them are produced by mold. The exact composition depends on many factors. These include the mold species and the stage the mold is in as part of its life cycle. This is why various molds may smell different.
What Does Mold Smell Like?
It doesn’t matter if it is a mold smell in the house or a mold smell in the bathroom, there are a few terms that we can use to describe what mold smells like.
As described above, many different scents come from mold, however, mold has very obvious characteristics related to how it smells. They include:
Musty and Stale
This type of mold scent resembles that of a stuffy, humid attic, or a pair of old socks.
This scent is much like that of a dense forest, dirt under decaying leaves, or rotting wood.
The smell of a wet dog or a dank locker room closely matches this scent.
Think decaying fruit or aging cheese and you can imagine this scent.
The way you smell after an intense workout is close to what this scent would be.
Odors In The Home That Resemble Mold
Things kept in and used in our homes can produce scents that are similar to those found in mold. This is partly because of the gasses produced. Many indoor odors contain the same gasses that are produced by mold. Considering mold is the most common air quality issue in homes, and since our sense of smell is only so sensitive, we can perceive scents that are similar to mold incorrectly as being mold. Some examples are below:
This can be stale or rotting food in the fridge or garbage.
Problems with your heating/air conditioning/ventilation system can produce odors that stay in your home.
The garbage in the kitchen or the garbage disposal in the sink could be the sources.
Wet or dirty laundry left to pile up in the corner of the laundry room will produce odors.
A leak in your natural gas service will produce the scent of rotten eggs. If you smell this and suspect a gas leak, contact your local utility service immediately and turn off all appliances that use natural gas. Open all windows to air out the home.
Does mold smell like urine? Pets produce many different scents and sometimes a dirty cat box or a wet dog can smell like mold.
Mice or other pests that get into your home are not the cleanest animals around so they will naturally carry a bad odor with them.
A backup in your sewage line will produce bad-smelling gasses that can resemble mold.
Do You Have Mold?
Now that you have the answer to the question; “Does mold have a smell?”, it is time to look at whether the smells you notice are from mold or something else in your home. The most reliable way of determining if you have a mold problem is to locate the source of the smell. The mold that creates odors we can smell will generally be large enough to see.
Several conditions can result in the formation of mold in your home. They include moisture issues such as excess humidity, condensation on windows, floods, or water leaks; you or a member of your family displaying allergy-like symptoms ranging from skin irritations and breathing issues to sneezing and a runny nose and wallpaper or paint peeling indoors.
If you rely on your HVAC or dehumidifier more than normal to remove excess moisture, then you could have a mold problem in areas of your house that you may not be able to see. If you cannot locate mold in your home although there is a smell and you have ruled out all other possibilities for the smell, you may need to hire a professional mold inspector.
Does mold have a smell? Yes, it does. But many other sources of smells from within your home may be the problem. It is important to get to the source of the odor. This is because mold, if left unchecked, will grow and spread causing damage to your home and impacting the health of you and your family. Do not take the musty mold smell lightly and investigate promptly.