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Mold is much more than an unattractive stain. If your home develops a mold problem, you could be looking at a lifetime of health problems, as well as structural concerns for your home without professional mold remediation or mold removal.

Keep a close eye on areas that are likely to develop mold, like the basement and bathrooms. And be aware of conditions that promote mold growth, like unusually high humidity due to flooding or leaks.

Finally, be able to identify the unseen signs of mold in your home. One of these signs is mold’s distinctive smell, which can easily be identified if you know what you’re looking for.

What Does Mold Smell Like?

The simple answer is that mold smells musty. This classic symptom of mold has also been described as damp or earthy.
You know the smell:

  • It’s the basement.
  • It’s a building that has been closed up for a while.
  • It’s under the house.
  • It’s even certain types of cheese.

And in fact, these are some of the most common places for household mold. Therefore, when you smell something suspicious, especially in an area that is known to develop mold, trust your gut and take action against mold growth.

But there’s a little more to it.

Mold does have a well-known musty smell when it is starting to form a colony. This odor is often the first sign homeowners have when mold has just begun to grow. After a day of work or a weekend away, you could easily smell this musty odor in your bathroom or even the kitchen if mold is present.

But once the colony has developed, the musty, damp smell can change into an odor that resembles something else entirely. Homeowners have described the smell of mold as all of the following:

  • Wet socks
  • Rotting wood
  • Rotting vegetables
  • Dirt

There are several factors that can determine the particular smell of mold. For example, different species of mold can have slightly different odors. In addition, the ventilation of the home or individual room can dictate how pungent the odor is.

Before mold gets too much of a foothold, it may not have an odor at all. But just because you can’t smell it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

More important than the smell are the effects that mold can have on your respiratory system. Mold is one of the most common allergens and is often responsible for what looks like colds and flu, especially in the winter when we are more likely to be confined inside our homes, offices and schools.

The smell of mold itself isn’t responsible for the following symptoms, but the mold spores that produce the odors are:

Stuffy or runny nose
Coughing and sneezing
Shortness of breath
Throat irritation

All forms of mold – whether labeled “toxic” or not – can be very bad for your health and should be taken care of right away. The complexity of mold removal is dependent upon the severity of the mold growth and its location.
But first, you need to be sure mold is actually the problem. So let’s look at the step you need to take if you smell mold in your home.

What to Do if You Suspect Mold in Your Home

If you even think mold could be present in your home, you need to investigate further to make sure, one way or the other.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts to remember if you think you smell mold in your home.


Open windows.

This may help alleviate the smell a little, but it won’t get rid of it completely. And what’s more, opening windows can introduce even more moisture into the air and lead to even more mold.

Use air fresheners and candles.

Air fresheners and candles just mask the smell of mold, much like opening the windows. When the pleasant scent is gone, the mold smell will remain.

Spray it with bleach.

Bleach was once the recommended cleaning method for mold, but OSHA and the EPA have recently concluded that other cleaners, antimicrobials specifically designed to kill and prevent mold, are much more effective and less damaging to surfaces.

DO …

Have an inspection done ASAP.

You can clamor around yourself looking for mold with a flashlight and a prayer, or you can call a professional mold company to do it for you. It’s a lot easier to let a pro handle mold inspections because they have so much experience locating mold in even hard to reach places. Pure Maintenance of St. Louis offers mold inspections for homes and businesses in the area.

Remove the mold.

Obviously, the next step would be having the mold removed. The safest removal method is entrusting a certified, insured mold removal team to perform mold removal and remediation if necessary. Remediation can stabilize the mold levels in your home so you don’t continue to have outbreaks of mold growth.

Get your family out of the home until the problem is under control.

This may only be necessary in extreme cases, especially if someone in your home has allergies or a preexisting respiratory condition. Besides allergy-like symptoms, toxic mold can cause health problems like dizziness, memory loss, headaches, and lack of focus. Being in the presence of mold for an extended time can cause these symptoms to be quite severe.

Practice prevention in the future.

There are many steps you can take to prevent future mold issues. Ventilate with exhaust fans and ceiling fans to keep moisture out of the air. In conjunction, you can use dehumidifiers throughout the home.

The best piece of advice we can provide is to closely monitor the moisture levels in your home. High humidity weather is problematic when it comes to indoor mold growth, but other factors, like appliance leaks, roof leaks, and cracked foundations, can also play a part in mold growth.

Watch for these situations, and closely monitor the affected areas to catch mold in its earliest stages – maybe even before its tell-tale musty odor develops.

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