What Does Mold Smell Like?

As a homeowner, taking preventative action against the presence of mold is important maintenance. If left untreated, the excessive moisture can cause permanent home damage to furniture, walls and ceilings, as well as stain where it is growing. Most importantly, mold can have adverse health effects on members of your household — including pets — if not promptly tested for and remediated.

With this in mind, all homeowners benefit to know how to identify mold in its early stages before it causes irreparable damage. Visually, it is impossible to know what every variation of mold looks like, because there are more than 100,000 known species of it. We are used to identifying mold as fuzzy, pink, green, or as a black patch or stain, but mold can be many other colors and textures. Here is more information on what black mold looks like, and mold in general.

Some mold can also be identified by smell. In general, the smell of mold is unpleasant, and smells like something is moist in the room. Some people compare it to the smell of wet socks, or rotten wood or paper. When mold eats, grows and multiplies, it releases Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOC). There are many of these compounds, or chemicals, that are released as mold grows, but some of the most common have smells that are pungent and musty. Their scent is also described as earthy or meaty, likened to the smell following rain. Others have an acetone, or camphor-like odor, with some described as herbaceous, nutty or fatty. Another MVOC releases an alcohol fermentation smell.

As you can see, mold can emit many different types of odor, just like it can come in many different colors and textures. So, how do you know if what you smell is indeed mold, instead of just regular smells in your home? For one thing, if aromatic mold is present, the smell will not fade no matter what you do to ventilate the room. Mold can grow inside wallpaper, walls, basements, ventilation ducts, under carpets and floorboards, so it is possible to smell mold without actually seeing it. Mold’s odor is persistent. It can even be a smell that you get used to.

If you’re unsure if your house does smell musty or earthy, it can be helpful to step outside, breathe fresh air for a few moments, and then step back inside your home to reevaluate the smell. A persistently musty smell in your home can also be an indication of mildew. Mildew is a form of fungus that can start growing on damp surfaces within 24 to 48 hours. Mildew is an early stage of mold. Mildew is a surface type of mold that doesn’t ruin home structure. It often makes the surface look dirty, when it is in fact mildew.

If the air in your home is persistently musty, and continues to smell like mold no matter what you do to ventilate the air, we strongly recommend you take immediate action to get your air tested by a certified mold testing and inspection company. Our suggestion is that if you even have a suspicion that mold is present, to act on your instincts with a certified mold test. Delaying a certified mold test can cause moisture to spread and the risk of mold to worsen in your home, threatening your household’s health.

Certified mold testing from Mold Test USA provides you with air and surface samples to identify:

  1. if you have a mold problem
  2. how big the problem is
  3. the type of mold present
  4. if it is toxic
  5. any health problems associated with that type of mold

Certified mold testing is an essential first step if you even suspect mold is in your home. Working with a company that provides only mold testing and inspection services is recommended because there is no conflict of interest, and therefore no pressure on you as the homeowner to remediate. Companies that provide mold testing in addition to mold remediation services cannot always make that guarantee, because they have incentive to find mold in the home.


Health Effects

There is no way to get rid of the smell of mold in the home without actually removing the mold. Household cleaners and air fresheners may temporarily mask the odor, but it will not permanently remove the odor. If you are smelling mold in your home, it’s important to realize that you are inhaling mold compounds and — most likely — spores.

Not all mold is toxic or harmful to your health, but touching or inhaling mold or mildew can cause adverse health effects. Inhaling mold spores could be the cause of allergic reactions or symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, cold or flu symptoms, irritated or itchy throat, difficulty breathing, headaches and more.

It is not uncommon for people to suffer from mold symptoms and not realize it. Many write these symptoms off as a common cold or fever. Children, the elderly, pets, or sickness-prone people are especially susceptible to adverse reactions from mold in the home. If a member of your household is sick for no apparent reason, mold is a possible culprit. The severity and type of allergic reaction to mold depends on the species of mold growing in the home. Here is more information on how mold affects your pet’s health.


Professional Testing v. DIY Remediation

Thanks to the Internet, a quick Google search for how to remove the smell of mold in the home, or remediate mold yourself, brings up a lot of how-to articles and videos. Approaching mold remediation as a DIY project is not recommended for a number of reasons.

First, DIY mold removal assumes you know exactly where the mold has spread. This is relying on your visual identification of mold to be cleaned by you, the homeowner. However, as we’ve previously discussed, not all mold can be identified with the naked eye. And not all mold has a noticeable odor. Mold can hide in mushy drywall, damp hardwood flooring underneath carpet, behind wallpaper, under windows and in your home’s ducts. It’s impossible to know exactly where mold reaches in your home without a certified mold test, which tells you not only where the mold is located, but the source of its growth.

Second, improper cleaning of mold in the home can actually cause it to spread further. Without the proper containment setup, removal equipment and air filtration, your cleaning and scrubbing can send the mold spores airborne. Then, what started as mold in one area of your home is likely affecting another room.

Lastly, do-it-yourself mold remediation does not take into account the type of mold present in your home and its potential health effects. You are putting you and your household’s health at risk by attempting DIY removal without having information on the mold’s toxicity. Certified mold testing does provide toxicity reports and identification of the exact species of mold present. If a mold is toxic, there are certain precautions that need to be taken during remediation, and this is best left to trained professionals.


Odors After Remediation

The size and severity of the mold issue in your home can contribute to the amount of odor present. We have found that many clients wonder if professional mold remediation will only increase the amount of odor in the home due to high-powered chemicals. This is not the case. Mold remediation companies tightly seal off the area exposed to mold with plastic sheeting that is secured with duct tape. During remediation, the team runs air machines and air scrubbers to vent out odors and mold particles. Teams will often deodorize the air after the treatment to make sure there are no lingering malodors. Mold removal equipment has become more sophisticated over the years and includes non-toxic biodegradable cleaning products. This, along with the protocols to keep air ventilated, ensures your home will have its freshness restored after mold removal.

Once mold is remediated, any adverse health effects should improve. However, effects can be persistent if there was long-term exposure to the mold. If you receive professional mold testing, we encourage you to take your toxicity report to your physician to help assist their treatment of any potential health effects.

Professional mold testing is an essential step before mold remediation. If you suspect mold is present in your home, call Mold Test USA today to schedule a mold test. We will perform our signature 52-point inspection to give you unbiased results about the type of mold in your home, the source of the moisture, and recommended next steps to handle your mold growth.


Let experience guide you!

Mold Test USA is “Your Personal Mold Consultant!”

CALL 1-877-701-2606 TODAY!

We have experienced mold specialists standing by to answer any questions that you may have regarding residential and commercial mold testing and mold inspections!



CALL 1-877-701-2606 TODAY!

We have experienced mold specialists standing by to answer any questions that you may have regarding residential and commercial mold testing and mold inspections!