Does Mold Have a Certain Smell?

Mold is a type of fungus that is characterized by its growth through hyphae – multicellular filaments. There are many species of molds, and they can be found on any wet or moist surface. Some species can be found on food, as well.

Mold grows as a single organism, a mycelium made up of a large number of hyphae. The hyphae are usually colorless and can contain one to several nuclei. The characteristic color of the mold comes from the overproduction of conidia – these are asexual reproduction spores grown within the hyphae.

Usually, mold is harmless to humans and animals, though some types can be dangerous and can even cause various diseases. Some species produce chemicals known as mycotoxins.

But, does mold have a certain smell? Yes, it does, and it is often described as unpleasant. Keep reading for more info on the smell of mold and how to deal with it.

Moldy, Musty, Pungent

Mold can have a wide variety of smells, depending on the species and the severity of the infestation. The smells of mold can be musty, earthy, and pungent. Some types of mold have been described to have a meaty odor, or they smell similar to the earth after the rain.

Once an odorous species of mold starts growing in a particular room or area of a house or apartment, it is there to stay until it is disposed of. No amount of aerosols or improved ventilation can help once mold sets in.

Apart from being unpleasant, the smell of mold is detrimental to human health in the long run. Breathing moldy air for extended periods of time can seriously damage the respiratory tract and compromise the immune system. Consequently, it is very important to find mold as soon as you smell it and deal with it promptly.

Finding Mold in Your House

The key to the successful disposal of mold is in the early discovery, for mold that’s been around for too long can damage the walls, furniture, and health of the occupants.

While your nose is your best tool for finding mold, it mustn’t be the only one, as some species of mold are odorless. That’s where mold test kits come in, and doing visual checks is efficient too.

But most of the time, the characteristic smell lets you know that there’s mold in a room. Even if there’s no strong odor, your nose might start to itch and you might sneeze.

If the smell is present, it will be unpleasant and easy to distinguish from other smells. Commonly, it is reminiscent of a wet cotton towel or a gym shirt that someone forgot to take out of the bag after coming home.

To make sure, follow the smell and find where the mold grows. Due to its tendency to grow in dark and moist places, you might be required to move the furniture or use a flashlight to find mold. If you suspect there’s mold in your house, make sure to check sinks, water pipes, valves, floor boards, carpets, corners, storage bags and boxes, attic, basement, and other rarely used and dark places.

Alternatively, you can buy mold testing kits. They come in two basic variants – air testers and surface testers. Both varieties are pretty accurate, though they yield the best results when used in combination.

How Mold Affects Your Health

Even though most species are harmless, long term exposure to mold can have significant effects on the health of your family and pets. Children, seniors, and individuals with compromised immune systems run a higher risk of allergic reactions and respiratory problems.

Depending on the species of mold and the person’s health, allergic reactions to mold can range from very mild to seriously severe. The symptoms of mold allergy can look very similar to those of a common cold, which means that mold might go unrecognized for a long time.

Dealing with Mold – DIY Approach

If there is mold in your home, it is important to deal with it as fast as possible. If you decide to take the matters into your own hands and dispose of it yourself, you’ll need the proper tools for the job. These include a face mask, gloves, ammonia, a bucket, an empty spray bottle, laundry detergent, a wet vacuum, an old white towel, cloths, and water.

First, you should remove any movable furniture from the room where you want to clean mold. After that, use the wet vacuum to pick up any water or moisture from the affected surfaces. Alternatively, you can use a towel or cleaning cloths.

Next, you should make a mixture of water and laundry detergent in a large bucket. After that, sprinkle some detergent directly onto the affected area. Take a cloth and dip it into the bucket. Then, use the cloth to scrub the mold off the wall, floor, carpet, or a piece of furniture. When you’re done cleaning, vacuum the excess water again.

Dealing with Mold – Professional Approach

As an alternative to the DIY method, you can hire professional mold cleaners to do it for you. Of course, this is the more expensive way to deal with the problem, but it is also the better one for home owners inexperienced in dealing with mold. If done improperly, DIY mold removal might help spread mold around the house.

On the other hand, a reputable professional testing and removal team will accurately assess the severity of the problem, pinpoint the exact locations of infestation, and determine any potential health hazards before the cleaning commences. It is worth mentioning that these professionals most likely use much stronger chemicals than what’s at your disposal.

If you’re worried about any unpleasant odors lingering on after the mold has been removed, you can rest easy. A professional team will seal off all affected areas, and then treat them one by one. They may even use deodorizers to kill any potential smells before you and your family return home.


There are also steps you can take to prevent mold outbreaks in your home. You should avoid moisture, high humidity, and repeated condensation, as these can produce pungent, earthy smells. In turn, the dampness can facilitate the growth of mold.

When you notice a mold-like smell, make sure to check the drain lines, the plumbing and taps, the walls and roofs, the basement, corners, fridge door seals, indoor plants, wastebaskets, the flashing around windows, and any other place you find suspicious.

Final Thoughts

Though mostly harmless, mold can cause a wide range of health problems. These usually happen in the respiratory system. Allergic reactions to mold are similar to flu and can easily be mistaken for it.

Considering the variety of mold species, does mold have a certain smell? There are some odorless species but most mold does have a musty smell. The smell can’t be removed without the mold being removed as well. It is recommended to deal with mold as soon as you detect it, as it can harm your immune system if you postpone it for too long.