It’s a fact that every home has its own unique odor or smell. A home’s “smell” reflects the nature of the home’s environment and those that live there. There are other factors too that also play a role in the odor in a home and some of them can be cause for concern. Environmental factors such as heavy rain and seasonal changes can bring with them that “musty” smell, but when does that smell mean you should be worried about a bigger problem? The first thing to know is the difference between a “musty” smell and a “moldy” smell.
Musty or Moldy? What’s the Difference?
If you get a whiff of a musty or moldy smell, you know that something isn’t right. These smells are caused by the presence of mold or mildew, both of which are fungi and thrive in moist places but there are differences between the two.
Mold, as a substance, is typically thicker and has the ability to penetrate deep into the material it grows on, therefore can cause more structural damage. It can grow many places, but is primarily found on building materials like flooring, walls, ceilings and home contents like clothing, books, and cardboard. Mildew, on the other hand, is a powdery or downy substance that grows on surface of things, most often plant materials like flowering or decorative plants and fruits and veggies.
The main way to tell the two apart is how strong the odor is that you smell. Musty odors are not as strong as moldy odors. Either way, smelling a musty or moldy order should alert you to the possibility of mold growth. It is important to take the appropriate steps quickly not only to prevent damage to your home, but also prevent a lingering musty odor that you just can’t seem to get rid of.
Musty Smell and Mold Growth Prevention
- Investigate Possible Sources of Moisture Buildup: Check for any water leaking from the plumbing, roof, and walls and make sure all air conditioning units and drain lines aren’t clogged/leaking. Also look for condensation around exterior walls and windows and examine your fridge/freezer drip pans and door seals. Wastebaskets and trashcans should also be looked at to make sure there is no liquid waste lingering behind, as well as any materials that may have gotten wet in the past (like carpet, cardboard, magazines, books, newspapers, etc.)
- Avoid Moisture: High humidity levels, general dampness, and recurring condensation can all cause a musty smell. Stay on top of higher moisture areas since dampness is a breeding ground for mold growth and it’s most likely beginning to form once you notice the musty smell.
- Clean Leaks Right Away: Everything must be thoroughly dry within 48 hours, otherwise mold will begin to grow in the areas that are still damp.
The Consequence of Mold Growth
An even more dangerous consequence of mold growth is the spread of mold throughout your home. From its breeding ground in the drip pan and other areas of your home, millions of airborne mold spores are spread every hour. The microscopic particulates have the perfect opportunity to slip into your AC systems airflow and circulate through the HVAC ducts, contaminating your indoor air. Mold spores can cause health issues, asthma, and allergies, especially affecting those with weakened immune systems. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) also links household mold to the development of childhood asthma.
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