What Does Mold Smell Like?

What Does Mold Smell Like?

Imagine walking into one of the lesser-used rooms in your home and experiencing an unpleasant smell. You try to air it out to invite fresh air and remove the odor. However, this doesn’t eliminate the stench. If you’ve ever been in this situation, you may have a mold problem in your home.

About 20-50% of homes suffer from dampness, which is a conducive breeding ground for mold. Properties with insufficient ventilation, heating, or insulation will most likely have some form of mold growth. It’s also reported that billions of dollars are spent by households on the treatment of allergic rhinitis caused by dampness and indoor mold.

Because mold isn’t always visible, it’s easy to overlook the damage it can cause in the long run. If you need help with mold removal, you should look for mold removal experts on Home Advisor. You should also invest in the mold removal products to hamper and prevent their growth after the professionals have eliminated them.

In the below article, we’ll cover what mold smells like and other potentials odors that might smell similar to mold.

What Does Mold Smell Like?

If you’ve ever experienced walking into a home that has leaking or has been flooded, you may notice a strange, musty smell in the room. However, if it’s your first time encountering the smell, you might not recognize it as mold right away.

As mold breeds and spreads, they emit gaseous chemicals as a byproduct of fungal metabolism, called microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs). Different mold types produce different odors, which can make it challenging to identify whether the smell is from mold or some other causes.

The smell of mold can have some of these common characteristics:

Musty or Stale

A musty or stale smell is similar to old socks that haven’t dried properly. It can also be likened to a room that hasn’t been aired out for a long time. This type of smell typically means that mold is just starting to form. To prevent further growth, you should look for their possible habitats, particularly damp areas in the home, such as the bathrooms, laundry room, kitchen, or basement.


Mold may also emit an earthy smell, especially if they’re growing in damp wood, like pillars or walls. The odor is like a dense forest or the dirt underneath decaying leaves, especially after a bout of rain. It might seem harmless and even agreeable for some, but it indicates a mold problem that should be eliminated as soon as possible.


Having a damp smell in your home is an indicator that there’s a leak. Hence, it’s highly likely that there’s also mold growth somewhere in your home. As mentioned, mold thrives in damp places, so smelling something wet can be a sign that your residence might also have a mold problem.

A damp smell is similar to that of a river or rain. It can be noticeable because of the mold spores that evaporate along with the water vapors.

Rotting or Fermenting

If something smells like aging cheese, decaying fruit, or fermenting alcohol, you should also look for visible signs of mold. The odor can propel you to action because it can become unbearable. More than musty, earthy, or damp smells, rotting or fermenting odors can mean that mold is rapidly growing and spreading. 

Sour or Tangy

Aside from a rotting smell, mold can also emit a pungent odor. It can be similar to the smell of armpits after an intense workout. Again, this type of smell can be excruciating, especially if you have kids, so make sure to contact professional mold removal experts right away to address the issue.

Household Odors Similar to Mold

Household Odors Similar to MoldMold is a relatively common household problem. However, there might also be other causes for the moldy smell in your home, such as:

  • Wet or dirty laundry
  • Unattended garbage
  • Rotten food
  • Pet waste
  • Pests
  • Natural gas leaks
  • HVAC problems
  • Sewage or drainage issues

Other Mold Warning Signs

Other Mold Warning Signs

These smells can be an early indicator of mold. If you notice any of these smells, you should verify your suspicions by inspecting your home for visible signs of mold. This way, you can nip the problem in the bud as soon as possible. 

Another sign that you might have mold in your home is when you or your family experience allergic reactions. Coughing and sneezing are common reactions to mold spores that float in the air. Having a sore and itchy throat or congested and runny nose can also be signs of a mold problem.

These symptoms can compound and lead to other issues, such as sinusitis, headaches, wheezing, and breathing difficulties. You or your family might also experience skin irritations. When left ignored, these will likely result in more respiratory problems.

Ways to Prevent Mold

Ways to Prevent Mold

If you have an existing mold problem in your home, it’s best to contact professionals to remove all its traces. Afterward, make sure to follow these tips to prevent mold from growing again in your house:

Monitor the Humidity

Make sure to keep your home’s humidity levels as low as possible. It should be no higher than 50% all day, especially during winter when you use the heater often. You can use a meter to monitor the humidity. An air conditioner or dehumidifier can also help you keep the level low. 

Boost Airflow

Whenever possible, open your windows to let the air flow freely. You can also use exhaust fans to vent air outside the home, especially in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. 

Watch Out for Leaks

Be on the lookout for leaks in the plumbing, particularly in the roofs and walls, to prevent moisture and mold growth. Fix them right away when you spot them.

Dry Wet Items Immediately

In case your home gets flooded, you should remove objects that have been soaked and dry them out under the sun. This includes furniture, carpets, and other items that trap water.


Mold is a common problem for most households. A musty, tangy, or rotting stench can be an indicator of mold presence in your home. If you encounter these odors, you should look for visible signs of the fungi to prevent their growth. If you’re looking for ways to get rid of mold smells in your house, make sure you read our detailed post.