What Does Mildew Smell like – Identifying Mildew Smell & Dangers

Not sure if it’s Mildew that you can smell in your home? How do you even tell if it’s mildew?

In this guide you will learn:

  • Does Mildew Smell and What does it actually smells like,
  • How to tell If it’s Mildew or Mold that you are smelling,
  • Dangers of Mildew & If Mildew smell can make you sick,
  • How to Prevent the Mildew smell in your Home & Bathroom.

Mildew indeed does have a specific odor that is not very pleasant to smell. The foul smell of mildew sometimes could even be compared to that of wet socks.

What Does Mildew Smell Like?

Mildew usually has a damp, musty smell to it that can resemble odors such as rotting wood or wet carpets.

When Mildew forms, grows and spreads it gives off a musty odor that is from the chemical compounds that is released at different stages of the growth of the mildew.

Mildew can smell earthy, damp and tangy. These horrible smells come from the microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC) mildew releases as it grows.

However, Mildew (a Type of Mold) can have different smells to different people. Should you begin smelling some foul odors within your home that is almost always the first sign that mildew/mold is growing somewhere.

If this is the case, you may want to track down where it’s coming from since it could be from mold and you want to catch it as soon as possible to prevent it from getting worse.

If the scent is not that strong at first then it’s probably that the mildew just started forming. Some types of molds can be hazardous to your health though so keep that in mind.

This especially applies to people with asthma, allergies and compromise immune systems.

Also, in this article, we’ll be covering how to prevent mildew from forming and how to clean it up.

Mildew vs Mold smell – How to Tell Them Apart?

Mildew refers to different kinds of mold or fungus.

Molds includes all species of microscopic fungi that grow in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae.

Mold can grow on any organic matter such as clothing, walls, floors and ceilings to name a few. 

Mildew, however, tends to thrive on shower walls, window sills and places with high moisture pressure.

Another difference between mold and mildew is that mold usually looks slimy and fuzzy while mildew looks powdery. So, it’s important to know the difference so you know what you are dealing with.

Also, the smell between the two are different as well.

With mildew the scent can be compared to that of damp socks – a mild, musty scene.

While mold is a stronger, more pungent odor. The reason mold has a stronger odor is that it grows and produces MVOC’s (microbial volatile organic compounds).

Suspecting Mildew?

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Is The Smell of Mildew Harmful?

Moldy environments don’t always cause health risks, but it can cause some symptoms such as throat irritation, nasal stuffiness, coughing and eye irritation.

If the mildew is not removed though, and continues to grow, the health risks could be more severe over time.

These issues can be more intense for people with breathing problems such as asthma.

The best way to avoid this is if you detect mildew in your home, to track it down and discard of it immediately

What Happens if You Smell Mildew?

The same health issues that happen with mold can happen with mildew. As mentioned before, breathing issues such as nasal and sinus congestion, eye and nose irritation can affect you.

All of these issues can be more severe if you already suffer from pre-existing conditions such as asthma or allergies.

Overall, mildew is not as dangerous to your health like mold can be. Mildew should still be taken seriously thought and be removed as soon as possible once identified.

This will help benefit any damages that can occur to your health and your home.

Can Mildew Smell Make You Sick?

Mildew usually affects plants and crops, but if it gets inside your home, it can cause health risks.

Whether or not you’re allergic to mildew, it can irritate your skin, nose, throat and lungs. Mildew can make you sick in many different ways depending on your reaction to it.

Some symptoms may be mild, but other symptoms can be more severe. Especially if you already have respiratory issues like asthma.

If you sense you’re smelling mildew it’s best to keep your distance until it’s removed completely.

Mildew Smell in House

Should you start to smell a musty, foul smell in your home this could be strongly be attributed to mildew.

Some of the most common causes for smell of mildew in your home could be – leaky pipes, damaged roof, high humidity or even exposed dirt in a crawlspace.

These can all lead to moisture build up along with darkened corners and stagnant air which then will create mildew.

These odors can even come from the walls in your home if the mildew makes its way in there.

Also, your crawlspace could be a factor if moisture has built up and is now giving off and odor caused by mildew.

What Should You Do if You Smell Mildew in Your Home

The first thing you want to do is find the source of where the mildew is coming from.

Once it is found, protect yourself with the proper respiratory gear such as gloves and a mask.

Then, mix one cup of bleach with one gallon of water and begin cleaning the infected area.

Scrub until all the mildew is gone. Repeat the previous steps until the area is clean and after that dry the area with a towel.

This process is the best way to remove the mildew and the odor.

Some items you will need to complete this are:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Face mask
  • Bleach
  • Toothbrush
  • Sponge
  • Towels/rags

Another thing to do to make sure the mildew doesn’t return is to maximize the air circulation by placing a fan in the area you cleaned.

Leave the fans on to allow the area to dry fully.

Preventing The Smell of Mildew in Your Home

Here are 9 signature ways to prevent the smell of mildew in your home. Some of these have already been mentioned as well.

  1. Locate the source of the smell. If the smell is one room rather than the whole house it will be easier to treat.
  2. Open as many windows and doors as possible to help circulate air
  3. Use fans to circulate air throughout the home to build up even more air flow
  4. Boil lemon peels – once boiled, place the pot in the musty area and make sure air is circulating whether by a window or fan. This will help the fragrance of the lemons to become an air freshener.
  5. Deep clean and remove any dust in the contaminated area
  6. Have carpets deep cleaned professionally
  7. Use air purifiers to remove dust particles
  8. Use baking soda and white vinegar to clean area
  9. Call a professional cleaning company to remove the remaining household odors

Mildew Smell in Bathroom

The most common cause of mildew smell in your bathroom is excess moisture.

The smell of mildew can come from moisture in the shower, darkness in the bathroom or high levels of humidity.

Should the bathroom not be properly cleaned over time then mildew or mold can form which will eventually give off its foul stench.

If you are wondering what does Mildew smell like in a bathroom, then The smell of mildew in bathroom is similar to that if mildew were in other parts of the home – like wet socks, rotting wood or paper.

If the smell persists you probably have mold, but if it goes away then it is probably mildew.

Preventing Mildew Smell in a Bathroom

The obvious way to get rid of the smell of mildew is to clean the infected area(s). 

Bleach or even vinegar are both very effective to get rid of mildew smells, only make sure not to mix them as when combined they form a toxic gas.

Try using a cleaning solution with one part bleach and one part water and wipe down any parts of the bathroom that give off a mildew smell.

Once you have wiped down the bathroom also check the shower curtain for any odors. You can wipe the curtain down too, but if the smell persists you may want to buy a new curtain.

After cleaning the bathroom make sure you give it good ventilation and give it regular cleanings.

If you can’t find the source of the mildew smell in your bathroom…

If you smell mildew in the bathroom first you want to check for any leaks near water sources. The search for any water damage on the floor, walls or ceilings.

If you don’t find any water issues try using an air purifier or odor eliminator. Should the smell still persist and you can’t locate the source, your best bet is to call a professional who can track down the source and help you get rid of the mildew for good.

Mildew Smell on Clothes

Mildew on clothes will smell similar to that if it were in a room in your house. The same musty, dank odor.

The best way to remove this smell from your clothes is to use baking soda and vinegar when washing your clothes. Using a half a cup of each of these should remove the smell.

You may have to wash a load more than use with these items to get rid of the smell.

If your clothes smell like mildew after taking them out of the dryer be sure to check and see there is no built-up lint inside the dryer.

In Shoes – if you detect an odor coming from you shoes that resemble that of mildew this could be from a build up of sweat and or damp socks. To treat this, add ½ cup of baking soda into the shoe(s) overnight. This should dissolve the mildew odor.

Washer Smells Like Mildew

Should your washer start to smell like mildew then try these steps to remove the odor:

  1. Clean the rubber gasket – wipe it down thoroughly between the rubber folds
  2. Wipe down and clean the washer drum inside the door – clean the front and back window with ammonia
  3. Remove and clean the dispenser drawer of your washer – trying using a toothbrush or sponge to clean it
  4. Run an empty wash cycle with baking soda – this will help dissolve any dirt or grease
  5. Run an empty wash cycle with vinegar – this will clean up any bacteria
  6. An empty Wash cycle with added blach can also help– this will clean any germs and bacteria thoroughly
  7. Periodically open the drain pump filter and wipe out any moisture and residue buildup to prevent mildew buildup.

Common Causes for Mildew Smell in Washer/Dryer

This could be from the clothes you are washing or drying. Also, any bacteria, soap, scum or dirt that gets stuck in the washer or dryer could give off an odor of mildew over time if not cleaned properly.

Be sure to clean your washer and dryer from time to time to avoid mildew within these appliances.

If your car smells like Mildew…

This can stem from mold/mildew in the vent system, carpet or headliner.

A clogged cabin air filter or a leaky trunk can also be the culprit. Should suspect mildew in your car you will want to clean it with anti-mildew solution.

When To Call a Professional

If you happen to smell mildew and can’t find the source of where it’s coming from, then the next step would be to call a trained professional who can remedy the situation. That’s just one instance though.

Should there be so much mildew you can’t handle it yourself or if there are susceptible people in the home where the mildew could be hazardous, call a professional immediately.

You don’t want the mildew becoming a greater problem than what it already is.

We have Mold Remediation Technicians that can help Find the Source of the Mildew ,Remove it from your home & help Prevent it from returning.

For Disasters of all Sizes,available in 95% of the USA

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