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How To Deal With Musty Odors In Your Home


Don’t you just hate that smell?

If your home smells musty, it’s likely that you have an issue with either mold or mildew. It doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter, the dank smell of a wet basement comes to life every time we open our front door. We try to fix the problem by opening windows and turning on fans, but nothing seems to work. Scented sprays may temporarily mask the odors, but they don’t last for very long and they don’t fix the underlying problem.

If you have musty smells in your home or basement and want to fix it, this article is for you.

What to do When You Notice a Musty Odor

If you notice a earthy smell or musty smell, you might have a mold problem. To determine if it’s mold, ask yourself these questions:

• Does the intensity of the smell change?
• Does the musty smell get worse in the summer? Or get stronger after the rain?
• Do you feel bad or poorly when around musty smells?
• Do you just “feel uncomfortable” in the areas where the bad odor is?
• Does your basement or house feel damp?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you likely have a mold problem that needs to be dealt with immediately. Before we get into how to solve the issue, first we need to determine how serious the issue is.

How to Determine the Severity of Your Mold Problem

1. Look Out for Humidity Problems In Your Home

First, you need to know what mold needs moisture to grow. When you smell musty or earthlike odors, there is likely either a water or humidity problem. So this is a good place to start. You’ll want to identify if any of these conditions are happening around your home.

2. Monitor the Relative Humidity Rh

RH stands for Relative Humidity. It’s easy to check with inexpensive devices available on the market. We recommend getting at least three Rh meters and confirming that they work properly by placing them next to each other and checking their readings. The readings don’t have to be exactly the same but should be close when put side by side.

Next, check the levels throughout your home. Some types of mold can grow in humidity levels as low as 50-60%, so the best scenario is that your readings come in below 50%. Reducing humidity levels should be done after the mold is eliminated, not before. Certain types of mold grow more aggressively and release increased amounts of mold spores when deprived of humidity.

3. Look for Water/Moisture Intrusions

High humidity is the number one culprit for mold, so water intrusion specialists typically use infrared cameras & moisture meters to determine where air and moisture problems are coming from. It’s much more accurate than trying to “sense” by hand. You might be able to feel is drywall is damp, but you can’t feel all of the building materials underneath. It’s nearly impossible to know how moist your home or office is just by touch.

If you have exposed basement foundations walls that are accessible, look for a white color powdery substance on the wall surface. This is called effervescence and it is the result of hydrostatic water pressure forcing water moisture through the foundation wall. When this happens, it leaves mineral deposits behind. This is a good clue that you have moisture entering the basement from below ground level, and it’s very common.

Final Thoughts

To keep mold from returning in the future, you need to identify and eliminate the causes. But it’s also important to know the extent of contamination so that no areas are left untreated.

To correctly scope work and make sure the air is safe to breathe, mold testing can prove invaluable. This is especially true when checking for a suitable environment in which fixtures may have been contaminated with mold.

Hiring a competent professional is essential. So, ask about their technical training, licensing, experience, and other equipment. These questions will help you avoid hiring someone who isn’t right for the job.

At Violet Frog Environmental we wish you good health and we’re always here to help if you have concerns with mold or moisture.