Common Questions with Dr. Pratt-Hyatt: What Does Mold Smell Like?

Ever wonder what the smell is? Dr. Matt talks about how to identify the scent of mold and what exposure to these mVOC's can cause in this month's blog.

Hello everyone,

In the next several posts I will be answering some of the more common questions we receive.  One of the most frequent questions that we receive is “What does black mold smell like.”   First, where do the smells come from?  These compounds that you are smelling are microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs), which are similar to the VOCs that you will find in soap and perfume.  Some of the most common mVOCs are:  Ethanol, 1-octen-3-ol, 2-octen-1-ol, and benzyl cyanide. MVOCs produced during secondary metabolism include 2-methyl-isoborneol, geosmin (1-10-dimethyl-trans-9-decalol) and terpenes.

When asked how black mold smells like to them, some people compare it to rotting wood or paper. Some others report it as smelling like cedar or dirty wet socks. In any case, wet, musty, and stale are some of the adjectives that best describe its smell.

Exposure the mVOCs can cause:

  • headaches
  • nasal irritation
  • dizziness
  • fatigue and
  • nausea

One thing to keep in mind is that if you are smelling mold in your home that there might be other hidden problems that need to be remedied.  Please call us to schedule an inspection.

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