The permeating smells and aromas inside of your home can be a combination of several factors within the environment – the number of occupants, how many pets reside in the indoor space, the cleanliness in the home, and the upkeep and maintenance performed to help keep an efficient and safe indoor environment. There may be upcoming smells that will spring out of nowhere in the home, and these are usually the odors that most homeowners will become weary off when they start to smell it in their personal indoor environment. Among those odors, mildew and musty smell(s) that form in the home are one of the most concerning and additionally an odor that can be hard to identify the culprits behind the brewing smell – as there are many potential sources inside of a home that may acquire this strong-smelling odor.

When it comes to how mildew and musty odors can form inside of a home, it may surprise you to learn the conditions inside of your home that may be behind this odorous development in your home’s air space. If your home has been exposed to flooding, sewage back-ups, roof and plumbing leaks, damp basements, high humidity, and poor indoor ventilation, this can all lead to and create the risk of mildew growth inside of your home over time. The first sign of mildew progression in your home, in most cases, will start with a noticeable mildew and musty odor in the environment that will spread rapidly throughout the air space. As a homeowner begins to identify this mildew odor, it will be crucial what steps are taken next to eradicate and restore your home back to normal conditions.

In this article we are going to learn more about the potential risks of mildew growth in a home, how you can best identify mildew smell, and what can be done to remove mildew smell from inside of your home.

What is Mildew

What is MildewMildew is a form of fungi that is commonly found growing in indoor environments where moisture is present that will allow for it to grow rapidly in the indoor space. Primarily, mildew is a plant disease that is known to cause great potential damage to crops and plants when present outdoors, and when indoors it can grow on surfaces, corroding the material, and emitting a distinguishable odor throughout the entire environment. This type of fungi can form unsuspectingly and rapidly inside a home, as the key characteristics of mildew can be hard to identify on the onset.

Unlike mold fungi that has several hundreds of thousands of different species, mildew is not the same. Mildew is typically classified and identified by two different forms; powdery and downy. Powdery mildew will mainly impact flowering plants and appears as a white or gray splotchy pattern that will over time turn yellowish brown or black. Whereas downy mildew is found primarily in agricultural products like grapes and potatoes, and it can be found as yellow spots that eventually turn brown.

Is Mildew and Mold the Same Thing?

The interchangeability of mildew and mold in the eyes of most people is high, as they are often known to be similar, if not the same to a wide range of individuals. However, although mildew and mold share a number of similarities, they are not the same thing, and each have very distinct differences from one another. Mildew, unlike mold, will only harm the food it grows on and not the surfaces in which it forms on inside of a home or other indoor environment. Additionally, mildew will not produce as hazardous of mold spores into the environment as mold, as the mildew spores will only elicit minor health effects in those exposed such as coughing, headaches, or even potential issues breathing.

Whereas mold, in comparison to mildew, is a potentially toxic fungi that will aggressively spread on the onset inside of your home. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), mold can cause many health effects including the exacerbation of asthma, allergies, health issues for those with immune-compromised problems, chronic lung disease, and other debilitating health issues. Also, mold will become a problem in home’s as it will start to work at and deteriorate the surfaces and items in a home as the mold further progresses.

Mold vs Mildew Smell

Mildew vs mold smells are very similar to one another and thus it can be difficult to distinguish the differences between these two different fungal growths in your home. What does mildew smell like? The smell of mold and mildew is hard to determine as they both share very similar properties that will become easily interchanged, since they are both fungal growths that thrive off of moisture. When it comes to describing the odor produced from mold, it is similarly compared to as rotting wood or paper, or even the smell of dirty moisture-filled socks. Mildew, just like mold, is pretty similar to that odor of mildew that hangs in the air of your home – it will smell like moisture mixed with a rotting smell like mold.

Why Does My House Smell Musty?

If you have recently bought an older home or your older home has developed a musty odor you may find it surprising to begin to smell this odor throughout your house. The stale, musty air inside of a home can be stirred and created from a range of different factors within this space that could be the direct cause of this unwelcomed odor. Some of the most common problems inside of a home that can elicit the unwanted smell of musty and mildew odors includes the following;

  • Why Does My House Smell MustyMold and Mildew Growth: When there are moisture intrusions in an indoor environment like a home this will ultimately lead to the growth of mildew and/or mold. Moisture intrusions can be brought into a home from a multitude of sources including leaks, floods, and even minimal build-ups within your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. When you combine moisture intrusions with stagnant air and dark corners, this will allow for the rampant development and growth of mold and mildew in the home that will ultimately produce that musty odor.
  • Spills and Messes: Inside of your home there is bound to be little messes that occur that will either be improperly cleaned up or will not be cleaned up at all – this can include pet accidents and drink spills. If this is the case in your home, over time these spills and messes can lead to stagnant air that will promote that musty odor throughout the home.
  • HVAC Problems: The air handling system in your home, especially in a home where there is old ductwork, can develop grimy, dusty, and smelly odors over time that will be pushed out into the air of this indoor environment. Musty odors are fairly common inside of an older HVAC system and thus this may be one of the culprits behind your musty odor problems.

How Does Mildew Form

Many homeowners will wonder, “why my home?” when it comes to mildew and/or mold growth formation in their personal indoor environment. As we discussed earlier, these two fungi are prone to moisture and thus that is one of the key factors in the formation and development of mold in a home. According to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), mildew is the early stage of mold that will grow on wood products, ceilings, tiles, cardboard, wallpaper, carpets, drywall, fabric, plants, foods, insulation, decaying leaves, and other organic materials.

Once mildew morphs into mold, the mold growth will start to spread onto a damp surface within 24 to 48 hours. The reproduction of these funguses occurs through spore production, tiny seeds that travel through the air and allow the rapid expansion of the fungi in the environment. As the mildew and/or mold spores continue to spread in the air and latch onto surfaces, the mold will start to digest the organic materials it comes into contact with resulting in possible damage to the home’s surfaces.

What Causes Mildew Indoors

There may be several different causes behind the growth and development of mildew in a home and these sources can vary depending on the indoor environment and the conditions present in this area. We have talked about moisture its appeal to the growth of the mildew fungi in an indoor environment, making it a major cause of mildew in a home. However, there are also other catalysts that can stir the production of mildew in your personal environment.

Below we are going to discuss the three major causes of mildew and how to avoid them in your home.  

  • What Causes Mildew IndoorsInadequate Ventilation: Something that many homeowners don’t consider is how much ventilation they have inside of their home. Ventilation can play an instrumental role in the air quality in your indoor space and the production of other airborne contaminants like mildew and mold in the area. Be sure that you keep your indoor spaces ventilated, such as your bathroom, laundry room, basement, and kitchen.
  • Trapping steam in the Air: When you run a bath or cook a meal on the stovetop there is the potential for steam to be produced into the air that may become trapped in the airspace where poor ventilation resides. If this occurs it can lead to the growth of mildew/mold in the environment, and thus that is why many recommend using exhaust fans during these activities to try to reduce this vapor in the indoor air.
  • Improper Cleaning: Dirty surfaces in your home can be magnets for mildew development in this environment. Therefore, it is important to wipe down greasy surfaces that will harbor nutrients for mildew and other fungi to feed off of in the environment.

How to Find Mildew Smell

The identification process of locating the area inside of your home that is responsible for the mildew smells emanating within this environment is no easy task. As for many people there is a large amount of area to cover to check, including in those areas that are most prone to moisture intrusions like bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens, basements, etc. These places will often be the first places you will want to look at in your home to examine for discolorations on the walls or surfaces, and even sniffing out the mildew odors. Additionally, you may want to take a closer look at the surfaces in your home like carpeting, upholstery, or other soft surfaces that may have acquired mildew growth on them overtime.

How to Remove Mildew Smell

The process of removing mildew smell will require multiple steps that will include cleaning the contaminated surfaces in your home, followed by the cleaning of your home’s indoor air that is harboring the strong smell of mildew. As we learned earlier, mildew will attach to surfaces in your home that will provide this fungus an area to thoroughly develop and grow, and when this happens it has the potential to further spread to other surfaces of your home leading to discoloration and a mildew odor that will be even stronger in the environment. In some cases, depending on how bad the mildew is and if it formed into mold it may be necessary to hire a mold remediation specialist to clean the surfaces that the mildew/mold is harbored onto in your home.How to Remove Mildew Smell

After you have cleaned the surfaces, the next step will be to clean and treat the airspace. A high-efficiency air purifier is a great tool to use to remediate and mitigate an indoor environment back to normal conditions when it has been exposed to elevated levels of pollutants and has a strong mildew odor still hanging in the air. The EnviroKlenz UV Air Purifier is a versatile air purifier that combines the Advanced EnviroKlenz earth mineral technology for toxic and noxious chemical and odor removal with HEPA filtration and additional ultraviolet germicidal radiation lights (UVC) to remove airborne microorganisms and inhibiting the growth of them on the collected HEPA filter in the air purifier. The proprietary earth mineral EnviroKlenz technology will effectively work to capture, contain, and neutralize the chemical compositions of the mildew odor in the air to thoroughly filter it and eradicate it from your indoor air completely.

Article Sources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): General Information About Mold (link)
  2. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): Dealing With Mold & Mildew in Your Flood Damaged Home (link)

Mobile UV Air System

$899.00 $799.00

Patented earth mineral technology works to attack VOCs and break them down on a compound level

No chemicals or masking agents

Will not release any chemicals back into your environment

UVC lamps are continuously shining on the collected organisms with high efficiency of kill and destruction