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What Does Mould Smell Like?

how to clean mould from your bathroom

Mould is far from subtle – even when you can’t see it, chances are you can smell it. Mould can begin to smell after water damage, an ongoing leak or a build-up of moisture. It’s unpleasant and can linger if you don’t take action.  

 If you notice an odd smell around the house, on your clothes or on your carpet, don’t stress. Here, we’ll explain why mould smells, what it smells like and what to do about it.  

Why Does Mould Smell?  

 As a fungus, mould grows and spreads by releasing enzymes that eat their way through organic and inorganic material. The more their enzymes multiply, the faster mould can spread through surfaces, clothing, walls and ceilings.  

 The release of enzymes causes the production of gaseous compounds, also known as microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs). There are over 200 compounds that produce a range of foul-smelling odours across mould strains as a byproduct of their metabolism. Some of these compounds can include:  

  • Aldehydes  
  • Benzenes  
  • Carboxylic acid 
  • Lactones 
  • Terpenes 
  • Esters 
  • Sulphur and nitrogen compounds  

 Some notable odours that are associated with these compounds include the smell of rotting eggs, paint thinner, off milk or fruit, metal and out-of-date cheese. The exact compounds or smell vary between mould species and maturity stage, making it ever-changing and hard to identify.  

 What Does Mould Smell Like? 

Most people often describe mould as a musty, earthy, damp smell, or similar to rotting food. Others describe it as decaying wood or wet, smelly socks. The musty or stale smell is the most common characteristic of mould odour all thanks to the mVOCs being released into the air. They can also account for the earthiness or sour odours. 

Because mould is usually accompanied by an excess water problem or an ongoing leak, you’ll usually notice a damp smell as well. While you may not notice a smell when mould spots appear in between your bathroom tiles, pungent mould odour is usually the aftermath of severe water damage.  

 If you notice an off-putting smell around the home, check for signs of water damage or leaks and attempt to source the mould before reaching out to a professional removal service. 

 How To Get Rid of Mould Smell  

To remove the mould smell, you have to remove the mould stains. Although there are many DIY remedies available, attempting large areas of mould removal is considered unsafe and is not recommended. If you attempt small areas of mould removal, ensure you are wearing protective eyewear, face mask and protective gloves for your safety.  

Mould infestations can be damaging to your health, so it’s important to contact a professional mould removal service to inspect and treat your home from mould.  

How to Get Rid of Mould Smell on Clothes  

The key to removing nasty mould smells from your clothes you must wash your clothes thoroughly at a high temperature to ensure you remove any mould stains. It is important to use antibacterial and antifungal rinses regularly when washing clothes to ensure you protect your clothes from mould and its smell. You can use the following remedies:  


Mix a 50/50 ratio of water and vinegar into a spray bottle, shake well and spray onto the mould affected area. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 – 15 minutes before washing. For a more concentrated solution, mix an 80/20 ratio of vinegar and water. Spray onto the mould affected area and allow to sit for 15 minutes before washing. 

 Borax and White Vinegar 

Mix 2 tbsp of borax with ¼ cup white vinegar and two cups of hot water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray generously onto the stain and wipe clean. Repeat this process and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes before wiping clean and dry the area.  

As a water-soluble solution, you can also mix ½ cup of borax with hot water and add the solution directly into the washing machine before washing.  

 Tea Tree Oil  

Tea Tree Oil is a natural fungicide you can add to your laundry detergent when washing clothes.  

How to Get Rid of Mould Smell on Carpet  

Baking soda is an age-old ingredient to remove stains, mould and any lingering odour. To attempt to remove mould and mould odour, try the following remedy:  

 Baking Soda:  

In a 250ml measuring cup, combine 125ml of baking soda with 62ml white vinegar and 62ml of water (2:1:1 ratio) to create a thick paste. Apply the paste to the mould affected area and allow it to sit until dry (this may mean leaving it overnight). When dry, use a scrubbing brush to scrub any mould stains and wipe with a wet cloth.  

Does Steam Cleaning Kill Mould?  

Another common method is to steam clean your carpet in an attempt to kill and remove the mould. Although steam cleaning may be effective in removing mould temporarily, it does not offer a long-term solution. If you are concerned about mould growth and mould odour on your carpet, reach out to a professional mould removal service.  

When to Call a Mould Removal Professional 

 If you are afraid of mould becoming a problem in your home and are looking for a long-term solution, be sure to call upon a professional team to help you. The MouldMen team will inspect, treat and provide you with a Mould Management and Prevent Plan to ensure that your home is kept safe and free from mould. Call us on 1300 60 59 60 to book your free inspection today.

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