Dirty Sock Syndrome Part 1

Upon entering your home, the first thing you noticed is the stinky odor. It is not the garbage, neither the piled-up laundry of your little munchkins. What could be the culprit then?

Your air conditioning.

Your house might be suffering from dirty sock syndrome.

The average American spends almost 93 percent of their life indoors, which makes indoor air quality an immediate issue. Dirty sock syndrome attacks most homes, and you need to pay strict attention to it.

In this two-part article series, we will discuss what dirty sock syndrome actually is, what causes it, and how to solve it efficiently.

You can jump to part two here.

What Is Dirty Sock Syndrome?

Dirty sock syndrome is a stale, foul-smelling odor that is often produced from an air conditioner with a dirty coil. This coil is the heat pump coil in the blower or air handler of your AC. Apart from a very dirty coil, there are also little microbial organisms present that feed on the dust, dirt, and other things that’s accumulated on it. This is why your home is dealing with a terrible smell.
The smell travels as your AC pushes air around the home, making all rooms have a disgusting odor. Some homeowners mistake dirty sock syndrome as a mold problem because of its mold-like smell. This can cause for a serious concern since mold leads to headaches and other health issues.

What Causes Dirty Sock Syndrome?

Bacteria and fungus growing on the evaporator coil.
Constant use of your air conditioning can cause moisture formation on the evaporator coils. Dust will then be collected inside the system and fasten itself to the coils.
Once attached, the dust and moisture can grow bacteria. The cold and hot temperatures used by the air conditioning makes it an excellent place for the bacteria to flourish.
The bacteria and fungus growth will lead your AC system to slow rot from within. It is because of the decomposition that you smell a stinky odor when the unit is on.

Is Dirty Sock Syndrome Dangerous?

No doubt, dirty sock syndrome smells horrible and is a real annoyance. But fortunately, it is not usually considered devastating or life-threatening since the mildew and bacteria are not extremely hazardous to the health but could irritate asthma or other respiratory conditions.
Though at some point, dirty sock syndrome can pose health risks if mold occurs in the air conditioning unit and starts to develop. It can cause sneezing and coughing and those with severe allergies, asthma, or have respiratory problems will likely the suffer most.
You may also experience eye irritation and difficulty breathing if mold grows within your system. The strong smell from the AC unit can make you feel sick too. Long exposure to mold also carries long-term health risks as it emits microbial volatile organic compounds – gasses which generate the odor that associated with mold.

If you have Dirty Sock Syndrome or mold has grown inside your AC, you need have a professional  conduct an immediate, thorough inspection and cleaning of the HVAC system.

See Dirty Sock Syndrome Part 2 for solutions and tips for prevention.

Last modified on March 27th, 2020 at 5:28 pm

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