The Real Reason Your House Smells Like A Dirty Sock

Many odors come and go in our homes, most of which have a perfectly reasonable explanation. However, if you're catching a whiff of dirty socks and can't find the culprit in a gym bag or a dirty-laundry basket, it might be indicative of a different problem. According to Bob Vila, an inexplicable dirty sock odor can be a sign that there's something wrong with your home heating-and-cooling system's coils. More specifically, the issue is an excessive amount of bacteria growth, which thrive within heating-and-cooling systems and produce a foul-smelling scent.

This is a common issue, as most heating-and-cooling systems are housed in the basement where darkness and humidity provide the perfect conditions for bacteria growth, as per Fire & Ice Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. The interior parts of the equipment attract dirt, moisture, and other particles from the surrounding air, which can build up, especially if the filter isn't regularly maintained and switched out. The resulting bacteria growth can cause some unpleasant secondary issues, including allergic reactions, as well as contribute to already-existing respiratory conditions, according to Academy Air. If the bacteria turns into a mold problem, you may be facing an even more dangerous situation. When mold is pumped into the air of your home via the HVAC system, you can experience skin irritations and breathing difficulties. Fortunately, there is a way to get rid of this problem as soon as you notice it.

How to get rid of the dirty sock smell

If you've picked up on a dirty sock odor in your home and pinpointed it to your heating-and-cooling system, your next task is to get rid of the issue. The solution is pretty simple, according to Academy Air. You just need to meticulously clean the evaporator and heating coils that house the bacteria causing the odor. If you don't have experience with this type of cleaning, you can find a number of online tutorial videos to guide you through the process, as well as recommendations for cleaning products designed for this chore. However, your best bet is to call a professional that specializes in cleaning HVAC systems. Just remember to wash anything that comes into contact with the equipment throughout the cleaning process to ensure the bacteria doesn't end up causing issues in other areas of your home.

You may also be pleased to learn that there are ways to prevent the buildup of bacteria that leads to the dirty sock odor and avoid having to go through a deep-cleaning process in the future. The easiest way to do this is to regularly change out the air filters that are designed to catch small particles and bacteria in the air. Don't skimp on quality either — it's better to splurge a bit more on a high-quality filter than save a bit of money on a cheaper filter and risk a repetition of the problem.