Why Does The Air In My Home Smell Like Dirty Socks? (Dirty Sock Syndrome)

Have you started to notice that your house smells dirty or dingy, almost like a gymnasium when your air conditioner kicks on? You may be embarrassed to admit that you are experiencing this problem, but you are not alone. The HVAC industry refers to this as dirty sock syndrome. This occurs when your air conditioner puts off a foul, moldy, or mildew-like smell when you turn it on. So what exactly causes dirty sock syndrome and should you be worried?

Dirty sock syndrome is caused by the buildup of mold or bacteria on your evaporator coil. This can happen when moisture builds up on your coil with continued use and as dust collects in your air conditioner over time through insufficient filtration. It can also occur when your unit switches from a period of heating to a period of cooling. Combine these situations and you have the recipe for dirty sock syndrome.

Dirty sock syndrome may sound a little scary; however, it is generally not harmful. The bacteria or mildew present with dirty sock syndrome is most often not dangerous to your health, but you do want to take precautions if someone in your household has allergies, asthma, or a weakened immune system. Before jumping to conclusions that you are experiencing dirty sock syndrome, you should check a few things before calling your local HVAC company.

  • Check your drainage pans to make sure they are empty. If you notice they are full, be sure to empty them and clear any blockages that are present.
  • Make sure your air conditioning filter is providing proper filtration and that it is not extremely moist.
  • Clear any blocked drainage lines.

If you have fixed these things and are still smelling foul scents, you might want to call your local HVAC company. If you are having issues with your heating and air system, Air Care Heating and Air Conditioning can help.

Give us a call at (949) HVAC-911/ (949) 482-2911 or visit our IAQ page for more information by clicking the link below.

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