Dirty Sock Syndrome Part I

Have you turned on your air conditioning unit recently and noticed a foul, rotten, or moldy smell flow through the vents? If so, you may have fallen victim to dirty sock syndrome. It is a real problem, albeit, with a silly-sounding name, that can affect anyone with an air conditioning unit.

What Is Dirty Sock Syndrome and What Causes It?

Dirty sock syndrome is caused by a build-up of mold and bacteria in the evaporator coil. The evaporator coil is located in the indoor handler and it is the component that cools the air before it is cycled back into your home. When a filter isn’t changed over an extended period of time, particles in the air like dirt, bacteria, dust, and mold spores, travel through the air conditioning unit and wind up trapped in the evaporator coil. Over time, this builds up too. As the air in your home is cycled through the evaporator coil, it picks up the smell from the build-up and passes it through your home.

Dirty sock syndrome can be problematic in areas, like Florida, where high temperatures can create a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Moisture in the air makes its way through the air conditioning system and can become trapped in the air filter and the evaporator coil. Moisture can also build up in the rare times when the temperature drops in the winter and air conditioning units bounce between blowing hot and cold air.

How Do I Know if I Have It?

Now that you know what dirty sock syndrome is and what causes it, you may be able to tell if the symptoms you have correspond to this issue. But before jumping to the conclusion that you have this syndrome based solely on the smell emitted by your air conditioner, first check other sources of mildewy smells like drainage pipes and your air filter.

Is Dirty Sock Syndrome Dangerous?

Mold can cause a number of health effects like coughing, sneezing, or difficulty breathing, especially for those who are asthmatic. Dirty sock syndrome may cause you or other members of your family to suffer from flu-like symptoms but for most people side effects do not worsen and will go away once the mold is removed.