Treat bad odours in the home by identifying and eliminating mould from drains, ducts and ceilings
Cleaning smelly drains can help rid the house of bad odours
Millions of Australians know all too well the musty, musky smell of mould in their home. It may lurk in a wardrobe or dark corner, or run rampant in a ceiling space, wall cavity or wet area.
Heavy rain and floods can see a big upsurge in infestation but the good news is that mould is pretty easy to fix and small spots can be sorted out DIY using regular bleach or a simple mould remover product.
Large or persistent patches need commercial treatment.
Searching for damp
‘The best way to identify mould or damp is to look for it in suspect places such as bathrooms and laundries.
‘Also check out the southern aspect internal walls that get no sun, looking in corners, ceiling cornices and wardrobes,’ says Steve Burke from Sydney company Mould Removal.
He says the first sign is a stale, damp smell then mould may show up on leather items such as shoes and jackets.
With a professional consultation the quote is free and a mould treatment for an uncomplicated mouldy bathroom starts at about $140, says Steve.
An observational assessment and report costing about another $140 may be recommended, depending on the extent and source of the problem.
Says Steve, ‘The treatment we use is a special concentrated disinfectant applied with a brush that kills all mould. To stop it coming back though you need to find the source.
‘If a bathroom is windowless, ceiling fans need to be left on for an hour after having showers or baths, as just turning them on during doesn’t do much.
‘Water needs to be wiped off floors and walls after showers.
‘If the mould source is something else like a leaking tap or pipe in a wall, then it needs to be repaired.’
Cleaning out dirty ducting
The naked eye doesn’t see what lurks behind air-conditioning systems or air ducts. Which is probably just as well since many contain mould, fungus, dust, hair and dander.
‘Sick Building Syndrome is listed as one of the top five environmental risks to public health,’ says Grant Pawsey of Nu-Kleen Maintenance Services.
‘People should be aware of hidden internal pollution. After having their ducting cleaned at home or work, many people report better breathing.’
If you think you have a problem, try to get a look inside the ducting. If you can’t, ask for a free quote from a professional cleaning company to see if dust and mouldy spores in the system are an issue.
Grant says, ‘Keep air-conditioning filters clean. Only 10% of people regularly clean their air-conditioner and when they do are often surprised at the amount of dust they find.’
Check the bathroom
Single mum Jane Worthington and her asthma-prone daughter Gracie moved into an apartment in Sydney’s inner west earlier this year. Within a few days they noticed a mysterious smell coming from the bathroom.
‘Gracie’s coughing was worse in the apartment and every time I went into the bathroom I noticed a musky, dusty, sweet smell that made me breathless and I don’t even have asthma,’ says Jane.
She had a plumber come in to clean the drains and an electrician to fix the fans then she called in a mould expert who suggested she get the ducts inspected.
Jane contacted Nu-Kleen Maintenance Services, a company that specialises in cleaning, decontaminating and deodorising all kinds of ducts.
‘They found a horrifying amount of dust, wet plasterboard and unhealthy nasties in my ceiling,’ says Jane, who says the cleaning was worth every cent.
The process cost $1200, including creating manholes in Jane’s ceiling to access the sealed ducts. If there are existing manholes a professional clean starts at $500 for a ducted apartment.
How to fix smelly drains
For a manual fix tip a cup of salt then a cup of bicarbonate of soda down the drain followed by a kettle of boiling water. Seal a rubber plunger over the plughole and plunge rapidly.
Use a natural product with an active enzyme cleaner like Bio-Clean, which many plumbers rely on, according to Chris Fawaz from Civic Plumbing in Sydney.
‘It’s an easy DIY way to banish bathroom drain stink. It’s non-toxic, low fume and eats away at any nasties in the drain like trapped hair or grease and grime.’
For a cheaper but smellier option, use a highly caustic solution or liquid. Call a plumber if all else fails, they charge about $200 to visit.
Says Chris, ‘He may put a rubber boot in the drain, for a further $80, to move trapped debris away through a funnel effect, or use high pressure jet cleaning to reduce smells.’
Stagnant water after a home has been empty is a common problem. Run the taps for a few minutes or try a drain cleaning solution.
Clogged drains can cause unpleasant odours in the home