Earlier this month, a school in Arlington with a number of indoor air quality issues received back an environmental analysis that had a peculiar-sounding HVAC ailment you may not have heard about before now – Dirty Sock Syndrome. It may sound like a very made up name, but it’s actually a very real and common problem. In the last few weeks alone, Southern Comfort Mechanical’s staff has fielded calls for HVAC service in Corinth, The Colony, Lantana, Flower Mound, Coppell, Lewisville and more, all reporting an unusual odor emanating from their heating and air conditioning systems. They used colorful language to describe the smell – it’s like a “locker room,” or “dirty gym clothes,” or “stinky feet” – so it’s no wonder where Dirty Sock Syndrome got its name.
But, just what is Dirty Sock Syndrome? Dirty Sock Syndrome is caused by a buildup of mold and bacteria within your unit. The indoor evaporator coils and heat pump of your Corinth air conditioning system are a perfect environment for bacteria and fungi, especially as you quickly transition from warm to cold and back frequently. In the so-called “shoulder seasons” of the year, when the daytime and nighttime temperatures fluctuate significantly, your system is doing exactly that. As your unit cycles out of cooling in the afternoons, the coils begin to defrost, the ice evaporates and the warmer, moister dark and dusty environment inside your unit allows these microbes to flourish. Eventually this breeding ground produces enough waste product and decay that it becomes noticeable to the human nose as the warm air of the system pushes the odor out into your home.
Is Dirty Sock Syndrome a health hazard? Generally, no. While mold and mildew and bacteria are all pretty scary words on their own, typically, unless you or someone in your family is immuno-compromised or incredibly sensitive to mold and allergens, Dirty Sock Syndrome is unlikely to cause any ill effects unless left untreated. Delaying treatment will only increase the number of bacteria and mold spores that contribute to the smell and further deteriorate the indoor air quality produced by your Highland Village air conditioner system.
How can I prevent Dirty Sock Syndrome? Like most illnesses, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure for Dirty Sock Syndrome. Mildew, bacteria and mold need dust and other debris to truly thrive, so preventing foreign particles from entering your system is of primary importance. Choose a high-quality air conditioning filter that can stop Dirty Sock Syndrome before it starts. Change filters regularly for both your family’s health and the health of your air conditioning system. Periodically cleaning your evaporator coils with a non-acidic solution is also recommended as part of your routine heating and air conditioning maintenance. Having your Lantana AC system regularly serviced, such as with Southern Comfort Mechanical’s Comfort Club Service Plan, is a further measure that helps ensure your heating and air conditioning system’s overall health.
How to get rid of Dirty Sock Syndrome? If your Flower Mound air conditioning system is emitting a certain gym locker smell, you may already have Dirty Sock Syndrome. If you have performed preventive maintenance and changed your filters as scheduled, and you still have a pervasive odor, it’s time to call Southern Comfort Mechanical and request a professional coil cleaning for your affected Corinth AC system. Our skilled technicians can help identify if there are any contributing factors to the odor you may not have considered and can clean and treat your coils with expert care.