Watching Those Filters

5 Ways to Tackle Dirty-Sock Syndrome

One good whiff of your hamper or gym bag after a long week can send you reeling. Now imagine dealing with that smell every time your air conditioner comes on. Dirty-sock syndrome is what happens when your air conditioner produces foul, musty odors due to debris and bacteria buildup within the unit. It's also a problem that's commonly mistaken for a mold issue. The following are five ways to resolve the issue.

1. Clean the Evaporator Coil

Most forms of dirty-sock syndrome are caused by an accumulation of debris and bacteria on the evaporator coil. This means you'll have to carefully clean the coil in order to tackle the odor. You can clean the coil using a soft bristle brush, some warm water, and mild detergent. However, you must be careful not to bend or otherwise damage the fragile fins lining the evaporator coil.

The best way to clean your coil, however, is by using a spray-on foaming cleaner. The self-rinsing action of the cleaner should carry away any debris that was stuck to the coil; plus, you won't have to come in direct physical contact with the coil. If you don't feel comfortable with cleaning your evaporator coil, you can always have a professional step in and clean it on your behalf.

2. Drain and Clean the Condensate Tray

The condensate tray located below the evaporator coil can also harbor a variety of odor-causing bacteria. You should thoroughly clean and disinfect the condensate tray after cleaning the evaporator coil. In addition, you should also check the condensate drain for any clogs that could cause drainage issues and leave behind standing water.

3. Consider Installing a UV System

Ultraviolet light is well known for its disinfecting properties, so installing a UV system within your air conditioner can offer further relief from dirty-sock syndrome symptoms. UV systems work best when installed in close proximity to the evaporator coil, although additional lights can be mounted near supply-and-return air vents for added protection.

4. Change and Upgrade Your Air Filter

Changing your air filter is one of the simplest steps you can take to combat dirty-sock syndrome. Swapping out your old air filter for a fresh one eliminates captured bacteria and other airborne pollutants that could cause odors. If you're still using a fiberglass air filter, you may want to upgrade to one that uses pleated paper media. These filters usually offer better performance than their fiberglass counterparts.

5. Don't Skimp Out on Maintenance

Regularly scheduled maintenance can also help eliminate and ultimately prevent the causes behind dirty-sock syndrome. If it's been a while since your air conditioner was last checked by your HVAC technician, you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible. For more information, talk to local HVAC services.


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