Smell after fixing leak under sink

Emily9876September 19, 2013

I recently bought my house and after smelling a musty smell for several months, discovered a slow leak under the kitchen sink. We had a plumber out to fix it and he said the smell would be gone once it dried out. To make a long story short, it was still there.

We took off the drywall behind the open cabinet and found mold about an inch into the insulation and on the drywall. My husband spoke to a mold person and he told my husband to take the drywall off and the insulation out and to wash it all well with Simple Green D, which is labeled to kill fungus. We removed a wide margin of drywall, all of the insulation and the cabinet base and subfloor. We have also removed all if the insulation that was surrounding the pipes in the open basment ceiling.

We have the exposed studs and the actual floor exposed and have washed it with the Simple Green cleaner. It has been a couple of days and it still smells.

I'm so discouraged. I don't know what to do next.

Any advice?

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You could try washing directly with a bleach solution (1/2 bleach and 1/2 water or maybe a little stronger).

If it's just smell put an open box of Baking soda in there for a few days and see if it absorbs it.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 5:05PM
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you need to moniter the moisture content of the wood.
once it gets below 30% IF the leak has been fixed & there
is no source of moisture...then you can re-insulate & close up walls.

you don't want to mask the smell, you want to deal with
the issue.

I use TSP tri sodium phosphate (sp?) to wipe down

you may need to put a dehumidifier in the space to
remove moisture.

mold needs a moisture source & a food source.
the paper backing of sheetrock is an excellent food
source, the leak was the moisture source.

stop moisture, remove molded materials, tsp
the area...let dry. then re-insulate & sheetrock.

this method has worked well for me over the
years. I've never had a client have mold return.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 6:46PM
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Thanks for the advice. I agree, I don't want to mask the smell. I want to make sure I have taken care of the problem. I'm quite confident that the leak has been taken care of. I have removed everything in the cabinet and all of the insulation.

I will run dehumidifiers in the kitchen with the cabinet open to get the moisture level down.

I do have TSP that I can wash it down with.

I appreciate the input very much.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 9:06PM
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Can you buy TSP anymore? Most of the current products are "phosphate-free" even though they're called TSP.

Bleach will kill mold. Agree that it needs to be dried out.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 11:32AM
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TSP is available in some areas and not in others. It depends on what the individual states have decided to do to protect the watershed. Substitutes are sodium carbonate (Calgon) and sodium meta silicate. All of these things make solutions alkaline and cause natural fats and oils to split up. The result is a mix of fatty acids and glycerol. That is soap and why your skin feels slippery when you get one of these solutions on yourself.

Bleach does kill mold. It is an excellent algicide on smooth, nonporous surfaces. It is an excellent disinfectant for bulk fluids and smooth, nonporous surfaces in general. It is difficult to disinfect porous organic material like wood.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 7:14PM
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Borax is also good for mold killing/washing. 20 mule borax is fine.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 10:48PM
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I had the same thing happen a few years ago, and learned the hard way that such damage is considered negligence by the insurance companies (ouch!).

My leak left water on the painted plywood under the kitchen sink for so long that the top layer rippled and then delaminated. It was the smell that brought the leak to my attention.

I found it helpful to run a fan at the wet spot, and to have an exhaust fan temporarily placed in the window above the sink, which might not be practical this time of year. I also kept a bright halogen lamp shining at the wet spot, to discourage any mold that might prefer a darker spot. I made sure that the lamp could not fall over and start a fire.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 8:59PM
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Oh, yes, borax. I forgot that one. It raises the pH like the other alkaline chemicals. They all will increase the effectiveness of bleach and detergents.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 12:28PM
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I just wanted to follow up and let you know that I'm reading this and trying all of the suggestions. I feel like it's getting a little better, but the studs and floor have the smell in the wood.

Is it advised to prime the floor and studs to get it to stop smelling? I have Zinzer 123 primer that was recommended by a mold person, but I spoke to him before I opened the wall and removed the subfloor.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 3:27PM
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I was thinking earlier today about this thread & realized
I didn't recommend encapsulating the wood ....after it dries out...
Zinzer 123 is not a product I've ever used...but I have used kiltz which has a mold inhibitor. either should work.

so you've opened the wall to where the mold is no longer
growing? and removed the to the subfloor...or the subfloor? I'd prime it all up with a couple or three coats let it dry & go from there.

is this an interior or exterior wall??

oh and Ionized...dude, you know some stuff!

best of luck

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 7:58PM
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There was mold on the back of the drywall and into about an inch of the insulation. We took all of the insulation out, about 5 inches of it. We cut a pretty wide margin of the drywall out, so I'm confident that the mold has been removed and that the smell is coming from the studs or the actual diagonal floor.

I have removed the subfloor all the way down to the actual floor and the drywall and insulation. The wall is to the exterior of the house. We will need to re-insulate it once we have the smell fixed.

I really appreciate your input here.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 4:07PM
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To treat my recent infestation of mold in my subfloors and crawlspace I used Boracare with mold care. Good stuff but pricey. Once it takes hold and completely dries you will need to fill the area with spray foam not insulation.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 12:00AM
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Bleach does not kill mold:

Here is a link that might be useful: Mold

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 3:34PM
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The link is not helpful, Trebruchet. In fact, it is misleading. Bleach does kill mold. At least is kills fungus that might be called mold. "Mold" is not a terribly precise word, but you can look up data for the effectiveness of sodium hypochlorite on fungi as well as bacteria and viruses.

It is true that bleach is not an effective mold-killer on porous surfaces. It is fine on bathroom tile and roofs. The reason the writer of that stupid article sees re-growth of mold on roofs and on bathroom tile is because mold is ubiquitous in our environment. Nothing stays disinfected forever.

To kill microbial growth in wood and other porous building materials, you have to penetrate the material fully with active chemical. That might be more difficult than replacing the affected materials. The question is really, is bleaching or borate-treating minimally-affected material good enough? It may be if it is kept dry in the future. There will mold in contact with the wood in the future no matter what you do.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 4:52PM
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The fungus growing on bathroom tiles is mildew.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 4:07AM
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Mildew is another rather imprecise description of fungus. It is hard to compare to the other that we are using, mold. They are different kinds of imprecision, I guess. Mold generally applies to a very diverse group of fungi having a fuzzy appearance. Mildew, as a descriptor, has a use in the horticultural world. When its use is not associated with plants, it us generally used to describe molds growing on building materials and organic possessions like clothing or books.

That is all language. From a biological standpoint, they are all fungi. From pest control standpoint, they are probably susceptible to the same chemical disinfectants although I won't pretend to have looked at what the EPA or anyone else has tested on what. If something is being sold as a disinfectant, you can find out what it is proven effective against. There will be a lot of microbes that products are not routinely tested against.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 6:00PM
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I have the same problem (a slow leak behind the cabinet under the kitchen sink which has been repaired) but my cabinets have backs, and are topped with tile counters. The smell of mold makes the drawers unusable. How do I get to the source of the problem behind the cabinet backs? Or would sealing and painting them be enough? I'm sure the insulation back there is shot, but I'm not in the mood to begin renovating the kitchen.. thanks for responding.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 8:12AM
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If your house is an older one there may not be any insulation between the walls. If that is the case you will save some time/money there. If you do insulation then it will need to come out. Insulation is like sponge for mold/moisture issues. I don't think there will be way to fix it without tearing into the cabinets & walls.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 9:50PM
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true, you have to first find & fix the moisture source.
then open the wall to see what is going on.
remove molded materials, treat full
thread above. allow to dry.
once moisture content is lowered to acceptable
levels...then re-insulate...& close walls.
caulk patches to air seal from under sink to into

best of luck.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 5:05PM
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Bleach and Borax is good to clean the wood or it also absorb the smell.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 1:56AM
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