Does your house smell like locker room or dirty socks? Whether your entire home has a smelly carpet or just a room or two, the smell can be overwhelming. Common carpet odors range from cat urine and smoke to mold and that pungent smell of sweaty socks. Steam cleaning carpets often makes the odor worse, especially if the water is not removed properly during the process. In fact, your carpet may not have smelled much until after a water accident.
Wet carpets are generally smelly carpets. If you think about it, all dirt, debris, spills, and pet accidents go deep into your carpet, often seeping onto the pad. Even if you cleaned up the spill and regularly vacuumed your carpet, the carpet pad does get unsightly. Then when you have a plumbing accident or rent a steam cleaner, your carpet gets soaked. All that waste mixes with the water and nature does its job, accelerating the decomposition process, which is a smelly process. Add in the potential for mold and mildew growth and it’s no wonder your carpet stinks.
The steps to fixing a smelly carpet range from home remedies like spraying baking soda on the carpet to professional treatments. How you approach the job depends on the extent of the odor and its cause.
Carpet odor detection
If you’ve lived in the house for some time, you may be used to its smells and are less likely to notice them, while a visitor will immediately notice a foul odor. You are likely to suspect a smoke odor is likely if you allow smoking in the home. Likewise, if your home has pets inside, your carpet may have pet odors. If you are unsure, ask a trusted friend to help you identify the odor. A fresh nose knows it!
For general carpet and freshening odors, regular baking soda works wonders. Arm & Hammer recommends “a pinch a day.” Test the color fastness first and then sprinkle baking soda on your carpets, letting it sit for about 15 minutes before vacuuming as usual. Anecdotal user reports indicate that while baking soda has helped with odors, some users suspect that baking soda adversely affected their vacuum cleaners.
If you are not comfortable using regular baking soda, you can try commercial products developed specifically to deodorize carpets and upholstery, such as Arm & Hammer carpet and room deodorants or a Febreeze product. Many of these products are designed to “neutralize” rather than cover odors. Neutralizing the odor is preferable to simply spraying air freshener, as once the air freshener wears off, the odor returns.
Many commercial carpet deodorants are formulated to overcome specific odors, such as those from pets or smoke. Similarly, many home remedies circulate the Internet targeting specific carpet odors, such as using solutions that contain ingredients as varied as vinegar, Listerine, or hydrogen peroxide. The problem with home remedies is color fastness. For example, you wouldn’t use bleach on your carpets, would you? So why would you spray peroxide on them?
As mentioned above, soggy rugs are smelly rugs. Whenever a water accident occurs, removing the water immediately is crucial! The longer the water sits, the more smelly it will become. Use a dewatering vacuum and extract as much water as possible or hire a dewatering company to do the job for you and then use fans to circulate the air to make drying even easier. For minor plumbing overflows, once the carpet is dry, the odor is likely to become less noticeable. However, it can reappear the next time the carpet gets wet.
Depending on the extent of the water damage, you may need to pull the mat to expose the pad. You may even have to replace the pad! Obviously, the toughest deodorization tasks, like a water-soaked mat, require professional help. Professional water extraction companies often have access to more powerful deodorants than those sold directly to consumers.
While hiring a professional to fix your smelly carpets can be more expensive than a box of baking soda or a can of carpet deodorant, the results are worth it! If you can save your carpets and save the cost of re-carpeting your home, hiring a professional to deodorize it is money well spent.