Does your house smell like a dressing room or dirty socks? Whether your entire home has smelly carpet or just one or two rooms, the smell can be overwhelming. Common carpet odors range from cat urine and smoke odors to mildew and that pervasive sweaty sock smell. Steam cleaning carpets often makes the odor worse, especially if the water isn’t properly extracted during the process. In fact, your carpet may not have smelled much until after a water mishap.
Wet carpets are generally smelly carpets. If you think about it, all the dirt, debris, spills, and pet accidents go deep into your rug and often find their way onto the pad. Even if you clean up the spill and vacuum the rug regularly, the rug pad becomes unsightly. Then when you have a plumbing accident or rent a steam cleaner, your carpet gets soaked. All that debris mixes with the water and nature does its job, speeding up 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.
Steps to fix a smelly carpet range from home remedies like sprinkling 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 have lived in the house for some time, you may be used to its smells and less likely to notice them, while a visitor will immediately notice a bad smell. He is likely to suspect a smoke odor is present if he allows smoking in the home. Similarly, if your home has pets inside, your carpet may have pet odors. If you’re not sure, ask a trusted friend to help you identify the smell. A fresh nose knows!
For general carpet odors and to freshen them up, plain baking soda works wonders. Arm & Hammer recommends “a pinch a day”. Test the color fastness first, and then sprinkle baking soda on your rugs, letting it sit for about 15 minutes before vacuuming normally. Anecdotal reports from users indicate that while baking soda has helped with odors, some users suspect that baking soda negatively affected their vacuum cleaners.
If you don’t feel comfortable using regular baking soda, you can try commercial products developed specifically to deodorize carpets and upholstery, such as Arm & Hammer Carpet & Room Deodorizers or a Febreeze product. Many of these products are designed to “neutralize” odors rather than cover them up. Neutralizing the odor is preferable to simply spraying on an air freshener, as once the air freshener wears off, the smell returns.
Many commercial carpet deodorizers are formulated to conquer specific odors, such as pet odors or smoke. Likewise, many home remedies circulate the Internet targeting specific carpet odors, such as using solutions containing 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 fragrant it will become. Either use a dewatering type vacuum and remove as much water as possible or hire a dewatering company to do the work 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 will likely become less noticeable. However, you can return the next time the rug gets wet.
Depending on the extent of the water damage, you may need to pull the rug up to expose the pad. You may even have to replace the pad! Obviously, the more difficult deodorizing tasks, like a water-soaked carpet pad, require professional help. Professional dewatering companies often have access to stronger deodorizers 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 deodorizer, the results are worth it! If you can save your carpets and save yourself the cost of recarpeting your home, hiring a professional to do professional deodorization is money well spent.