How to Remove Odor From Carpet (Fast And Permanently)

After flooding, water damage, a pet accident, or another incident dampens your carpets, drying out the moisture may not be enough. It is not uncommon to find that, over time, your carpet may develop a smell.

Carpet odor can be extremely unpleasant, leaving your home with a musty smell that is noticeable to anyone that walks in the room. Even when the rest of your home is perfectly clean, a bad smell coming from your carpets can be distracting at best, and potentially hazardous at worst.

As a mold remediation and water damage repair company, we’re intimately familiar with these carpet odors. There are even situations when the carpet needs to be replaced. But with the right knowledge, you can make an informed decision about how to deal with carpet smells, and what the next steps should be.

Why a Lingering Smell After Water Damage Just Isn’t Safe

There are several reasons that water damage can create lingering smells. One source of carpet odor after water damage is mold. While your carpet is wet, it may have become a breeding ground for mold. This fungus requires ample moisture to survive and in water damaged carpets, growth can begin in only a few hours. After the carpet is dry, mold may be able to continue growing and causing an odor.

However, another reason that water damage so often leaves behind an odor in carpets is because it is often not just water. Water that floods onto your carpet from a leak will often contain minerals and dirt particles. For example, an overflowing toilet could contain human waste and bacteria which starts to cause an odor as the bacteria decays. Pet waste can be a breeding ground for bacteria.

Both bacteria and mold in your carpets are more than just a source of unpleasant odors. They can also be a significant health concern. The particles can be kicked into the air and breathed in, and your children or pets that spend time on the carpet may be even more at risk for coming into contact with harmful spores.

remove odor from wet carpet

Types of Carpets that Hold Odor More Easily

All carpets are naturally good at holding in odors because they are porous, and all the particles that cause odors like mold spores, dust, and bacteria can get caught in between the individual carpet fibers. But some carpet materials are more likely to trap odors than others. The four basic carpet materials are:

  • Nylon – Nylon is the most common carpet material used in homes today. Nylon is a synthetic material that is good at resisting odors.
  • Polyester – Polyester carpet is another synthetic carpet that has natural resistance to stains but can hold odors if it gets wet.
  • Olefin – Olefin is a moisture-resistant carpeting material because water does not absorb into the fibers. This often means that odor causing particles also cannot penetrate either, especially if the carpet is dried shortly after exposure to water.
  • Wool – Unlike other carpet fibers, wool is natural. This means it is more porous than plastic carpet fibers, but it does have some natural deodorizing capabilities which can cut down on odors.

The pile of carpet, or how tall or short the fibers are, can also impact odor retaining capabilities. High pile carpets will naturally take longer to dry and have more places for odor causing particles to become trapped.

Regardless of the type of carpet, if there was enough water damage for water to seep through to the padding beneath, that layer can also retain moisture and odors that may necessitate cleaning or replacement.

Type of Odors Carpets Could Have

Carpets in homes in southern Florida can experience a range of wear and tear, leaving them with unpleasant smells. Paying attention to the particular smell can help you determine the cause of carpet odor and also how best to fix the issue.

1. Pet Smells

Most homes with a dog or cat are familiar with the pet odors that often accompany these animals. Pet urine smells in carpet from an accident in the house or the lingering smell from a dog that ran into your house after getting wet and muddy are common pet odors.

2. Dampness or Moisture

A damp carpet odor often follows water damage and is a result of mold growing in the carpet. This mold often leaves a musty smell, which can be noticeable soon after carpet first becomes wet, making the right wet carpet cleaning important. If the wet carpet smell lingers once the carpet is dry, it indicates the need for more extensive cleaning.

3. Specific Spills

Different types of moisture may lead to different smells. For example, spilling juice may leave a sour smell, while a flood may have a mix of wet carpet smell with other contaminants.

What Can I Do to Treat Water Damage?

It is possible to save water damaged carpets after flooding or pet accidents, both drying the carpets and removing all of the odor causing bacteria and mold in the process. This requires a proactive approach once you notice signs of water damage, and you will also need the right tools depending on how much water is present. 

Tools Needed to Remove Odors From Carpets

The tools needed to remove a smell vary depending on the extent of the moisture, how long it has been sitting, and the cause of the smell. For a highly saturated carpet that is still noticeably wet, you may need:

  • Submersible Pump 
  • Shop-Vac
  • Fans 
  • Dehumidifier

For cleaning after any water damage, you will need

  • Absorbent Towels 
  • Vacuum 
  • Cleaning Agent

When choosing your cleaning agent, there are both store-bought and homemade ones available. You should avoid bleach as it will destroy the fibers of synthetic carpets and take the color out of wool. 

how to treat water damage on carpet



Should I Clean Carpet Water Damage Myself?

The DIY method is best done only for water damage that encompasses a small area like a spill or tiny leak. If the carpet is saturated, has visible standing water, or the water might be black water that contains harmful contaminants, it is always best to leave this work to professionals who have the evaporative equipment and protective gear to safely dry and deodorize carpets.

For a smaller issue that you prefer to handle on your own, you should use the following steps:

Steps to Remove Water Damage from Carpets

Step 1: Remove the Water
First you need to remove any excess water in the carpet. A shop-vac may be enough or use a submersible pump to siphon water off. You can also absorb water with towels. 
Step 2: Dry the room
Allow the room to dry out. You can speed this process up by opening windows and running fans to help increase air circulation. If you have a small area, holding a hairdryer to it can also help increase water evaporation.
Step 3: Evaluate The Carpet Damage | Replace Or Clean
Next determine if you can clean the carpet or need to remove and replace it. This will depend on how much damage is sustained and if mold is already visibly growing. Damage may have also occurred to the carpet pad and subfloor, and working with professionals at this step is usually recommended.
Step 4: Clean the Area (Make Sure It’s Completely Dry!)
If you will be cleaning your carpet, vacuum the area to remove any loose particulate matter. Then use sanitizers and deodorizers. Vinegar works well, but you can also use commercially available products. Complete your cleaning by once again drying the floor and using a vacuum to get any remaining particles. To confirm that you removed all mold spores or any bacteria during cleaning, you should contact Rescue Clean 911. We can perform mold testing to be sure that there is no unseen mold remaining.
Removing carpet with water damage, mold, and odor.

Deodorizing Musty Smells in Your Carpet – Does it Work?

There are many odor neutralizing products on the market that promise to neutralize odors in carpet, and several recipes for treatments you can make yourself. These air fresheners will generally replace the odor with a more pleasant one for a little while. But they do not fix the underlying problem, only hide it, and when the good scent fades, you will still have musty carpets.

Removing carpet odors on your own can be a challenge and there is extensive conflicting information online about the process. These are some of the most common questions regarding carpet odor removal.

Carpet smells will typically not go away on their own. In fact, they will more often continue to get worse as whatever is causing the odor persists and the humidity in Florida sustains mold after the carpet is dry.

Baking soda is an odor neutralizer and can absorb odors around it when you sprinkle it on your carpet. You can then vacuum it up to successfully remove some carpet smells, but only some. Baking soda will not kill mold, so a mold problem will continue to cause unpleasant smells.

Mold often grows in wet carpets and it is usually the leading cause of wet carpet odor. It should be a leading concern when you are dealing with water damage.

Only a Team of Professionals Will Banish the Scent – For Good

When it comes to handling a small spill, the occasional pet accident, or even a tiny leak , many homeowners can manage the process on their own. But as soon as water damage starts to become more extensive, you should leave odor removal to the professionals.

Many homeowners find that they spend extensive time and money trying to get rid of a carpet smell, but that the smell simply will not go away. When you also consider that you may be breathing in dangerous particles, there are many reasons to contact professionals for odor neutralization in carpets.

Rescue Clean 911 is South Florida’s top water damage restoration and mold remediation company. Our services for water damage can include drying out spaces, sanitizing, and cleaning away any dirt or mold. Our professional odor removal is the only way to guarantee that carpet odors in your home are gone for good. 

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