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Why Does My Carpet Smell Worse After Cleaning?


By Carrie Dixon, Blog Editor

Carpet smell after cleaningAfter you’ve gone through all the trouble of having your carpet cleaned thoroughly, you are probably looking forward to relaxing in a house that looks and smells great. But if you put away all your cleaning supplies and suddenly discover that the whole place smells musty, sour, or kind of like a wet dog, you may be highly disappointed! Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Many people wonder why carpeting smells worse after cleaning. There are a few reasons for this, as well as multiple solutions that can help fix the issue. Here’s what you need to know:

The Main Reason for Musty Smells After Cleaning

The biggest reason for a bad-smelling carpet after cleaning is that the underlying backing or padding got wet and wasn’t dried properly. This can cause mildew or a bit of a sour smell until that backing has a chance to dry. Because most homeowners don’t have any way to dry the underlying padding of a carpet, this issue unfortunately just takes time.

However, you can discourage mildew from forming under the carpet by shampooing again with a mixture of white vinegar and water. This will not only help kill any mildew, but also helps to absorb odors. Another thing you can do is to help the carpet dry as thoroughly as possible with fans or open windows. Space heaters can also help soak up humidity in the air, which dries the carpet faster.

Wet Dog Smell After Cleaning

If your carpet smells like a wet dog after cleaning, the issue once again is probably the underlying backing or padding of the carpet. This time, however, the problem is not mildew so much as it is whatever had stained your carpet in the first place. If there were food spills, animal urine, or any other kind of spills on the carpet that you just cleaned, these things also soaked into the padding underneath. That can make the whole place smell because as you cleaned, you got the area that was stained wet again, reactivating the leftover particles.

It’s not normal to still be smelling these things after about two days post-clean, so if you still smell that wet dog smell after cleaning your carpet, you likely need to help it dry out faster. You can help neutralize odors with germicide or antimicrobial cleaning agents, but keep in mind that getting the carpet wet again will increase the smell. Drying the padding underneath is your main goal to reduce bad smells.

Other Odor Eliminators

There are a few other things you can use to help soak up odors while you wait for the carpet to dry. For example, you can place bowls of white vinegar around the room, which will absorb odors from the air after a couple of days. You can also sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and allow it to sit while the carpet dries. Then vacuum it up to remove the smell.

Kitty litter is also a great deodorizer. You can use it like vinegar, in small open containers around the room. It soaks up odor from the air, but be careful if you have cats. They may try to use what they consider their bathroom if you are doing this.

Borax is another mold-killer that can help reduce odors. Sprinkle it on the carpet like baking soda, and scrub it into the carpet with a broom or dry brush. Allow it to sit overnight, and then vacuum it up.

More Serious Carpet Cleaning Issues

If you are cleaning your carpets after serious damage, like water damage, then the bad smell after cleaning is likely due to mold or mildew under the carpet itself. This is a more serious issue, because it can impact your health beyond just smelling poorly. While you may be able to kill the mold with cleaning agents or vinegar, you may also need to have professional mold remediation come to clean the carpets thoroughly.

Even then, if the smell persists, removing the carpet and all the padding underneath may be the only way to ensure that the room is safe again. If you are dealing with a carpet that was damaged by water, a bad smell after cleaning could be a warning sign that you don’t want to ignore. If at any time the smell returns after you’ve cleaned the carpet, it’s likely the mold or mildew has returned. Don’t ignore this sign.

Overall, bad smells after cleaning carpets are most commonly attributed to not giving the padding underneath ample time to dry, or to the presence of mildew. Be sure you have fans, space heaters, or open windows, and lots of time to give a carpet a thorough dry, whenever it’s time for a deep clean. This is the best way to prevent those foul smells.