My Shampooed Carpet Smells Musty. What Should I Do?

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My Shampooed Carpet Now Smells Musty

There are many types of floors in a home. Carpets, in particular, can make a home feel warm and cozy, and if kept looking and smelling fresh, they can be an excellent addition to the home.

Because of their porous and absorbent nature, carpets can hold onto odors, both good and bad, which are then emitted into your home continuously. Carpet freshening sprays and powders can leave your entire home smelling fresh and clean, but when the odor coming from your carpet is musty and unpleasant, this will also fill your home with an overpowering odor.

Often, people will notice this musty carpet smell after it has been recently deep-cleaned and shampooed. After paying for a professional carpet cleaning service or taking the time to deep-clean your carpet, it’s frustrating to realize that a shampooed carpet now smells musty.

Unfortunately, this is a common problem many people face and could point to an underlying issue with the cleaning equipment used or the quality or condition of the carpet itself.

There are several potential causes for the musty smell coming from your carpet, which we’ll cover in this article. There are also numerous solutions you could employ to help you rid your carpet of the unpleasant lingering odor and leave it looking and smelling fresh once again.

We are going to take a look at what is likely to be causing your carpet to give off that musty smell and what might be the best way for you to tackle the problem and eliminate the odor.

Related: 15 Carpet Cleaning Hacks

What Could Be the Cause of the Musty Smell?

The first thing you’ll need to do is establish what is causing the musty carpet smell. This will enable you to effectively treat and eliminate the carpet odor while preventing the same thing from happening following future deep cleaning.

It could be that the musty smell is caused by a combination of factors. Here are some of the most common causes of a musty-smelling carpet:

1. The Carpet Wasn’t Dried Properly

If, after cleaning, your carpet has not been sufficiently dried, then a leftover musty smell is unfortunately inevitable. Damp carpet fibers will begin to smell regardless of how well it has been cleaned.

Ordinarily, carpet cleaning equipment will add water to the carpet to deep clean before sucking it back out, leaving minimal moisture so the carpet can dry thoroughly and quickly.

BISSELL Turboclean Powerbrush Pet Upright Carpet Cleaner Machine and Carpet Shampooer, 2085BISSELL Turboclean Powerbrush Pet Upright Carpet Cleaner Machine and Carpet Shampooer

If the equipment is low-quality or not working to its full capacity, or if too much water has been added to the carpet to begin with, then the moisture may not be effectively removed from the carpet, leaving it too wet to dry naturally.

Additionally, if no ventilation is provided by opening windows or doors to allow air to get in and dry the carpet, the carpet padding will likely remain damp and give off that bad carpet smell.

Ultimately, if the wet carpet is left like this, mildew will begin to form at the base of the carpet, which will exacerbate the wet carpet smell.

2. The Carpet Backing Was Not Cleaned Sufficiently

Similarly, if inadequate equipment is used or the carpet is not cleaned thoroughly, the shampoo may not reach the carpet backing, which is typically where stains and dirt tend to build up.

When things are spilled on carpets, if it’s not cleaned immediately, the dirt will slowly make its way to the backing, where it will stay until the carpet is deep cleaned effectively.

If this carpet backing remains dirty after the deep clean, the moisture that has been added will cause bacteria and mildew growth that will give off a bad smell and increase the level of dirt at the base of the carpet.

The best way to avoid this is by cleaning up any spills immediately as they happen, but this isn’t always possible, and some dirt buildup in your carpet is inevitable. A good quality carpet cleaner will penetrate to the base of the carpet and remove any lingering dirt or odors.

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3. Stubborn Pet Odors

A basic carpet cleaning should remove most odors and bacteria from your carpet. However, pet odors are among some of the most stubborn smells to remove from the home, and often a basic carpet shampoo simply won’t cut it.

It might seem that basic cleaning has worsened the pet odor problem. You may have been unaware of the lingering dirt before, but having the carpet deep cleaned may release the unpleasant odors back into the air, particularly if the carpet is not thoroughly cleaned or dried.

If the carpet has become deeply soiled from urine, it may need to be replaced entirely. However, in most cases, it can be salvaged. A professional cleaning company should be able to lift the smelly carpet and clean both sides, removing any hidden stains or odors and leaving your carpet as good as new.

How Do You Get Rid of the Unpleasant Smell in Your Carpet After Cleaning it?

Well, the good news is that tackling the musty smell is pretty straightforward.

If your carpet was cleaned by a professional company and you feel dissatisfied with the results, it’s a good idea to let them know and see what they can do for you. They should be able to return and re-clean the carpet, this time ensuring that there are no lingering odors.

If you cleaned the carpet yourself or just wish to tackle the issue on your own, there are several steps you can take.

Firstly – Here’s What NOT to do…

Don’t vacuum the carpet! Firstly, this could be dangerous since there is likely to be moisture within the carpet. Avoid going near your carpet with any electricals unless you have a wet vacuum.

It’s also best to avoid walking on the carpet if possible. This will push any excess moisture and dirt further into the carpet, causing it to penetrate deeper into the carpet and making it much more difficult to clean. If walking on your carpet is unavoidable, ensure your shoes or feet are clean and try and keep it to a minimum if possible.

Similarly, avoid putting furniture back onto the carpet. Again, this will push moisture and dirt further into the carpet and prevent it from drying.

Using the following methods, you should be able to get rid of the musty smell pretty efficiently. It might take a couple of hours of hard work, and you might need to avoid the area for a little while afterward, but you should be left with a fresh-smelling carpet.

Get Rid of the Smell Using Vinegar

Vinegar is an excellent all-natural cleaning agent used throughout the home. It has antibacterial and odor-neutralizing properties, making it great for eliminating musty smells.

Lucy's Family Owned - Natural Distilled White Vinegar, 1 Gallon (128 oz) - 5% Acidity Lucy’s Family Owned – Natural Distilled White Vinegar

To use the white vinegar to help tackle the musty smell coming from your carpet, place the vinegar into bowls and leave them positioned in various places within the affected area. The vinegar will absorb odors and neutralize the smell within the home.

Get Rid of the Smell Using Baking Soda

Alternatively, you could use baking soda, an excellent deodorizer, and a natural antibacterial ingredient.

Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the carpet and leave it to soak in, preferably overnight. Ensure there is good ventilation in the room to allow the wet carpet to dry out thoroughly. The baking soda will soak up much of the moisture and also remove any unpleasant smells.

Once the carpet is completely dry, go in with your regular vacuum cleaner and remove all baking soda particles. Your carpet should be left smelling and looking fresh.

Use a Dehumidifier

Dehumidifiers are used to reduce the moisture that is present in the air. They’re frequently used in laundry rooms where there is typically a lot of humidity which can quickly lead to the growth of mildew and mold.

For that same reason, they’re really useful for reducing the moisture within your carpet and helping it to dry out quicker. The dehumidifier can be left running in the room for as long as necessary. You’ll just need to empty and clean the water cartridge now and then.

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Another added benefit of using a dehumidifier is the ability of these machines to remove toxins and allergens from the air within your home.

Combining each of these methods is likely to give the best results. Just be sure to keep pets and children out of the way while the cleaning agents do their thing.

Preventing the Mildew Smell after Cleaning Your Carpets in Future

There are a few steps you can take in the future to stop musty smells from occurring following a deep cleaning of your carpet. These are all pretty simple but are highly effective in preventing those unwelcome odors.

Of course, the most important thing is to ensure that the carpet is cleaned thoroughly to a high standard, using good-quality equipment and a skilled carpet cleaning specialist. It should then be dried as much as possible, leaving minimal moisture to dry naturally in the following hours.

If these things have been achieved, then the following steps will act as further measures to increase your carpet’s freshness and reduce the need for re-cleaning immediately after having your carpet shampooed.

Leave Doors and Windows Open

After your carpet has been deep cleaned, be sure to leave any windows or doors open to maximize the ventilation and reduce the drying time. The longer any moisture is allowed to sit in the wet carpet, the more likely you will get those musty smells, so this is an important step.

Using a fan in the hours following a deep clean will also speed up drying times and leave the carpet and your home feeling fresh and clean.

Avoid the Area for a While

It’s also important to allow the carpet to dry before walking on it or loading heavy furniture back in. Applying pressure to the carpet too soon is a surefire way of pushing moisture and dirt further in, preventing the carpet from drying properly and increasing the chances of those musty smells lingering in your home.

Keep a Natural, DIY Air Freshener Close By

This is more of an on-the-go solution, but homemade air fresheners can add freshness to your carpet and home.

Mix equal parts water and white vinegar, and add a few drops of your chosen essential oils to a spray bottle. You can then spray this onto fabrics and directly onto your carpet between cleans to eliminate odors and reduce bacteria.

Again, just make sure you don’t apply too much moisture to the carpet and allow plenty of ventilation so that it dries off quickly if you use this option.

Clean Up Spills as Soon as Possible

Finally, prevention is the key to maintaining your carpet and avoiding unwanted odors.

Although it might not always be possible, try to clean up any spills as soon as possible to avoid them soaking into the base of the carpet and causing a buildup of dirt and mildew. This will reduce the chances of musty smells being released the next time your carpet is shampooed.

Related: How to Get Coffee Stains Out of Carpet

Final Thoughts on Carpet That Smells Worse After Cleaning

Being left with a musty carpet smell or mildew smell after a deep cleaning can be extremely frustrating. The smell can quickly fill your home, and it’s unlikely to go away.

If you find yourself in this situation, you must implement one or more of the methods listed in this article to eliminate the odor and rid your carpet of any hidden bacteria or mildew.

It’s also important to incorporate some of these prevention tips into your routine to reduce the chance of the smell reoccurring and to keep your carpet and your home looking and smelling as fresh as possible.