Healthy Living 10 min read

Why Does My Carpet Smell After Cleaning

It is not exactly uncommon for a carpet to have foul smells right after a several-hour deep clean session, and it is indeed a very frustrating experience for many. And to make it even worse, this can happen anyway

Published 04 Jun 2022
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It is not exactly uncommon for a carpet to have foul smells right after a several-hour deep clean session, and it is indeed a very frustrating experience for many. And to make it even worse, this can happen anyway even when you purchase the best cleaning equipment and cleaner there is for the job, or even send for professional carpet cleaning services. 

The good news is, though, that the potential causes of this phenomenon have been figured out, and by knowing that, we can work out solutions for the problem. In this article, we will give you some ideas about why your newly-cleaned carpet gives off unpleasant smells, and what may work to solve the problem. 

Where is that awful smell coming from?

There are a number of potential causes for the foul smell of a newly-cleaned carpet, some of which stem from the cleaning process itself, and some others associated with the usage of the carpet.

Why your newly cleaned carpet gives off a nasty odor?
Why your newly cleaned carpet gives off a nasty odor? (Source: Internet)

Carpet doesn’t dry quickly enough after cleaning

The carpet is one thick slab of fabric; once the water penetrates into the deeper layers, it can be very hard to get dry. And these undried layers can become the nests for mold, mildew, and bacteria, causing the nasty moldy smell.

There are a couple of reasons why your carpet may take longer than ideal to dry:

Carper gets overwetted during cleaning

Meaning that more moisture or detergent than necessary is applied to the carpet during the cleaning, causing the moisture/detergent to soak to the deeper layers and thus become harder to clean. Even for the more optimal cleaning methods like dry cleaning and hot water extraction, an inexperienced worker can easily overwet the carpet: They may move the vacuum cleaning too fast, set the water pressure too high, etc. Another reason why this happens to even professional cleaning service is that the flooring is so poorly maintained it needs to be overwetted by the worker in order to clean. 

Non-human factors

Sometimes it is not necessarily someone’s mistake that the carpet doesn’t dry properly Other non-human problems may also contribute to the overwetting of a carpet during the cleaning, and be a part of the reason why the newly cleaned carpet has bad smells. It might be that the ambient humidity is too high for the carpet to dry up, the carpet is made of heavy water-absorbing materials like wool. 

All of these can make the carpet dries slower than ideal. And when the moisture is stuck around in the deeper for too long, it invites mold, mildew, and bacteria growth, causing nasty odors. 

Old uncleaned stains

If the carpet got in itself old stains, spills, or dirt buildup, these may as well produce nasty odors when they come in contact with the moisture from the deep cleaning. As an example, old milk spills are notoriously known for producing awful foul smells.

So stubborn stains should be cleaned as soon as possible, otherwise, they will ruin your carpet with persistent odors. Also, any spillage must be taken care of immediately.

Pet urinating on the carpet

Pet’s urinating on the carpet would often get by completely unnoticed until its foul smell becomes a problem, and when it does, the urine would have already soaked all the way to the deepest layers. Containing ammonia and urochrome, the urine stain is permanent and can give nasty smells. The stains and the odor would persistently resurface when coming in contact with moisture, while also being uncleanable by conventional cleaners and cleaning procedures.

Water damage

The carpet might have developed mold and mildew before the deep cleaning even take place, due to the water damage from an existing leakage or a past spillage accident that wasn’t properly handled. In this case, it will have a moldy smell both before and after the deep cleaning and may require mold and drying treatment to get rid of the smell.


Cigarettes are notorious for leaving lingering odor on fabrics of all kinds. The smoke residual can be absorbed into the flooring even when most of the smoke does go out with the air. The heavier smoker the homeowner is, the more likely for the carpet to develop cigarette odor.

Prevention is better than cure

Before we discuss what to do and not to do with our smelly carpet, we wish to dedicate this session to discuss how this problem can be largely prevented. With the causes of the odor being figured out, we can devise measures to help take care of your odor problem before it even starts. Here are some suggestions:

  • Vacuum your flooring once every week, especially in areas where traffic is high,
  • Try your best to avoid spillage and stains, and handle spillage and stains immediately if they happen,
  • Use a doormat, and ask people to remove their shoes when entering your home,
  • Attend your air filter frequently to have less dust inside the house,
  • Employ moisture control and air circulation measures for the carpet to keep your carpet as dry as possible,
  • Send for professionals to deep clean your carpet once every 12-18 months.
Good cleaning and maintenance practices keep odors away (Source: Internet)

What to do and not do when you have a smelly carpet

The don’ts

So we will start with some precautions you should take to not exacerbate the odor problem or harm yourself without having much of any effect in solving it. So here are some don’ts:

  • Walk on the carpet before it dries: Stepping on a wet carpet can put pressure on the fibers, squeezing the moisture out of them that would then be absorbed by the deeper layers all the way to the backing, where mold and mildew will grow and will give you an odor problem that you can hardly reach to clean up.
  • Putting back the furniture on the carpet before it dries: The furniture will shade the areas underneath it and cause the flooring to not dry properly if it hasn’t thoroughly dried beforehand.
  • Using a standard vacuum cleaner to vacuum moisture from a slow-drying carpet: When the carpet still fails to completely dry after 24 hours, some people may try to vacuum up the rest of the moisture using the vacuum cleaner they readily have at home. These vacuum cleaners are not designed to do this job, so they won’t be of much help, and they will expose to the risk of electrocution as well. The better option would be to send for professional technicians and have them take care of your carpet with their own specialized equipment.
Things not to do on your newly cleaned carpet (Source: Internet)

The dos

And here are the things that you should do with your already smelly carpet.

Fully dry your carpet

The first thing you need to do before any deodorizing attempt is to get the carpet completely dry first, the faster the better. And to do this, you will need to remove the moisture and have better air circulation in the house. Here are some of the ways how this can be done.

  • Turning on the air conditioners. This appliance dehumidifies your home as a part of its cooling function, which can lead to it removing moisture from the carpet itself or at least preventing the ambient moisture from further delaying the carpet’s drying.
  • Turning on humidifiers: Humidifiers work using the same principle as the air conditioner’s cold mode. It dehumidifies the air in your home and, subsequently, your flooring as well.
  • Turning on the fans: Fans help improve air circulation inside the house, and could also use their breeze to help dry a carpet when pointed directly at the carpet. Ceiling fans would be the best for the job, but stand- or desk fans could also be useful.
  • Turning on the heating: In winter, the heating could be godsent at helping the flooring to dry.
  • Grooming the carpet: To amplify the effectiveness of any of the said drying methods, you should brush the carpet so the fabrics would return to their original stance, thus facilitating the ventilation and evaporation of moisture within the carpet itself.
Products that help deodorize your carpet (Source: Internet)

Deodorize the carpet

The second step would be to deodorize your carpet. So, in order to do this, you will have to get rid of the mold, mildew, bacteria, or stains that are causing your carpet odor problem. Vinegar and baking soda are excellent cleaners for these objectives. 

How to get rid of carpet smell with vinegar

To get rid of carpet odor with white vinegar, you can follow this simple guide:

  • Step 1: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water and fill the solution in a spray bottle.
  • Step 2: Spray the cleaner solution generously on the odorous carpet. Then let the carpet air dry. Before it dries, the vinegar will give off a pungent smell that you shouldn’t be too worried about.
  • Step 3: Vacuum the carpet thoroughly.

How to remove bad carpet smell with baking soda

Baking soda is present in pretty much every DIY carpet cleaning guide, and also makes up the main component of numerous commercial carpet cleaners. On top of its well-known deodorizing effect, baking soda is also excellent for absorbing moisture, killing mold, and removing stains. To clear your carpet odor with baking soda, you can simply follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Sprinkle the baking soda generously all over your carpet.
  • Step 2: Use a sponge or a broom to scrub/sweep the carpet with gentle force to spread the baking soda around evenly and help them penetrate the fibers. Let it sit overnight to absorb the odor.
  • Step 3: Vacuum the carpet to suck out the residual baking soda. For each area, touch from two different directions at least once each.

Other solutions for removing bad carpet smell:

Besides the most common suggestions like baking soda and vinegar, there are also other solutions to get rid of bad carpet smell:

  • Borax

To remove carpet odor with borax, use it the same way you use baking soda as described above.

  • Cat litter

Cat litter, especially clay-based types, is exceptionally good at absorbing moisture and deodorize and can be used interchangeably with baking soda and borax. Sprinkle the cat litter on the carpet, and leave it overnight. The cat litter should get rid of the moisture and, along with that, the smell. However, you should think twice about using this method if you keep a cat: The kitty might take it as permission to do business on your carpet.

More cleaning tips and professional cleaning services

Love these tips on how to remove bad smell on carpet? Sparkling and Beyond has even more cleaning tips and guides for you to explore in our library. If the DIY methods isn’t enough to solve your problem, you can always contact us for professional help. We provide professional and affordable cleaning services for your kitchen and any other part of the house, for any degree of need. We’ll keep your home sparkling clean and healthy.


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