Why does my carpet smell awful after cleaning? 5 possible reasons and how to fix it

man smelling carper while pinching his nose

It is downright frustrating to spend several hours deep cleaning your precious carpet only to end up with some unpleasant smells.

You may feel like you’ve wasted money buying the cleaning solutions, materials, and equipment. The feeling is even worse if you paid for a professional carpet cleaning service. With the DIY techniques and approaches, you might doubt your cleaning capabilities.

But for a professional service, you simply expect nothing less than a clean and fresh smelling carpet. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

And this is a problem many London homeowners often have to face. If you are experiencing bad odours that seem to hang around your indoor spaces, don’t get worked up.

We will share some great tips and tricks that can help you clear up the nasty carpet odours.
But before that, let’s have a look at the potential reasons for the awful smell.

Table of Contents

5 reasons why your carpet smells worse after cleaning

The common reasons attributed to the unpleasant smells include:

n#1 -Overwetting carpets 

When deep cleaning carpets, moisture might soak into the carpet backing and padding. Most professionals use dry carpet cleaning and hot water extraction methods, and they target carpet fibres. If the cleaner is inexperienced to handle the tasks, they may end up applying more water or cleaning detergent than needed. 

The problem arises when too much moisture is left in the layer underneath the carpet fibres. Perhaps, the vacuuming machine that the cleaner used didn’t carry enough power to suck out excess moisture from the carpets. It is also possible the cleaner might have moved the vacuuming machine too fast, or they set the water pressure way too high. 

Since the layer is not exposed to direct sunlight or air, leaving too much water in the underlay wreaks havoc on your carpet. The carpet will most likely take more time to dry. The presence of excess moisture can lead to several issues, including promoting mould and mildew growth. If your carpet gives off a musky smell, then that’s a clear sign the underlay has drying problems. 

While professionals target fibre layers when cleaning carpets, poorly maintained flooring may sometimes require overwetting. However, experts do dry passes to suck up as much water as possible. 

What if overwetting is not the problem after all? 

Sometimes overwetting may not be to blame. The weather, carpet material, and location of the carpet in your home can also affect the time your flooring takes to dry completely. 

If you deep clean during rainy days, the carpet will most probably take longer to dry. The same goes for carpets located in spaces where there is limited air movement and direct sunlight. 

Carpets made of synthetic fibres tend to dry quickly compared to the woollen types. And when moisture sits in the carpet fibres for too long, it increases the risk of microbial growth. 

Do you need professional help for carpet cleaning in London? Contact us now for your free, no-obligation quote!

n#2 - Old underlay stains

If the old spills, stains, dirt accumulated in the carpet backing and padding get exposed to moisture during deep cleaning, stronger unpleasant odours may resurface. For example, spills of milk products can cause a very persistent awful smell. 

Some property owners can put off deep cleaning their carpets for more than a year. As a result, some dirt and stains eventually get into the underlay. Once the stains set, it becomes almost impossible to get rid of them even after deep cleaning the carpet. 

It means that the persistent smell will linger around until the carpet dries, although there are some high-end treatments to address such problems.

You need to consider professional deep cleaning at least twice a year to prevent stubborn stains from getting into the underlay. Some homeowners may need to hire the services every three months, particularly if they have pets, kids, or a smoking habit. 

Another thing worth mentioning is, you should always take care of spills as soon as they occur.

N#3 - Pet Urine

god just urinated on carpet

The problem with pet urine is that, it can easily get into the carpet fibres or underlay since you won’t notice until it starts to create a problem. Ammonia and urochrome in urine can not only cause permanent stains but also give a nasty smell, which is often hard to get rid of from carpets. 

Stains resulting from pet urine can generate lingering odours that tend to resurface whenever you clean the carpets. The urine has a unique kind of structure that requires more than the basic cleaning solutions and procedures. 

While your chances of success are high when you act as soon as your pet messes up, you may still need additional special products and techniques from professional carpet cleaners. 

N#4 - Water damage

Plumbing leaks or past water damage can cause mould growth underneath your home’s flooring. If you smelled mildew before and after the carpet cleaning procedure, you should check for any signs of leakage. It doesn’t take a lot of water for mould to grow. Be sure to check the grip rods, skirting boards, and underneath your carpet to see if there’s mould or mildew. 

Since mould can cause allergic reactions or worsen symptoms, it is recommended to remove the moisture-damaged carpeting as soon as possible. 

If you can’t trace the mould but still get a musty smell, the underlayment of your carpet might be the culprit. Maybe the underlay has started breaking down because it is old.

N#5 - Cigarette smoking

Cigarette smells can penetrate everything made of fabric, including the curtains and carpet fibres. Some of the residual smoke that gets absorbed to indoor surfaces usually remains after the majority of the airborne components of smoke have cleared. The more you smoke, the more residual smells get stuck in the wet carpets. 

For smokers, they probably won’t realise how strong the smell is because they’ve become so used to it.

Please note no amount of professional deep cleaning will be enough to remove the unpleasant odours if you’re used to smoking while inside your home. 

If there was fire damage in your indoor spaces, then the bad smell from your flooring material could be due to the smoke that found its way into the fibres. 

Do you need professional help for carpet cleaning in London? Contact us now for your free, no-obligation quote!

How to get smell out of carpet

Now that you are aware of the potential reasons for wet carpet smell, it’s time to check out the solutions to the problems above. And without further ado, here are some of the quick tricks and remedies you will want to try out. 

Speed up the carpet drying process

Your wet carpet should be exposed to at least moving air if direct sunlight doesn’t get to it.

Carpets need ample time to dry before you can start walking on them. While the drying duration might vary, carpets usually dry within 6 to 12 hours. Consider these tips to make sure you’re not left with a smelly carpet.

  • Open the windows: Carpets tend to dry faster when located in a room with fresh air circulating in it. With fresh air moving across the room, you might prevent the problem of faint musty odours commonly experienced when carpets get dried in unventilated spaces.

  • Use fans: Fans can help improve the airflow and freshen up your flooring material. Ceiling fans are more powerful and effective than the stand or desk fans, but both can do the trick. If you are going to use the stand or desk fan, make sure it is pointed directly to your carpet for faster drying. You do not have to invest in new fans. Renting would be a smart idea.

  • Groom the carpets:  You will need a carpet brush or rake to lift and align the carpet fibres back to their original state. It can help promote airflow, thus reduce the dry time. You may want to groom your carpet to allow for even distribution of treatment solutions.

  • Turn on your heating: The lack of kinetic energy can slow down the drying process. If you had your carpets deep cleaned during the cold day, just turn on the heating. It facilitates evaporation, allowing your carpet to dry a lot quicker.

  • Use a dehumidifier: Having a high humidity level in a room won’t do your wet carpet any good. A dehumidifier comes in handy when you want to regulate the amount of moisture present in your indoor air to speed up the drying process. You can tell your home has humidity issues if you see windows covered with condensation, or there are moist stains on walls and ceiling.

Best remedies to clear unpleasant wet carpet smell

White vinegar:

White vinegar is a fantastic carpet cleaning and de-odourising agent. This type of vinegar is highly acidic and packed with antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiseptic properties. So, it is a great remedy for potential mould and mildew problems. Here is what you will need to do:

  • Step 1: Mix equal amounts of white vinegar and lukewarm water in a spray bottle. Make sure you shake the mixture thoroughly.

  • Step 2: Spray the vinegar solution to your carpet liberally. You should cover the entire surface of the carpet, and then leave it to air-dry. Vinegar will give off a strong smell until it dries.

  • Step 3: Vacuum your carpets thoroughly after the vinegar solution has dried. Alternatively, you can pour undiluted white vinegar into a few bowls and place them around your carpet. Leave the vinegar overnight to absorb the wet carpet smell. Of course, ensure no one trips on them. Perhaps, you should lock the room if possible.

Baking Soda

baking powder

Is there a DIY carpet cleaning guide that doesn’t feature baking soda? I highly doubt it.Baking soda is one of the popular options many homeowners turn to when they want to get rid of the wet carpet smells. It is a good natural deodouriser, which is also inexpensive and simple to use.

  • Step 1: Sprinkle your baking soda liberally all over the carpet.

  • Step 2: Use a soft carpet broom or sponge to evenly spread the powder around while working it into the carpet fibres. Don’t apply too much pressure, though. After spreading the powder, leave it there overnight to absorb the smell and potential moisture.

  • Step 3: Vacuum your carpet thoroughly to remove the residue. Just be sure to touch every area from at least two different directions.
Do you need professional help for carpet cleaning in London? Contact us now for your free, no-obligation quote!

Borax Powder

Borax powder is another common solution for absorbing the nasty odours in households, including those in your carpet fibres. If you are going to use borax to fix the wet carpet smell problem, then it’s recommended to follow the precautions on the packaging. One of the safety precautions is, of course, testing the powder on an inconspicuous area of your carpet before you start applying it.

  • Step 1: Sprinkle the borax powder on the carpet. Apply a generous amount to coat the entire carpet surface.

  • Step 2: Just like with baking soda, you also need to use a soft carpet broom or sponge to gently work the powder into the carpet fibres. Let it sit for about 8 to 12 hours.

  • Step 3: Vacuum your carpet thoroughly.

Kitty litter 

If you haven’t tried the cat litter method before, then you should give it a shot. It is an excellent alternative to baking soda and borax powder. It will soak up any potential moisture left in your fibres, leaving you with the carpet’s natural smell. We prefer that you use the clay-based kitty litters. They are more effective in absorbing the bad odour. 

You can choose to leave the open kitty litter box in your sitting room overnight near the carpet, or simply sprinkle it on the surface of the carpet. However, make sure to take extra precaution if you’re a cat owner. Your four-legged friend might easily assume she has an invitation to urinate on your already troubled carpet.


febrese air freshner
We think it would be unfair if we didn’t include Febreze in our list of best solutions to get smell out of carpet. It is a great product that essentially neutralises the unpleasant odours trapped in fabrics and carpet fibres. What’s more, Febreze can eliminate musty smells without leaving a strong residue of its scent. However, we won’t recommend it to people with chemical sensitivities. If you are comfortable with using Febreze, make sure to test it first on the hidden part of your carpet to see how the fibre reacts.

Common mistakes to avoid after carpet cleaning

If you work with a knowledgeable carpet cleaning technician, expect to receive a few guidelines on how to care for your carpet after the cleaning procedure. For DIY carpet cleaners or homeowners who didn’t receive the instructions, below are some of the common mistakes you should avoid

Walking on wet carpet

It is safe to keep heavy traffic, children, and pets off your carpet until the floor covering is completely dry. Stepping on damp carpets tends to exert pressure on the fibres, and this can lead to soaking up some parts of your underlay with moisture. Also, freshly cleaned carpets are prone to holding on to dirt more easily.

Using a domestic vacuum on an overwetted carpet

If your carpet is still soaking wet after 24 hours, don’t even waste your time trying to vacuum it with the typical homeowners’ vacuum cleaners. It won’t suck out much of the moisture and, unfortunately, subjects you to the risk of electrocution. In such a case, you should consider hiring a more powerful vacuum model that professionals use. 

Returning furniture too soon

Many mould species thrive in dark and damp areas. Well, the area beneath your sofas and other pieces of furniture can create a perfect breeding ground for mould and mildew. 

There’s also another concern if you don’t use waterproof protectors beneath the furniture legs that are wooden or partially metal. The legs can leave ugly marks on your carpets. When you expose your wooden legs to wet surfaces, you also risk damaging your high-end furniture. 

The standard rule is to return the carpets once they have dried properly, preferably between 12 to 24 hours after cleaning. 

Not getting the results you hoped for?

If none of the above tips, tricks, and remedies has helped improve the wet carpet smell, save yourself the stress and consult a professional carpet cleaner to inspect your carpet. Turning to professionals is, most of the time, the best approach. 

A well-trained, experienced and reliable technician will tell you if cleaning can save or salvage your carpet. If after examining your carpet they discover that water has damaged the fibres and padding, the technician will recommend that you invest in new carpets. But don’t lose hope yet.

Talk to an expert today

If you’re looking for a highly trusted carpet cleaning company in London, then you can’t go wrong with Carpet Cleaning London Pro. We have a team of experts that can handle all sorts of wet carpet odour problems. 

Our crew is backed by state-of-the-art cleaning equipment and solutions, which can leave your carpets smelling fresh once again. 

Call 07915 486 314 today to speak to one of our cleaning pros. Alternatively, you can request a free quote online

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