Why do my carpets smell bad after cleaning?

Michael Mckenzie
December 19, 2023
5 mins read
Social Media
Why do my carpets smell bad after cleaning?

Why do my carpets stink?

We all love fresh, clean carpets that look and smell amazing. Keeping on top of them is a good step in prolonging not just the look of your carpets, but the lifespan of the carpets also. New carpets are expensive, so having them cleaned is the best way to make sure you get the most out of your carpets.  

But they can sometimes smell damp after cleaning for several reasons. Below, we will look at just why your carpets can smell damp or musky after cleaning, and how you can fix that damp carpet smell. (or at least prevent it)



Residual Moisture: If the carpet cleaning process doesn't effectively remove all the moisture from the carpet, it can lead to a damp smell. This can happen with methods like steam cleaning or shampooing, where excess water is left in the carpet fibres.

Not all carpet cleaning machines are made equal. The term Hot Water Extraction (steam cleaning) injects hot water into the carpet as a carrier to extract dirt and bacteria. Machines that have a single vacuum motor, or low powered vacuums don’t have enough suction to pull excess water from deep within the carpet.

Too much pressure: Carpets are typically cleaned using between 150– 350 psi. This means the pressure at which water is sprayed into the carpet. Anything over these pressures can spray water too far into the carpets for the vacuums to effectively remove it.


Other reasons for damp and musty smells:

inadequate drying: proper ventilation and drying time are crucial after cleaning a carpet. if the carpet is not allowed to dry completely, it can develop a musty or damp odour. this is more likely in humid environments. Professional carpet cleaners often use fans as part of the cleaning process to speed up drying times. 

Dirty Water or Equipment: If the cleaning equipment or water used to clean the carpet is not clean, it can transfer dirt and contaminants to the carpet, leading to odours. Professional carpet cleaners will use fresh water one every job, and clean their equipment after each job has been completed.

Mould and Mildew Growth: Excess moisture left in the carpet can create a favourable environment for mould and mildew to grow. These microorganisms produce a musty smell. Mould and mildew can be especially problematic if the cleaning process doesn't effectively remove them.

Existing Odours: Sometimes, a carpet can have underlying odours that become more noticeable after cleaning. The cleaning process may temporarily mask these odours, but as the carpet dries, the underlying smells can become apparent again.

In severe instances, the carpet should be lifted back to investigate further. Most times, the underlay needs to be replaced, sub-floor dried. In the best case the carpet can be cleaned, treated and dried and ultimately saved. In worst case scenarios the carpet is beyond salvageable and also needs to be replaced.


To prevent or address damp smells after carpet cleaning:

Ensure thorough drying: Use fans, open windows, and dehumidifiers to help the carpet dry completely.

Use professional services: Consider hiring professional carpet cleaners who have the equipment and expertise to clean and dry carpets effectively.

Address mould and mildew: If you suspect mould or mildew growth, it's essential to treat the problem immediately. You may need to consult a mould remediation specialist.

Use odour-neutralizing products: There are carpet sprays and powders designed to neutralize odours. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions when using these products.

Maintain regular cleaning: Regular vacuuming and periodic professional cleaning can help prevent damp smells from developing in the first place.

By taking these precautions and addressing the causes of damp smells, you can keep your carpet clean and fresh after cleaning.

Michael Mckenzie
Owner, Paramount Cleaning Company
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