Smelly carpet smells like mildew - eww
August 5, 2010 6:49 AM   Subscribe

How do I get the smell out of this recently flooded carpet?

The carpet in our apartment has been partially flooded about five times over the past six months or so. Each time it has been dried out with fans & dehumidifiers. Most recently, it was professionally shampooed & cleaned. Unfortunately, the smell of mildew remains. Is there an effective way to get rid of this smell short of actually replacing the carpet?

It's wall-to-wall carpeting on a concrete slab. Not sure if there's a pad or previous carpet beneath it. It is dry to the touch.

Bonus points for organic methods!
posted by jammy to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
You can try spreading baking soda out and mashing it into the carpet - then vacuuming after a few hours.
posted by wongcorgi at 7:09 AM on August 5, 2010

I reckon you should have a look underneath your carpet. Peel up a corner and see what's going on under there. It can feel dry to the touch on top, but if the pad (if any) is solid-ish or the carpet has a solid rubber backing there can be a lot of water under it that would take nearly forever to evaporate.

And if you find mold after peeling it up, you need to get the landlord involved to replace it ASAP for health reasons.

Don't do anything until you look under the carpet. Baking soda or Carpet Fresh would work if the carpet has no pad and no rubber backing. If it does, the baking soda won't actually get to where the damp is and is just a waste of time and effort.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:23 AM on August 5, 2010

I work for an insurance company. We get claims about water damage all the time, and mildewed carpets like this are near the top of the list in terms of frequency.

This is actually a big deal. Getting it shampooed and cleaned is not enough; this stuff gets down in there, and superficial measures/traditional cleaning products are not sufficient. You need a mold remediation specialist. This is cheaper than getting the carpet replaced, but it isn't cheap.

Talk to your landlord.
posted by valkyryn at 7:27 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just a note -- the proper way to lay carpet in a living area on a below-grade slab is to lay down a thin subfloor, e.g. DriCore, with plastic or metal fingers to allow any dampness to evaporate and/or channel its way to a drain, then put the carpet on top of the subfloor. Carpet right on the slab is a no-no; it's essentially impossible to ensure it stays dry.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:28 AM on August 5, 2010

Your carpet doesn't just smell like mildew, it IS molding.

It's not some cosmetic or scent inconvenience for you to deal with. If it smells like mold, it's mold, even if you can't see it or feel dampness. It can be hazardous to your health as well.

Luckily, this isn't your problem to deal with. It's why you rent. Don't put it upon your self to fix this. Your landlord needs to pony up for new carpet pads and probably another round of steaming too.

Also, when we're talking about biological warfare here, the best tool is bleach. Anything "organic" isn't going to cause the total death of every living microbe you need here. Lysol spray can work too, if you won't have repairs done for a while.
posted by fontophilic at 7:41 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

See if your landlord will replace the carpet and do something else like tile, etc. Better for him w/ insurance/liability and healthier for you and future tennants. Eveyoen is right, you got mold and that's dangerous. It's in the landlord's best interest to find a better solution. Maybe even carpet tile?
posted by stormpooper at 8:29 AM on August 5, 2010

The carpet in our apartment has been partially flooded about five times over the past six months or so. Each time it has been dried out with fans & dehumidifiers.

I can assure you, that carpet is toast. That much flooding cannot be salvaged by fans and dehumidifiers. The pad under the carpet is almost certainly molding, as is the underside of the carpet.

It needs to be replaced.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:40 AM on August 5, 2010

Unbeknownst to me, the owners of my old apartment did something similar with the basement carpet. It was to all appearances perfectly dry and OK-- no smell, even-- for a whole year. Then one week in the summer, the humidity rose a bit, and I came home after a few days' vacation to find the entire basement carpeted in a luxuriant forest of multicolored blooming mold.

Once mold/mildew is growing in your carpet, nothing is going to remove it. Even if you beat it back into temporary submission, it'll always be there lying in wait for the least hint of moisture to spring back into full, vigorous growth. You don't need that kind of suspense in your life. Just call your landlord and have it replaced.
posted by Bardolph at 10:02 AM on August 5, 2010

A carpet getting wet once or twice still has hope of being salvaged. But multiple times? It's history.

Where's the water coming from? Unless the cause is found and eliminated you're never going to be free of this problem.

As others have suggested, mold can be a VERY serious health risk. No apartment is worth having if it puts your respiratory health at risk. To say nothing of the damage mold can do to your other possessions. Carpet is a terrible floor covering in basements. Not unless they're totally dry and the carpet is properly installed (with the right backing and underlayment). This is true of any other covering material like those snap-together floors. It has to be done right or you'll have no end of trouble with it.

The best plan starts with finding out where the water is coming from and eliminating any chance of it getting inside. Everything else would be a waste of time and money if that wasn't stopped.
posted by wkearney99 at 10:18 AM on August 5, 2010

Response by poster: update: the leak has finally been fixed (a tree root had been slowly growing into and clogging a greywater pipe) - the landlord is going to be replacing the carpet next week & will be dealing with any mold they encounter

i sort of knew what everyone was saying here but i really needed to hear others confirm it for me - thanks much for this, it really helped
posted by jammy at 3:16 PM on August 6, 2010

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