Carpet Cleaning Tips

Why Does My Carpet Smell Worse After Cleaning It?

You noticed or scented (which is probably worse) that it’s time to free your carpet from the trapped dirt. As any diligent homeowner or renter would do, you decided to give that shaggy piece of fabric a good bath.

Quick walkthrough:

To do so, you’ve probably rented a cleaning machine or called a professional, moved your pet into another room, and prayed to all the gods you knew that those carpet stains would come off with ease.

So far, so good.

A couple of hours later, you got your lovely carpet cleaned, yet your nose receptors are still telling you that something’s not right. You sniffed around only to find out that the rug is the one to blame.

But why does your carpet smell worse after cleaning it?

Let’s see what are the causes of that musty smell in the room and what can you do to fight it.

Who is this blogpost for:

  • People that recently washed their carpets
  • DIY carpet cleaners
  • Dog owners

Reasons your carpet smells bad after cleaning it

The leading cause for a bad-smelling carpet after cleaning is that the carpet backing absorbed some of the moisture in the process and is still wet. If not dried properly, the underlying material becomes susceptible to mildew problems, which can cause the musty smell. So, make sure that you dry the carpet well and the bad odour will disappear.

If the carpet is relatively new, the so-called “wet dog” smell should disappear after the item is fully dry. For brand new items, check our post on how to reduce the scent of a new carpet.

For older carpetings, this might be a sign of their underlays breaking down. If so, it might be the time to retire your carpet or rug and replace it with a freshly bought one.

However, before doing anything at all, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How well was the carpet cleaned?
  • Was there any smell BEFORE it was cleaned?

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Let’s start with the first one.

The main reason for carpeting to smell worse after professional cleaning is overwetting. The most common causes for overwetting are:

  1. The rental carpet cleaning machine was not powerful enough to suck up the moisture from the fibres;
  2. The carpet cleaning technician was inexperienced and overwetted the carpeting;
  3. Using too much detergent or shampoo, and not rinsing the rug well afterwards;
  4. Poor drying conditions, such as high humidity levels or insufficient air circulation.

In some cases, to remove dried-on stains will require over wetting certain areas of the carpet. Then, a professional cleaner will do a couple of dry passes to suck up as much of the moisture as possible. When warm water comes in contact with dirt and heavy food or drinks spillages set-in deep into the fibres, this creates the perfect environment for bacteria growth. And while the bacteria are multiplying thanks to the heat and moisture, the odour quickly intensifies.

We suggest you read our post on the most effective and popular carpet cleaning methods to learn which technique is suitable for your textile floor covering. If you are interested in how frequently you need clean it, check out our article on how often to clean a carpet.

If #2 is the case and the carpet smelled like mildew even before the cleaning procedure, here are the possible reasons:

  1. A flood in the past you are not aware of (check the pipes of the ice maker connected to the fridge, inspect your HVAC system, and look for leaking faucets);
  2. Mould and mildew growth on grip rods or skirting boards;
  3. Aged carpet underlays which are breaking down;

These three factors are extremely interconnected and can affect your carpet in a truly disastrous way. When in doubt, if possible, lift up a section of the carpet and look underneath. If you notice grey, green, white or black spots, it’s probably moulded.

Mould or mildew puts your respiratory health at risk. If you think that’s the case, find the moisture source and have it fixed, and consult with a mould removal specialist right away!
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What you should know if your carpet smells like a dog after cleaning

Before learning what to and what not to do, let’s start with what you should know:

  • Carpets with hessian backing tend to smell more than foam-backed ones;
  • Drying time depends on how wet the carpet is and how hot/dry the air is;
  • For carpets which are 100% woollen, sniffing a wet dog smell is somewhat natural while the item is still wet and the odour should disappear once it dries out.

Any reputable carpet cleaning technician should provide you with instructions on how to take care of your carpet right after a deep clean.

If a rental carpet cleaning machine was used, the shop should give you information about how much time it will take for the carpet to dry out completely.

Have a smelly carpet after cleaning? Here are some quick remedies

Here’s how you can get rid of that musty smell out of your freshly cleaned carpet while it’s drying:

  • Open all windows, if the weather allows it, to ensure proper air circulation near the wet carpet;
  • Sprinkle baking soda or leave an entire box open overnight to absorb the smell, then vacuum it up;
  • Pour white vinegar in bowls and place them around the room. The vinegar will absorb pretty much any odour, including wet carpet smell.
  • Place a kitty litter near the carpeted area to soak up the bad smell. Be cautious if you have cats as they can treat it as a bathroom.
  • Use Febreze for carpets, but test the product for discolouration first on an inconspicuous area of your rug.
  • Spread Borax over the carpet and gently scrub it in with a broom or dry brush.
  • Place a dehumidifier in the room;
  • Rent or use your own fans and point them directly at the carpet (for example, Fantastic Services provides you with a free Air Mover system which speeds up the process with up to 3 times).

What should you not do?

As mentioned above, you should receive instructions on what not to do with your carpet from the cleaning company or shop as well. If you didn’t get any directions for whatever reason, here are the things you should avoid doing while your carpet is still wet:

  • Putting furniture on the carpet. This creates a heavenly environment for mould or mildew growth beneath the chairs and sofas. Also, wooden furniture legs can leave dented marks on the wet carpet, so make sure to place protective pads beneath the legs. The wet carpet can damage the wood itself, as well. Return the furniture in the room only after the carpet has fully dried.
  • Trying to vacuum the carpet with your household vacuum. This is not a good idea because you run the risk of electrocution or serious damage to the machine. To pull this off, you will need a wet vacuuming model that is able to soak up moisture.
  • Stepping on the carpet while it is still wet. This will squeeze the water back up from the pad and re-wet the carpet. Still, if you have to walk over the cleaned area for some reason, always wear protective shoes to keep oils from feet and socks from transferring into the damp carpet.

If you want to learn more about how to maintain your rug properly, check out our detailed post on the topic. It’ll walk you through the different ways to clean your carpet and keep it smelling fresh.

What if the problem still persists?

That’s it – you tried everything you could, but the unpleasant carpet damp smell refuses to go away. Well, unfortunately, odds are that there’s a good chance that the underlying surface of your carpet is damaged.

If that’s the case, it might be too late for you to save it and you should consider replacing the carpeting (here, you can find the nearest carpet recycler). Sadly, even professional carpet cleaners can’t help you with this one. This is simply something beyond their expertise and capabilities. However, note the following:

  • Frequent pet accidents can create a lingering smell that can potentially soak into the wood underneath the carpet. The same applies to pet vomit stains. One or two accidents shouldn’t be an issue, though.
  • Spilt liquids on carpets which haven’t been cleaned right away can settle into the carpet backing. For example, milk products can turn sour and in your carpet and cause an awful stench.
  • Mould and mildew growth might occur if there is moisture trapped between the carpet backing and the subfloor. And mould is dangerous to health as it can cause allergic reactions. That’s why mould-affected carpets should be removed as soon as possible.
  • The smell of cigarettes is able to penetrate almost any surface, including your wall-to-wall carpet or Persian rug. Also, if your home has suffered any fire damage, the smoke smell can establish itself deep within the carpet’s fibres. Cigarette smoking, candles, and fireplaces can all contribute to carpet filtration soiling resulting in dirty edges around the baseboards.

Play it safe, choose Fantastic Services!

Why you ask? Because all carpet cleaning technicians working with Fantastic Services are diligent and experienced in their field. Each job starts with a preparation and a quick viewing of the carpet to prevent any damages such as overwetting and discolouration during the service.

Experiencing the wet dog smell?

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Having a smelly carpet is not a pleasant experience, and if the cause is mould or mildew, it can turn into a health hazard, too. Take a look at our helpful blog post to learn how to remove mould from a carpet; your lungs and nose will thank you for it.


Now that you have a clue of why your carpet smells after cleaning it, it is time to resolve this issue! If you have any questions, please do let us know using our comment section.

Image source: depositphotos / Kobyakov, StudioLightAndShade, Patryk_Kosmider

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