Maybe you've never had this happen to your home's carpet, but everyone knows what that sour smell is. Whether you've had it happen to clothing that was left wet in the bathroom floor too long, a mop that wasn't dried out properly, or even a spilled drink in the floorboard of your car, there's no mistaking it. Once it's been there long enough, it can make the room totally unpleasant to even be in.
If your carpet has been soaked with any kind of liquid, it's important to get it out of the carpet as quickly as possible to prevent this smell from happening in the first place. But, if for some reason you weren't able to do this, there are a few things that you can do to get rid of that sour carpet smell.
Baking Soda Is A Great Deodorizer... But Beware
Baking soda has a lot of great household uses, but baking soda for odor removal isn't really the best way to go about removing that wet carpet smell that you're itching to get rid of. Why?
Baking soda is a powder and because it's made up of such tiny particulate matter, you will never be able to vacuum all of it out of your carpet. It's always going to be there, no matter how many times you vacuum over it.
This is especially noticeable if you try to use baking soda to deodorize berber-type carpets. It's always going to have that vague white powdery sheen to it, regardless of how many passes over it with the vacuum you do.
It's also harmful to your vacuum cleaner. Even if you have a high end vacuum with a HEPA filter, it can clog the filter and reduce the overall lifespan of your vacuum.
You may be alright if you use it to deodorize your carpets once or twice, but just be aware that until you completely replace your carpet and clean underneath it, some of that powder is always going to be there.
How To Properly Use Baking Soda On Your Carpet
If you find yourself in a pinch and you need to use baking soda to deodorize your carpet because you don't have anything else, use it in moderation. It should be a light sprinkling over the surface of the carpet and you shouldn't be walking over it at any point while you're distributing it. Walking over it pushes it further down into the carpet, which is what you don't want to do.
Let the baking soda sit on the surface of the carpet, completely undisturbed overnight to do its deodorizing magic.
After you've let it set overnight (preferably at least 24 hours), run your vacuum over it thoroughly a couple of times. The stronger your vacuum is, the better your results are going to be in getting the powder off of the carpet (instead of out of it).
Vinegar Also Works To Remove Odors
Vinegar has long been used to remove odors from fabrics and even entire households that have managed to develop strong odors. It may seem a little counterintuitive to wet carpet again to get rid of wet carpet smell, but that's exactly what you can do as long as the liquid is vinegar… or one other miracle odor remover we'll get to in a minute.
Take a good spray bottle and fill it with distilled white vinegar. Don't use any other type of vinegar but this or you'll either end up with stains or you'll just end up replacing one smell with another. White vinegar is the only type to use when you're doing this.
Spray your carpet lightly with the vinegar; don't completely saturate it, because it's not necessary to do that. You can also take the opportunity to spray any other fabric items in the room, from upholstery to curtains to get an even better effect.
The only thing you have to do after that is let it dry. The smell should be significantly lessened or completely gone. If you want to do it again to see if a second treatment helps more, you can do that.
The vinegar is less likely to damage your carpet than baking soda with multiple uses because it's not a particulate that gets stuck in the pile or under the mat.
If the vinegar doesn't work, there's another option on the table. Baking soda and vinegar may be great…
But The King of Odor Removal Is Alcohol
Vodka and other clear alcohols (including rubbing or isopropyl alcohol) are the kings of odor removers that can commonly be found in your home and for pretty cheap.
But, why does it work so well?
Vodka (even the cheapest vodka you can find) works because it's a plain white spirit that won't leave stains and as long as you're not using a flavored vodka, it won't leave behind any kind of after smell when it dries.
The reason alcohol works better than vinegar is that vinegar is water-based; alcohol evaporates faster than water does, so your carpet (or any other fabric you spray it on) will dry much faster and take the odors with it. Even if carpet is saturated with it, it's going to evaporate and leave your carpet smelling like nothing much faster than any water-based cleaner will.
Alcohol also has the added benefit of being a better disinfectant than vinegar. You do want to be careful with it, though, because it's certainly flammable. If you smoke, you shouldn't do so around carpet that's been sprayed with alcohol of any kind.
Still Struggling With Odor? Try Professional Strength Carpet Cleaner
If the other options haven't worked by now, they probably aren't going to. When you've tried the other more natural options, it's time to get chemical about it.
One of the best carpet cleaners we've ever seen is Rocco & Roxie Professional Strength Stain & Odor Eliminator. This stuff just works. It works best on pet urine, but it's also great at removing odors from mold, cigarettes, and just about anything else.
The enzymes in this cleaner actually break down urine crystals left behind in the carpet. Neither baking soda, vinegar, nor alcohol does this.
Nothing else actually removes urine crystals from the carpet like this does, so this is a great solution whether urine is the only problem or just one of many.
Used All Of The Above And It Still Stinks? Try Ozone
If you've been through all of the above and your carpet still smells like a week old cup of milk, it's time to bring in a heavy hitter.
Ozone generators! Yeah, baby, that's like releasing the Kraken on odors.
First, let me tell you how we use them, then why they are so awesome at destroying odors.
We use them in flooded homes and on mold remediation jobs to make sure everything is sterile and odor free. They are critical to our operations as a Florida state licensed mold remediation contractor. The best testament to ozone in our business is fire damage restoration. Have you ever been in a home that had a small kitchen fire and the entire house still smelled like a house fire after being repaired? Ozone generators solve that issue.
Ozone generators are what most commercial companies will use to deodorize everything from carpets to vehicles to entire homes. They work by generating ozone. It splits the oxygen molecules in the room into single molecules, which then go on to bind with oxygen molecules in the air.
This forms ozone (also known as O3 ). It reacts with odor particles in the air and then breaks back down into O2 .
Believe it or not, ozone is the second most powerful sterilizing agent in the world. It will not only remove the odors in your carpet, but it will also kill any bacteria, mold, or other things that may be living in it. We have a complete guide on everything ozone generators and even have a list of the best on the market for the average homeowner or small business.
The drawback of using ozone is that you cannot have any living thing in the room when you're using it or for hours after the treatment is over. This means you cannot have pets, plants, or people in the room while your ozone generator is running or immediately after you've turned it off.
Most ozone generators come with built-in timers, so you can set it, then set an alarm on your phone for the exact amount of time you set the ozone generator for, plus add a couple of extra hours afterward to allow the ozone to dissipate.
You should not enter the room until after the generator has been off for a few hours, just to be safe.