Techniques to pinpointing and removing odors from carpeting, while preventing future problems

When people think of odors, they most commonly associate them with the restroom. Which is why, when unpleasant smells are detected upon entering a facility, the cause can have cleaners scratching their heads. Most often, though, the unwanted odor stems from neglected carpet maintenance or improper cleaning processes.

“I wouldn’t say carpet odors are common, but they are very important because when someone comes into a facility, they judge the cleanliness with their nose,” says Shawn Trevino, owner of Trevino Flooring Company in Wheeling, Illinois. “It’s important to keep odors neutralized.”

Foul carpet odors can have a negative effect not only on customers, but also on building occupants and custodial staffs.

“Floors are the largest surface area we maintain, with carpets comprising a major portion,” says Allen Rathey, president of The Healthy Facilities Institute, Boise, Idaho. “Proper carpet care impacts facility appearance, health and asset preservation in significant ways.”

Odorous carpets create an unhappy experience that can lower client visits and employee attendance. They may also eventually require a major capital outlay for replacement, or worse, cause serious indoor air quality problems that lead to health-related litigation.

“Proper carpet care is an asset preservation strategy that pays,” Rathey says.

The Culprits Of Carpet Odor

Carpets don’t smell bad. Instead, odors arise from what’s inside carpets. Anything from food or human waste to soil and pollen can become sources of stink if they get stuck over time in carpet fibers or backing material.

“Carpets are just big filters capturing contaminants. If they aren’t flushed out regularly, odors could occur,” Trevino says. “Usually it’s neglected carpets that have odor issues.”
In addition to contaminants, moisture can be problematic. There are a whole host of issues that can produce excess moisture, including spills or floods, high humidity, faulty HVAC systems and over-wetting carpets during cleaning. Wet carpets can then produce mold, which can quickly cause a stench.

Carpet is like a sponge soaking up water, says Tim Poskin, chairman of the Simon Institute Think Tank in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to see that the sponge is full until it’s too late.

“Carpet cleaning and odor removal is one of the most unique challenges in the cleaning industry,” Poskin says. “Carpet is the only three-dimensional surface we clean on a daily basis.”

The third culprit of odors can stem from the equipment or processes a technician uses to clean. Poorly maintained vacuums or extractors can leave soil behind in the carpet. Likewise, insufficient or incorrect vacuuming or improper extraction can lead to odors, as can using the wrong cleaning chemicals, too much water, inadequate ventilation or incomplete rinsing.

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Techniques For Removing Odors From Carpets