By the time carpet odors reach our noses, the problem may already be quite serious. That doesn’t mean, however, it cannot be resolved. The first step in treating any odor issue is to uncover and remove the source, and then clean the area quickly and thoroughly.

Routine cleaning likely won’t be enough to remove odors once they’ve established themselves in the carpet. Therefore, after removing surface debris, it may be necessary to conduct a deep flushing of contaminants via hot-water extraction using a sub-surface tool.

Even then, hot-water extraction alone may not be enough for strong or offensive odors, Trevino says. In these cases, it’s necessary to also apply a deodorizing agent or odor neutralizer. This is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Although there are some broad-spectrum neutralizers, most products are designed for specific odors (mildew, food, human waste, etc.).
It’s important that cleaning technicians know the source of a smell before treating it. They must also understand the proper decontamination agents for various types of odors. Deodorization can fail when someone uses the wrong chemical.

Trevino suggests testing the chemical on a small patch of carpeting to see if the treatment will work before neutralizing an entire carpet. There’s no point in wasting money on labor and chemicals for a process that ultimately won’t work, he says.

If the neutralizer appears to alleviate the odor, Trevino continues with a topical treatment of the entire area. If a carpet is not glued down, he will often detach it from the tack strips and also treat the carpet backing.

“We want the neutralizer to make contact with whatever is causing the odor,” he says. This process allows his team to asses any odor issues with the sub-floor and to replace affected padding, if needed.

Due to the chemistry involved with the neutralizing process, Trevino says it is usually best left to professionals. Facilities without IICRC-certified maintenance staff may want to hire an outside contractor to resolve serious carpet odors.

If carpets don’t respond to treatment, the only option left is replacing the entire carpet and padding.

“Removing carpet odors is a large challenge,” Poskin says. “The main goal is to remove the odors and not mask them. Masking the odor will prolong the problem and doesn’t address the underlying issue. Sometimes the only solution to remove the odor is to remove the carpet from the building.”

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