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How To Get Musty Smells Out of Carpet (+ Wet Mildew Issues Too)

Knowing how to get the musty smell out of carpet is necessary knowledge for almost all home, car and boat owners as you’ll likely face this issue at some point.

Carpets are a gorgeous decor addition to any home and are often not a cheap investment. They take some upkeep, but isn’t it worth the effort for a warm and welcoming place to come home to each day?

We love high-quality carpets but understand that they come with a caveat: they require regular cleaning.

In this post, we will dissolve some of the mystery of keeping carpets smelling fresh and clean year-round.

How To Get Musty Smells Out of Carpet

What Causes Carpet Smells?

Since a beautiful carpet is a long-term investment, it pays to keep it looking and smelling its best.

The first tip is to understand that a carpet’s design invites grit and smells. The softness underfoot is part of the appeal, but the fibers easily collect dirt and other contaminants, including:

  • Allergens
  • Dust mites
  • Odors
  • Stains and more

That musty odor so common to unkempt carpeted areas is commonly due to unseen mold growth. Excess mildew, moisture or water seepage in the home sinks into carpet fibers, creating an ideal environment for mold spores. Without intervention, the spores release noxious odors into the air.

Other smells come from pets (especially dogs) and pests like rats, mice, and termites. For example, you might notice a strong “dog” smell on a particular carpet despite having no animals in your home.

Be sure to check the carpeting for urine stains and chew marks from rodents that roam the house at night.

Tips On How to Get The Musty Mildew Smell Out of Carpet Yourself

If your carpet is only slightly smelly, you could tackle the offending carpet odors without calling a professional for help.

Here are six tips and tricks that may help:

#1 Vacuum It

The first thing you need to do is vacuum the affected area.

This will remove any loose dirt and debris from the carpet which could be causing the unpleasant odor.

It also eliminates any dirt or dust on top of the carpet fibers for a pristine and inviting surface.

how to get mildew out of carpet

#2 Sprinkle Baking Soda

After vacuuming, sprinkle baking soda over the affected area and let it sit for about an hour.

The baking soda will help absorb the odor from the carpet fibers and leave behind a fresh scent as it neutralizes the lingering smell.

#3 Try Vinegar Solution

If the odor is stronger, vinegar is another excellent way to get musty smells out of a prized carpet without chemicals.

It’s inexpensive, 100% natural, and easy to use.

  • Mix a solution in a spray bottle or bowl: one cup of vinegar with three cups of distilled water. 
  • Spray or wipe vinegar on the affected area with a clean cloth until all the wet spots are gone.
  • Leave the solution on the carpet for about ten minutes.
  • Blot any excess liquid with a dry towel or paper towel to remove excess moisture that could further cause smells.

You can safely use the vinegar method in conjunction with the baking soda method as well for an extra level of cleaning.

#4 Use Hydrogen Peroxide Solution Carefully

Sometimes, the odors on your carpet may persist even when you have vacuumed and tried a vinegar or banking soda combination.

This might be the case when you have not deep-cleaned the carpet in a while or when it has come under extensive water damage.

If the musty, mildew smell persists, breaking down some of the organic compounds in the carpet might be the only way to rid the place of the odor.

  • Mix one-part hydrogen peroxide with five parts distilled water in a spray bottle.
  • Spray this mixture on the carpet and leave it to soak in for approximately 10 to 30 minutes.
  • Blot it with an old towel (hydrogen peroxide can bleach colors).

If you are unsure of whether the hydrogen peroxide solution will ruin your carpet type, check the label or contact the carpet manufacturer for advice. You can also try spraying a small corner of the carpet first to be sure.

#5 Reach for a Carpet Deodorizer

If you’re wondering how to get musty smell out of carpet without the need to vacuum, you can try a carpet deodorizer.

Commercially available carpet deodorizers blend baking soda and fragrances into a foam or powder to eliminate hidden carpet smells. The products work to penetrate carpet fibers, neutralize trapped odors and help disinfect your carpet as well.

These products are convenient, cheap, and easy to find at any local home improvement store or grocery store. Some may require you to vacuum afterwards, so read the fine print before you use the product.

#6 Don’t Forget About Foam Carpet Cleaner

The final tip on how to get a musty smell out of a carpet is to use a foam carpet cleaner.

This type of cleaner works well on stains and odors, and it is a good choice for addressing multiple carpet issues at once. 

  • Apply the foam as thinly as possible.
  • Immediately start scrubbing the area with a brush or sponge.
  • Allow the affected area to dry.
  • Vacuum up any debris immediately.

Do not use too much foam carpet cleaner, as it can result in dry patches of foam on your carpet that are harder to clean off later.

how to get pet smells out of carpet

Say Goodbye to Musty Carpets: Key Prevention Tips

Vacuum Regularly

Vacuuming is the most effective way to prevent a carpet from retaining bad smells.

Our experts recommend that you vacuum at least once a week to remove dirt, dust, and other contaminants from the carpet fibers. It is the best way to keep a carpet clean and odor-free.

Air Your Carpet

You might be wondering how to get those musty smells out of the carpet without resorting to harsh cleaning products.

The secret is to air the carpet regularly. Open windows and doors or, even better, hang them outdoors for a few hours of sunshine to kill any dust mites hiding in the fibers.

Blot Spills Immediately

Has there been an accidental carpet spill? Soak it up immediately. 

  • Use paper or cloth towels
  • Then, apply a vinegar solution (or baking soda to absorb rather than mask the smells)
  • After about an hour, vacuum the area

This blot-absorb-vacuum technique is a foolproof way to tackle any spill or stain on carpeting. It eliminates lingering odors and can even prevent stains from spilled wine or coffee. 


Here’s a few more specific details to dive into:

How Do I Get Musty Smells Out Of A Rug?

The process we’ve described in this article for getting smells out fo your carpet will work just as well for you rug. Check your cleaning codes first and if it allows – vacuuming, baking soda and vinegar is the best place to start.

How To Get Musty Smell Out Of
Carpet After Flood?

The baking soda and vinegar method works well for this as well, however, if your carpet has been flooded you will need to make sure it’s dried completely before even worrying about the smell. You may need to lift it to make sure all water underneath has dried completely too.

How To Get Musty Smell Out Of Carpet In The Basement?

The process is the same as getting the smell out of your carpet in any room, however, basements typically don’t get much natural light or airflow to tend to be hotspots for mold and mildew. Once you’ve removed the smell, try to keep any windows open and run some fans or dehumidifiers if you need to.

Clean Carpets, Happy Home

Keeping a carpet clean and stain-free is no easy task in a busy home.

Hopefully, the tips above have given you useful information on preventing and removing musty smells from your carpet. The key is being proactive about spill cleanup, regular carpet cleaning, and occasional airing on sunny days.

Always remember to check your carpet cleaning codes before applying any cleaning method too – some carpets are delicate and require specialist treatment.

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