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How to Remove Mildew From Carpet

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If you smell it you've got it, and it can be difficult to completely remove mildew from carpet. In fact, if it has been there for a while and the carpet has remained damp, it may be cheaper to buy new carpeting. But even then you will have some serious disinfecting to do, so let's look at what can be done.

To start with mildew is actually a catch-all word that refers to several kinds of molds or fungi. Molds in general can be killed in a variety of ways. The bad news is that most of these ways do not work well on carpet. You can't pour bleach on carpet or expose the backside to direct sunlight.

Mild Cases of Mildew in Carpet

There are mildew or mold spores in the air almost everywhere, and if the conditions are right they settle in and multiply. So, for example, if you have carpet that remains damp or wet for more than 24 to 48 hours, you might have some serious mildew growth. The first point, then, is to dry carpet as quickly as possible when it gets wet.

But what if you do your best and the carpet still has a bit of odor? You might remove the odor with baking soda. Sprinkle some on the carpet and let it sit for a while. Then vacuum it up. Some of the sprinkle-and-vacuum deodorizing products might work as well. However, you probably will not be killing the mildew, so even if you remove the worst of the odor you will need to keep the carpeting very dry to prevent any further growth.

Another option is an ozone shock treatment, which can be done by some professional carpet cleaners. They may also have other treatments for both killing the mildew and reducing or eliminating the odor.

More Severe Cases

If you have a carpet that is very moldy, it will often be much cheaper to just have it removed and replaced. The floor underneath should be thoroughly treated before installation of the new carpet (and if wet carpet is a recurring problem for some reason you might consider putting down tile instead). Some people will claim you can remove the pad underneath, disinfect the floor, treat the existing carpet, and then reinstall it with a new pad. As you can imagine, this can be expensive, which is why you might want to just start fresh.

Prevention Tips

If you have a flooded floor it is important that you act quickly. If you wait more than two days it may be too late to remove mildew from carpet. Generally you need to have professional help in any case. Usually the pad will be discarded and replaced with a new one, the subfloor will be treated, and the carpet reinstalled. It must be dried fast, and you cannot extract enough water with small cleaning units, so call a professional cleaner. Also, you will need to run dehumidifiers for a couple days to complete the process, and the ones designed for personal home use are not powerful enough.

Note: If the damage is from a natural event, like a storm that breaks a window and allows rain into the house, your homeowner's insurance might pay for the treatment or replacement of your carpet. Be sure to call and ask before you try anything on your own.

There are some things you can do to prevent mold in general in your home and carpet. These include allowing air and sun in as much as possible, and otherwise keeping humidity levels as low as you can. If you have a very damp room, like in a basement, a dehumidifier is a good idea. There are also air purifiers which emit ozone and run the air through UV light--both of which are known to kill mold and mildew spores.

Since you might not be able to remove mildew completely from carpet once it has colonized it, you might want to prevent it to the extent possible.

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