How to Remove Mildew From Carpet
By Steve Gillman
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
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.
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
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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