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How to Get Rid of a Damp Carpet Smell

Written by James Hall |

how to get rid of damp carpet smell

Does your carpet have a musty smell? Here’s how to remove a damp smell from carpet using only white vinegar.

A musty or damp smell can make your home unpleasant. Damp carpets also allow mould and mildew to grow, which could be a health hazard – especially for people with allergies.

Removing a damp smell from carpets is usually easy though. In this article, we’ll go through a method that uses nothing more than water and white vinegar.

Note: This article is about removing damp smells from small patches of carpets. If your home has been flooded, or is very damp, then you’ll need to contact a professional.

What Causes Carpets to Smell Damp?

When a carpet gets wet, a damp smell can happen if it isn’t allowed to properly dry. This can be due to a variety of reasons.

A damp smell is common after carpet cleaning, especially if the cleaner wasn’t able to extract the water used during the cleaning process. This can happen if the machine isn’t powerful enough or the cleaner is inexperienced.

Damp or musty smells may also be caused by a leak that’s causing your carpet to remain permanently wet. This can allow mould and mildew to grow, leading to a musty smell that doesn’t go away.

Regardless of what caused the damp smell, the first step is to make sure that the carpet is completely dry. Check for any leaks and get them fixed, then make sure the damp area isn’t covered by furniture or rugs. It’s also a good idea to open all the windows and use a dehumidifier to bring humidity down to a safe level.

What About Damp Odours After a Flood?

A damp smell is likely if the home has recently been flooded. In this situation the carpet may not be salvageable, so check with a professional to see whether the carpet needs to be replaced.

How to Get Rid of a Damp Carpet Smell With White Vinegar

White vinegar is one of the best DIY products for cleaning your carpet and removing dirt. It’s an acidic liquid that has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, making it great for removing odours.

White vinegar also doesn’t have the potential downsides of baking soda, such as damaging your vacuum or getting caught in fibres.

Here’s how to use white vinegar to remove a damp smell from a section of carpet:

  1. Start by checking that the area is completely dry. If it’s not, then either fix the source of water (you may need a plumber for this) or allow it longer to dry (open the windows and use a dehumidifier if necessary.)
  2. Vacuum the area to remove any loose dirt or dust that could be making the smell worse.
  3. Make a solution of one part white vinegar and two parts warm water. Apply it to the area that smells damp with a spray bottle on a mist setting. The key is to not oversaturate the carpet, as this can make the damp smell worse.
  4. Allow a few hours for the white vinegar to sit in the carpet the neutralise the odours.
  5. Blot up the vinegar with a white microfibre cloth. Don’t rub or use a coloured cloth, as this can affect the carpet’s colour.
  6. Open the windows and allow the carpet to completely dry.
  7. Once the carpet has dried, vacuum the affected area again.

Keep in mind that your carpet will smell of vinegar while it’s drying. This should disappear once the solution has dried though.

Important: White vinegar is safe for most carpets, but you should test it on a small inconspicuous patch first. This allows you to check for any discolouration before using it on a larger patch of carpet.

Other Tips for Reducing a Damp Smell

  • If white vinegar doesn’t work, then you may want to hire a carpet cleaning machine with a carpet shampoo. However, it’s vital that the machine is powerful enough to remove the water used during cleaning and that the room dries quickly, otherwise you could make the issue worth.
  • Make sure your home has good circulation. High humidity makes a damp smell more likely, so consider opening windows more often or using a fan to improve circulation.
  • A dehumidifier can also be effective at reducing humidity. As a general rule, you should aim for a humidity between 40-50% to prevent mould growth.
  • You can try placing open boxes of baking soda around the affected room to absorb odours. We don’t recommend applying baking soda directly to your carpet, however, as this can damage a vacuum and may affect carpet fibres.

When to Hire a Professional Carpet Cleaner

White vinegar is effective at removing damp odours from small sections of carpet, but it’s not the best method for cleaning large areas.

If your entire carpet smells musty or damp, we recommend consulting a professional carpet cleaner. He or she will be able to advise you the best treatment for removing the musty smell – including whether the carpet is actually salvageable.

Consulting a professional is even more important if your home has been flooded. Carpets can sometimes be salvaged after flooring, but usually only with professional-standard tools and expertise.


A damp smell from your carpet isn’t something that should be ignored. This smell may indicate a leaky pipe or other water source that needs to be fixed. Dampness also allows mould and mildew to grow, which may be a health hazard.

Fortunately, removing a damp smell is often straightforward. Once you’ve fixed the source of water and allowed the carpet to dry, applying diluted white vinegar solution to the area often solves the problem. It’s also important to make sure the room is well-ventilated.

For floods or large areas of damp-smelling carpet, however, we recommend contacting a professional.

Do you have any questions about how to get rid of a damp smell in carpets? Please use the comments form below.

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