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Alcyone 09-10-2009 10:10 PM

Carpet soaked, now brown spots and foul smell
I accidentally left my front sprinklers running all night which resulted in the window well to the basement filling up with water. The water then leaked through the window and soaked part of the carpet. I put a fan on it and it's pretty much dry now after 2 days, but now there are brown spots where I walked on it and the whole house smells like a cat box.

The carpet is old and in bad shape and I know the previous owner had animals down there. My questions are:

Could this be cat urine and feces that soaked up through the carpet or is it mold or dirt?

I plan on ripping the carpet out this weekend. Are there any health concerns to this?


Nestor_Kelebay 09-10-2009 11:16 PM


No, there aren't really a lot of serious health concerns. Cut the carpet into strips, roll up each strip and carry it out.

The reason why your carpet smells is exactly the same reason why a dog smells when you wash him/her.

It's because over the years, dust (like dead skin cells, hair, paper fibers, pollen, etc.) have accumulated in the pile of your carpet along with food and drinks spilled on it, and when you get that organic mess wet, you create a bacteria's idea of heaven; plenty to eat and wet conditions to allow good mobility so the bacteria can divide and multiply.

When a carpet starts to stink when it gets wet, it's because all of the organic matter in the carpet provides a food source for the bacteria inside the carpet. The resulting population explosion in the bacteria is what's causing the smell, and it's an indication that your carpet is past the end of it's useful life.

Purebred show dogs don't stink when you wash them because they get washed often enough that their coats are clean and free of organic matter that bacteria would feed on. But, your typical house mutt that rolls around in anything with an interesting smell has a coat of fur that's full of organic matter, and when you wash a dog like that, all of that organic matter becomes a food source for the bacteria in the dog's fur. The resulting population explosion of the bacteria inside the dog's fur coat is what makes the dog smell, and that smell that you can smell is 10,000 times more intense to the exquisitely sensitive nose of a dog, which is why he really doesn't appreciate being bathed in he first place.

When carpet cleaning contractors are asked to clean a carpet they can see is going to stink to high heaven when it gets wet, they add a germicide to their cleaning solution so that it kills any bacteria it comes in contact with. By using a germicide in the solution tank and killing all the bacteria in the carpet, you prevent that smell by preventing the bacteria from multiplying. But, the bottom line is that your carpet smells cuz of all the organic matter that has collected in it, and you realistically can't get that organic matter out of that carpet even with the best carpet cleaning equipment. You really need a new carpet.

The brown spots are just the dirt in the carpet that got brought to the surface by walking on it when it was drenched.

The smell will continue until the carpet starts to dry out and the bacteria become dormant once again. That can take anywhere from two weeks to two months depending on how wet the carpet got and whether there was a foam under pad under it that also got drenched. Your best bet is to put a dehumidifier or air conditioner down there to dehumidify the room and remove moisture from the air, and hence the carpet. Every quart of water that a dehumidifier or air conditioner removes from the air is another quart of water out of that carpet.

Regardless of what you read or hear, the carpet extractors and shampoo'ers that professional carpet cleaning contractors use to clean carpets can't remove the dirt that gets deep down into the pile of the carpet. The tools professionals use are great at removing dirt that's at or near the top of the pile of the carpet, but nothing will get the really deep stuff out. Your best bet, then, in preventing your new carpet from following in the footsteps of your old carpet is regular vaccuuming. Regardless of what Rug Doctor, Easy Off, Hoover, Eureka, Bissell and other manufacturers of those mini-carpet shampoo'ers say, the best way to maximize the life of your carpet is be regular and frequent vaccuuming to remove the dirt and organic matter that settles on the carpet.

Hope this helps.

CyFree 09-11-2009 11:34 AM

According to the US Center for Disease Control, if the carpet was wet for more that 48 hours, it should be removed and discarded, because of mold concerns. In other words, that is how long it takes for mold to begin to grow.

Therefore the foul smell and the spots may be due to mold. If you have know allergies, or some kind of respiratory problems, I'd suggest you let someone else handle the job. Mold spores are the #2 cause of indoor allergies in US. The first one is dust mites pellets. Dust mites also thrive under moist conditions.

If the infestation is too widespread, you might be better off calling a disaster restoration company, as they have the proper gear and knowledge to deal with it. You do not want to stir those spores in the air and cause it to spread into other areas of the house.

Here's the link to the CDC information on Mold:
CDC Mold | Protect Yourself from Mold

Alcyone 09-13-2009 09:29 AM

Nestor and CyFree, thanks very much for the in depth responses. The smell was just getting worse and worse so I decided to remove the carpet. It is almost totally gone now. The carpet was still drenched underneath even though I thought it was drying out.

anie973 12-15-2009 11:43 PM

In such a case it is better to remove the carpet as it could cause health concerns.

Superpack 12-17-2009 04:17 AM

I have used the Nature's Miracle it worked very well and always recommend them. You can buy it at Petco. My old, old dog had a quite big mishap on my hall carpet. I soaked up as a lot of the urine with old towels then used Nature's Miracle quite a few times (allowing it to dry between treatments) and you can't smell anything.


granite-girl 12-17-2009 02:46 PM

Good Luck with that! Sounds nasty! Make sure you clean the floor underneath real well, probably with bleach- or something to kill the mold of there was any.

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