Water on carpet, now that mildewy smell: How to get rid of?

Hi resident geniuses. . . i trust this board more than random pages on the internet. I had a water spill that occurred, a hot water bottle dripped out about a cup or more of water when I was gone; when I came back it was damp but i figured it would be fine.

Now i have that ‘wet carpet’ mildew(?) smell.

How do I get rid of it? I dont have any special equipment, and sadly, I am a renter so would like to avoid expensive repairs.


My mother had this happen when she rented a carpet cleaner and cleaned the carpet in the closets. What I did was run the AC to take the moisture out of the air, and kept a light on 24/7 for several days. If it’s a big room, you might need s few lights to keep it bright enough. I think mildew only spores in the dark, and needs moisture. Anyway, it worked in our case.

I’m badly allergic to mildew, and this was in her guest room.

If it was only a cup, this should be a small area. I would suggest getting some carpet spotter at the grocery store, usually in a spray bottle. Spray the area, blot it up, repeat a couple of times. Then get a towel and stand on it to soak up as much as possible (drying with a towel would have been the textbook approach when you first discovered the spot but we’re not here to scold :)). Alternatively try a solution of water with a little baking soda, or vinegar (but not both at the same time).

Mildew can be notorious to eliminate. May take more than one treatment. The important thing is to get it really dry after cleaning.

For a large area I would use a hot water extractor (they call them steamers but there is no steam involved) but for an area wet by one cup of water it isn’t necessary.

May I ask why not baking soda & vinegar at the same time?

You can try Rug Doctor’s Odor Remover. They used to have a separate Mildew Remover, which I used to remove mildew from the 5 gallons of water that spilled from my fishtank due to an earthquake.


They react violently (acid and base).

they neutralize one another and you get a gas, a salt and water and nothing useful

How does a cup of water create a “mildew smell”? I’ve had water/soda spills much greater than a cup without any lingering odors. Was it wet for a long period of time? Have you looked around for other sources of the mildew smell such as a leaking pipe or roof?

Didn’t they have you make model volcanoes in elementary school? Add vinegar to baking soda and you end up with a bubbling, spreading foam. This is nice coming out of a clay volcano, but less so spreading across your rug.

Microban works well for this problem. But man, it’s expensive!

It often depends on what the carpet is made of. Wool fibers tend to foster mildew and mold, while synthetic fibers are less likely. Or so a carpet cleaning guy told me.

My WAG is that the foam padding underneath the carpet got wet and mildewed. If it did, it’ll probably have to be replaced.

You could try sprinkling a lot of baking soda onto the area (sans vinegar - go make salad dressing with it instead!) letting it sit for several hours, and then vaccum it up.

Activated charcoal (like for fishtank filters) also absorb odors well. (Note: do not use charcoal with lighter fluid in it. I hate that I have to always add that disclaimer, but there it is.)

Big fan of a product called Freshana Organic Solutions. It will take care of those smells. I’ve used it on everything from pet urine to vomit. Works like a charm. Can’t recommend it enough.