Photograph: Mold under carpeting on tack strips indicate history of water entry, suspect moldy carpet - Daniel Friedman Wet Moldy Carpet Contamination Response
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What to do with wet or mold-contaminated carpets or rugs.

Can wet or moldy carpeting and carpet padding be cleaned and retained? Area-rugs, maybe. Wall-to-wall: small-areas, maybe. Usually not.

Inspection & test procedures for wet, contaminated, moldy or smelly indoor carpeting & rugs.

This article describes how we inspect, test, and cure wet, smelly, or moldy carpeting or rugs. We discuss the risk of hidden mold under carpeting and in carpet padding and in walls around such floors.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

How to Handle Wet, Sewage- or Mold-Contaminated Carpeting & Rugs

Photograph: Moldy carpeting - Daniel FriedmanWhile you may see mold on carpeting in unusually severe cases, carpet, especially wall-to-wall carpeting can be a reservoir for hidden mold, mite fecal, pet dander, rodent dander, fecals, and dust, bacteria, and other allergens, pathogens, and irritants even though you cannot see anything suspicious on the carpet.

Warning signs that carpeting may be an IAQ problem source in a building:

If any rug or carpet was wet and stayed wet for days, regardless of whether the carpet was permanently-installed (eg tack strips or adhesive), it's history. Area rugs can often be professionally cleaned and salvaged.

If in a room where the entire floor is covered with a large area of wall to wall carpeting, and just a very small area of your carpeting has become wet or moldy, it may be more practical to cut out the damaged, wet, moldy section, plus 12" past all visible wet or damaged area, replacing or patching that section.

If you can live with the cosmetic defect of imperfectly matched carpeting the cost will be much less than a complete replacement.

Be careful: don't forget to check the entire room to be sure you're not leaving other areas of wet moldy carpeting in place. - Thanks to reader Eva for these suggestions.

Photograph: Moldy carpeting - Daniel Friedman

None of these methods can completely clean a carpet, though they might temporarily reduce the level of particles in the very top of the carpet nap.

Watch out: conditions that have wet a carpet or area rug may also have sent water into building wall or floor cavities. If so the risk of a significant hidden mold or bacterial hazard can justify further investigation. We discuss this concern below.

Smelly carpet mildew (C) Daniel Friedman

How to Look for Hidden bacteria, pathogens, or mold in or underneath wall to wall carpeting and carpet padding

Watch out: in our experience [DF] when a building has been wet enough to allow water to enter even just the very bottom of a wall cavity, there is a high risk of harmful and costly mold contamination of both the interior wall cavity surfaces as well as wall insulation. More advice on handling wall and floor cavities where the floors have been wet is at Step 6. FLOOD DAMAGED BUILDING CLEAN-UP for carpeting and rugs that have been wet by area or building flooding

Advice for Testing Indoor Carpeting for Mold, Bacteria, or other Pathogen Contamination

If carpeting has been wet and was not dried within about 24 hours after that event, it is likely to be moldy. If carpeting smells or looks moldy it also will almost certainly need to be replaced. But what if we don't know a carpet's history, we don't see mold on the carpet nor on it's underside, but we need to test the carpeting for mold?

If carpeting or rugs were wet by drain water or sewage backup they should be disposed-of along with their padding.

Details of our advice on testing carpeting for mold or other contaminants can be read at CARPET CONTAMINATION TEST PROCEDURE.

In addition to taking a careful case history of the leak exposure to which carpeting has been exposed, and in addition to making a thorough olfactory (subjective smell test) and visual (by eye) inspection, we on occasion test carpeting using a vacuum method, combining a vacuum pump with a sampling cassette.

Selection of the area of carpet to be tested is important: choose the most-suspect area of carpeting such as where leaks or water are likely to have been present or where there may have been cross-contamination from mold remediation in other areas of the building.

We advise against use of tape samples of a carpet upper surface to screen carpeting for mold since there is a significant risk that such methods will fail to detect problem mold that is in the carpet but not on its uppermost surface. This condition occurs, for example, when moldy carpeting has been HEPA vacuumed or cleaned.

However, if there is mold already visible on a carpet (such as is shown in the next section of this article) it may be appropriate to collect a surface sample using tape in order to identify the type of mold present when that data is needed for medical or post-remediation clearance test purposes.

How to Recognize Mold Visible on Exposed Carpeting Surfaces

Moldy carpet stains (C) Daniel Friedman

Mold visible on carpeting surfaces: As we also mentioned at CARPET PADDING ASBESTOS, MOLD, ODORS, carpets or even area rugs may not actually be mold contaminated but can smell moldy if the carpeting or padding have absorbed Mold-related Volatile Organic Compounds
( MVOCs).

In the case of the moldy carpet photo at left, we suspected that the visible carpet mold was the "tip of an iceberg" of hidden mold below.

Details about types of stains on carpeting, their cause, significance, and cure, are at CARPET STAIN DIAGNOSIS.

Watch out: carpets can absorb other odors besides mold.

And watch out for over-using ozone treatments that may oxidize building components and lead to a new and horrible chemical like smell.


Should I Test my Moldy Wall to Wall Carpeting?

Question: is a tape sample of my mold-suspect carpeting surface useful?

I took a clear tape sample of some mold on the carpet in my baby's bedroom, but I don't see any visible mold on the sample, even though I pressed fairly hard. Is that ok to send to you, or must I see the mold on the tape? I just don't want to waste anyone's time by sending an insufficient sample. S.P.

Reply: Testing a Moldy Carpet is Usually Not Needed

Thanks for asking. Our suggestions below, basically recommending that you do not have this carpet mold sample processed, are opinions based on ethics (don't peform unnecessary lab tests), and common sense, not out of a reluctance to be of service:

Some exceptions to this no-carpet-test advice / opinion


Continue reading at CARPET FUNGICIDAL SPRAY or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.


Or see MOLD on/in CARPETS & Carpet Padding - more photographs

Or see CAR SMELL - Mold DEODORIZING - advice for vehicles that have been flooded or are mold-contaminated

Or see FIRE & SMOKE ODOR REMOVAL - advice for fire and fire-extinguishment-water-damaged buildings and their contents

Or see SALVAGE BUILDING CONTENTS - sorting & handling items that can or cannot be salvaged after flooding or sewage backup

Or see Step 6. FLOOD DAMAGED BUILDING CLEAN-UP for carpeting and rugs that have been wet by area or building flooding

Or see SEWAGE CLEANUP PROCEDURES & STANDARDS for carpeting or area rugs that have been wet by plumbing drain leaks or sewage backups


Or see these

Carpeting and IAQ Articles

Suggested citation for this web page

CARPET MOLD / ODOR TESTS at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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