Can professional carpet cleaning remove VOCs and PFCAs?

Everyone loves that new car smell. But new carpet smell is a whole other story. 

If your new flooring is causing you to feel queasy, it’s probably not just down to the installation bill. New carpets go through a period of off-gassing, in which chemicals (VOCs and PFCAs) are released into your home. 

We get a lot of questions from people who are worried about VOCs and PFCAs and want to know if there’s a way that carpet cleaning can help speed up the off-gassing process. The short answer is yes – but it’s not a simple fix.

Read on to learn more about VOCs and PFCAs in your new carpet and how we can help you tackle the problem.

What are VOCs and PFCAs in carpets?

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We’re going to get a bit scientific here, so stay with us.

Synthetic carpets are made from nylon fibers with a polypropylene (latex) backing. VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are chemicals found in your carpet that get converted into gasses and released into your home. 

Of the chemicals released from carpet, most notable are styrene and 4-phenylcyclohexane (4-PC) that come from the latex backing used on 95% of carpets. 

Chemicals used to protect and maintain carpets before they’re installed can be harmful as well.

PFCAs (perfluorocarboxylic acids) are typically found in the products used to treat new carpets, such as stain-protectant and carpet-care finishes.

Should I be concerned about new carpets and VOCs?

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After a new carpet is installed, it goes through a period of off-gassing, which is the process of these chemicals being released. Typical reactions to new carpet VOCs and PFCAs include headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, and asthmatic reactions. 

The aroma that’s making you feel unwell is mostly down to the odor of 4-PC, which is an eye and respiratory-tract irritant that may also affect the central nervous system. 

The adhesive that attaches your new carpet to the floor typically contains benzene and toluene, which are some of the most harmful VOCs.

VOCs and PCFAs exposure may also have longer-term effects – some chemicals found in new carpets may be carcinogenic and have been linked to leukemia and lymphomas, while others may be associated with cognitive impairment and hearing loss, among other conditions.

How long does off-gassing take in a new carpet?

Off-gassing decreases significantly a few months after installation, but carpets can emit VOCs for five years (or possibly more). 

Because they’re made from absorbent fibres, carpets can also store VOCs and PCFAs from other sources and re-emit them later on. Regular vacuuming and professional carpet cleaning is key to maintaining a healthy atmosphere in your home. 

How to treat VOCs and PFCAs in a new carpet

There’s no one-time cleaning solution that will rid your new carpet of VOCs or PCFAs – anyone who tells you otherwise is a scammer.

Time is the only thing that will guarantee removal of VOCs. However, there are some cleaning methods you can use to speed up the process.

Professional cleaning for VOC removal

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Our customers have asked us about various products that claim to reduce these VOCs if used when cleaning the carpet. We don’t put stock in these products – our method of hot water extraction with all natural, non-toxic, hypoallergenic and no-VOC cleansers is the EPA’s recommendation for the most effective reduction of the VOCs and PCFAs.

We get calls frequently to clean brand new carpets. It may sound like a crazy request, but it isn’t at all. New carpet smell can be pretty nauseating, and that isn’t just in your head. Here’s how we can help:

  1. Get in touch with our team to request a quote on your first cleaning, which will be determined based on the size of your space and the number of rooms that need treatment.
  2. We’ll carry out the first cleaning, which involves hot water extraction with our certified planet-friendly cleaners. 
  3. It will take a few days for your carpet to dry completely. Once it’s dry, we’ll return and repeat the process as many times as you like at a 10% discount, until you’re satisfied with the smell of your new carpet and the atmosphere in your home.
  4. These multiple cleanings will be spread out over at least a week to ensure your carpet is thoroughly dry in between treatments. 

Remember that the extraction process can help to speed up the removal of VOCs and PFCAs, but it won’t eliminate them completely and doesn’t necessarily assure that emissions from the carpet will not pose problems for some people.

That said, it’s the best way to tackle the new carpet off-gassing issue: an EPA study found that commercial carpet cleaning with detergent is the most effective solution for eliminating toxic chemicals, and six rounds of cleaning can reduce PFCA levels by 90%.

What you can do to tackle VOCs and PFCAs in your home

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There are a few things you can do to support a healthy atmosphere in your home, before and after installing your new carpet:

Ventilation is key: Air out the carpet before installation and keep room highly ventilated after installation for at least 72 hours.

Planning your reno: If you’re painting the room or doing any other work, try to plan it before your new carpet gets installed. This ensures that VOCs that are off-gassed from paint or finishing products won’t be immediately absorbed into your carpet. 

Keep it clean: Regular vacuuming is vital in helping to remove VOCs and PFCAs. Make sure you’re using a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner and using a proper technique (cutting corners means you’re leaving potential chemicals to stew!).  

If you’re considering using a product to treat your carpet, our one rule of thumb is this “never put onto your carpet what you cannot thoroughly rinse out.”

Below are two images of a brand-new carpet after an “odor eliminating” product was poured on it. This was done they day before the scheduled service, after we had advised the customer that we would not use this product in our equipment as our process is tested and effective. 

We tried to remove it (the progress on the right) but he had poured (not sprayed!) 3 gallons of onto the brand-new carpet and left it overnight. Because it wasn’t properly rinsed, it bleached the carpet. There’s a lesson in there somewhere…

treating VOCs in carpet

If new carpet smell is giving you a headache, reach out to our team as soon as possible to talk about how we can support VOC removal. 


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