I am open to suggestions for a better title to this post, because while wet dog is one of the smells we talk about here, it isn’t the main one.

Our gem from yesterday was a customer, Jane, who had invited a carpet cleaning company out that wasn’t us. That was her first mistake. No, I jest- there are other good carpet, cleaners out there. Unfortunately, for Jane, this outfit wasn’t one of them..

The short version of the story is that after they cleaned her carpets she tripped up the stairs carrying a recently watered potted plant. This saturated the carpet with muddy water, so the carpet cleaners came back and re-cleaned that already wet and now very dirty spot. Now normally this wouldn’t be a big issue except that they didn’t clean it well, used too much water and left the carpet way over saturated. Fast forward two days and the carpet is still quite wet, and she’s experiencing a strong musty, wet dog smell. She calls the company, but they don’t return her calls. Then Jane takes some sound advice (she said it was advice from us, but we don’t recall giving it) and pours baking soda over the affected area, puts a fan directed toward it, and brings in Mother Nature’s Cleaning. The baking soda helped to absorb some of the moisture, which is great. We cleaned up the baking soda with a low moisture cleaning – careful not to over-wet them again. We kept a fan on it, which helps speed up drying and prevent further browning.

This is especially frustrating for the customer because despite her diligence and her correct efforts, you can see that the left side of the stairs is now darker than the right side.

This is the problem with over wetting wool and other natural fibers. I’ve talked about cellulosic browning before and here it pops its ugly head up again.

  • Natural fibers will brown for different reasons. A cellulose (plant/vegetable fiber) will brown for a different reason that a protein fiber will.
  • If a cellulosic fiber turns brown, it is called “cellulosic browning”. It is more of a moisture problem than anything else. A higher pH can make it happen more quickly, but it will happen regardless.
  • Cellulosic browning happens because of a chemical compound in the cell wall known as lignin (lignin-cellulose). Lignin is “hydrophobic”, meaning it does not like water. Moisture can make lignin unstable to the point that it will release a colored pigment. This color is usually yellow or brown (because of the cellulose), but we have seen gray, red or purple depending on the pH of the moisture, amount of moisture and finishes on the fabric.

Once these fibers dry, my technician will go back to do an additional treatment on it to try to reverse the damage. He can make it better, but it will never be exactly the same again. The left side will always be darker. Sad story on this one.

Happy Cleaning!