Occasionally we hear from someone asking about “new carpet odor.” This is called off-gassing. Some folks are under the impression off-gassing from new carpet is a serious health threat. This goes back many years to reports of testing on mice exposed to new carpet odor. The testing has long ago been invalidated as inaccurate, but some stories seem to linger.
A few companies are selling products or services to eliminate this odor. This can be a big issue for someone very sensitive to odors. Some do benefit from this service. But for the great majority of people, it is nothing but an unpleasant odor. But there is no reason to make a mountain out of a molehill. I dislike those who would harm the carpet industry to profit from scare tactics. For most people carpet off-gassing is a minor issue.
Here are some facts to know if the topic comes up when dealing with your clients.
- New carpet does give off some VOCs. VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound. Volatile means these chemicals are evaporating and getting into the air. When they get into the air, we smell them. As the VOCs from carpet mix with fresh air, they become diluted until they reach a point where they are no longer noticed. It usually takes about 2 days for this to finish after the carpet has been unrolled and is at room temperature. In worst case may take 4 or 5 days.
- The odor comes from a compound abbreviated as 4PC (You don’t want to know the long official name.) Most folks don’t like the odor but it is not harmful. Tabloid news reporting from a decade or two back claimed otherwise.
- Carpet installation guidelines usually call for the carpet to be unrolled and for 24 to 48 hours before it is cut and installed. The retailer or installer should unroll the carpet in a warehouse or your garage or other suitable places for it to acclimate and off-gas before bringing it into the home. However, it is common for installers to skip this step, especially if they are working for lower prices. They may cut a corner here and not unroll the carpet until it is in your home. In that case, get some windows open and a couple of fans moving the air. If you are very sensitive, stay away for a day or two.
- If the installation is glue down, the adhesives used will probably off-gas much more than the carpet itself. Off-Gassing also comes from paint, new furniture, vinyl flooring, even OSB or particle board, and other products that may be associated with a remodel and come into the home at the same time as new carpet. Carpet often gets the blame, but about 98% of the VOCs usually come from some other source.
- If a cleaner does get a call to fix the problem of off-gassing carpet, ventilation is often the best choice. Turning up the heat or using E-TEs or indirect heat system to raise temperatures to 90 - 105 F can speed it up if the situation allows getting the room(s) that hot. Also cleaning with very hot water (No prespray, no-rinse agent, just hot water) will speed up the off-gassing and put an end to the problem sooner.
- Odor encapsulants can also be very helpful. Any of the water-based premium fragrance products can also help cover the odor. But a person who is very sensitive to odors and bothered by the carpet odor may also be bothered by the fragrance of the deodorizer.