Reaction to Fumes after Carpet Cleaning

Brian Gale Surveyors recently undertook a Full Building Survey in Reigate on a 1970’s house valued at £1.3m. The property was a Repossession in May 2013 with the survey undertaken in early June.  It was in structurally sound condition although required general upgrading and improvement and this was duly reported upon in the Building Survey.

After a long and protracted period between offer, exchange of Contracts and eventual completion; our Clients moved in during mid December.  Soon after, we had a telephone call stating that the property was causing them to have tingling sensations to the tongue, swelling of lips and irritated eyes.  We were asked to reinspect and were baffled. Our Surveyor also suffered tingling sensations to lips and tongue after a few minutes in the house.

The property has cavity wall insulation – polystyrene beads glued together with an adhesive – however, we had never been aware of any issues relating to fumes from this type of insulation. Urea-formaldehyde pumped into cavities for insulation can give off fumes.

Our attention was also drawn towards the carpets as they had recently been cleaned by a professional carpet cleaning company.

We felt that it was prudent to have an air testing and monitoring company carry out an inspection.

The cause has finally been identified.

The carpets which were in the property at the time of the inspection and when the Clients moved in were 100% wool and of high quality.  It appears that the carpets were treated with a product to prevent staining, thought to be something more robust than Scotchgard.  Our Clients said that their dog was also affected by the fumes / smell .  Now that the property has been properly ventilated over the Christmas period, the irritations have diminished and Clients ( and their dog ! ) are starting to enjoy the property and thinking about the refurbishment.

It appears that this problem can only occur if carpets have been treated with a chemical water or equivalent repellent and the house is left shut up for numerous months.  The problem has also been exacerbated by the fact that replacement windows have no trickle ventilators and in effect the house was sealed.