How to Deodorize Carpets In 5 Easy Steps, Plus Best Products
Use pantry ingredients to neutralize that funky underfoot stench.
Raise your hand if you ever had childhood dreams of deodorizing your carpet. No? Well, of course you didn’t. Just like you never dreamt about vigorously cleaning your toilet bowl or climbing a dangerously high ladder to get the leaves out of the gutters. But alas, adulthood. Dad’s not gonna clean your gutters forever, even if you still are on that family plan for your cell phone.
While deodorizing your carpet isn’t the most glamorous task you’ll take on all week, it might be the one that pays off the most. Just think of inviting friends over without fearing potential social alienation resulting from musty, mildewed carpet odor. You could blame it on the cat, or take matters into your own hands.
So, whether it’s dog pee assaulting your olfactory each time you open the bedroom door or a strange sweat smell emanating from that area in front of the television (but, hey, great job doing those home workouts!), we’re here for it. We’ve got hacks for seven of your stinkiest carpet scents using ingredients you probably already own.
How to deodorize carpets in 5 easy steps (or fewer!)
First thing’s first: Determine who or what is causing your carpet smell. Do a little light sleuthing to figure out why your carpet stinks to begin with, then follow our tips to eliminate the odor.
How to deodorize smoke smells
Homes that smell like an ashtray are such a turn off. If you’ve unfortunately inherited a house with bowling alley or a dive bar vibes, fear not. There’s a simple solution for fumigating the smoke smell from your carpet without having to tear the place apart.
- Pour baking soda into a colander and sprinkle it over the affected areas. Baking soda is a natural absorbent, so it should effectively gobble up that smoke smell.
- Walk around on top of the baking soda (no bare feet!) so that there’s an even coating everywhere and it’s pressed into the carpet.
- Let baking soda sit on your carpet for about thirty minutes. The baking soda will seep all the way to the base of the carpet if you let it sit for long enough.
- Vacuum it up for a fresh start.
- If you still smell smoke, repeat this process as needed.
How to deodorize mildew smells
Blergh, mildew. If that’s your problem, you’re likely hip to the situation already if you’ve been suffering from curious respiratory problems. If you live someplace with lots of humidity, you’re no stranger to the ‘dew. Let’s turn that ‘dew into a dew-not.
- If you’ve got water in your carpet, soak it up with an air humidifier or several fans pointing downward.
- Once the area is dry, mix 2 cups of warm water with 1 cup of white vinegar and lightly spray the carpet. The powerful acidity in the vinegar will dislodge the odor-causing compounds and exterminate them for good (or until the next time you leave the window open during a torrential downpour, whoopsies!).
- Note: If you get the carpet too wet while treating it, you’ll simply create another type of mildew problem. (And wouldn’t that just be the most ironic of all fates?)
- When the carpet dries, the vinegar scent will disappear, leaving you with nothing but freshness.
How to deodorize bacteria + mold smells
For stubborn odors like bacteria and mold, may we recommend a shot of vodka? (Not for you, for the carpet!) The alcohol will actually break up the odor-causing compounds.
- Pour a little (clear, flavorless) vodka into a spray bottle and lightly spritz any areas with the truly formidable smells.
- Let the alcohol sit for 15 minutes.
- Blot with a rag until dry.
- Use a sprinkle of baking soda if there are any remaining scents.
- Let baking soda sit for 30 minutes, then vacuum.
How to deodorize that basement funk smell
You know what we’re talking about. It’s that subterranean scent that wafts around in your lower level, inducing dread when you’ve got to fetch the toolbox or descend for laundry day. Thankfully, there’s the onion fix. That’s right. When a raw onion smells better than your basement, you know you’ve got issues.
- Peel an onion, cut it in half, and set it on a plate in the basement overnight.
- Check on it in the morning. The onion will have absorbed the extra moisture in the air, taking the gross smell with it.
- Repeat this process for days until the smell is completely gone. Just don’t get any ideas about eating the leftovers.
How to deodorize pet urine: Scenario 1
We’re not here to pass judgment about the smell in your carpet, we know those puppy ninja pees behind the chair all too well.
- Soak up the pee as best you can with a dry towel. And, like, hurry up! The more the pee soaks into the carpet, the harder it will be to remove its pungent scent.
- Combine 2 cups of warm water, 2 cups of white vinegar and (slowly add) 4 tablespoons of baking soda. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and apply to the stained area.
- Let the mixture sit for five minutes.
- Blot dry with a soft cloth.
How to deodorize pet urine: Scenario 2
Don’t have baking soda handy? If you can act quickly, club soda is a great solution because its aerated carbonation lifts stains up and out of carpet fibers.
- Pour club soda over the stain and let it sit for a few minutes.
- Open a window in the room so the carpet can dry faster, or turn on a nearby fan and aim it at the stain.
- Blot it up and repeat until the odor goes away.
- If you’re really in trouble, check out more ways to get rid of dog pee smell and get rid of cat pee smell.
How to deodorize sweat smells
We’ve learned the hard way. Carpets can also take on the smell of their sweaty human owners and pets — especially in favorite lounge areas like in front of the television and at the foot of that great bay window.
- A spray of Febreze Fabric will do the trick, whisking away nasty odors and replacing them with far more appealing scents, like lilac and violet.
- Carpet still stinks like a gym? Just kidding, a real gym would never have carpet. Try the handy baking soda trick. Sprinkle it on, leave overnight and vacuum in the morning.
- If your carpet still stinks like sweat, follow our tips for treating mildew, mold and bacteria. Just add vodka!
Note: If you’re totally stumped as to why your carpet smells, baking soda is a general cure-all. Follow instructions for “How To Deodorize Smoke Smells” and/or “How To Deodorize Bacteria + Mold Smells” and try them on for size. A little baking soda (or vodka!) will help immensely in your odor neutralizing journey. (Even if just you end up drunk enough to notice the smell, we’ll call it a win. But try to get some of the vodka on the carpet, seriously.)
Our favorite carpet cleaning products
Carpet deodorizers generally come in either powder, spray or shampoo form. They all come with various fragrances, antibacterial properties and specific directions for unique types of carpet (so be sure to read and follow the directions!).
Powders work best when you’re trying to de-funk the entire carpet, versus just spot cleaning. Baking soda is typically the main ingredient in any type of powdered deodorizer, so why not cut to the chase and just use straight up baking soda? Check your pantry, you probably already have some! Baking soda absorbs and neutralizes odors, making it the absolute MVP carpet cleaner. Powders are super easy: Simply sprinkle them on, let them sit and work their magic, then vacuum them up.
Sprays are usually used for spot cleaning. (We’re looking at you, pets!) Sprays require a bit more work, often some scrubbing or patting with a rag is involved. Sprays work by drawing whenever stain is causing the offensive smell up and out of the carpet.
Carpet shampoo is the most labor intensive, whether you’re applying it with a spray-foam canister, a carpet cleaning machine or a wet vac. Shampoo neutralizes stinky smells while simultaneously removing dirt and debris.
Products we used in our carpet deodorizing tips:
- Febreze Fabric
- Baking Soda
- White vinegar
- Club soda
How to prevent a smelly carpet
Once you’ve deodorized, follow these general rules of thumb for keeping carpets smelling fresh so you don’t find yourself in another stinky situation:
- Vacuum regularly. Yeah, it’s not as fun as binge-watching dating shows, but it’s a chore that will pay off in the long run. Give your carpets a once-over at least once a week to fend off odors and give you those oh-so-satisfying lines in the carpet.
- Open your windows whenever possible. The inspiration behind all those scented candles you’ve got piled on the table? That’s right: it’s the smell of fresh cut grass, flowers and trees wafting inside your house to greet you. After all, carpet needs to breathe every once in a while.
- Take off your shoes inside. You might think of this as your mother’s solution, but embracing the no-shoe-inside lifestyle could be your new calling. Invest in slippers or house shoes. (Because shoe shopping is also fun.) It's hard to imagine that, as a society, we are generally okay with the same shoes walking us through parking lots, down the grocery stores aisles, in and out of restaurants AND through the halls of our own house. Defining no-shoe zones helps eliminate outside dirt and germs from being repeatedly traipsed through your home.
- Use a dehumidifier. Humidity does more than curl your hair up into a little frizz ball and make your plant happy. When trapped in your carpet, it can smell damp and unappealing. Dehumidifiers are a great way to keep the moisture out of the air and keep your carpets smelling 100% — or better yet, not smelling at all.
Now that you know how to tackle your carpet’s worst enemies, get crackin’. From baking soda to club soda and all the ingredients in between, those offensive carpet odors are a thing of the past.