How to Get Rid of Carpet Odor – The 5 Most Effective Ways Step-by-Step

Anyone with carpeted floors knows that, other than stains, odors are the worst to deal with. Some scents can stick around for far too long, and they can occasionally fester and become worse if not dealt with in time. Odors can come from many sources – pets, water damage, mildew, and mold, or old food spills, to name a few. Once they are in your carpet, they are difficult to get rid of.

Not all hope is lost! With these tips and instructions, you can free your home from unpleasant carpet smells and make them smell (and look) brand new again.




Method 1: For Mildew or Mold

Even after mold removal, the scent can linger for a long time. Instead of waiting around hoping that the smell will go away on its own, there are a few DIY tricks you can use to make it go away. All you need is some:

  • White vinegar
  • Warm water
  • Baking soda
  • A spray bottle

Step 1 – Make Sure It’s Dry

If you clean or treat an area that has not been thoroughly scrubbed of the mildew and/or mold, and then completely dried, then the treatment will be useless. The mildew would simply return. The most important step before anything else is to dry the previously affected area. If there are windows, open them to let the air circulate. Turn on any fans to encourage airflow, too. Dehumidifiers can also be a big help.

Step 2 – Make the Solution

This is when you will need white vinegar and warm water to make the cleaning solution. In a spray bottle, combine a cup of the vinegar with 2 cups of warm water. Once it’s mixed, spray it onto the area that smells. Be careful not to oversaturate it with the solution but make sure you cover as much of the affected spots as you can.

Step 3 – Use the Baking Soda

Baking soda is a safe and inexpensive odor absorber. It can be used around even pets and children. Once you have given the vinegar/water solution a chance to work its magic, cover the area in baking soda. Allow it to soak for a few hours or even overnight to make sure it has time to absorb everything. Then, it’s as simple as vacuuming it all up the next day. It’s the easiest odor removal you will ever use.

Method 2: For Persistent Mildew or Mold

If method 1 does not work, or if you do not have or do not wish to use the white vinegar, try using hydrogen peroxide instead.

Follow the same instructions:

  • Completely dry the area first.
  • Then, in the spray bottle, mix one-part hydrogen peroxide with every five parts water.
  • After letting it sit, cover it with baking soda as in method one and vacuum it up after treatment.

Peroxide is especially potent so you must be careful. However, it does a fantastic job of getting rid of persistent mildew.

Method 3: For Pet Odors

We adore our pets, but there’s no denying they carry certain scents that we cannot stand. Pet dander will get trapped in the carpets, build up over time, and leave behind awful smells. Dirt, fur, or urine can stay in your carpet fibers for far too long, and they are usually no match for the average carpet cleaner. Vacuuming up the dander is not enough.

Try liquid dish soap to clean and scrub the carpet, and see how easily the smell goes away.

Step 1 – Make Sure the Area is Clean

If the smell is from a recent accident, make sure you clean up any excess and keep the area dry. If it is simply a build-up of pet dander (maybe a specific spot where your pet likes to sleep), then make sure the area is clear and uncovered.

Step 2 – Cover with Dish Soap

Green dish soap is recommended, especially for urine stains. Cover the area with the dish soap and use a towel to clean and scrub the area clean.

Step 3 – Apply Baking Soda

Baking soda will absorb the dampness and the soap as well, so be sure to leave it alone long enough to do the absorbing. Keep your pets out of the area while you’re working to make sure they don’t disturb it.

Step 4 – Spray With White Vinegar Mixture

Using the spray bottle mixture from method one, spray over the baking soda after allowing it to sit overnight. It will foam as the two chemicals react, but this will remove the strong scents from the carpet. Let the vinegar sit for 5 minutes.

Step 5 – Wipe It All Up

Using a towel, clean up the area of all vinegar, baking soda, and soap. Allow the carpet to dry again before testing out the smell. If all is well, then your pet can roam free again and your carpets smell good as new!

Method 4: For Deep Smells

If the scent is particularly strong or you aren’t sure of its origin, this is the method to try. It involves a more serious chemical (though still a household item), isopropyl alcohol. Be sure to test it out on a small, unseen area of carpet to be sure it doesn’t mess up the color or stain.

Step 1 – Block Off the Area

Since isopropyl alcohol has a strong smell in its own right, be sure to block off the affected area before treating it. You can also use pure hydrogen peroxide as an alternative, but still, be sure to test it on your carpet before proceeding.

Step 2 – Cover the Spot

Do not soak the carpet, but liberally cover the smelly area with the chemical of choice. The smell will be strong, so be careful. Be sure to cover all of the carpets that carries the strong smell – this method will be less efficient in larger spots. Allow the chemical to soak for at least 15 minutes.

Step 3 – Dry It Up

Use an old towel or cloth to get any extra liquid leftover and make it as dry as possible. If possible, face a fan on the damp area to encourage quick drying. Once dry, give it a sniff to make sure the smell is gone.

Method 5: For General Smells

If chemicals are not your style or you prefer more natural methods, this may be the method for you. It uses many of the steps from other methods, but with different cleaning agents. In this, you will need lemon juice, baking soda, water, a spray bottle, and your vacuum.

Step 1 – Clean the Area

Make sure nothing is impeding your ability to reach the spot. Ensure that it is dry and clean, but no need to worry about kids or pets with this method.

Step 2 – Use the Solution

In the spray bottle, combine as much fresh lemon juice as you desire with a bit of warm water. The acidity of the lemon juice will penetrate the particles in the carpet that are causing the smell. Luckily, lemon juice is natural and less harmful than other chemicals, so this might be the best treatment for you if you’re sensitive to harsh chemicals. It’s also a much better scent. Spray the area, but do not soak the carpet.

Step 3 – Cover with Baking Soda

Let the baking soda do its absorbing overnight if possible. It will gather up the water and lemon juice, and take the smells along with it. Plus, it will be much cheaper than anything you could get in the store for the same purpose and works just as well.

Step 4 – Vacuum It Up

After letting the baking soda soak up the lemon juice, vacuuming it up is the last step. Once you are sure the area is clear of baking soda and the spot is dry, give it a test smell to see if the scent is gone. If so, you will have a faint citrus smell left behind that will be much more pleasant. If the odor lingers, it may be time to try something a bit stronger.


It’s important to note that many “carpet cleaner” products you can buy at the store do not work, at least not long term. They can also be expensive and ineffective if you don’t know how to use them. If you try all of these home methods, or you have a persistent smell problem, the best thing you can do is consult an restoration expert like All Dry USA. Only pros with experience have the knowledge and tools to get rid of those truly terrible smells, and to make sure they stay gone.

Don’t let yourself suffer. If you are tired of smelly carpets, try out one of these tactics. If the smell doesn’t go away, then consult the experts.

Ben Suiskind
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