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How to Deodorize Carpet: 8 Methods That Actually Work

Let’s get you out of a stinky situation.

Do you ever notice a musty smell coming from your carpet? Perhaps it hasn’t gone away even though you’ve been vacuuming daily.

We have some bad news: your vacuum could be the culprit.

As you vacuum dirt and dust bunnies, these can cause a pungent odor inside the canister. Other factors such as humidity, stains, and spills can also cause an odor to develop.

But all hope isn’t lost. If you’ve been trying to figure out how to deodorize carpet, you’ve come to the right place.

Key Takeaways

  • Deodorize carpets using methods such as enzyme cleaners, baking soda, vinegar, or essential oils.
  • Prevent carpet odors by maintaining good ventilation, cleaning regularly, and addressing spills immediately.
  • Overwetting the carpet can cause it to smell worse after cleaning.
  • Baking soda is a versatile and effective option for deodorizing carpets and can be combined with other ingredients for added benefits.

How to Deodorize Carpet

There are various methods for deodorizing your carpet. We’ve put together eight of our favorites. Some are more effective, and others focus on eco-friendly products. If one doesn’t work for you, try another.

1. Enzyme Cleaner

If you have pets in your home, there might be a few accidents on the carpet. This can result in a sour, pungent odor that is nearly impossible to get out. Not to mention, dog and cat urine can ruin a carpet for good (1).

The best way to get rid of pet odors is by using an enzyme cleaner. These are readily available at any home improvement and supply store. You can also find a good selection on Amazon and Home Depot sites.

With these cleaners, enzymes speed up the process of bacteria feeding on organic matter such as blood, vomit, urine, and feces. You can buy concentrates or prediluted such as Bubbas Super Strength. Apply the product as directed on the label.

2. Baking Soda

Baking soda is a pantry staple for most people. It’s highly effective at absorbing liquids as well as odors. So if you notice a subtle smell from your carpet, grab the baking soda.

Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda across the entire carpet. Leave the powder on there for a couple of hours if the smell is only subtle. But if the odor is more potent, you might need to leave it overnight.

When the time is up, vacuum the carpet thoroughly to remove the powder. You might want to empty the bag or container after.

Be careful as the small particles can destroy your vacuum filter, so read your user manual first.

On that note, this works a treat. We used it the other evening in our son’s nursery, and my morning, the foul odors were gone!

3. Vinegar

If there’s a musty carpet odor, mildew could be growing inside the fibers. To get rid of the smell, you’ll have to remove the mildew. Luckily, you don’t need harsh chemicals for this. Vinegar is an effective and cost-efficient way of getting rid of odors on your carpet.

Combine one cup of distilled white vinegar with one cup of warm water in a spray bottle and give it a good shake. Spritz the entire carpet and allow it to air dry. The strong vinegar scent will neutralize as the mixture dries.

You can also add two teaspoons of baking soda to the mix. This will make it more effective if the odor is particularly strong.

Keep It Light

Don’t soak the carpet in the solution since the added moisture could encourage mildew and mold to return (2).

4. Baking Soda and Essential Oil

If you tried the baking soda only method but want to add a fresh scent, you can mix in some essential oil. Essential oils are a concentrated liquid extracted from certain plants. The scent of these oils is powerful and, therefore, excellent at deodorizing.

For this method, you can choose any one of your favorite oils. However, it’s essential to consider how the scent will affect your house and family members. For instance, strong fragrances like cinnamon and peppermint can be unpleasant for dogs. On the other hand, citrus scents are toxic to cats (3).

Lemon, grapefruit, and lavender are some of our favorite oils for bringing a fresh scent to the carpet and house. Combine two cups of baking soda with 15 drops of essential oil in a container. Give it a good shake to mix everything thoroughly.

Then sprinkle a generous amount to cover the entire carpet. Again, if the odor is only mild, leave the powder for an hour. If the smell is strong, you can leave it overnight.

If you have an empty powdered sugar duster, it would be great. You can also use a mason jar and prick a few holes in the lid so you can sprinkle the mixture.

Vacuum the carpet thoroughly to complete the job.

5. Vodka

Vodka is not only capable of making delicious, cosmopolitan cocktails, but it’s also an excellent stain remover. After treating a spot, you can spray some vodka on it to further remove color and odor.

Leave the vodka to work for up to 15 minutes. Blot it out using paper towels — you can also apply some baking soda to help get the moisture out. Vacuum the carpet once you’re done.

6. Borax, Baking Soda and Essential Oil

We’re at it again — baking soda is definitely our go-to product for deodorizing carpets. However, this method is not only effective at removing odors; it’s also very useful in removing bacteria, mold, or mildew.

The addition of borax is what makes this mixture so effective. Borax is an acid often used to clean pesticides and kill mold. Mold can cause a musty smell in a carpet, so if you notice this, it’s time to take action (4).

Combine half a cup of borax with one cup of baking soda in a container. Add 15 to 20 drops of essential oil — lemon is excellent for this job. Sprinkle the mixture on the carpet and leave it for an hour — vacuum thoroughly to remove the powder.

7. Baking Soda and Dried Herbs

This method is a little more down-to-earth, but it works effectively and adds a lovely scent of your choice. All you need is half a cup of baking soda and a teaspoon of your favorite dried herbs. Rosemary or cinnamon is very popular for this recipe, but you can also go with a dried flower such as lavender.

You don’t need to buy any particular herb; if you have one you like in the pantry, use that. You can also create a more refined grain by crushing the herb in a food processor. This can help spread the scent better as many herbs and spices release their fragrance when cut.

Combine the mixture in a small container such as a shaker. Sprinkle it across the carpet, but avoid creating any piles. Piling the powder on the carpet won’t make it more effective. You’ll just waste the goods.

Allow the mixture to sit on the carpet for an hour — then vacuum thoroughly.

8. Carpet Shampoo

If your carpet has a persistently bad odor, you might need to deep clean it. This can be a time-consuming job on your own. So we recommend you use a carpet cleaner like the Hoover PowerDash.

You can buy a carpet cleaner at any home improvement or hardware store. Online stores will also feature a good selection. However, if you don’t have one, you can rent a machine from your local hardware or supply store.

There are many different carpet shampoos available. Try to choose one that states it will remove odors, such as the Carpet Miracle. Before treating the whole carpet, test it in an inconspicuous area.

Follow the instructions on the label and add the recommended amount of shampoo to the full tank. Then plug the machine in and press the trigger to apply the solution. Go over the area a few times, and release the trigger to extract the water as you pull back.

A carpet cleaner is very effective since it sprays water deep into the fibers and extracts it again. Plus, it will leave your carpet nearly dry, reducing the risk of mold or mildew.

How to Prevent a Smelly Carpet

If you want to avoid deodorizing your carpet every few weeks, you need to prevent odors from settling. The thing is a carpet works sort of like a sponge, absorbing liquids as well as smells. Anything could affect your plush rug, from smoking to high humidity.

Here are a few things you can do to avoid a smelly carpet:

1. Create Good Ventilation

Keeping a carpeted room well-ventilated can help get rid of odors before they settle in your carpet fibers. You can easily do this by opening a window and allowing some fresh air in.

If you have two openings across from each other, you can create a cross-wind which will be more effective. Open one of the two slightly and the other all the way. The wind will be forced through, and you will surely feel a fresh breeze.

This will also help to keep the indoor humidity down. Low humidity will keep mold and mildew at bay.

2. Clean Regularly

Cleaning your carpet and your whole house regularly can keep odors at a minimum. For one, try to vacuum the carpet weekly to get rid of bacteria and dirt. You can also work on deodorizing your vacuum by adding some laundry crystals to the bag. This will spread a fresh scent as you vacuum.

3. Clean Spills as They Happen

One of the biggest culprits of carpet odors is spills. If you have children or pets in the house, you might have seen your fair share of accidents and mystery stains.

Remove any spills as soon as you notice them. Some will leave a difficult stain, while others might seep into the padding. To become a real spill ninja, we recommend having a spot cleaner in a spray bottle ready to use at any moment.


How Do You Deodorize a Carpet Fast?

The best way to deodorize a carpet fast is to vacuum regularly using scented beads like these Fresh Wave Deodorizer Vacuum Beads. The other way to deodorize a carpet fast is to use baking soda to eliminate odors. Finally, perform a deep clean every six to twelve months.

Why Does My Carpet Smell Worse After Cleaning?

The reason why your carpet smells worse after cleaning could be because of overwetting. Overwetting occurs when the carpet cleaner lacks the power to suck up excess moisture, which leaves your carpet soaking wet.

Can I Sprinkle Oxiclean on Carpet?

You can sprinkle Oxiclean on carpets, provided they don’t contain wool. Check the carpet label to see if it is compatible, and always read the guidelines on the Oxiclean packet. You should also avoid silk, leather, or dry-clean only carpets.

Can Baby Powder be Used As Carpet Freshener?

You can use baby powder as a carpet freshener, but avoid vacuuming because the fine powder gets into the motor and kills your vacuum cleaner.

Ditch the Stink

Foul carpet odors can be frustrating. But luckily, there are many easy ways to get rid of the unpleasant stench.

How to deodorize a carpet depends on what caused the odor and which method you want to use. Baking soda is one of the best products to use for deodorizing a carpet — it’s what we always grab.

Want a fresh, soothing scent? Mix in some essential oils to create the aroma you’d like to enjoy in your home.

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About the Author

Amy Anthony

Amy Anthony is a cleaning expert, author, and contributing writer for Oh So Spotless, a leading online resource for all things related to cleaning, organizing, and maintaining a spotless home. With over 15 years of experience in the cleaning industry, Amy has gained extensive knowledge and expertise that have made her a trusted authority on best practices, efficient techniques, and innovative cleaning solutions.