How to Deodorize Carpet : 11 Do’s and Don’ts

By
Gladys K. Connelly
As a HouseKeeping Technical Writer, Gladys actively enjoys writing guides and tips about housekeeping for Thehousewire's audience. She's a housekeeping specialist with just shy of 9 years' experience to boast. That, combined with seven years prior experience in teaching, helps her create content that is both captivating and insightful.
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Updated December 21, 2021

Freshen the fibers for a clean smelling home

How to Deodorize Carpet : 11 Do’s and Don’ts

Coming home to a strange smell wafting off your carpets is never a pleasant experience. Whether it’s from smoke, spills, or dogs, just about anything can cause nasty odors.

The porous nature of carpets means they absorb all kinds of scents. So what’s the best way to deodorize your carpet or area rug and leave them smelling fresh once again?

In this article, we’ll talk you through the best ways to clean up after your pets and refresh your home. So get the vacuum ready because it’s time to dive in.

Methods to Deodorize Your Carpet

There are a few different methods you can try to clear up a smelly carpet, so let’s run through how to deodorize carpet and find the best way for you.

1. Water and Sachet Packets

Aromatic sachets

You can pick up sachet packets at the grocery store and they’re a great way to tackle pet odors, like dog pee. Using them as a carpet deodorizer is simple if you’ve got a shop vacuum.

The Carpet Rug Institute approves this method as a safe way to freshen up stubborn odors hiding in your carpets. And best of all, you only need water to go with the sachets.

Avoid Steam

Using a steam cleaner or other heated cleaning device can make a bad smell worse by locking it in. So avoid these and stick to using a wet-dry vacuum to extract carpet odors.

What You’ll Need

How to do it

This powdered deodorizer works well on small spots, or if you want to refresh your entire carpet.

  • Rinse the stain or smelly area with clean water to help reduce the odor
  • Blot the damp area with your dry towel or cloth to remove as much water as you can. Or use a wet-dry vacuum if you have one for better results
  • Sprinkle the contents of your favorite sachet scent on the carpets and vacuum it up. It leaves a fresh scent on the carpet and keeps your vacuum filter smelling sweet, too!

2. White Vinegar

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a natural carpet deodorizer that cuts through bad odors without the need for harsh chemicals. So there’s less worry about damaging your carpet with abrasive cleaners.

It’s ideal for getting rid of any smells that are trapped deep into the carpet fibers. For example, it removes the salts from animal urine that linger deep in the carpet and cause a pungent smell.

What you’ll need

How to do it

You can use this method on upholstery as well as carpet if you want to freshen up the whole room.

  • Vacuum your carpet before you start applying the vinegar. If you’re cleaning your sofa, use the upholstery tool on the vac for the best results.
  • Mix the white vinegar and warm water using one cup of vinegar per two cups of water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle.
  • Add a few drops of essential oil if you want to cover the vinegar scent. It’s not the nicest smell, so you can add essential oils like lavender, citrus, or sweet orange.
  • Spray the carpets and upholstery with the vinegar and essential oil mix to remove trapped odors. You don’t want to wet it too much, a light misting on the surface is what you’re aiming for.
  • Wait for your DIY carpet refresher to air dry. If the bad smells remain, simply spray another layer and wait for it to dry again.
  • Vacuum your carpet and upholstery a final time when it’s completely dry. This helps to remove any residue left behind.

3. Commercial Carpet Deodorizer

Cleaning bottle and sponge

A commercial carpet deodorizer is a sure-fire way to get rid of the musty smell in your carpet. It’s an effective method, but you need to make sure you’re using the right product.

The Carpet Rug Institute has a list of products with their Seal Of Approval (1). These are designed for removing bad odors while being kind to your carpet.

As an alternative, you can also use a homemade carpet cleaner.

Caution

You should always check the label first and make sure the deodorizer is nonabrasive. You don’t want it to damage your carpet or cause any grey spots in heavy foot traffic areas.

If you see sodium carbonate (baking soda), hydrated silica, or sodium silicate then don’t use it for deodorizing carpets. These ingredients scratch fibers and absorb water, which can damage the carpet and its backing over time.

Finally, don’t use these products on damp areas. Too much moisture can damage the carpet backing when mixed with deodorizers.

What You’ll Need

How to do it

Commercial carpet deodorizers are a great way to get the smell out of large areas of carpet. Just follow these simple steps.

  • Sprinkle the deodorizer over your carpet.
  • Shake the container from side to side to ensure you get an even layer.
  • Wait for five minutes while it gets to work.
  • Vacuum your carpet when the time’s up. The unpleasant odor will disappear!

4. Carpet Shampoo

Spring cleaning in house

Carpet shampoos are a great way to deep clean and deodorize your carpets at the same time. This method helps to get rid of stains as well as stubborn odors.

You’re best off using a shampoo with the Carpet Rug Institute Seal Of Approval. These products are a safer choice, and they’re also better for the environment!

What You’ll Need

How to do it

Each shampoo will have different instructions, but these steps are a general guide to help you with your carpet cleaning.

  • Vacuum the carpet first to get rid of any dust and prep the surface
  • Check the instructions on your carpet cleaning machine and use the shampoo as per the guidance
  • Clean your carpet by following the guide on the shampoo bottle label. Pay particular attention to any areas of carpet stain.

5. Enzyme Cleaner

Cleaning Products

An enzyme carpet cleaner is a great way to tackle a carpet odor that keeps coming back. Sometimes the bad smells are masked rather than removed, so you keep suffering from a smelly carpet.

To deodorize carpet using enzymes, live bacteria is used to remove smells by eating the organic matter causing the carpet odor. This creates enzymes and the carpet smell vanishes when enough of the organic material is broken down.

It’s not the quickest method, but it’s great for spot cleaning to get rid of a lingering pet odor caused by pet urine stains. You can buy enzyme-based treatments at pet stores, vets, and other retail stores.

Keep in Mind

Just as with the commercial carpet shampoo and deodorizers, check the cleaner is nonabrasive. You don’t want to use baking soda or anything else that could damage the fibers or backing.

This method requires you to keep your carpet wet for a long time period, maybe hours or longer. Check the label before you start to see what time is recommended in the instructions.

What You’ll Need

How to do it

This method works best on stains that have just occurred, like pet urine. If you’re getting rid of an old bad smell, jump straight to the second step.

  • Remove as much liquid as possible by blotting with a paper towel. Don’t rub the stain in.
  • Apply a generous amount of the enzyme cleaner to the smelly area.
  • Leave it to work for as long as you can. This ranges from 30 minutes to several weeks depending on the stain and cleaner instructions.
  • Check the smell when the area is dry and reapply if you need to.
  • Vacuum the area when the odor has gone and the carpet is completely dry.

What to Avoid

You might have read a few things on the internet that tell you how to deodorize carpet with household items. Not all of these are safe, so here’s a list of the common myths and why you should avoid using them.

Baking Soda

Baking Soda

Baking soda isn’t the gem you’re led to believe and you should avoid it for deodorizing your carpets. It’s an abrasive substance that can cause a lot of damage.

But how?

Baking soda sticks to your carpet and damages the fibers. Each time you walk over it, you’re moving the baking soda particles around and scratching the strands.

It also absorbs water, which soaks through and can damage the backing. In the worst-case scenarios baking soda could lead to delamination, and that’s something you want to avoid at all costs!

And besides, baking soda dissolves in water but turns back into a white powder when the water dries. So it leaves a nasty-looking residue that makes your carpets appear a different color than they are.

If you try and vacuum the baking soda, not all of it gets picked up and you’re still left with a powdery residue. The baking soda can also damage the plastic bits of your vacuum cleaner, so it’s harming more than just your carpets.

So overall, you want to avoid mixing baking soda and carpets. Stick to one of the tried and tested solutions above!

Borax

Collagen White Powder

Borax and borax substitutes are cleaning items you’ve likely got in your cleaning cupboard. We’re sticking to straight Borax here, as it’s a natural mineral compound with all sorts of uses.

Also known as sodium borate, it’s a multipurpose cleaner. People often think is an ideal choice to prevent odors in carpets.

But this isn’t the case!

Borax is an abrasive substance and it contains the dreaded baking soda. So you want to avoid using this as a deodorizing product and protect your carpets.

Salt

salt shaker and fine salt

Everyone knows salt. We all have it in our kitchen cupboard to put on our fries or use as a cleaning agent.

While it’s a natural mineral cleaner, it’s still abrasive. And seeing as abrasive deodorizers can cause a whole load of damage, it’s not one to use on your carpets.

Stick to the kitchen when it comes to salt.

Club Soda

Club Soda-Cocktail

You’ve heard of club soda, but what actually is it? In simple terms, it’s water with carbon dioxide and a few salts dissolved in it.

So while it won’t damage your carpet, it also won’t help it much. There’s not any difference between using club soda and normal water.

You may as well save a few dollars and use tap water instead of splashing out on club soda.

Laundry Detergent

washing machine and laundry detergent gel

Since laundry detergent makes your clothes smell nice, it should make your carpets smell nice too, right?

That’s not always the case. While it might smell nice, some laundry detergents contain brighteners.

These are needed for keeping clothes looking clean, but they can dye the fibers in carpets. It leads to color changes and yellowing, which you don’t want to happen.

The exception to this is if you’re 100% sure that your detergent doesn’t contain any brighteners. If you’re unsure, then leave it alone and try a different method.

OxiClean or Oxi Products

chemical cleaning product

There are loads of websites suggesting using OxiClean as a way to clean and refresh carpets (2). In reality, they could do more harm than good.

These oxy products often contain strong ingredients that aren’t always suitable. Lots of carpet manufacturers and cleaning professionals advise not using them for several reasons.

They can alter the dye of your carpets, which isn’t a good look. And using them can even void your warranty.

So if you decide to use OxiClean for some spot cleaning and odor removal, check the warranty details first. And test a small patch first to see what the effects are.

Vodka

glasses of vodka

You may have read somewhere that vodka is a handy way to get rid of smells in carpets. With its antibacterial properties, it seems a good choice.

But this isn’t the case. Yes, it’s a good disinfectant that kills organisms, but it won’t do much to your carpet.

The water and ethanol mix won’t damage the surface, but it also won’t be effective. So don’t waste your vodka by pouring it all over the floor!

How Do I Prevent My Carpet From Smelling?

Regular cleaning is a simple yet effective way to prevent nasty odors in your carpets. Setting up a basic cleaning schedule could save you time and effort in the future.

Try these tips on how to deodorize carpet:

  • Run the vacuum around once a week or so, and more often in high-traffic areas.
  • When spills happen, clean them up straight away. But stick to products with the Carpet Rug Institute Seal Of Approval so you don’t cause further damage.
  • It’s a good idea to have your carpets cleaned by a professional every 12 to 18 months. This removes the embedded dirt and grime that’s often the cause of unpleasant smells.
  • Since prevention is better than cure, try using doormats and removing your shoes when you come in. This stops dirt from getting all over the carpets in the first place.
  • Change your air filters. This helps with fresh air and will reduce airborne dust particles that settle in the fibers.

If you’re still suffering from smelly carpets, you need to remove whatever’s causing the smell. Try using the methods above to see if they help.

But there’s no need to spend a load of time and money on fancy products. They don’t always help in the way you want them to, and they often end up causing more damage.

Should I Hire a Professional Carpet Cleaner?

If you’ve tried everything else and there’s still a bad smell, then yes. It’s time to call in the professionals.

To get technical, a professional cleaner will follow the ANSI/IICRC S100 Standard for Professional Cleaning of Textile Floor Coverings. This uses hot water and is the proper way to remove lingering odors.

But it’s worth trying some simple home methods first. The ones above are safe and use products that are often in the cleaning cupboard anyway.

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