How to Deodorize Carpet - Your Complete Guide

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Carpets are often subjected to the worst grime - from daily footsteps to those accidental spills and mishaps. Dirty, damp carpets give off a smell, and not a pleasant one at that. Pets and kids around the house can also get into accidents, which can make your carpets smell over time.

Air fresheners and room scents may alleviate the smell around the room where the carpet is, but it is not a permanent solution. The best way to remove the smell is to clean your carpet area, particularly where the smell is located. Focus on those areas in order to deodorize the smell and keep your room fresh and clean.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to deodorize smelly carpet flooring, as well as the different carpet smells and how to remove them. First and foremost, figure out what kind of carpet you have at home in order to follow the most effective method of odour removal.

How To Deodorize Carpet

There are multiple ways to deodorize your carpet based on the type of smell and its intensity. Dry methods are convenient and easy to do, especially around high-traffic areas like the staircase and living room are prone to dirt and spillage that can cause foul odours to form in the carpet fibers. 

cleaning supplies
Get your supplies ready for hassle-free cleaning.

Commercial Deodorizers

For the convenience of a ready-to-use carpet deodorizer, nothing is wrong with reaching for store-bought cleaners that will get that smell out of your carpets. Carpet deodorizers usually come in powder form, like the Carpet Fresh Rug and Room Deodorizer with Baking Soda, for easy clean up with a vacuum cleaner. 

Other brands offer liquid spray and foam versions, like Woolite Advanced Pet Stain and Odour Remover, which focuses on the spot where the smell is coming from. Liquid sprays are especially effective on pet stains and food stains.

charcoal texture
Charcoal works well to remove odours from rooms.


Charcoal has been long known to remove odours by absorbing particles in its porous surface and neutralizing them. Both gravel and whole versions can be used to remove odour in a room, but is not a permanent solution if the smell stems from sources like mould and mildew as these continuously release smells even after the charcoal has been removed.

To use charcoal to deodorize your carpet, place charcoal in a fine mesh container, such as an old stocking, plastic basket, or a container with holes poked on the lid, in strategic locations around the room. The bigger your room, the more charcoal you will need. Let the charcoal do its job by removing the odours from the air. 

man vacuuming carpet
Vacuuming may get rid of particles causing the smell.


Not sure where the smell is coming from? A good vacuuming can remove some odours from a dirty carpet by removing possible sources in debris. Vacuum the carpet daily on the dry setting to get rid of sources of odour before they settle.

The wet function can get rid of excess moisture that could otherwise cause mould and mildew to thrive, as well as giving off a musty, damp smell. Vacuum the carpet using the wet function with or without carpet cleaner to remove deep-seated dirt, as well as any odours that may arise from them. Fully dry your carpet before using it to prevent a damp smell from forming.

steam cleaner on rug
Steam cleaners can deodorize and sanitize at the same time.

Steam Cleaning

If your carpet material can withstand heat, steam cleaning is a great way to remove odours as the steam particles get deep into the fibers of smelly carpets. Adding essential oil into your steam mop reservoir, provided that the manufacturer allows it, is a great way to introduce fresh clean smells into your carpet instead. 

When steam cleaning, make sure not to go over an area of your carpet too many times, as this may saturate the area and weaken the adhesive. A wet carpet also causes more odours and problems in the future, as mould starts to form beneath the surface.

Common Carpet Smells and How to Remove Them

One of the most common causes for carpet odours is urine, which is prevalent in homes with very young children and pets. However, musty smells and the smell of smoke can also be present in carpets that aren’t properly cleaned. Remove these odours from your carpets through different methods that will leave your carpets clean.

cute labrador with toy on rug
Pets are cute, but they can be messy!

Pet Urine Smell

Got pets around the house in need of training? They may have had an accident or two on your carpet. Pets also have the tendency to potty on spots where they smell traces of urine due to territorial marking. To remove pet urine smell, reach for a commercial carpet deodorizer that discourages the pet from going in the same spot by neutralizing the marking odour. 

Arm & Hammer Pet Odour Eliminator with OxiClean removes all traces of pet urine including its smell, leaving your carpets smelling fresh and clean. Use the spray as directed, making sure to cover the entire area where the urine may have seeped into. Let the carpet dry before stepping on it or using it. 

green textured rug
Musty smells often connote mould and mildew.

Mould and Mildew Smell

Musty smells on your carpets is never a good sign. Musty smells are almost always caused by mould and mildew that form on consistently damp carpeting. First issue you will need to check is if you have leaks or dripping water around the carpet area that is causing your carpets to be constantly damp. You will need to fix these issues first to fully remove the musty odour.

To kill off mould and mildew colonies, all you’ll need is a little spritz of vodka. No, really! The high alcohol content in vodka is a known deodorizer, and kills off mould and mildew colonies on contact. Vodka also dissipates much faster than water does, preventing mould and mildew spores from recolonizing on your damp carpet.

sick person vomiting into a bucket
Vomit smells are notoriously difficult to remove, so best to prevent them on carpets.

Vomit Smell

Kids getting sick around the house, or just had a crazy night? Vomit is notoriously difficult to remove from carpets due to its acidic properties that settles food residue deep into carpet fibers. Over time, uncleaned vomit stains can cause rotting odours, which can be particularly off-putting. 

The best way to clean out the vomit smell is to start while the vomit is fresh. Use an absorbing powder, such as baking soda, cornstarch, or flour, to soak up the vomit. Wipe away using a cloth or paper towel, making sure not to spread the vomit around. Scrub the area with some enzyme cleaning carpet shampoo like Nature's Miracle Carpet Shampoo: Deep-Cleaning Stain and Odor Remover.

milk spilled on textured surface
The smell of sour milk can be off putting, and can linger on the carpet when not cleaned immediately.

Milk Smell

Milk spilled on the carpet will eventually rot, giving off a sour milk smell. Before that happens, absorb the spilled milk immediately as it happens by blotting a towel on the spill, and sprinkling a little baking soda to dry the carpet. The baking soda will absorb excess moisture, as well as deodorize the milk smell.

Leave the baking soda for 10 minutes to do its job, then use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the baking soda. Alternatively, you can use a handheld broom to brush the dried baking soda away. For a fresh scent, mix a few drops of essential oils into the baking soda before sprinkling.  Alternatively, you can also use a diluted white vinegar spray to neutralize the milk smell.

cigarette butt on concrete
Burnt smells always mean something is burnt.

Burnt or Cigarette Smell

That burnt smell on your carpet is exactly what it is: something burnt. Was the iron left on the carpet, or did an appliance get too hot and charred your carpet? Burnt carpet smells, especially those on synthetic polymer carpets, give off an unpleasant odor. They are also dangerous as you need to find the source of the smell to prevent fires from breaking out in your home.

If you’ve assessed that the burnt smell is only around one area of your carpet, then you may move to get rid of the odour. Use a mixture of baking soda and borax, and sprinkle the powder on top of your carpet. Use a carpet brush to work the powder in. Let the powder sit for at least 30 minutes before vacuuming up. For best results, remove the burnt area of your carpet entirely.

Professional cleaners cleaning the living room area
Professionals can do the full cleaning job from top to bottom to get rid of nasty odours for good!

Turning to the Professionals

If those smells just aren’t going away, it’s time to turn to the professionals for help. Smells that are not on this list, like those of sweat and bathroom odours, will need professional cleaning to remove. Look for a professional carpet cleaning company that specializes in cleaning your type of carpet, as well as cleaning the rest of your home for a one-stop solution. 

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