How can I get Rid of Carpet Odor?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Nothing can make a home unwelcoming like lingering odors trapped in carpeting. Fortunately, there are a number of strategies to employ that will effectively minimize of even get rid of carpet odor. Here are some simple solutions you can try before ripping out the carpeting and buying new carpets.

Removing a wine stain from carpet.
Removing a wine stain from carpet.

Carpet odor that is not overwhelming can often be dealt with effectively by using a common household item: baking soda. The baking soda should be distributed in an even layer on the carpeting and allowed to stand for several minutes. This method allows the odor to be absorbed by the baking soda. By vacuuming up the baking soda, the carpet smell is eliminated and the carpeting is left with a fresh and clean smell.

Steam cleaners can remove pet odor.
Steam cleaners can remove pet odor.

Carpet foam cleaners may be necessary to get rid of odor when baking soda is not sufficient to deal with the issue. The foam cleaners are sprayed in an even coating on the surface of the carpet. Depending on the usage instructions, the foam is allowed to soak into the carpeting and dry to a powder or is worked into the pile of the carpet using a sponge mop. Once the product has been left in place for the specified time, the residue is vacuumed off the carpet, leaving behind odor free carpeting.

A person cleaning a carpet.
A person cleaning a carpet.

Some carpet odors are nothing more than the product of small amounts of dirt that have become trapped in the pile of the carpeting. When this is the case, often all you need to do is dislodge the dirt and remove it from the pile. Renting a water-based steam cleaner is powerful enough to loosen and remove the dirt from between the fibers and eliminate the odor. Using a carpet cleaning fluid as part of the steam cleaning will also help to rid odor from the room. If you want to go in a more natural direction, use white vinegar instead of the cleaning fluid. In addition to renting a machine, it is also possible to purchase effective and affordable steam cleaners for use on a regular basis.

Baking soda can be sprinkled on carpet, then vacuumed, to eliminate many smells.
Baking soda can be sprinkled on carpet, then vacuumed, to eliminate many smells.

Carpet odor may in fact not be a problem with the carpeting but with the pad underneath the carpet. When this is the case, efforts to get the smell out of carpet will provide nothing more than temporary relief. The only solution for dealing with odor from the padding is to remove the existing carpeting and replace the underlying pad. While this process is time consuming, it does allow for the elimination of odor without the necessity of replacing the carpeting itself.

Effective carpet smell removal sometimes requires the efforts of a professional. The chemicals used to clean your carpet will depend on the nature of the causes of the carpet odor and usually are much stronger than anything you can purchase over the counter. If your carpeting is in good condition, using a professional cleaning service may be your most cost-effective means of getting odor out of carpet in your home.

Before calling in the professionals, it does not hurt to try do-it-yourself solutions to remove smell from carpet around the home. If they are not effective, bite the bullet and call a reputable carpet cleaning service. In the long run, it will save you a lot of money and prevent a great deal of frustration.

White vinegar can replace cleaning fluid in a carpet steamer to get rid of carpet odor.
White vinegar can replace cleaning fluid in a carpet steamer to get rid of carpet odor.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


What I'm about to tell you works very well, but for obvious reasons NO carpet cleaner will tell you to try it. Use wisk detergent diluted in a shampooer & hot tap water to really clean the carpet. The detergent will do just like it does in the laundry...attract dirt & break it loose. Then after using a shampooer & wisk go back over it using white vinegar 10% & hot tap water. Then rinse the heck out of it with hot tap water. You may have to go over it many times. Then allow it to dry. Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet & let it sit as long as you can up to 2 days. Then vacuum it up. Do not EVER shampoo carpets if it has rained recently, if humidity is high, or rain is expected in a few days. Keep fans blowing on it to dry & windows open! You do NOT want mold & mildew to grow in it after shampooing. That musty smell will show up quick! Baking soda will get the odor out..use a huge box, not the tiny ones from grocery stores. Use a generous amount. I've gotten stains & smells like oil from a place that a car mechanic use to live out of carpets. I've even gotten stains that the "professional" steamers couldn't touch! I only use 2-3 tablespoons of wisk on a room. It will suds up like crazy! Be prepared to empty the dirty water tank..a LOT. You will know when you get it all out because it will stop feeling "sticky" under your bare feet. Also, try to get as much water as possible back OUT of the carpet..this is VERY important to prevent that musty smell. Good luck, I'm going to clean carpets later today for my Mother.


I've heard that there is a way to use vinegar to remove a moldy odor. Any ideas on how to use it?


I carpet cleaned my room and ever since there has been a powerful rotting smell in that room that's traveled to outside that room. I can't handle the smell.

I've tried everything from Febreezed it to death, left the windows open. I'm not sure what's left to try.

This has never happened to me before. Any suggestions on how to rid my room of the rot?


Depending on the smell, I like to shampoo the carpets and sprinkle baking soda or baby powder on the carpet as it is still a little damp. I rub in the soda or powder and then let sit until the carpet is dry and then vacuum it up.


Sorry, but baking soda? Seriously? I've done the baking soda and I've done the sprays and other powders too. They don't work. When you have bad smelling carpet the odor is usually coming from what's below or in the fibers. You need to clean it.

Baking soda is a lazy out. If you want to get the smell out, you really need a good solid cleaner - something like genesis 950 concentrate. Odors are caused by bacteria or germs that need to be killed.

Yeah, it's some work, but if you want to put an end to smells from carpet you need to bite the bullet, get a machine, pour some 950 in it and clean your carpet. Sprinkling baking soda won't kill germs, or get deep down in the carpet.


You can get rid of carpet odors to a point, but eventually your only option is to just remove the carpet. If you are really put off by the smell that is the only sure fire way to get rid of it. It is expensive, and drastic, but some smells are just unbearable.


I know that some people use baking soda to remove smells and stains. Does this work on carpet too? How do you get if off once you apply it?


I just moved into an apartment that obviously had a smoker living in it for years. The whole place reeks!

Is there any way for me to remove the cigarette smell from the carpet? It is so strong and that is the only place that I can think that it might be coming from.


Can I please ask about car carpet that has repeatedly had alcohol (white wine or champagne) spilled on it, and then also has had food fall on it and stay there for long periods, in the wet environment of the wine spills, thus creating mold.

The toddler spilling food and the wine were not by the same people at the same time. I sprayed some preen carpet cleaner onto the carpet but the smell has become so bad it's like moldy winey rotten food mixed with chemicals!

What do you suggest I try?


What about vomit on carpet smell?


That's a good tip to use baking soda on carpet odor. I use it all the time to de-funk my fridge, but never thought of using it on carpet.



@StreamFinder -- It depends on the nature of the smell. While some, like general "doggy" or cat smell will come out with a steam cleaning, you may have more trouble getting the dog or cat urine odor out of carpet.

Your best bet is to get a pet smell removing powder from a pet store or even from your vet. This can take out a lot of the odors.

Afterwards, if the smell still remains, I would tell you to just go with a professional carpet odor removal service -- it's just not worth it to try and get rid of it yourself.


How can I get pet odors out of carpet? I have a dog and three cats, and it seems like my whole home smells!

Is there any good way to do this without calling a cleaning service?

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