How to Neutralize Odors in Carpet: Your Complete Guide

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Carpets can make a room look beautiful and give your home a comfy, welcoming feel. Yet, if you’re not careful, your beautiful carpet can turn into your number one enemy.

The way carpets are designed makes them highly absorbent and odorous. Many factors can cause carpet odors, such as too much moisture, spills, pet accidents, etc. Even the way you clean your carpet can cause it to smell bad!

Have no fear! I’m here to show you how to neutralize odors in your carpet quickly and efficiently with a great deal of tried-and-tested cleaning solutions. Let’s get going!

My Top Recommendations for Neutralizing Carpet Odors

This is a quick list of all the cleaning solutions you can use to safely clean your carpets.

  • Baking soda
  • Borax
  • Vinegar
  • Cat litter
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Dish soap
  • Vodka

Types of Carpet Odors

Before I get into more details, let’s talk about how and why our carpets become smelly. Below are the two main types of odors we usually encounter.

Surface Odors

Surface odor develops immediately after you drop or spill anything on your carpet. Because they don’t get to penetrate that much into the pile, these odors are much easier to get rid of. But you have to remove the stain as quickly as possible to prevent it from leaving any permanent marks or odors.

Deep Odors

Deep odors occur when liquids seep into the carpet fibers. Sometimes, they reach the bottom layer, creating the perfect environment for mold spores to grow.

These types of odors can be more difficult to clean on the first try than surface odors. This is one of the reasons why they can lead to major mold problems.

What’s Behind the Odor?

Now that we know the physical types of odors, let’s zoom in to take a look at the actual composition. Familiarizing yourself with these causes will ensure more effective cleaning.


Mildew stains are not only hideous, but they can also cause serious health problems, especially if you’re suffering from preexisting conditions like asthma.

How to Identify Mold Spots?

Mildew may appear as gray, brown, white, or black stains. If you whiff these stains, you’ll smell a pungent, musty, or sour odor. If you detect this, abstain from whiffing again, you are inhaling airborne spores.

Brush the Stains

So, you’ve discovered mold under your carpet, what now? Here’s a tip I got from one of my friends to get rid of mold: Scrub the top part of the carpet, as well as underneath it.

Make sure you use a stiff, dry brush to remove the visible mold spores. It’s best if you don’t use a vacuum as it can easily spread the mold spores to other parts of your home. Finally, brush them into a trash bag, tie off the bag, and throw it away immediately.

Or Place Them Underneath the Sun

One family member told me to use the sun to my advantage to sanitize my rugs and carpets. To be honest, I’d never tried sunning any of my furnishings, and it felt a bit weird at first. But, let me tell you, it’s one of the best things you can do for your home!

So, my advice to you is, if you have access to a sunny spot, take your rugs and carpets outside so that they get a couple of hours of strong sunlight.

According to experts, ultraviolet rays are terrific disinfectants. Thanks to their impeccable energy, they can kill most bacteria and mold.

Pet Odors

Pets will be pets. No matter how hard you house-train them, accidents are bound to happen.

Dealing With Mild to Moderate Stains

To absorb urine stains from the surface of the carpet, dab the area with paper towels. If they have already dried, wet the area with water, then blot with a clean set of paper towels.

Some people like to stand over the paper towels to absorb the stains faster, but I advise against that. With poorly designed carpets, you might aggravate the problem by spreading the stain rather than picking it up.

In a spray bottle, mix two parts vinegar with two parts warm water, and add about four tablespoons of baking soda. Spritz liberally over the stained areas, and let it sit for at least ten minutes. Lastly, dab the area with a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture.

If you don’t like the harsh smell of vinegar, you can substitute it with hydrogen peroxide or dishwashing soap.

Dealing With Heavy Stains

If the stains have been sitting on your carpet for more than a day, you’ll need to alter the previous steps. Use a mixture of vinegar and warm water, and spritz on the carpet. Then, sprinkle some baking soda directly over the carpet.

Don’t worry if they start foaming. That’s a normal chemical reaction and part of what makes them so good at removing bad smells.

After about five minutes, soak everything up with a dry cloth. Make sure you blot rather than wipe. When you’re done, use a broom to brush away any remaining baking soda particles.

Liquid Stains

To clean stubborn liquid stains and their odors, you need something that can reach deep into the carpet. The best thing is to make a mixture of one part vinegar and one part carpet cleaning solution. This can either be a carpet shampoo or any solution that contains isopropyl alcohol.

Next, pour the mixture into the liquid chamber of a carpet steamer. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions to avoid permanent damage.

Different Types of Carpet Deodorizers

There are plenty of products on the market that rely on chemical enzymes to get rid of odors. However, the experts I consulted preferred using all-natural products. They’re much safer to use in your home and they’re less likely to cause adverse reactions.

Below are some natural cleaning agents that people have been using in their homes for years.

Baking Soda

Virtually everyone on the internet swears by the benefits of baking soda — and that goes double for bad odors.

The great thing is that you can safely use baking soda on all types of carpets. It removes odors by neutralizing acids and absorbing excess moisture.

Stains are just a visible symptom of the odor and not the actual problem. The first thing you have to do before sprinkling any baking soda is to remove the stain. This prevents odors from building up and getting worse. One quick way to get rid of surface stains is to wipe them off with a damp cloth and a couple of drops of carpet shampoo.

Once the stain is gone, it’s time for the baking soda to come into action. Place a thin layer on the area where the stain once was. Spread it evenly over the area, and let it sit from 2 to 10 hours. Some people even leave it for up to two days.

How long you leave the baking soda depends on the severity of the smell. When time’s up, sweep the top layer, then vacuum any excess powder off the carpet.

It’s worth mentioning that some people claim that baking soda can damage vacuum cleaners. One way to avoid this problem is to clean up the powder using a broom and dustpan, then vacuum the tiny remnants.


Borax is known as the ‘miracle cleaner’ because it removes and prevents bacterial growth. A colleague of mine told me how she’d been using borax as a cleaning agent for years. She uses it regularly to get rid of mold, pet accidents, and a bunch of other carpet stains.

The best way to use it is to mix one part borax and one part baking soda. Stir them together, then spread a thin layer on the carpet as you would with baking soda.

Baking-Soda-Based Deodorizer

A baking soda-based deodorizer eliminates bad odors and will make your home smell amazing! The secret is in the essential oils.

Just be careful about the type of oil you choose, especially if you have any dogs or cats. Studies show that some could be toxic if they smell or lick them.

The following are some examples of safe essential oils for your pets and you.

Once you’ve picked the one you want, mix about 30 drops with half a cup of baking soda. Place it in a bottle and punch small holes in the lid. Let it sit overnight.

The next day, sprinkle the baking soda and essential oil mixture over the carpet. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes, then sweep everything up.


Vinegar has been used for thousands of years as a cleanser and antiseptic. It’s also been widely hailed as one of the best odor removers because of its ability to neutralize the ammonia caused by various bacteria. It’s also natural, safe, and best of all, won’t affect the fibers or color of your carpet.

Here’s how I use vinegar to clean my carpets. I make a solution of equal parts vinegar and water. After placing it in a spray bottle, I spritz the surface of the carpet.

Then, I leave it for about 20 to 30 minutes. Next, I blot the area covered in vinegar with a damp cloth. If the carpet is still wet, I use a dry cloth to absorb any of the remaining water.

If there’s still some odor, I usually spray the area again with the vinegar-water solution and repeat daily until the smell vanishes.

Cat Litter

Using cat litter on your carpet might be a tad strange, especially if you don’t own a cat. Yet it makes sense to use it on your carpets because cat litter absorbs unwanted odors. I know this because all my cat-loving friends are constantly talking about how cat litter is a must-have in their homes.

Not only does cat litter absorb odors, but it also does a terrific job of absorbing any moisture or dampness that may have seeped into your carpet. The best part is that it’s easy to use, convenient, and safe.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Another great way to get rid of carpet odors is hydrogen peroxide. It helps neutralize mildew and mold spores, as well as their musty smell.

Start by mixing five parts water with one part hydrogen peroxide. Put the mixture in a spray bottle, and give it a quick shake.

Next, flip over the carpet and spray. You can also spray the top layer of the carpet, but it’s the bottom layer where you want to focus your efforts.

Dish Soap

In my experience, dish soap is one of those superheroes that comes in to save the day. The best way to use it is to wipe away the stains as soon as they occur, and preferably while they’re still wet. This makes it easier to remove the stain as well as any lingering odors.


Although it’s not your standard cleaner, vodka is considered a pretty strong stain remover. For disinfection purposes, the CDC suggests using a cleaner with an alcohol concentration between 60 and 90%. Even though vodka has only 40% alcohol, it’s still pretty effective against bacteria and odors.

It’s also easy to use. First, spot-clean the stain. Then, spray some vodka on the stained area. Leave it for up to 15 minutes. Dry up the extra moisture with paper towels.

If you have any persistent stains, sprinkle some baking soda on top of the vodka to absorb any excess moisture. Finally, sweep and vacuum any remains.

Homemade Deep Cleansing Treatments

The best way to prevent odors from sneaking up on you is to clean your carpets at least twice a month. This will save you money and a lot of cleaning in the long run. Plus, it keeps your home always smelling clean and fresh!

If after trying all these methods the stain doesn’t disappear it’s time for the big guns.

Here are a few of the homemade carpet cleaner recipes I’ve tried. I have a different recipe for each carpet type.

Remember to always dab or blot the stain. Avoid pouring the cleaning agent directly onto the carpet.

Synthetic Carpets

If your rug is made of synthetic fibers, use any of the following cleaning solutions. Get a clean cloth, dip it into the cleanser, then apply it to the stained area.

  • Dishwashing Detergent: 1/4 teaspoon dish soap to 1 cup lukewarm water
  • Vinegar: 1 cup white vinegar to 2 cups water
  • Solvent: oil-based solvent or a non-acetone nail polish remover

Natural-Fiber Carpets

I love natural-fiber carpets because they’re so soft and plushy. Pour the following cleaning solutions into spray bottles to keep your natural carpets fluffy. If you’re using the solvent, you can use a regular cloth, just as we did with the synthetic carpets.

  • Dishwashing Detergent: Mix 1 teaspoon dish soap with 1 cup water
  • Vinegar: equal parts of vinegar and water (I prefer starting with a 1/4 cup of each)
  • Ammonia: 1 tablespoon clear household ammonia with 1/2 cup water
  • Solvent: oil-based solvent or a non-acetone nail polish remover

Deep Carpet Cleaning

Start by mixing the following ingredients in a large bucket.


  • 2 tablespoons hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid soap
  • 1-quart water

Once everything is mixed, dip a microfiber cloth inside, and use it to dap the area. If you prefer, you can fill a spray bottle and spritz the entire area.

I’ve tried both, and, for me, spraying did a better job. It spreads an even layer and does a better job of removing the odor.

Safety Tips

There are a few safety tips you should remember when you use this mixture.

  • Let the treatment work for at least 24 hours
  • Mix only as much as you need for each cleaning session
  • Wear gloves
  • Don’t leave any unused mixture in the spray bottle
  • Keep the room well-ventilated
  • Keep any children or pets away from the area


Cleaning your carpets is no small feat. However, by taking good care of your carpet, you can keep it looking and smelling its best. Use my carpet cleaning recipes for sweet-smelling, clean, and vibrant carpets for years to come.

With the help of these tips, you now have better insight into how to neutralize odors in your carpet. My how-to guide relies on all-natural ingredients that you can easily find anywhere. You probably already have most of them in your pantry.

All you have to do is get them out. Then, choose which cleaning solution you want to try, mix the ingredients, and start cleaning.

Further Reading

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