Our pets are members of the family, bringing joy and comfort to our lives, but they also bring along their fair share of odors. From the lingering stink of a wet dog to that eye-watering smell of a litter box, pet smells can be an embarrassing challenge.
As a pet owner myself, I have learned through trial and error how to tackle those smells. From my sweet dog Mercy’s never-ending effusion of aromas to my cat Mr. Bean’s litter box quirks, I’ve had to deal with all sorts of pet smells in my home. In this guide, I explain effective and natural DIY methods to eliminate pet odors, so you too can enjoy a fresh home while keeping your beloved pet by your side.
Why Your Home Smells Like Dog (or Cat)
The reason your home smells like your dog or cat is because, like us, they have odor-producing glands all over their bodies. These glands secrete oils and pheromones, creating a distinct smell. Pets also shed dander — dead skin cells containing proteins that contribute to odors. Their fur, like our hair, carries a scent and can trap dirt and bacteria, adding to the smell. And, of course, indoor accidents can spread odors. That’s a lot of stink sources!
I’ve found that the best way to keep pet odors from taking over my home is by using DIY odor-neutralizing cleaners on the carpets and furniture, and following a consistent cleaning routine that includes washing their pet beds and the litter box regularly. These steps, combined with regular grooming and vet visits, keep my home smelling fresh and my fur babies happy.
DIY Pet Odor Removers
To effectively clean and deodorize pet odors, I use the following remedies. Before applying any of the DIY odor eliminators, conduct spot tests to ensure they won’t cause color fading.
1. Baking Soda and Vinegar Pet Odor Neutralizer
Baking soda and vinegar are two of my favorite ingredients to use in DIY cleaning products, both separately and together. The combination is always my first choice for cleaning up pet messes, because it does a wonderful job removing both the stain and the smell.
Baking soda acts as a natural deodorizer while white vinegar has antibacterial properties which neutralize odors, too. Together, they make a powerful, natural pet odor eliminator for carpets, furniture, bedding, and other soft surfaces.
- In a spray bottle, combine equal parts white vinegar and water. Shake well to blend.
- Spritz the carpets, furniture, or pet bedding. Do not saturate the surface, just lightly dampen it.
- After spraying, sprinkle the damp area with baking soda. The reaction will create a fizz that will dissolve the bond between the surface and the bacteria that create the smell.
- Allow the mixture to sit for 15-20 minutes, then blot with a dry towel.
- Once the area is thoroughly dry, vacuum it to remove the baking soda and trapped odors.
2. DIY Enzymatic Cleaner for Pet Urine
To tackle persistent urine stains, I opt for enzymatic cleaners. Enzymes act as biological agents, effectively breaking down the proteins in the urine and eradicating its scent. This can stop pets from re-marking or spraying the same area.
To make a quick DIY enzymatic cleaner, mix 2 tablespoons of an enzyme-based laundry detergent like Persil or Seventh Generation with 2 cups of warm water. Dab this onto the affected area and let it sit for 10-15 minutes, blot, then wipe the area with a clean, damp cloth to remove any detergent residue.
Or, you can buy enzyme cleaners specifically designed to treat pet stains. Nature’s Miracle is a highly rated one, as is OdoBan, but use their lavender version since the eucalyptus scent of the original is not pet-safe.
3. DIY Pet Feces Stain and Odor Remover
I’ve had puppies that took forever to house-train and elderly dogs who couldn’t help having accidents now and again. When cleaning up dog poop, the smell is often easier to get rid of than the discoloration, especially if the mess occurred on carpeting. For that, I use this powerful two-step cleaning combination that eliminates the bacteria which causes the odor and also dissolves the stain.
Since this pet stain remover relies on a potent chemical reaction, open the windows for ventilation and wear cleaning gloves to protect your skin.
- In one spray bottle, combine 2 cups of warm water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda (bicarbonate). Shake vigorously to dissolve the powder, then add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap and gently swirl to combine.
- In a second spray bottle, combine 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide and 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar to the mixture. This creates peracetic acid, which is a strong odor eliminator but also an irritant, so be sure to wear those cleaning gloves and open a window.
- Spray the surface with the first bottle until it’s lightly damp, then spray again with the second bottle. The fizzing reaction between the baking soda and vinegar helps loosen the stain while the peracetic acid eliminates the pet odor and bacteria.
- Once the fizzing stops, blot the area with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove excess moisture, then wipe with a fresh damp cloth to remove any residue. If the area you treated is carpeting, wait until it is completely dry, then vacuum to fluff the carpet fibers.
4. Essential Oil Odor-Neutralizer
Here’s a simple recipe for a carpet and fabric spray that eliminates pet odors and adds a pleasant fragrance to your home, too. Be sure to use pet-safe essential oils. If you’re not a fan of the suggested ones, consult your vet for options.
- In a spray bottle, combine 1 cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Shake well until the baking soda dissolves.
- Add 5-10 drops of pet-safe essential oils (e.g., lavender, chamomile, or cedarwood).
- Shake the bottle well again, then spritz the mixture onto fabrics. The baking soda eliminates odors while the essential oil adds a delicate scent.
- Keep in mind that pets should not come into direct contact with the wet spray, so keep them out of the area until it has dried.
5. Homemade Pet-friendly Carpet Deodorizers
Baking soda is a versatile household ingredient. When combined with pet-safe essential oils, it is a natural pet odor eliminator. Not every vacuum cleaner can handle fine powders like baking soda, however, so check your manufacturer’s instructions before use.
It’s a good idea to keep your pets confined to another area until you’ve finished vacuuming up the powder. Although it’s not harmful to them, it will make their fur feel dusty and could cause them to sneeze quite a bit.
- In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of baking soda with 10-15 drops of a pet-safe essential oil, such as lavender, chamomile, rosemary, or cedarwood.
- Stir thoroughly to distribute the essential oil evenly throughout the baking soda.
- Sprinkle the mixture generously over your carpeted areas, focusing on areas where pet smells are most prevalent.
- Allow it to sit for at least 15-30 minutes to allow the baking soda to work its magic.
- Vacuum the carpet thoroughly to remove the baking soda and any trapped odors.
Eliminating Pet Odors from Carpets and Rugs
Carpets and rugs can absorb and trap smells, so prompt clean-up of pet accidents is crucial to prevent odors from seeping into the subfloor.
- For fresh accidents: Blot fresh pet messes then use the Baking Soda and Vinegar Pet Odor Neutralizer. Once the area is dry, vacuum it to restore the carpet’s fluff.
- For stubborn stains and odors: Use the Pet Feces Stain and Odor Remover or the DIY Enzymatic Cleaner for urine spots.
- For ongoing freshness: Vacuum thoroughly each week after applying the DIY Pet-Friendly Carpet Deodorizer. Throughout the week, vacuum high-traffic areas to keep them free of pet hair and debris.
- For an instant refresh: Spritz your carpet with the Essential Oil Odor-Neutralizer to eliminate pet odors.
Odors on Upholstery, Fabrics and Soft Furniture
Fabrics are notorious for trapping pet hair, so it’s no wonder that sofas and chairs can smell bad after our pets have been lounging on them. Even curtains can pick up odors if your cat brushes against them to perch in the window like mine does. To eliminate pet smells on your soft furnishings, combine the DIY pet odor solutions with targeted cleaning.
- If the item is not washable: consult a professional dry cleaner.
- Spot test first: Apply the intended cleaning agent to an inconspicuous place to test for colorfastness before using it on the stained area.
- For fresh accidents: Blot, then launder the item as directed on the care label.
- For stubborn stains: Use the DIY enzymatic cleaner for urine stains or the Pet Feces Stain and Odor Remover for solid messes.
- To freshen furniture: Lightly mist upholstered furniture, cushions, curtains, and throw pillows with the Essential Oil Odor Neutralizer Spray.
Tackling Smelly Pet Beds
Although they hog my bed at night, my pets have their own beds to lounge in during the day. Those can get mighty smelly. I follow the general rule to wash pet bedding every other week. If your pet has allergies or skin conditions, you might need to make it a weekly habit.
- Use a pet-friendly laundry detergent or 1/3 cup of Castile soap and add ½ cup of baking soda to the wash. Baking soda helps absorb odors and freshen the fabric.
- Use a second rinse cycle to fully remove pet hair and dander.
- Dry the covers thoroughly before placing them back on the bed or pet bed. Tumble drying on high heat for 45 minutes or line-drying in direct sunlight are both effective ways to kill bacteria and odors.
Between washings, you can refresh pet bedding by sprinkling it liberally with baking soda to absorb and neutralize odors. Allow the baking soda to sit for 15-30 minutes to work its magic, then shake it outside to release the powder and trapped smells. Vacuuming will also help remove any remaining powder and pet hair.
Dealing With Stinky Litter Boxes
My cat, Mr. Bean, starts eliminating outside the litter box if I go a week without washing it. If your cat is picky, too, then frequent attention to cleaning the litter box is the best defense against pet messes (and odors) elsewhere in your home.
- Have a separate litter box for each cat: Cats naturally dislike walking through another cat’s mess to do their business. Many will eliminate elsewhere in your home instead. Give each cat their own box to keep the peace.
- Scoop each litter box at least once a day: Regularly removing solid waste and clumps will help prevent odors from building up.
- Empty and clean the litter box regularly: Every few weeks, completely empty the box and give it a thorough cleaning. Wear gloves and wash it with mild dish soap and warm water. Rinse well and allow it to dry before adding fresh litter. Do not use bleach or pine-based cleaners.
- Use baking soda: Sprinkle a layer of baking soda at the bottom of the clean box before adding new litter.
- Try an enzymatic cleaner: If your cat’s litter box develops strong odors that are difficult to eliminate, wash it with the DIY Enzymatic Cleaner or a commercial product specifically designed for pet urine and odor removal.
Additional Tips to Prevent Pet Odors in Your Home
- Clean up pet accidents promptly and thoroughly.
- Follow a consistent cleaning routine for your pet’s bedding and favorite lounging spots.
- Groom and bathe your pet regularly to reduce shedding and dander.
- Consider using air purifiers to filter your home’s air and remove odors associated with pet dander.
- Stay current with visits to the vet to keep your dog or cat healthy and seek immediate attention for any signs of illness. Many illnesses, including ear infections, can produce unpleasant pet odors, too.
- Use homemade pet odor removal methods as needed to neutralize smells and create a pleasant space for both you and your furry friend.