How to clean, deodorize and get smells out of your carpet

How to clean, deodorize and get smells out of your carpet

You can often clean up carpet stains (and smells) with household items.

Key tips to remember

  • Clean your carpets regularly
  • Go after most stains as soon as they appear
  • Scrape away any leftovers with a dull knife
  • Keep plenty of clean, white rags for blotting
  • Use baking soda, vinegar and peroxide for extra help

Ever wonder why we all compose online search criteria as if we’ve just learned the English language? It’s a real mystery. Anyway, before you begin searching online for “how can I get smell out of carpet,” “can’t get smell out of carpet” or their even clumsier cousin “how to clean carpet smell,” take a few minutes to read this post..  You’ll learn how to get a smell out of the carpet and the stain without calling in the professionals. Even if you manage to avoid stains, carpet is a great place for dirt, dust, grime, bacteria and their resulting smells to gather, and regular vacuuming won’t quite cut the mustard.

However, you may be surprised to learn that you can deal with many stains (and smells) without purchasing any fancy carpet cleaners made of creepy-sounding chemicals. If you’d like to know how to clean stinky carpet, armed with the knowledge of what caused the stain (and the smell) in the first place, you can attack and eradicate both the stain and smell with a few typical household cleaning items you might already have at home. Remember, when considering how to remove odor from carpet, it’s always good to go after a stain as soon as you know it’s there, and before it has time to dry and set in. This is just one small part of regular maintenance that helps your home retain value.

Five easy ways to remove carpet stains (and related smells)

If you have carpet in your home, sooner or later you’ll have to deal with spills and stains; although if you’re quick and responsive, you may be able to avoid the smells that come with them. Before you do, however, go ahead and get into the habit of cleaning your entire carpet regularly with a rental carpet cleaning machine available at many grocery stores. If you take the time to do this at least twice a year, you’ll be amazed at how much cleaner your carpets will be. Before we get into the specifics of what you should do for certain stains, we’ll go over our five general guidelines for carpet stain and smell removal, so grab your baking soda and vinegar and check out these simple tips.

Get rid of the leftovers: Most stains leave leftovers. Scrape off all this extra junk around the stain with a dull knife. If the leftovers are liquid, blot them with a clean, white cloth. Resist the urge to scrub. Be gentle. Keep doing this until no more color is left to absorb.

Try water and dish soap: If you’re not sure of the stain’s origins, a cup of water at room temperature mixed with a few drops of dish soap is a safe way to make another attempt at stain removal. Get the stained area wet but not soaking. Rub gently with a soft rag.

Add vinegar: For a slightly stronger solution, combine two cups of room-temperature water with a tablespoon of vinegar and a tablespoon of dish soap. Use a soft, white towel or rag to gently apply the solution to the stain, and then blot it repeatedly with fresh water.

Add baking soda: This time, sprinkle baking soda on top of the stain, then spray with a 50-50 solution of vinegar and water and a few drops of added dish soap. The stain will foam up and then harden. Break it up and then vacuum the area to remove it.

Try a stain remover: If you still aren’t having luck removing stains or smells, it’s time to try the hard stuff. Pick a carpet stain remover product and follow its directions in a hidden area of the carpet, and make sure you don’t get the carpet too wet. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before touching anything, but never leave any standing liquid on the carpet or elsewhere for long because you could invite mildew and mold. Read our related post if you’re wondering whether your home warranty covers mold.

10 common carpet stains and how to remove them,

plus how to remove a bad smell from carpet


Pet stains

The best method for removing pet stains and related smells is to choose a carpet cleaner that contains enzymes, which kill bacteria and eliminate the odors that come with it. After removing and discarding any leftovers, spray the cleaner over the affected area thoroughly, blot any wetness until it is merely damp, and gently rub the stain remover solution with a clean, white rag. If the stain is already dry when you begin, it will need to be rehydrated with a spray bottle of clean water before using the enzymatic carpet cleaner. White vinegar is also a good odor neutralizer to try at this point.


As with any stain, treat a bloodstain as promptly as possible with the application of club soda or cold water. Use the blot method with a clean, soft, white rag, repeating the process until the stain and any scent disappears into the rag. Another option is to mix a couple of teaspoons of grease-fighting dish soap into a spray bottle of cold water. After soaking the stain, blot, rinse and repeat. Combining these methods and repeating them several times as needed should work to effectively remove the stain and any resulting smells.

Red wine stains

Battling red wine stains begins with the blot method we described. Even if you don’t have clean, soft, white rags on hand, your goal here is to capture as much of the wine from the carpet as fast as you can.If paper towels are all you have on hand, use them instead. Next, try spraying a little club soda on the stain and continue to blot. If you don’t have club soda, use cold water. With patience, repeating these steps should yield results. If you’re still having trouble, there are carpet cleaning products you can try designed specifically for wine stains.

Coffee or tea stains

To remove coffee or tea stains, begin with the blot method to get as much of the liquid out of the carpet as possible. Next, mix a tablespoon of white vinegar and a tablespoon of dish soap with two cups of warm water. Use those clean, soft, white rags to add this mixture. Alternate by blotting with a dry rag. Next, you can try sponging the whole area with cold water and blotting until dry before mixing two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide with a tablespoon of dish soap and applying it to the stain. Rub this mixture in with your fingers, let it sit for a few minutes, and then blot repeatedly with clean, wet rags followed by clean, dry rags. If none of these methods work, try one of the many products designed specifically for coffee and tea stain removal.

Dirt, fat or urine stains

Dirt is perhaps the only stain you want to allow to dry before you attempt to treat it. First, scrape off the leftovers, vacuum, then use a solution with dish soap like those described above and apply with the blot method. Fat-based stains from foods like butter or gravy respond well to a sprinkling of scent-absorbing baking soda left on the stain for approximately six hours, followed by a vacuum and the blot method, this time with rubbing alcohol. Urine stains require an enzyme-based cleaning product, which should also remove any lingering smells.

Candle wax or chewing gum

Once candle wax has hardened into your carpet, you can break it up with your fingers. Be careful not to rip the fibers it has adhered to. After it’s sufficiently broken up, vacuum the remnants and treat the spot with a dry-solvent carpet cleaner, followed by the blot method. If you’re dealing with gum, get as much out of the carpet fibers as possible with your fingers. Then put ice cubes in a sandwich bag over the gum to harden it. After it hardens, use a dull knife to chip away at the gum until you’ve removed it completely. Vacuum the remnants and treat any remaining stains with a dry-solvent carpet cleaner, which also masks scents.

Carpet stain (and smell) prevention

While no stain-prevention plan is foolproof, there are steps you can take to keep your carpets as clean (and odor-free) as possible. Clean your carpets regularly. Keep shoes outside or in mud rooms. Install doormats inside and outside every door. When all else fails, call the pros. We hope that this post on how to get a smell out of carpet has been useful! Now that you’re in the mood for cleaning, check out our tips for a magical spring cleaning. If you’re still wondering about professional help for anything around the home, check out our post on when to DIY vs. when to call a pro. Thanks for stopping by!

The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.

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