Dealing with odors is just part of the gig for pet owners.
And although you may love your pooch like a member of the family, you probably aren’t crazy about the way he makes your home smell. While it can be challenging to eliminate dog-related odors, it is entirely possible to do so with a bit of effort and strategic smelly thinking.
Below you’ll find 12 ways to help eliminate the unpleasant pet odors in your home. They are arranged chronologically for those who need to give their place a top-to-bottom, trying-to-get-a-rental-deposit-returned cleaning.
However, you should feel free to pick and choose among the list as necessary to obtain the results you need.
The very first thing you need to do when trying to make your home smell better is to remove all of the loose debris your pet creates. This not only includes hair and the dirt they track inside, but their dander too.
Because hair, dander and dust particles are very light, you need to use care when trying to deal with them.
Sweep gently so that you don’t just end up kicking these things up into the air, where they’ll spread to other areas of your home. Instead, try to sweep delicately, and ferry them to the trashcan with a dustpan as frequently as possible.
It’s also a good idea to place a paper towel or sheet of newspaper on top of the dust after you discard it into the trashcan – this will prevent the dust from blowing out of the trashcan.
Once you’ve swept everything, go back and mop all of the hard surfaces to remove any of the dust and debris you missed while sweeping. If you don’t want to break out the mop bucket, at least give the floors a once over with a Swiffer or similar product (contrary to pervasive urban myths, these products are safe for dogs).
After dealing with your hardwoods, linoleum, and tile floors, it is time to turn your attention to your carpets.
Your carpets hold an incredible amount of hair, dust and dander, so you’ll want to vacuum every square inch of carpet in your home, including any area rugs (ideally, you’ll want to be using short pile, dog-friendly rugs that that are easy to vacuum).
Once you’re done with the carpets, vacuum all of your furniture (be sure to get all of the cracks and crevices) and curtains with the appropriate attachments.
While just about any vacuum will help collect some of the smelly things hiding in your carpet, you may want to consider purchasing a vacuum specifically designed for homes with pets. We reviewed some of the best ones a while back, so be sure to check out our recommendations for best pet vacuums if you are in the market for a new model.
Always empty the canister (if present) after vacuuming your home and be sure to change or clean out the air filters frequently to keep it operating at peak efficiency.
Once you’ve removed all the dry material from your carpets, you’ll want to use a steam cleaner to get out any odors that have become trapped in the carpet’s fibers.
Of course, you can simply solicit the services of one of the many carpet-cleaning services if you’d rather; just make sure that they use pet-friendly chemicals before starting.
You’ll want to sequester your dog in the garage or the backyard during the carpet-cleaning process, and be sure the carpets are all completely dry before allowing your dog back inside.
Keep a close eye on dogs who like to mark their territory during this time, as the change in carpet odor can trigger some to tinkle.
Just about any fabric in your home can develop odors, so send everything you can through the washing machine.
This includes all of your bed linens, the covers on the couch cushions and throw pillows, and anything else in your home that is machine-washable. Always be sure to dry everything completely before putting it back where it belongs.
It bears mentioning that your clothing can also start smelling like your dog, so it is often wise to wash all of the clothing in the house during the cleaning process – particularly if you are dealing with a serious odor problem. This will not only help keep your home smelling better, but it will ensure you smell better when leaving the house.
Your pet’s bed is likely the smelliest item in your entire home (aside, of course, from your furry little friend himself), as your pooch is constantly coating it in hair, dander, dirt, saliva, and urine.
Most good dog beds are machine washable, so you’ll just need to take off the cover and run it through the washing machine (some can be machine dried, others must be air dried).
Hopefully, the core of your pet’s bed is free of stains or odors. If not, you’ll need to either wash the core (if the manufacturer’s information says that this is acceptable) or replace it altogether.
Once you’ve washed the cover and put the bed back together, you may want to consider treating the cover with a stain repellant. This will hopefully keep it cleaner and smelling better moving forward.
Although it isn’t a magic bullet, airing out your home will help to reduce pet-related odors. It can be tricky (and expensive) to do this in the middle of the summer or winter, so you may want to schedule your home cleaning when the temperatures are mild.
Start by opening every screened window in your home, as well as any doors that you can. Turn on all of your ceiling fans and the fan in your home’s central unit too (turn the AC or heat off – just use the fan). If you are fortunate enough to have an attic fan, be sure to turn that on as well.
Keep your dog’s safety in mind when airing out your home – you don’t want to look down and see Fido running out the front door. You may find a pet gate helpful in this case – check out our recent review of the best pet gates if you don’t already have one.
While your home is airing out, take a moment to change all of the air filters in your home.
While clogged air filters shouldn’t contribute very much to the pet-odor problem, they can make your heating and cooling systems work much less efficiently, which will reduce the amount of air flowing through your home on a daily basis.
Changing an air filter is pretty easy, even if you aren’t very familiar with home improvement. Just take out the old filter and bring it with you to your local hardware store – this will help you be sure to get the correct replacement filter.
Alternatively, you can order new filters in bulk, which will help you save a few bucks and make it easier to replace them regularly.
Be sure to treat used filters gently when removing them to prevent the dust and debris that has accumulated on them from falling on your floors. In fact, it is a good idea to place them directly in a garbage bag.
An air purifier can help pull some of the dander and debris out from the air in your home, which will help keep your home smelling better. There are a number of different air purifiers available, but try to select one that is specifically designed to help address pet odors.
Note that high-quality air purifiers will not only filter particulate matter from the air in your home, but kill bacteria and fungi in the air too. This can help reduce odor-related problems even further, and it will also help prevent your family and your pet from getting sick as often.
By this point in the process, your home should be smelling much better.
If you still note any lingering odors, they are probably the result of isolated issues, such as a particularly bad pee spot on the carpet or a place where your dog barfed on the floor after digging through the trashcan.
You’ll need to locate and identify any of these types of problematic areas to treat them, which may require you to put your nose close to the ground and sniff around a good bit. After finding the areas of concern, treat them with a commercial or homemade odor-eliminator to neutralize the smell.
To make your own odor neutralizer, just mix 2 cups of white vinegar and 4 tablespoons of baking soda in a clean, empty spray bottle. Add enough water to fill the bottle and get to work. Spray the solution on any troubling areas, but let it soak in a bit before blotting it dry with a clean rag.
Be sure to test the solution on an inconspicuous portion of your carpet to make sure it won’t cause discoloration before using it in the middle of your living room.
If you have located and treated all the problematic areas you can find, but the odors continue to persist, you may need a high-tech solution. Urine, saliva and other body fluids will glow when exposed to a black light, so you can use one to help you find trouble areas which have previously eluded your attention.
You’ll want to turn off the lights in your home before scanning with the black light, and you may need to experiment by moving the black light closer or farther from your carpet to get the stains to show up best.
Be sure to scan your furniture and the lower portions of your walls too, to ensure you locate all of the problematic spots.
Note that black lights will also cause a variety of things besides bodily fluids to glow, including spilled drinks and the residues left behind by cleaning products. However, most of these things glow bright white, while urine and saliva tend to glow pale yellow to green.
From time to time, you may find that the urine stains in your home aren’t limited to your floors – they can even adorn the lower portions of your walls.
If you thought eliminating odors from a carpet was tough, you’ll find that getting these smells out of drywall is even more difficult.
Usually, you’ll only have two options in these types of cases: Replace the affected portion of the drywall or repaint the area with a stain- and odor-sealing paint primer designed for these types of problems. And although the latter is hardly a quick-and-easy solution, it is much simpler than the former approach.
If need be, you could also use these types of paint primers to address eliminate urine-based smells in wooden furniture or painted wooden floors too.
You’ll never completely obscure serious pet odors with scented or odor-neutralizing sprays, but they can be very helpful for combatting minor odors and helping to keep your home smelling fresh between top-to-bottom cleanings.
You can also use these types of sprays to give your home a quick spritz before company comes over.
Just make sure you select a spray that is safe for use around pets, and it is probably a good idea to put your dog outside for a moment, while the spray settles out of the air.
Potpourri baskets, scented candles, and similar products can also be helpful, just keep them in places your canine can’t reach.
Have you developed any neat tricks to keep your home from smelling like a kennel? Have you found commercial odor-neutralizing products to be the best way to deal with smells, or do you make a homemade version?
Have you figured out any clever ways to get rid of carpet stains? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.