How to Get Rid of Smells from Carpet – Causes and Solutions

Carpet Smells

Carpets take the bulk of the abuse compared to other items in your home. They get all of your daily footsteps, spills, dust, and other mishaps. Even the occasional “pet accident” will likely occur on the carpet – because why pee on the cold floor when you have a fluffy carpet nearby?

The problem is that most of these issues can leave a lingering smell. Whether the source is unknown, or the “incident” just happened, you need to find a way to get rid of the odor. This article should teach you how. Also, is your carpet smelling after cleaning? We have some solutions for that, too.

Causes for Carpet Smells

There are several reasons why there may be a smell in carpet. Here are the most common ones: 

Dampness and Moisture

Now and again, moisture can get into the carpet underlay, causing a musty smell. This can happen due to various reasons: humidity in the air, a drink you spilled, or a plant that leaked into your carpet. Flooding can also cause carpet odors, even if the carpet was not affected directly (i.e., the water got in your basement).

Pet Odour 

If you have a pet, then you probably have a good reason for a smell. If the pet has not been potty-trained and goes on the carpet, the stench can linger. It may take months and you will still feel that odor. The same thing can happen if your pet vomits on the carpet, an area which they obviously prefer to easy-to-clean tile floors. 

Both urine and vomit have bacteria that are water-activated. This is why the smell lingers even after shampooing or professional carpet cleaning. Dry cleaning and enzyme cleaners are possibly the most efficient ways to remove pet odors.

Drinks and Food Spills

Spills from drinks and food can attract bacteria, as they are organic. Once they begin to break down, the bacteria can release a smelly gas. Homemade solutions may be used if the stain is relatively fresh. However, if the stain is old and does not respond to standard deodorizers, you may need a professional carpet odor remover

Cigarette Smoke

Do you have a smoker in the house? In that case, the smell can easily get into the carpet – especially if they smoke inside. The smoker and the homeowner will no longer notice, due to prolonged exposure. Still, a guest who is not familiar with the smell will definitely notice.

Most of the time, a professional carpet cleaning should be able to remove the cigarette smell. However, if excessive smoking took place in the house, a deodorizer may not work. You may have to replace the carpet entirely. 

Old Age

Like every other home item, carpets can get old. As they are made from fibers, they will eventually begin to break down. There is only so much that you can do once it reaches this stage. Even professional carpet cleaning may not be able to remove the smell. As a result, you may have to replace it altogether.

Top Ways to Remove Odors from Your Carpet

If your carpets are smelly enough for you to notice, your first instinct may be to take them to the carpet cleaner. But there are still a few things that you can try first. Here are some tips for removing odors from carpets.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is something that even professionals use to remove nasty smells from carpets. This powder has moisture-absorbing properties and can eliminate odors by trapping them. 

To remove potential smells, take a generous amount of baking soda and sprinkle it over the carpet. You may use your fingers or a brush to spread it evenly. Leave the powder overnight so that it can fully absorb the smells. In the morning, take out the vacuum cleaner and go through your carpet.

One round of baking soda should be enough if you addressed the issue on time. However, if the smell persists, you may want to repeat the process. This may be necessary if you are dealing with pet odors.

Coffee Granules

If you are a fan of coffee and you love its smell, then this may be a great way to remove unpleasant odors. Take some ground coffee (fresh or used and dried) and place it in a container next to the smelly area. You may even use coffee beans if that is what you prefer.

If you have a coffee-colored carpet, you may even sprinkle the dry coffee over the rug and vacuum it in the morning. Like baking soda, it can absorb the smell. However, this is not recommended to do if you have light-colored carpets.

White Wine Vinegar

You might feel like white wine vinegar will only make the smell worse, but it is actually the opposite. Vinegar has antimicrobial properties, which means that it can kill germs that release odors from your carpet. It is also biodegradable, which means it will not stay long on your carpet.

Put some white wine vinegar into a misting bottle and lightly apply it onto your carpet. Allow it to sit for a couple of hours, and then vacuum it. Depending on how smelly the carpet is, you may need to repeat the process. 

Essential Oils

One may think that essential oils are only good for the scent, but that’s not exactly right. In fact, the right essential oils can easily get rid of the stench for good. Certain options such as orange, lemon, eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender have antimicrobial properties. This means that they may easily take care of a smelling carpet.

Essential oils work best when mixed with odor-trapping products. For instance, you may mix about 20 drops of essential oil into a spray bottle containing white wine vinegar. The smell of the essential oil will mask the sharpness of the vinegar.

You may also add up to 20 drops of essential oil into a baking soda bowl. Mix it well and then sprinkle it over the carpet. Once it has finished doing its thing, you may vacuum the surface.

Open the Window

It might seem obvious, but if the problem is humidity, then the best way to deal with it is to open a window. When the windows are open, the air circulates, and the pollutants are removed from your home. 

The circulating air will help dry the underlay of your carpet. Moreover, the mix of air and sun acts as a natural disinfectant, which can eliminate bacteria. As the air is cleansed, you should no longer feel that musty smell. 


Before your eyes start tearing, hear us out. When you cut an onion in half and place it next to the carpet, it acts as a magnet for bad odors, trapping the smell into its layers. In the meantime, the onion will also lose its own smell, which leaves us with a fresh-scented room.

You will still feel the onion, but once you remove it after a day or two, you will notice that both smells are gone.


Is It Normal for Carpet to Smell After Cleaning?

If you still have smelly carpets after cleaning, it may mean that the underlay is not dry. If the humidity is maintained for long enough, then this may lead to the formation of mold and mildew. Even if mold does not form, the backing may still release a musty odor until it’s fully dry. 

How Long Should Carpet Smell After Cleaning?

The carpets will likely smell until they are fully dried. Depending on the method used, this may take anything from 6 hours to two days. Hot water extraction and shampooing may take days, whereas dry cleaning should take less than 6 hours.

Will Wet Carpet Smell Go Away?

The wet carpet smell will eventually go away when the carpet is fully dried. If it does not work, you should try sprinkling some baking soda over the carpet. Let it sit for a couple of hours before vacuuming, so that it absorbs the odors.

What Does Carpet Mildew Smell Like?

Carpet mildew has an earthy smell that is usually described as “musty.” It feels stale and damp, and it can linger for a long time in the end. Usually, it is the first sign that you have a problem with mold or mildew.

Can You Put Baking Soda on Carpet and Vacuum?

Yes, this is recommended if your carpet has an odd smell. The baking soda should sit for a couple of hours on the carpet before you vacuum it. This will give it enough time to absorb the bad odor. 

The Bottom Line

Smelly carpets can make a welcoming home feel very uncomfortable to stay in. Luckily, there are several simple tricks that you can use. Be careful of how you wash and dry your carpet, and then use natural deodorizers to trap the smell. Over-the-counter carpet shampoos can also help. If the odor persists, you may go for professional cleaners; they’ll know what to do.