How to Remove Odors from Carpet


Sandra asked: How can I get rid of a horrible smell in my carpet? A big storm went through and knocked out our power for a couple of days. I took all the meat out of the deep freeze, but didn’t even think about it defrosting until it was too late. In the middle of the night, the water ran out of the freezer and onto the floor. The deep freeze is in the laundry room, so there was no problem cleaning the floor there. However, the laundry room sits next to my closet wall, and the water ran under the wall into the closet carpet. I have steam cleaned the carpet, put baking soda on it and let it set overnight. The smell is better, but it still stinks! Any suggestions?

Carpet seems to capture odors and hold onto them for dear life. These odors can be removed, and the time and effort will depend largely on the type and intensity of the odor. If the odor is strong, be prepared to use several applications and repeat the ones that work. Persistence is key. When possible, adding fresh air always helps to expedite the process. Below are several different applications, all of which will battle odors. Try each one until the odor is removed or lessened. When you find one that is effective for your particular odor type, repeat the applications until the smell is gone.

You Will Need:

  • Baking Soda
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Vacuum
  • Broom
  • Dustpan
  • Soft cloths

Steps to Remove the Odor:

  1. Baking soda is well known for removing odors. It’s easy to use and effective for removing odors from carpeting.
  2. Sprinkle the area liberally with baking soda. For odors that go beyond the surface, brush the area lightly with a broom to work the baking soda down into the fibers.
  3. Sprinkle an additional layer of baking soda on top of the carpet. Thin layers of baking soda will not work as effectively. Do not be afraid to use enough to get rid of the odor.
  4. Allow the baking soda to set at least overnight on the affected area. Two days is even better, if possible.
  5. After 1-2 days have passed, sweep the top layer of baking soda into the dustpan with a stiff broom. If the baking soda was placed on a rug, it can be shaken off outdoors.
  6. Vacuum the remaining baking soda from the carpet with a strong vacuum. Do not vacuum the top layer first, as this can damage the vacuum.
  7. Smell the area to see if there is improvement. If there is, reapply another layer of baking soda and repeat the process. Baking soda does not damage the carpeting, so the process can be repeated as often as necessary.
  8. If the odor is not removed, vinegar can be applied to the carpet. It can be sprayed on the surface or blotted on with a soft cloth. If the odor is from a liquid that has been absorbed by the carpet, it will be necessary to apply enough vinegar to reach the source of the odor (keep in mind that it may have soaked into the padding as well), but avoid saturating the carpet.
  9. Allow the vinegar to set on the carpet for 15 minutes or so. The acid in the vinegar can work through the odor-causing bacteria in the carpet.
  10. Blot with a clean cloth to remove.
  11. Rinse by spraying and/or blotting the area with clean water.
  12. Press with a clean cloth to absorb any remaining water.
  13. Allow to air dry completely.
  14. Repeat as necessary until the stain is removed.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Hydrogen peroxide can also be applied to odor-filled areas. Check a small area first to ensure there is no damage to the color of the carpet.
  • If the rug is small enough that it can be placed in the washing machine, it may be fastest and easiest to wash it as normal. Adding a cup of vinegar to the wash cycle will offer additional odor-fighting power.
  • Steam cleaners can be rented at most grocery and department stores and can be used to clean the carpets more deeply than blotting. There are also odor-fighting cleaning solutions that can be added to the water for extra cleaning.


  1. Brandon says:

    Rubbing alcohol is cheap and does wonders for carpet odors, especially those caused by damp padding under the carpet that’s gotten moldy. The process is simple; buy several bottles of rubbing alcohol from any store (the kind in the clear white bottle). Pour it directly on the rug or carpet, concentrating on the areas where the smell or dampness is heavy. Then, go turn on your air conditioner or heater to start the dehumidification process and make sure to leave the door to the room you’re treating open so air can circulate. The alcohol will seep down into the pad beneath the carpet and effectively kill the mold and mildew there. As an added bonus, alcohol evaporates MUCH more quickly than water, so your carpet dries quicker and if any bit of moisture from the treatment DOES hang around for any length of time, you still don’t have to worry since it’s alcohol-based and nothing that makes an unpleasant smell will set up a home in it. For persistent problems, a second treatment might be necessary, but it’s worked wonders for me in most cases after only one.

  2. David says:

    My toilet overflowed and soaked about three square feet of carpet, and I haven’t been able to get rid of the odor. All of these ideas sound great, and I am going to start trying again right away. Thanks.

  3. Amy says:

    This is fantastic advice, and so simple! I have moved into an apartment that reeks of cat. I can’t wait to get rid of that smell!

  4. Richard says:

    I have a brick chimney with vines growing from ground up to the top. They also are wrapping themselves around the vinyl siding. They pull off the vinyl with ease, but leave this very sticky stuff everywhere! What will remove this wonderful nature’s glue from my house? Help!

    Check it out! We’ve answered your question!

  5. Amber says:

    My son spilled Amoxicillin on our carpet, and I tried steam cleaning it with soap and water. It is still so smelly (like rotten eggs), and foot traffic only kicks up the smell. I can’t stand sitting on one end of the couch because of it. It also has a stiff feel to it as well. I will have to try one of your remedies unless there is another way to clean it. I steamed for 20 minutes in the same spot, and it seems to have only made it worse.

  6. Amber says:

    Alright! Just used the baking soda and a scrub brush on the area and it no longer smells! Yes! You have no idea how nauseating that smell was! I am going to let it sit there for two days and then run the vacuum over it. Thanks!

  7. Sofia says:

    I started with the baking soda tip. I hope it works, because I’m scared to use the vinegar, and that the room might get a sour smell.

  8. Chelsea says:

    Hey, did any of these ideas really work?

  9. Elvis says:

    I’m gonna try the alcohol method due to the fact that I don’t want to waste time on drying it. Hope it works.

  10. sandy says:

    I’m going to try the alcohol. We have tried everything else and the smell of mildew is still there.

  11. latoya says:

    I have heard of the alcohol. I will try it because I think the smell is in the padding. I tried the baking soda but I didn’t rub it into the fibers. the smell went away when I sprinkled the baking soda, but when I vacuumed it up, a couple of days later the smell came back.

  12. Jasmine says:

    I’m going to try both baking soda and alcohol. I just moved into this apartment where the bedroom carpet smells like old, dirty socks! I can’t even go into that room due to that smell. I tried everything available out there – steam washed the carpet with odor fighter, the smell came back before the carpet could get dry; Sprayed Febreze in the entire room, odor came back within 24 hours; odor eliminating powdered and vacuumed the room, odor still there hiding behind the strong scent of powder. I’m out of options and all these solutions look good on this post – gonna buy tons of baking soda and alcohol to try again, fingers crossed!

  13. Amanda says:

    I have been using vinegar to clean up pet accidents for over seven years without fail. It got both cat and dog urine out of rented carpets and I’ve never had to pay for carpet replacement when I move out. I will spot treat immediately with it, always getting to the padding, and then I have a Hoover steam cleaner so sometimes I’ll put vinegar into it instead of cleaner, or just straight water. The shampoo for the steam cleaners always leaves a residue that seams to collect dirt like glue, so I never use it. Although the vinegar stinks while wet, it dries odor free!

  14. Lina says:

    My old roommates left a bad odor on the bedroom carpet, and after they move we discovered that they hid their dog’s pee stains under the couch. We have a small dog and he re-soiled when he first got there (he is house broken already). Even if I clean it really fast and use the carpet steamer, the smell is still there and it drives me nuts. I gave up on the old stains, but I want to get rid of the pee odor. What method would be better? I tried several products and nothing works – they mask the smell for a couple weeks but them it comes back. I tried the baking soda, but not the way they say here. Anyone else know about an effective method? Would rubbing alcohol help me with this? Please keep in mind that I’m asthmathic and can’t handle strong smells of some products.

    Thanks! :)

  15. Tracy says:

    My hubby left the dog in our bedroom and he urinated in there and hubs didn’t shampoo until next day; the urine smell was so strong I couldn’t stand it. I mixed 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water and drenched the carpet, making sure it got into the padding. I let it sit overnight and sucked up all excess liquid and used a very small amount of Gain fabric softener in water to shampoo the spot. The vinegar smell was very strong for almost a week, but no more urine smell at all! Have used vinegar and water in the shampooer just to deodorize and it always works.

  16. Paul says:

    The best way to add “fresh air” is with a fan. Be patient; you may have to use the fan 24/7 to get the odor under control.

  17. Ella says:

    I have a 100-year-old wool rug that has a terrible odor. I sent it out to be cleaned, but it still stinks. How can I get this smell out?
    Please help.

  18. Jack says:

    You’ve got to be joking. Baking soda and/or vinegar. That’s only been around for 150 years or so. I think little children know these items are reasonable odor eaters. Tell us something we don’t know. Stop beating a dead horse with repeat information that Googles 10 million hits. Also, please keep your day job; you need it.

  19. Pertunia says:

    Thanks for the tip. I will definitely get on the carpet odor removal first thing in the morning.

  20. Linda says:

    Hey Jack – ever heard the phrase, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?” You might try it.

  21. Alex says:

    Prevention is better than a cure. Therefore, try to avoid walking around on your carpets with smelly socks. This is especially important with kids. So get them used to taking their socks off as soon as they get home. Leave slippers by the door for them to wear. We prefer to wear slippers and for our guests to do they same. Carpets are expensive and need care to keep clean and odor free. It is not as hard as some people think.

  22. H says:

    Do you put the vinegar on the carpet while the baking soda is still on it, or after the baking soda has been cleaned up? Sounds like some volcanic fun!

  23. Leif says:

    Seriously consider that maybe carpeting is not a good idea, certainly not carpeting that you can’t take out side and bash with a broom face down in the snow or have cleaned some other way off location. Glued-down and wall-to-wall carpeting was touted as a “luxury” in the ’70s and early ’80s, but just like cigarettes, morphine, tack-on-chrome, and having a thousand buttons on your blender, they turned out to be a disgusting el-cheapo curse. Replace with real wood. Polyurethane is your friend. Too hard on your feet? Ever hear of shoes or slippers?

  24. Mr. Vacuum says:

    Ummm, hello, IT’S ALL GARBAGE AND A WASTE OF TIME! Here are 3 SIMPLE steps…
    1) Squirt a bit of shampoo (YES, HAIR SHAMPOO!!) in a spray bottle and fill with water and shake it up… Spray the carpet section by section and a little more on the stains…
    2) Use a bagless upright or any bagless vac with a brush roll and vacuum the carpet. The moisture will not affect the vacuum NO MATTER WHAT THEY TELL YOU BECAUSE IT’S ONLY A MIST OF MOISTURE and by the time the brush hits it and sucks it up it will disperse. Once u have done that allow half hour to dry…
    Step 3) Use one or two capfulls of your nice-smelling FABRIC SOFTENER in a spray bottle and fill with COLD water and mist spray your entire carpet and your home will smell like roses from a mile away!

  25. Gwenn says:

    I recently purchased an older fifth wheel. I have made it my home. When I flooded the carpet in the bathroom, I was sure I had to move or replace the carpet. I have no way to do either. The smell was unexceptable. I Googled a home remedy for removing carpet odor. I followed the link here and found Brandon’s comments. This stranger is my new hero!!! I am thrilled to tell you that this works. The method is easy, affordable and effective! Thank you Brandon!

  26. Sharon says:

    The alcohol worked like a charm. We were absolutely stumped as to how to get this odor out. The alcohol and running the fan for a couple of days did the trick. Thanks for the tip.

  27. Sunny says:

    A few months ago, I set a bag of garbage near my front door. It was sitting on the carpet. I had it double-bagged so it wouldn’t leak, but somehow it got a hole in both layers. Probably from some sharp aluminum foil. At any rate, it was mostly moist vegetable matter. It leaked overnight, and boy what a smell! It was mostly dry before I found that is where the smell was coming from.

    So, I wet it down with water and put baking soda on the wet spot. I let it sit for a couple days and vacuumed it up. The smell was still terrible! I repeated it to no effect. For the last six months, I have kept a huge pile of baking soda over the top and changed it once a month. I mean it is about an inch high. And entire jumbo box every month. The spot is about twelve by twenty inches. Huge.

    Today I learned that 91% rubbing alcohol kills bed bugs on contact if it touches them. Not that I have bed bugs; I don’t. But I got some to spray on my shoes because I had to go into a thrift store today, and they have been known to harbor the little beasts. When I sprayed the rubbing alcohol, I noticed how clean things smelled in the house. Then, I got the idea to spray down the garbage spot with rubbing alcohol, then top it off with baking soda again. It only makes sense this will help because that strength of rubbing alcohol is a sanitizer. It kills germs. I will try it tomorrow. Theoretically, it should work. If it doesn’t, I will come back and let you know.

  28. Mercia says:

    Hi, please, I need help. I washed the bedroom carpet with my carpet shampoo machine and it has left this horrible, terrible smell. How can I get rid of this? Please, is there any home remedies I can use? Kind regards, Mercia

  29. Leona says:

    I sit a bag of garbage outside my apartment just outside my kitchen door and dining room door in the hallway. I left the next day to go on vacation, but I took the trash bag down with me. When I got back home, I found there is a real fowl smell there. I have tried everything to get that odor to go away. It’s old carpet. What can I use to get this scent to go away? From reading some of the comments, it seems like baking soda and alcohol might work, with a little fabric softener. I think I will try this. If anyone have any more suggestions, I would appreciate if you share them with me. Thanks.

  30. Melanie says:

    The smell in your carpet is likely caused by some juices from food in the trash, which are organic. For that, you can try using an enzyme cleaner, such as a pet stain and odor remover made for carpet. Apply the cleaner to the area according to the directions on the label of your selected product, and reapply as needed for the smell to be removed. However, if your carpet is wool, make sure that the enzyme cleaner you select is safe for wool.

  31. Kerry says:

    Would just like to say a big “thank you” for all your advice on how to get the awful smell of sick out of my carpet. I have used baking soda and it really works. Thanks for advice guys. x

  32. Deb says:

    The back on my wool-rich carpets smells. How do I get that odor out?

  33. Deb says:

    Hi, please help. I just moved into a new apartment. Brand new rugs. Before I started to send my dog to doggie day care, she was peeing on the rugs. My daughter came over one day and said it smelled horrible. I rented the Rug Doctor and the smell not only was not gone, but the smell got worse. I have used baking soda, and vinegar. It’s really started to go away. I thought I would go one step further and days later used rubbing alcohol, thinking I would then remove any slight remaining smell and prevent it from coming back. It came back again. I’m so upset because these were new rugs. What should I do?

  34. Melanie says:

    Use an enzyme digester. Look for a pet enzyme cleaner for carpets that says it is specifically for urine or for removing odors. There are many available; Nature’s Miracle is a common brand that tends to work well.
    Source: – How to Clean Dog Urine

  35. A. Chadwick says:

    Some really good tips here, but, please, can anyone help with this one? I have a light-coloured carpet in my bedroom that has got a path which is darker where we walk. Has anyone got a tip on how to move this and restore the carpet back to its original colour?

    Check it out! We’ve answered your question! Yay!

  36. Audrey says:

    Used Zep to take out stains in the carpet. It contains “2butoxy ethanol”. I am unable to get the odor out of the apartment. Please help.

  37. Jack L says:

    I’ve recently moved into a university dormitory where there has been lots of “man juices” or “erotic juices” “spilled” onto the carpet and after washing with water, it smells really sour. Help!

  38. Melanie says:

    Try using a pet enzyme digester for carpet, such as Nature’s Miracle Pet Stain and Odor Remover. Follow the instructions on the bottle of your selected cleaner.

  39. Kelly says:

    Brandon’s idea of pouring rubbing alcohol worked great for me! I had a leak into my basement, which soaked a 4×4 area of carpet and left a musty odor after it dried. I tried baking soda and Febreze first–nope–then poured one entire bottle of 90 percent rubbing alcohol on the carpet. By the next day, it was almost dry and odor-free. Three weeks later, it is still odor-free and it did not affect the color of the carpet either. Thanks Brandon!

  40. Sandra says:

    I bought a new rug that came through customs. It must have been sprayed with insecticide. The smell is toxic and I can’t have the rug in the house. Can anyone help?

  41. Melanie says:

    There are many comments on the article How to Remove Chemical Odors from Jeans with accounts of people trying to remove a similar toxic smell; there is much speculation over what the cause of the smell is, but one theory is that some clothes are also sprayed with pesticides for transport overseas. To remove the smell, one commenter suggested using Resolve Carpet Foam, and someone else reported having luck with castile soap.
    For the Resolve, follow the instructions on the bottle.
    For the castile soap, you can wash the rug in the laundry machine and use the castile soap instead of laundry detergent; use a laundromat if needed since they have larger commercial washers. If the carpet is too large for a washing machine, mix some of the soap with water to make suds, dip a cloth in the soapy water, wring the cloth out so it’s damp, not dripping, and rub the damp cloth over the carpet.
    You can also try misting/spraying the rug with a mix of equal parts white vinegar and water.
    Whatever you choose, test it on a small, hidden area of the rug first to look for any adverse reaction.

  42. Cathy says:

    What alcohol should you use on carpets to get the order out? Thanks. x

  43. Melanie says:

    The commenter (Brandon) who wrote in suggesting alcohol as a solution says he used rubbing alcohol. Personally, I’d suggest using “isopropyl alcohol” instead. Rubbing alcohol is usually made of isopropyl alcohol, but it also contains other fillers that might damage your carpet.

  44. Teri says:

    Mr. Vacuum is RIGHT! I went the baking soda route to no avail, so rather than have my living room smelling like vinegar, I tried the shampoo technique. It works; it really works!
    Thank you Mr. Vacuum, you saved me from explaining to guests about the musty smell over the holidays.

  45. Merryl says:

    Mr. Vacuum hit the nail on the head. The shampoo followed by fabric softener works like a charm.
    My carpets smell divine. You’d never know that 2 large dogs live here.

  46. Lisa says:

    I’m worried it will leave a mark on the carpet where i have cleaned just that area. Does it?

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