If your carpet starts to have smelly odors, then the last thing you’ll want to do is grab baking soda. Even though baking soda does neutralize odors just fine, putting it on the carpet and vacuuming it up can do damage to the vacuum.
I know everyone on the internet loves to recommend baking soda and/or vinegar for everything, but for smelly carpets, I would not recommend using them. You can learn more about not using baking soda here.
How else do we get bad smells out of the carpet? Well, that depends on the smell. What I want to do is cover all the ways to deodorize carpets, it could be mildew smell from freshly cleaned carpet all the way to pet odors in the carpets – I’m going to cover it all.
What Smell Is It?
To be the most effective at neutralizing the odors in your carpets you need to figure out why they smell in the first place.
If you don’t have the slightest clue what or where the smells are coming from on your carpets then you just need to use a Carpet Maintenance Powder like this here*. Basically, you sprinkle this powder on the carpet and let it sit for a bit. You come back and vacuum it up, and it helps to freshen up the carpets. Works great on carpets or rugs that you can’t get wet.
Going with the carpet maintenance powder or carpet fresheners is a great first step and far safer than using straight baking soda. Even if you know what the smell is this would be what I would do first anyway. Many of these carpet fresheners work great if you want to freshen up your carpets but don’t want to shampoo them too.
Important: If you haven’t done so already, vacuum the carpets first. Only vacuum the carpets if the carpets are not wet. If the carpets are wet, then use a shop vacuum or wet/dry vacuum instead. Vacuuming first is a good first step to making sure it’s not something like free moving dirt that just needs to be vacuumed up.
If your carpet has a mildew or mold smell to it, then this is because the carpet is wet. You’ll see this mostly on older carpets or carpets that were just cleaned.
If you had your carpets professionally cleaned and its the next day and you smell mildew, then I would give the company a call. They did not get all the water out of the carpets and what is under the carpets got activated by the cleaning process. It’s not really the carpet cleaning companies fault, it could be what was under the carpets that got smelled-alive, but they will know what to do.
If you clean your carpets yourself with those rental carpet cleaners then it’s the same problem. Not all the water got out of the carpet, and whatever dirt/debris that has fallen under the carpets has come alive with smells.
What you want to do is dry the carpet. If you have a shop vacuum, then whip it out and go to town on the carpet that smells. If you don’t have a shop vacuum then I recommend you get one, I explain more here. I would not use your regular vacuum cleaner as it’s not made to suck up water and the underside and beater brush of it is usually filthy, and you don’t want to be adding any more nasty stuff to the mix.
If it’s just one room, then you can use a dehumidifier to pull some of the water out of the air which would then pull water out of the carpet to fill the air back up. It’s not a quick process, but it can be super useful and help to stop mold growth.
Tip: You can rent commercial dehumidifier at your local hardware store or rental stores. These things are crazy good at sucking the moisture out of the room and stopping mold growth. You usually see these used in extreme cases where there has been flooding, so always use caution when using them.
Another option is to open the windows and place fans around the room to blow the moisture out of the carpets. The best fans to use are those Box Fans like this one here*; it’s best to get many of them as you’ll need them.
If the carpet odors are from having pets, then I would recommend using an Enzyme Cleaner when you clean your carpets with a carpet cleaner.
It doesn’t matter if the pet odor is from cats, dogs, urine, poop, vomit, drool, or whatever – you need to use an Enzyme Cleaner to remove it. Many deodorizers won’t work as well as using an enzyme cleaner for when it comes to cleaning pet urine and such.
An Enzyme Cleaner will eat and break down organic matter which will neutralize the carpet odors. If it’s just a single spot on the carpet then just use a spray Enzyme Cleaner like this one here*. If the whole carpet needs to be cleaned, then get the Enzyme Cleaner for carpet cleaners here*.
Tip: Enzyme Cleaners even work well on human urine and other human things that we release too.
Sometimes it can be the pet hair that causes the odors. If your dog plays in something dirty, it gets trapped in their hair which falls off with the hair when they shed.
You’ll need to get rid of the hair that gets trapped in carpets that can cause odors.
The best way I have found to get the hair out of carpets is to use a Carpet Rake*. Think of it like brushing your hair; a carpet rake brushes the carpet to loosen up the hair that’s stuck in it. You’ll be amazed by how much hair is still left in carpets even after you vacuumed the area – a carpet rake is worth it!
What About Vinegar?
Often people like to recommend using vinegar or using vinegar with baking soda. First off, mixing vinegar and baking soda does not make a good cleaner, it just makes salty water that doesn’t clean as good as everyone thinks.
Second, vinegar by itself will not help that much if the carpets smell already. What I find is that people will oversaturate the carpets with vinegar and all that does is make the carpet smell as it did before but now with vinegar smell added to it.
A room that smells like vinegar is a horrible smell to be smelling, if not worse then what the carpet smell like before. So I don’t recommend using vinegar at all unless it’s for a spot clean.
Once vinegar dries the smell does go away, but like water, it can take a while to dry. So if the carpet already smells like mildew and water why would you want to prolong it and make it worse by adding vinegar?