Imagine walking through your home and being unable to locate a mysterious smell. There’s nothing in your trash cans, you’ve cleaned out your refrigerator, and the litter box is empty. You’ve done everything that you can think of to eliminate the odor, but it won’t go away.

And that’s when you realize the smell is coming from your carpet.

It isn’t your carpet itself that stinks, but the odors that are trapped within the fibers of your carpet.

Causes of carpet odor

Causes of carpet odor
There are a few common causes of smelly carpets in homes. Carpets absorb various contaminants and, if carpets aren’t regularly deep cleaned, these contaminants stay within the fibers and start causing odors. Determine which of these causes is making your carpet stink.


Moisture comes from high humidity, water spills, and walking across carpet with shoes. If your basement floods during a rainstorm, moisture can also become locked into your carpet. This leads to a musty odor. If not treated properly, the moisture in your carpet will start turning to mold and mildew.


If you have pets, you’ve probably experienced them urinating or vomiting on the carpet. If you cleaned the surface of the carpet, the smell might have temporarily gone away. However, bacteria still exist within the carpet fiber which leads to a lingering pet smell.


Smoking in your house eventually leads to your carpet absorbing the smell of the smoke. You might not notice the smell, but visitors to your home will. This is one of the hardest smells to remove. Sometimes a professional carpet cleaner can remove the smells, but you’ll likely have to replace the carpet to fully remove the smell.


If you have kids, chances are they’ve spilled food or drinks on your carpet. Similar to pet odors, cleaning up spills on the surface level can temporarily remove the odor. However, these smells attract bacteria, which then start to create additional odors.

Old age

Even if you’ve taken great care of your carpet, carpet does eventually get old. Old carpet releases a musty smell. It also creates additional dust within your home. There is nothing to do about old carpet but replace it.

Ways to treat odors

Once you’ve determined the cause of your odor, you’re ready to start treating the odor. Organic smells such as the ones caused by pets or a food spill are the easiest to treat. If you have a musty or smokey smell, you may want to replace your carpet.
Cleaner hoovering carpet in room
You can try one of the following methods first. If none of these work, you may have to contact a professional carpet cleaning service. A professional carpet cleaning service will have ways to remove even the toughest of odors out of carpet.

Carpet Cleaner

Pairing a carpet cleaner with a good quality carpet cleaning solution (such as this one from Bisell) can deliver great results. Carpet cleaners provide a deep clean to the fibers within your carpet and can eliminate odors.

Baking Soda

Baking soda works wonders on pet urine smells. Completely cover the spot, allow it to absorb into the carpet overnight, and then vacuum up in the morning. You may need to do this several times to completely eliminate the odor.


If you’re looking for a natural solution to get rid of tough smells, try white vinegar. Spray the vinegar over the area and allow it to try overnight. This should neutralize unpleasant odors. If you’re concerned about the smell of the vinegar, don’t be! It will dry odorless.


Cheap vodka cleans your carpet by killing bacteria. You’ll want to clean the area with a damp towel first, spray the vodka on, allow the vodka to dry, and absorb any additional moisture with baking powder. After you sprinkle on baking powder, vacuum the area. This method works great to eliminate pet smells and other stubborn odors.

Preventing Odors

One of the easiest ways to get rid of odors from carpet is to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Proper maintenance of your carpet can help eliminate odors. Vacuuming your carpet helps to get rid of allergens, addressing stains immediately helps prevent them from getting into the fibers of your carpet, and regularly using a carpet cleaner keeps your home as fresh as possible.

You’ll also want to provide proper ventilation for your carpet. If someone smokes in your house or your pet has an accident, opening the windows to allow an airflow will help eliminate some of the bad odors from lingering. You can easily keep your carpet clean by using the best robot vacuum for carpet.