How to eliminate pet odors in your home

We love our furry friends . . . but their smells? Not so much

Published November 13, 2022 3:00PM (EST)

 (Rocky Luten / Food52)
(Rocky Luten / Food52)

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I share my home with two adorable dogs and a precious kitty, and while there are many great things about having a multi-pet household — endless snuggles, never feeling lonely, constant entertainment — one of the downsides is that pet odors can take over quickly. Between wet dog funk and litter box odors, I have to stay on top of cleaning to prevent my house from smelling like animals all the time.

If you're looking for ways to get rid of pet smells, there are a few easy steps — and several game-changing products — that you should incorporate into your regular cleaning routine. Here's how to keep your home smelling fresh and clean, no matter how many animals you share it with.

Wash pet bedding regularly

When was the last time you washed your dog or cat's bed? These areas tend to be hotspots for unpleasant odors, as they collect dirt, grime, hair, and drool. Experts recommend washing pet bedding once a week — not only does this help get rid of smells, but it also protects your pet from bacteria and viruses, such as salmonella, leptospira, and streptococcus, that they may have tracked in.

The good news is that most pet bedding can be cleaned in the washing machine, making it easy to care for. Choose a hot water or sanitization cycle to kill off any odor-causing bacteria. You can also add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the laundry cycle to help to neutralize smells.

If your pets are allowed on the furniture, you'll also want to think about how you can keep these surfaces clean — after all, if your pooch sleeps on the sofa every day after playing outside, the cushions will eventually start smelling like a wet, dirty dog.

One of the easiest solutions is to simply invest in a couch cover. (There are similar products available for armchairs and even your bed, too.) These covers are generally waterproof and machine-washable, and they prevent odors from settling into the cushions, as well as stains from dirty paws or drool. Plus, when you have unexpected visitors, you can simply remove the cover and not worry about whether the sofa smells.

Stay on top of litter box maintenance

Cats usually aren't quite as smelly as their canine counterparts, especially if they stay indoors, but a poorly-maintained litter box can quickly stink up your home. To minimize litter odors — and keep your cat happy — you'll want to scoop out waste every day, and you should change clay litter at least once a week. If you have more than one cat, you might need to scoop and/or replace the litter more frequently.

When you do swap out your cat's litter, be sure to wash out and dry the litter box to get rid of any odors. There are also odor-eliminating powders that you can mix into litter to stop smells from seeping out into your house.

Deep clean carpets and furniture

Regular vacuuming can help remove pet hair and allergens from your rugs and furniture, but they'll likely need periodic deep cleaning, too. Most people only need to deep clean their carpeting once a year, but if you have a multi-pet household, you'll want to do it every six months — and potentially more frequently in busy areas of your home. After all, pets track in lots of dirt, dust, and allergens, and unpleasant odors can become trapped in floor coverings, making the whole room smell.

On average, professional carpet cleaning costs between $100 and $250, depending on how much carpeting you have. Most services will also clean furniture, too, if you want to get everything done in one appointment. However, if you want to save some money in the long run, there are plenty of at-home carpet cleaners that cost around the same amount, and you'll be able to use your machine as frequently as needed.

Use UV light to find hidden accidents

It's impossible to keep an eye on your pet at all hours of the day, which means there's always a chance they had an accident without you knowing. If there's a lingering odor after you've cleaned your home, you may want to break out a UV light to locate the source of the smell.

UV flashlights are an inexpensive tool to keep in your arsenal, and their ultraviolet rays make cat and dog urine glow in the dark. All you have to do is shine the light around the room, and you'll be able to spot any dried-up stains that you may not have noticed. If you do find old accidents, the Rocco & Roxie Stain & Odor Eliminator is an enzymatic cleaner that's amazing for removing these kinds of old stains, as it contains natural enzymes that feed on ammonia odors and organic matter.

After you clean up the spot, you can use the UV light again to ensure you removed all traces of the accident — if some spots are still glowing, go over the area again.

Break out the odor neutralizers

Once you've cleaned your pet beddingfurniture, and rugs, your home should be odor-free, and you can keep your house smelling fresh with the help of odor eliminators. They come in a variety of different forms, including aerosol sprays, gel beads, and scented candles, and you can place them around your home — focusing on locations where your pets hang out — to prevent odors from lingering.

Odor neutralizers are generally inexpensive, but if you're willing to spend a little more, an air purifier can also help prevent pet smells from taking over your home. Just be sure to select an air purifier with carbon filters, which are more effective for odor removal.

By Camryn Rabideau

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