How to Get Rid of Pet Odors

Written on August 22, 2016 by , updated on March 26, 2018

How to get rid of Pet OdorsPet odor can be a deal breaker when showing a property to potential new renters. It can also be an issue for tenants when moving out.

Whether you’re a landlord or renter, this article will provide some suggestions on how to “wrangle the reek” with natural or effective cleaning solutions that are easy on the wallet.

Vacuum First, Yes, Vacuum

Pet fur and dander have a way of getting trapped in carpets, furniture, and even fabric window coverings, no matter how well or how often the property (and pet) have been cleaned. Fur and dander may also be lingering on non-carpeted floors, too.

  1. Vacuum the floors and stairs — carpeted or not — as well as any upholstered furniture and window coverings left in the apartment.
  2. Sprinkle baking soda over all carpets, rugs, and upholstered surfaces. Let it sit for several hours, and then vacuum it again. Baking soda neutralizes trapped odors, just as it does when used to remove funky smells in a refrigerator.
  3. Wait a few hours, and vacuum again.

Expose to Sunlight and Fresh Air

This tip is for upholstered furniture, throw rugs, or any portable fabric-covered items.

  1. Take those items outdoors to expose them to fresh air and a little sunshine. A clothes line is a great way to avoid bugs, and expose the piece to wind.
  2. Leave them outside for several hours on a dry, non-humid day. Sunlight and airflow help remove all types of odors stuck within fabric fibers.

Sunshine and fresh air (if the air is dry) are great for the rental unit, too. Open the curtains and windows to air the place out for several hours a day.

Find the Source of the Stench

When pets and carpeted floors coexist, urine odors may be an issue.

If you can’t pinpoint the source of the stench, walk through the room with a handheld black light after dusk with the rest of the room’s lights turned off.

The black light reveals urine spots and potential problem areas that need spot cleaning.


Method 1: Vinegar Solution

Test the vinegar spray in an inconspicuous area first, such as in a closet, to ensure it doesn’t discolor the carpet. Vinegar usually does not affect carpet color, but it’s always best to be sure.

  1. Treat a dry problem spot on the carpet by wetting it with equal parts vinegar and water.
  2. Use a spray bottle to spritz the area rather than soak it.
  3. After a few minutes, blot the area by pressing it with folded paper towels, removing as much liquid as possible.
  4. Place a fan near the carpet to dry it off quickly.
  5. Sprinkle the dried area with baking soda.
  6. Vacuum it up after 15 or 20 minutes.
  7. If the carpet still smells, reapply the vinegar solution.

Method 2: Enzymatic Cleaner


An all-natural enzymatic cleaner can help remove odor, debris, and germs left behind by pet accidents. As with the vinegar solution, test the enzyme-based cleaner in an inconspicuous area before applying it all over the carpet.

  1. Clean the area with the vinegar and water spray to help remove residue.
  2. Treat it with the enzymatic cleaner (such as Nature’s Miracle), following the directions on the label. If you’re feeling ambitious and don’t mind waiting weeks for the solution to ferment, you can make your own from citrus peels, sugar and vinegar.
  3. The carpet and padding may need to be replaced if the entire carpet seems soiled and the odors don’t go away after cleaning.

Wash the Floors and Walls

A former tenant’s pet loved to mark his territory; unfortunately, it happened indoors. Vinegar deodorizes and disinfects a multitude of surfaces, so it’s a great weapon to have in your cleaning arsenal.

Do not use vinegar on unsealed stone-based surfaces such as marble, limestone, or even grout, as it may cause damage to them.

How to Clean Pet Odors the Floors and Walls:

  1. Deal with wall or wood-based problems by spraying a light mist of three parts vinegar, one part water over the affected area — just enough to make it damp and not cause further damage to the wall or flooring.
  2. Wet a sponge with the same solution.
  3. Wring out most of the moisture, and wipe the area down again.
  4. Sprinkle a little baking soda over the area if you still notice an odor (or rub it on a slightly damp wall using a gloved hand), and then brush or vacuum the powder away once it dries.
  5. In a worst-case scenario for extreme urine damage, you may need to repaint walls will an odor- and stain-blocking paint or primer such as Kilz after cleaning the area as much as possible first to remove the source of the problem.


Pet stains and pet odors are never considered “normal,” and a property should be cleaned after move-out to remove the pet damage. The security deposit can be used to clean or repair a rental unit beyond normal wear and tear.

Related: Pet Deposits, Pet Fees and Pet Rent – What’s the Difference?

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21 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Joe

    Great articles on the risks and mitigation of renting to pet owners. Really helpful. Thank you. Tried to post this question to Lucas Hall’s “Definitive Guide to Renting to Tenants with Pets” but it looks like comments are closed on that page.
    He mentioned having the tenants get professional air duct cleaning but it looks like it can be very expensive, like thousands. What type of duct cleaning is important to remove pet allergens and odors? Return ducts, exit ducts, blower, all of the above? Thanks

    • Kathy Adams

      Hi Joe,

      I would imagine it depends on the situation and how long the pets have been out of the unit, but first I would change all filters, including the return filter (this one should be blocking the pet dander/hair from returning back into the system, but may be dirty). Clean areas near the filters, plus all supply ductwork. The more that can be cleaned, the better.

      A horror story: decades ago I rented an upstairs unit of an old home. The landlady lived below and said her home’s heating vents were on a different system, not connected to mine, but they were. She kept a dog food bowl atop the cold-air return grate, dog food fell down into the system and long story short, insects ate the food, died and their shells would blow into my apt

      • Eric Kennedy

        We rented to a Mormon couple who said they didn’t have any pets and as you drove down the street you could see the dogs jumping up-and-down poking their nose out the curtains needless to say because they were afraid to let them out they had accidents everywhere I hear this is quite common with a lot of Mormon people they are hoarders and they have piles and piles of debris They eventually move to Texas and left a terrible mess but what I find so strange is that all the furniture was covered in what we believe to be semen stains in the den/family room? I always wondered if this was the overweight renters that had glandular issues and not the Pets strange?

      • Nahui Torres

        Hello Kathy!

        Very good article! I’m from Mexico, and I just moved out of my parents home to a new home I rented, it is closer to work and I got it pretty cheap! But the big issue is that the past owner had a dog in a room in the back of the house with a wooden floor. My boyfriend says he does not smell anything, but I just can’t stand the smell!! It’s terrible. In my family we all have over developed “super power” sense of smell. He thinks I’m exaggerating, but I can smell it when I open the front door! Well I tired first with chlorine, it did not get better, I’ll give vinegar a try! No wonder the rental was so cheap! Thanks.

        • Jess

          Did the vinegar work?!? I am about to rent a place and the previous renters have had a lot of pets and it smells bad. The entireee place is hardwood and My bf also doesn’t really care and I also can smell really well so I resonate with your post, lol. I hope it worked for you! Lmk!!

  • Margo

    Hello. I live in Texas and have lived in a nice rental house for over a year. My landlady is now telling me that the house has a pet odor and to get rid of it. I bought a black light and can find no evidence of any urine stains, and we have never known our dog to “go” in the house at all anyway.
    Is she legally allowed to keep coming to my house to check the odor? I did tell her that if she would help us identify what it is (we can’t smell it) we would take immediate action to correct it.
    Any thoughts? Thank You!

    • Heather

      I would really love to know what ever happened with this. I’m recently going through this issue with my landlady. She’s sent me a text stating that the smell of my 2 cats is going into the neighbor’s apt and its turning away new prospective tenants. I can’t smell it, the neighbor that lives there can’t smell it and I also asked one of the people they’ve been showing the apartment to and they said they couldn’t notice anything. They’ve threatened that they would sanitize the entire apartment property and hold me responsible. Would love to have suggestions on how to go from here. Thank you!

    • PETE

      YES~~! Property owners are definitely allowed to always check on the status of THEIR PROPERTY, your just renting, it belongs to THEM!
      She should up your rent if she suspects damage by your pets!

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  • jeanne basmajian

    my son has 4 large dogs, and a heavy doggy order in his home. he is in the process of painting the whole house. he has no carpeting , just wood and tile floors. is there a way to eliminate the smell, aside from getting rid of the dogs. jeanne

  • Biosweep Sacramento

    These are great tips to get started. However, sometimes odors from pets can be so pervasive professionals need to be called in to assess the situation and come up with a plan to permanently remove the pet odor from the space. Biosweep offers the best, affordable solutions for pet odors and can permanently eliminate most odors in 24 hours or less. With over 500 successful treatments we have truly seen it all. We have permanently eradicated the extensive pet odors from homes with over 20 years of extensive pet activity and urination. If you are in need of odor removal services in the Sacramento, California metro area visit, in other areas of the world visit to find your nearest service provider. 

  • Shelly Morgan

    Great advice although I am witts end with my house. Rented to a family with 2 labs for 3 years. Since them moving out I have pulled all carpets, washed all walls and baseboards, had all duct work professionally cleaned along with all grout work. Nothing is working to get this wet dog smell out of my house! I just paid 3500.00 for painters to paint entire house and restain all woodwork hoping this will work! This has definitely been an expensive road, one way above their 1600 security deposit plus 500 non refundable pet fee 😔

  • Debco

    I have a dog odor left by a tenant. When you come in the side door the odor comes from the basement, where the dog lived, that I can’t get rid of. I have cleaned with ammonia, bleach,vinegar and painted the area with kilz. When I think I’ve gotten rid of the odor when I come back to the home in a weeks time the odor is back.

  • cecilia mchale

    I just moved into a senior apartment that a cat lived in…upon looking at this rental i said it smelled like cat~he told me that this matter would be addressed..long story short the carpet was never taken care of. I walked in for the walk through said~smells like cat~he replied..its paint. Of coarse all the moving in windows open I ignored my inner self. Ugh stuck here with urine stentch all through the place…spoke to the manager hes not interested. From Mr. nice gentlemen to cold hearted…well i best stop there! The cost of everything my budget is tight..any suggestions on where to report this..still marks on the carpet from the other tenants furniture!!!

  • Sara

    Odoban is a good product that helps a lot. I usually do a vinegar spray, baking soda + vacuum, odoban spray, rug doctor/bissell green machine with pet formula, and then anotjer spray of odoban. It is a bit overkill but it get rid of the smell of cats if it is in the carpet

  • John

    Great advice.. Glad I clicked your Blog !!! I really love way to detailed very info about this Topic.

  • Joann

    Young girl moved into the apartment small apartment with her to children .she ended up getting a puppy and a cat..right away the cat odor was bothering me , I’m sensitive to the smell would ask her to take care of it two days it would be good ..then back to the was left in the house 8 to 12 hours… she is out now… after 1year …. the wood floors are scraped up from the dog digging, black spots where the dog peed..some of the boards are crawling up and Black grey color ..upstairs smells like the cat ..what can I do to get rid of the smell of the cat and dog and help for my wood floors??!

  • Nahui Torres

    Hello Kathy!

    Very good article! I’m from Mexico, and I just moved out of my parents home to a new home I rented, it is closer to work and I got it pretty cheap! But the big issue is that the past owner had a dog in a room in the back of the house with a wooden floor. My boyfriend says he does not smell anything, but I just can’t stand the smell!! It’s terrible. In my family we all have over developed “super power” sense of smell. He thinks I’m exaggerating, but I can smell it when I open the front door! Well I tired first with chlorine, it did not get better, I’ll give vinegar a try! No wonder the rental was so cheap! Thanks.


    I have a rental unit, the tenant had a cat. I pulled up the rug n Im going to paint the place.
    What can put on the floor to get the smell out?

  • Brandy Martinez

    Ok so a few years ago my father in-law ( who I lived with) sold his house…sold it faster then he could find a new one…His nephew let us stay in a empty house he owned making us know the back room smelled of dog and cat urine…my father in-law had 2 inside dogs which made the back now unbearable..When moved out I stay on 1 month longer ..It was raining and cold and gonna redo a dresser and was doing the wood sanding in the back smelly tile room…And by the time I was done sanding (2days) the smell was gone the saw dust absorbed the smell out if the tile and the walls.. AMAZING BUT ABSOLUTELY TRUE

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