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The 10 Easiest Ways to Get Rid of Pet Odor

P-U! Sometimes your beloved cat or dog really stinks up the house. Pet odors linger and reek worse than your sweaty gym socks. Here are the easiest ways to eliminate the most offensive ones.

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paper towel rollNew Anawach/Shutterstock

Gross! My cat just hacked up something. How do I clean it up?

It’s not pleasant, but it’s a good thing if you discover cat puke right away. Dry puke can be cleaned too, but since any cat puke has a tendency to stain, the faster you act, the better. Remove as much vomit as you can with a dry paper towel, spoon, or a knife. Be careful not to press the vomit further into the carpet. Spray the area with water and blot using a dry paper towel. Rotate the towel so you’re always using a dry spot on the towel—you may need a few to get the job done. Spray an enzyme-based cleaner on the spot to break down the proteins that cause permanent damage. Always follow the product’s instructions. Sometimes puking is normal but it could be a sign your healthy cat is actually sick.

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I just found dried dog pee. How do I clean it up?

A wet vac is an inexpensive and essential tool that will come in handy for many pet removal odors. For dry dog pee and poop, Schenker says to saturate the stain with a wet vac and suck up the dirty water. Next, apply a pet odor neutralizer and follow the instructions on the bottle. If your efforts don’t do the trick, try an advanced stain remover. But whatever, you do, don’t use vinegar or ammonia for pet odor removal. While vinegar boosts natural cleaning abilities The Humane Society says using vinegar and ammonia may entice your pet to mark the area.

wipe counter hand paper towelAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

How do I clean up wet dog pee?

According to Michelle Schenker, founder of CanineJournal.com, wet and dry dog pee are two different beasts that require two different removal techniques. (This method works for cat pee, too, and is Humane Society-approved!) Place paper towels over the urine to soak it up, then cover the paper towels with a clean towel. If it’s a rug, place a towel under the urine spot too. Press firmly into the spot with an old rag or something you don’t mind getting urine on to absorb as much liquid as possible. If the paper towels and towels are soaked, repeat the process. Once the urine is soaked up, rinse with cool water and soak up the area with towels or a wet vac. When the spot is dry, vacuum. Sprinkle on baking soda and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes for added freshness and vacuum again. Here are some of our other go-to pet clean-up tips.

cat lying on heatertotojang1977/Shutterstock

I just discovered a few spots where my cat peed. How do I get rid of the stench?

Dry cat pee is super stinky because it’s concentrated. “Cats are very good at conserving water, so they don’t always drink a lot, and they often eat dry food, so they don’t get a lot of moisture through the food,” says Mariah Covey, DVM, Kryder Veterinary Clinic. Male cats that aren’t neutered also have strong smelling urine, which adds to the problem, Dr. Covey says. Try an enzymatic solution and follow the instructions on the bottle. For older spots, you may want to hire a professional carpet cleaner for this stubborn pet odor removal. “Urine is acidic, but it becomes alkaline, and ammonium salts form in the residue it creates,” says Jeremy Strickland, general manager of Randy’s Carpet Care. “Urine spots are like icebergs, what you see on the surface may only be minor, but the urine probably saturated the padding and possibly the subfloor.” The longer it sits, the stinkier it gets. See if one of these 14 cleaning tools every pet owner needs are of any use!

litter boxAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Is there a way to get rid of lingering litter box smell?

The easiest solution is to scoop the poop and pee immediately, but unless you plan on guarding the litter box that’s not likely. To help minimize odors sprinkle baking soda over the litter instead of buying scented litter, as highly scented litter can be offputting to cats, according to the Humane Society. Cats generally prefer a fine-grain litter as it feels softer on their paws. Once a month, toss the litter and wipe down the litter box with an enzyme pet odor eliminator. Refrain from using bleach as cats are highly sensitive to the strong odor and may refuse to use the litter box. Keep things smelling fresh continuously with an air purifier.

dog sleeping bedGladskikh Tatiana/Shutterstock

My furbaby’s bed reeks. What’s the best way to clean it?

Unless you have a non-shedding pet, fur is probably covering most of the surface, and that’s one of the culprits for the stink, says Jennifer Gregory, brand manager of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company. When your cat or dog perspires, the scent is emitted through the fur so it’s essential to vacuum it up before laundering. (Plus, hair sticks to wet clothing and the inside of your washing machine.) The Humane Society recommends adding a one-pound box of baking soda to your regular detergent for pet odor removal. Air dry if possible to avoid shrinkage. If it still smells, wash again with an enzymatic cleaner to break down pet-waste odors. Tempted to let your kitty sleep in bed with you? Find out all the reasons you shouldn’t sleep with your cat.

vacuum couch sofaAndrey_Popov/Shutterstock

My sofa smells like a dirty dog. How can I freshen it up?

Those snuggle times on the sofa with your furbaby are the highlight of your day, but every so often that funky smell is too strong to dismiss. Like with pet bed cleanup, you’ll need to vacuum the furniture first. Next, Gregory suggests sprinkling the area with baking soda. “It’s generally safe to use, but test a hidden spot first. Let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes then vacuum.” Add one of these pet hair removers that really work for good measure.

cat crateNatalia Fedosova/Shutterstock

My furbaby’s travel crate doesn’t smell so great

Whether it’s mesh or plastic your pet’s crate can develop a pungent odor. Sometimes the culprit is a dirty liner that needs a scrub down, but it could also stem from a nervous car ride to the vet. Even if your dog or cat doesn’t puke, when they’re nervous, they can release the contents from their anal sacks. Panting and sweating also contribute to odor built up in a small space like a carrier. To clean, toss any liners and blankets in the wash. Wipe down plastic carriers with an enzyme cleaner. Place soft carriers in the bathtub with warm water and the recommended amount of enzyme all-purpose cleaner and air dry. That’s not the only pet-on-the-go item that needs cleaning—if you don’t already clean your dog’s leash, this will convince you to start.

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Can I use a homemade cleaning spray?

Yes, the ASPCA recipe for pet cleaner is easy to make with ingredients you probably have in your cupboard. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of salt in 2 cups warm water. Add ½ cup of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of detergent, and 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol, then mix well and funnel into a spray bottle. Always remove as much as the stain as possible first, then spray with water and blot with a dry paper towel. Next, saturate the stain with the cleaner. Sprinkle with baking soda and vacuum when the spot is dry. Since this formula has vinegar it is a pet odor removal more suited for messes not containing urine. Baking soda is a natural wonder when it comes to cleaning but you should never use baking soda to clean these surfaces.

air purifier1989studio/Shutterstock

How do I get rid of “an animal lives here” smell?

So you’ve cleaned all the pet odors, but there’s still a hint of eau de pooch? What’s left in the pet odor removal arsenal? Try an ozone generator to neutralize the odors. “An air purifier uses fans to pull air into it and runs it through a filter to ‘scrub’ it before sending it back out,” Strickland says. “But an ozone generator uses an internal fan to push air out. The air coming out of it contains an extra oxygen molecule, creating O3, ozone, which neutralizes the air on soft surfaces.” This takes care of the surfaces you can’t easily clean like drapes, curtains, and upholstery. And, unlike with an air purifier, you only have to run it for a few hours intermittingly. You can also try these tricks to naturally neutralize odors in your home.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, HealthiNation, The Family Handyman, Taste of Home, and Realtor.com., among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center. Follow her on Instagram @lisamariewrites4food and Twitter @cornish_conklin.