We love our pets, but we don’t always love their scents. Here are some tips for eliminating dog smell in your home.
Dogs are terrific companions, and while they’re pretty awesome roommates, they can be stinky and messy. Plus, they never clean up after themselves. If you live with a dog—or more than one—you’ve probably wondered how to get rid of dog smell. Before we dive in to whether you can get pet odor out of your house (spoiler: you can), let’s first find out exactly why your four-legged friend might have a less-than-fresh scent. After all, if there’s a medical reason your dog smells bad, you’ll want to know it.
What causes dog smell?
“Dogs can take on scents from the environments they inhabit,” says Alex Wojenski, resident sustainable cleaning expert at Grove. “Smaller dogs that spend a lot of time on our laps or on furniture may start to smell like the scents in our homes, while dogs that spend more time outdoors may pick up nature’s scents.”
Dog smells vary based on various factors, including breed, age, type of fur, health and medical conditions, amount of drool, outdoor activity and, perhaps most important, bathing schedule.
Getting rid of that characteristic dog smell can feel daunting, but there are easy ways to get rid of pet odor, and believe it or not, there are even proven methods to get dog poop out of carpet.
How do I keep my house from smelling like dog?
The most reliable ways to keep your house from smelling like dog include regularly cleaning all the places your dog hangs out and making sure the animal is clean and healthy. Those simple tasks go a long way toward ensuring your house smells like a home, not a kennel.
It’s also a good idea to invest in some cleaning tools and products. Reliable pet hair removers are essential, as is an enzymatic cleaner such as Angry Orange Odor Eliminator and a water-based, solvent-free carpet cleaner such as Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover, which isn’t just for carpets and can also be used on clothes, drapes, upholstered furniture, dog beds and more.
How do you get rid of dog smell completely?
Dog owners often joke that dog hair and dog smells are constantly renewing resources, but there’s truth to the jest. If you live with dogs, it’s probably not realistic to try to completely rid your home of dog smell, just like it’s not possible to completely rid your home of the fragrance from your laundry detergent, the aroma of woodsmoke from your fireplace or the scent of Savory dishes if you’re a regular home chef.
For more than 15 years, the folks at GetRidofThings.com have provided do-it-yourself guides to common problems, and pet odor is one of them. When asked how to get rid of dog smell completely, editor James Morgan said, “Get rid of your dog! Sorry to sound callous, and we are not suggesting you take extreme measures by actually putting your dog up for adoption. Our point is that if you have a dog, you need to learn to address the inevitable smell.”
That said, you can minimize the scent. Keep reading for eight actions you can take to give your home a fresh, less-doggy scent.
Keep your dog clean
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If you want to keep your house from smelling like a dog, one of the first steps is to make sure your pet is clean. “There are multiple causes that make your dog and your house smell,” says Debi McKee, owner of three dogs and founder of Rescue Dogs 101. “The most obvious reason your dog smells is if their coat is dirty. This could be from lack of hygiene or rolling in dirt, feces or other smelly things outside.”
Professional dog trainer Julia Jenkins recommends regular baths with a mild shampoo. “’Regular baths’ means at least once a month, plus trimming their nails and brushing their fur, which helps them smell better and helps reduce the amount of hair they shed around the house.”
And don’t forget to wash up after outdoor play. “If your dog has been outside for any length of time, it can be helpful to wash their paws and dry them off, if they are wet, to help minimize the smell in your home,” says pet expert Shannon Bunn, CEO of Waggy Pups dog accessories shop. An easy way to do that is to use a tool like the Mudbuster—our tester loved it!
Keep your floors clean
Scrubbing and brushing your pup is a good start, but if you really want to prevent your home from smelling like a canine kingdom, your next step is to clean your floors regularly.
For wood, tile or laminate, sweeping is the first step. You can use a regular broom, but pet owners wear by Swiffer. Pro tip: Give your house a once-over with a dry sheet—pet parents claim it picks up dog hair like a magnet—then follow up with a wet Swiffer or wet mop.
If you have rugs, do yourself a favor and get one of the best vacuums for dog and cat hair. Although Dyson vacuums are expensive, most people who have them think they’re worth every penny. Dyson makes a line of vacuums specifically for pet owners, and having a cordless stick vacuum that converts to a handheld makes it easier to do quick cleanups before the dog hair and dirt get out of control.
For bigger messes, the Bissell Little Green Machine is excellent for getting stains out of rugs and upholstery. If you need to pretreat, pet welfare advocate Rajashree Goswami recommends Bissell Pet Pro Oxy Stain Destroyer, which is nontoxic and effective. Plus, every Bissell purchase goes toward saving homeless pets.
Keep your furniture clean
Some dogs aren’t allowed on the furniture, but many sneak up when we aren’t looking. Others aren’t officially allowed but are invited on the couch for an occasional cuddle. Keeping furniture covered with blankets helps because it’s easier to clean blankets than the whole sofa, but if the furniture starts to smell like your dog, cleaning guru Joseph Marini has an easy, nontoxic solution: Keep a spray bottle filled with four parts white vinegar and one part water on hand.
“It is great for regularly spraying on carpets and upholstered furniture to tackle tough smells, including urine,” he says. “Of course, test any fabric in an inconspicuous spot before applying.”
Suppose you have a puppy that has accidents or an older dog that leaks urine. In that case, Marini recommends soaking up as much urine as possible with paper towels (not dish towels). “And then soak the spot that has been urinated on with full-strength vodka or white vinegar to break down the acids found in urine.”
The Bissell Pet Stain Eraser is another great tool for cleaning up accidents. Marini also says Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover “works like a miracle on upholstered furniture and rugs to remove dirt and grease stains caused by a dog’s fur or to remove urine stains. Apply it after an area has been treated with vinegar or vodka and allowed to dry completely.”
Keep pet furniture clean
Want to know how to get rid of dog smell? Here’s a big tip: Be thorough. That means cleaning pretty much everything your dog interacts with—including its bed.
Wherever there’s a dog bed, there’s increased potential for smells. You can maintain both your furniture and theirs with pet-hair removers such as the ChomChom roller and Bissell Pet Hair Eraser, but regular washing of pet beds is key.
Most pet experts recommend washing beds every week to eliminate odors in your home. When washing dog beds and blankets, Carrie Flitcroft, director of Shiny and New Cleaning Services, says a common household item is the key to banishing bad scents. “Add a half cup of white vinegar to your washing machine to get rid of the dog smell and keep materials fresh and fluffy,” she says.
If you have large dog beds and washing them weekly is a production, you can spray a mix of vinegar and baking soda on the bed and then use a vacuum to suck it up.
Wash your dog’s toys
Washing plush dog toys is almost as important as washing pet beds, but many people overlook it. After the initial puppy stage, dog mouths aren’t known for being the best-smelling places, and because their saliva gets all over their toys, it can make your home smell like dog breath. You can throw them in the wash every week with the dog beds, and they’ll come out looking like new.
If you haven’t washed the toys in a while—or ever!—you might need to throw in a cup of vinegar or an enzymatic deodorizing product. Sharon Williams, cofounder of Dog Desires, likes Rocco & Roxie or Nature’s Miracle, both of which come by the gallon for refilling spray bottles or for using by the cupful as a laundry additive.
Clear the air
Leo Gomez, the inventor of the Runball dog toy and a writer of pet guides, recommends cleaning your home’s air filters to “help to purify the odor from the air, aid in improved heating and cooling systems in the house and maximize the airflow circulation, resulting in eliminating the stinky air.”
In addition, Gomez recommends investing in a good air purifier for your home. There are small tabletop air purifiers for bedrooms or offices and larger units that purify up to 2,500 square feet.
Make sure your dog is healthy
There may be medical reasons why your dog smells. If you’re bathing your dog regularly and it still stinks, it could have an underlying condition that’s causing it to produce more odor than usual. “Dog smell can also be caused by skin irritation and bacteria, which are amplified by moisture,” Wojenski says.
Persistent doggy odor may be a sign of a more serious health concern. So if your dog is licking itself excessively or has a sudden change in appetite, it’s time to see a vet, Jenkins notes.
“The most common reason for ‘dog smell’ is secondary yeast or bacterial infections inside the ears or on the skin,” Williams says. “Have your dog checked by the vet to identify the exact source.”
And don’t forget to brush your dog’s teeth! If it’s uncooperative, swap the dog toothbrush for a dental chew designed to clean its teeth.
Be a detective
You’ll have no problem smelling pet odor. Identifying the source, however, is an entirely different issue.
A puppy may attempt to hide its accidents by going behind a piece of furniture. An older dog may be incontinent. And some dogs just can’t help lifting their legs on bed skirts, curtains and even walls.
Whether your pet has accidents or is marking its territory inside, UV flashlights can come in handy and help you get to the bottom of it. A UV pet urine detector can help you locate dried urine stains so you can properly clean them and keep your home smelling fresh. Consider yourself warning—you might be surprised by all the stains and splatters!
- Alex Wojenski, sustainable cleaning expert at Grove
- James Morgan, editor of GetRidofThings.com
- Debi McKee, founder of Rescue Dogs 101
- Julia Jenkins, dog trainer with Pet Dog Training Today
- Shannon Bunn, CEO of Waggy Pups
- Rajashree Goswami, founding member of We Do Pet Welfare Society
- Joseph Marini, home expert with At Home with Joseph
- Carrie Flitcroft, director of Shiny and New Cleaning Services
- Sharon Williams, cofounder of Dog Desires
- Leo Gomez, pet guide writer and inventor of Runball