Pets can be an enormous source of joy. There’s nothing like cozying up to a cute kitten on a chilly evening or bonding with your pup outside on a beautiful day (plus all the pur- and tail-wag-worthy moments shared in between). But our fur babies are also sneaky sources of odor that, when left unattended, can linger, penetrating fabrics and leaving guests thinking, ‘What's that smell?’
Dealing with a current issue or looking for ways to combat unpleasant scents before they creep in (let alone roam)? You’ve come to the right place. Read on for professional tips and a mix of expert-suggested and editor-favored products — including natural cleaning methods and pet deodorizers — for embracing your four-legged friends while maintaining a cleaner, healthier, sweeter-smelling home.
What causes pet odor?
“Most commonly, pet odors are caused by an excess of fur, dander and oils from animals' skin leaving traces on items inside the home, including their favorite toys and comfy spots like beds and couches,” explains Kate Karam, a pet expert and editor-in-chief of Chewy.
Then again ... “If your dog simply smells like a dog, they might just need a bath,” adds Jessica Samson, a professional cleaner with The Maids. “Dogs like to roll around outside, sometimes in less than pleasant-smelling things. Odors can be exacerbated by your pet getting wet, and even influenced by the type of breed." (According to Chewy, this is often tied to factors like oil production and secretion, with Doberman Pinschers and Poodles among the less stinky.)
Our experts also note that odors can result from isolated events (read: vomiting or bathroom accidents in the house) or the food pets eat. Persisting or worsening odors may be the sign of a deeper issue, such as allergies, bacterial infections (gut, ear or yeast) or periodontal disease.
What kinds of cleaners can eradicate pet odor?
Cleaning products tend to fall into a few general categories, said Karam, including “enzymatic cleaners that dissolve and remove substances (like pet urine), odor eliminators that help to neutralize smells and deodorizers for when you need a little freshening.”
Samson points out that baking soda is a natural odor absorbent, making it a great option for neutralizing pet odors. “Combine one cup of water, one cup of white vinegar and two teaspoons of baking soda to create the perfect solution. It’s safe for animals — and you can spray it on almost anything!”
Karam suggests reading labels and ingredients closely. “As always, it’s best to look for products formulated for pets that are free from harsh chemicals like formaldehyde, isopropyl alcohol, phenols or bleach,” which can aggravate the skin or flare allergies.
How do you get pet odor out of the house?
Depending on the cause, kicking pet odors could be as easy as kicking your four-legged friends off the bed. “Having pets stick to their own cushions is the best way to avoid getting that 'pet smell' on your furniture,” notes Karam. “For fur babies that insist on getting on your bed or couch, consider adding a washable layer, such as a blanket or cover, to keep oils and pet odors from seeping into mattresses, cushions and other harder-to-clean items."
Samson says creating a designated animal area can also aid in curbing smells. “Stash your pets' toys and other stuff in the laundry room or wherever you decide to keep your pets to eliminate the amount of slobber and odor transferring to other rooms."
If you can’t confine the stench, or find that it's getting out of control, experts say you may need to tackle it head-on by spot-cleaning your pet or deep-cleaning your home. Adds Karam, “If it’s just a smaller area (like a dog bed or their favorite stinky chair) or isolated incident (as in a bowel-related accident), a spray bottle and proper disinfectant might do the trick.”
Ready to take charge? Keep scrolling for 8 easy ways to keep pet odors at bay ...
1. Groom pets regularly.
While both cats and dogs have self-cleaning capabilities, Karam advises bathing pets with a deodorizing shampoo and warm water (or whatever temperature they seem most comfortable with) for a firmer grip on grime, especially dogs since they tend to spend more time outdoors than cats. Adds Karam: “Using a waterless shampoo between baths can help keep your pet smelling fresh while conditioning their fur — a win-win!”
How often you bathe your pet (aside from the occasional one-off to eliminate obvious odor) should correlate with what type of coat they have, said Karam. “Medium- and long-haired dogs should be bathed every four to six weeks, whereas shorter coats can typically go a little longer, such as every one to three months.”
“Try to brush your pet daily to stay on top of any dirt or bacteria that has built up,” adds Samson. “Wet wipes are helpful for ears and noses, and you should aim to brush their teeth at least once a week. There are also chewing bones designed for better dental hygiene."
2. Spot-treat accordingly.
One of the easiest ways to ban odors is to stop them right in their tracks. “Wiping pets' paws before they enter the house can cut back on the amount of unwanted bacteria carried into your home,” said Karam. “Try to have towels, deodorizing wipes or paw cleaners on hand for combatting backyard and neighborhood dirt and debris at the door.”
Samson suggests looking into doggie boots for protecting paws in high-traffic areas (such as public dog trails and parks) and having a dedicated entry point for a quick dry or clean. And try to avoid doggie doors, which offer no limitations on what your pet can drag in. “They go outside, get wet or dirty, and then bring all that odor back with them."
3. Change litter diligently.
Just like with other odor aggressors (read: trash cans), it's best to steer litter boxes clear of main areas and, as Karam suggests, scoop them daily. Plan to change the entire contents of your litter box at least once every two weeks. “Consider scented cat litter and self-cleaning litter systems, and always dispose of the dirty litter outside to keep odors away.”
Samson suggests avoiding potty pads for pets. “Wee pads can be a source of germs and odor you don't want in your home. If you must use them, aim to throw them away in the trash daily and discard the trash in your outdoor bin.”
4. Opt for pet accessories you can clean.
When shopping for toys and leashes, Karam suggests prioritizing laundry- and dishwasher-friendly versions to minimize drool and bacteria that can transfer to rugs and surrounding areas. “Believe it or not, you can toss most plush toys right in the washing machine and air-dry, which I recommend doing monthly to rid odors and germs." Not sure whether toys are machine-washable? Karam says dabbing them with a little soap and water will usually suffice.
As Samson notes, cleaning and reusing toys and other accessories will save you money in the long run, too. “You should also try and clean pet food bowls once daily if possible, as they can get dirty quickly," said Samson.
5. Improve your home’s air quality.
To break up pet odors (and hinder them from permeating), experts say a little breeze can go a long way. “Cross-ventilation is the best way to accomplish this, ideally by having opposite windows of the home open to keep air flowing throughout the house," Samson explains.
Just be sure screens and other guardrails are securely in place so that pets stay safe. Adds Samson, “Using fans can help by pushing bad smells out of the house and circulating any good fragrances you’d like to emit. An air purifier can also help with air quality control, but may not be able to eliminate all of the odors just on its own.”
6. Vacuum and dust regularly.
A good vacuum is one of your best weapons for putting odor-causing pet dander and hair in its place. "You’ll want to vacuum often, ideally daily, and aim to dust at least several times a week,” advises Samson. “Look for a strong vacuum with versatile attachments that are effective at removing pet hair from crevices in the sofa, under your furniture and other tough-to-reach areas.”
Even better, reach for vacuums, dusters and accessories (the Bissell CleanView Swivel and Pet Hair Eraser vacuums are among Yahoo reader favorites) specifically engineered for homes with pets. Samson suggests washing pet beds every two weeks to minimize dust and debris landing in the air and on the floor.
7. Integrate some scrub and steam.
Of course, there are some instances where a vacuum and duster just aren't going to cut it, in which case a deeper clean may be in order. “Washing your floors, especially where there are carpets and ideally at least once a week, is a great way to tackle germs, eliminate odors and rejuvenate your space,” said Samson. “A handheld steamer is a household staple for sanitizing smaller spaces and upholsteries.”
When it comes to isolated incidents, such as a pet vomiting or having an accident, experts stress you want to act fast — if possible, immediately — to dissipate bad smells and minimize the appearance of stains (this is where a hard-working brush attachment, stain remover and odor-neutralizer come in). Adds Samson, “Simply mix vinegar and baking soda together for an odor-eliminating cleaning solution if you're in a pinch."
8. Enhance the fragrance (subtly).
Time to bring in the reinforcements? Don't underestimate the importance of having a powerful odor-eliminating room spray on hand. Karam suggests going with a non-toxic, biodegradable, eco-friendly option. “If the smell gets away from you (it happens), products that break down materials and then neutralize odors (such as Nature's Miracle Dog Stain & Odor Remover) are your best bet.”
“There are many pet odor-eliminating candles that you can sprinkle in different rooms,” adds Samson. “Diffusers are another great resource for infusing favorable scents into your home.”