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Across the globe, there are over 2 billion pets living indoors – more than 650 million of whom have unrestricted access to every space in the house.

Those are huge numbers. And no matter what breed or species your pet is, you don’t want your home smelling like them. So the question is…

How do you get rid of the “animal(s) live here” smell?

How can you live with your pet without their scent taking up the whole house and even getting onto clothes that you wear when heading out?

These are questions we are going to address in this article, but before we get to that we need to figure out why houses with pets smell like pets after some time.

Why do houses with pets smell like a dog or cat after some time?

Photo by Adrianna Calvo from Pexels

Well, most living things have a signature scent: Birds, trees, fishes, cats, dogs, and even roses smell like, well, roses.

These scents are present in their body fluids and by-products, hair, and dander. As long as these things are in your home, then your house is going to smell like your pet.

This is inevitable.

What’s avoidable, however, is preventing the smell-causing debris and body fluids produced by our pets from accumulating in the house and leaving a noticeable odor in it.

So, how do you eliminate the signature smell that tells every visitor that a pet lives in this household?

14 Simple steps to finally get rid of pet smell in your home.

1. Get to messes immediately they happen!

Pets produce a lot of stuff that can make the house smell.

From saliva, dander, urine, vomit, and excreta; while you can’t always control where and when these stuff land, the best way to rid a house of their smell is to clean them up as much and as fast as you can.

That’s because the longer they settle on the carpet, couch, floor, any other surface, the stronger the surface smells and the harder it is to eliminate the smell.

So as soon as you notice your dog or cat’s urine spot, start putting down a thick layer of paper towels to soak it up.

2. Sweep and mop your home’s hard floors.

When you want to get the dog or cat smell out of your house, the first thing you have to do is remove all of the loose debris that smells like your pet.

This includes dead hair, dander, dust, and dirt particles.

However, you need to be careful when removing this debris because they’re all very light. You don’t want to kick them up in the air.

Turn off the fan, close doors and windows to prevent draft, and sweep gently until you ferry them to the trash can.

Once you’re done sweeping, mop and wipe all hard surfaces to neutralize the remaining dog- or cat-smell-causing debris in your home.

3. Vacuum carpets.

When you’re done cleaning your linoleum, hardwood, or tile floors, the next place that needs your attention is the carpets. They hold tons of pet hair, dander, and dust.

So vacuum all the carpets in your home, especially the ones your pet loves to lounge on. Then once you’re done with those, move on the cracks and crevices in furniture with the appropriate attachments.  

If you have a pet that hates the vacuum cleaner, your best bet is to lock them in a room you’re yet to clean.

4. Steam clean all the carpets in your home.

Vacuuming will only get rid of dried material from your carpets. You need to use a steam cleaner to deal with the dog or cat smells trapped in the carpet fibers.

I recommend getting the services of an expert carpet cleaner, however, if you’d rather DIY the carpet cleaning, ensure you use pet-friendly cleaning agents on the carpet.

Make sure your pet is restricted from getting on the carpet during the cleaning exercise, and not until the carpet is completely dry.

Watch out for dogs and cats that like to mark their territory; the change in odor (or lack of odor) in the carpet might trigger their spraying instinct.  

5. Wash drapes, couch cushion covers, and pillowcases.

Fabrics are ever ready to trap any type of smell, so send anything washable to the washing machine.

Wash the covers on the couch cushion and throw pillows, bed linen, window covering, and any other fabric in your home that is machine-washable.

Make sure everything is completely dry before putting them back, else they’ll just smell damp or like a wet dog.

Washing all these fabrics will ensure your home smells better and you smell fresh as well when you step out of the house.

6. Invite fresh air in – force it if you must.

Do not underestimate the power of fresh air in ridding an apartment of pet odors.

While it isn’t the magic wand you might expect, airing out your house helps push out the dog or cat smell in your home.

The best time to do this is when the temperature is moderately warm. You can open the windows on a summer morning and evening to invite fresh air in.

If you have a fan, move it towards the window to pull air from outside into the house.

Be careful when doing this so your pet doesn’t bolt out of the front door while you’re busy inviting air in.

7. Wash your pet’s bed, toys, bowls, collars, and other accessories.

Your pet’s bed is likely the item with the strongest pet odor in your house. That’s because your pet is covering it in hair, saliva, dander, dirt, and urine.

Most good dog beds are machine washable, so all you have to do is remove the cover and toss it in the washing machine.

I recommend you pour a pet odor buster into the washing machine to help kill the odors.

If the smell is also on the core of your pet’s bed, you can either replace it or run it through the washing machine (if that won’t shorten its lifespan).

Other pet accessories that you need to wash because they can make the house smell of pets are their toys, food bowls, collars, leash, and harness.

8. Change the air filters in your home.

It is important for your respiratory system and your overall health that you breathe fresh, clean air.

So, while you’re airing out your home to get rid of any lingering dog or cat smell, use the opportunity to change the air filters in your home.

Although clogged filters do not contribute to the pet-odor issue in your home, they can reduce airflow through your home which will cause pet odors to smell stronger than they actually are.

If you cannot do it yourself (it’s super easy anyway), then get a professional to do so. However, whoever is changing the filter needs to be careful to prevent dust and debris from the filter falling back onto your floors.

9. Install an air purifier.

An air purifier is a must-have, not just for eliminating the pet smell in your home, but for reducing allergy-causing debris and dander floating in the air.

This alone will help make your home smell better as well as improve you and your family’s health.

When choosing a high-quality, pet-friendly air purifier, pick the one that not only filters particles from the air but kills fungi and bacteria as well.

10. Address lingering sources of smell.

Your home should be smelling better by this point in the process.

If you still get a whiff of lingering pet odor in your home, it is likely caused by isolated issues, such as a place on your hardwood floor that absorbed the smell of an accident or a bad pee spot on the carpet or couch.

To complete the job, you need to find these spots and treat them. This may require that you get your nose close to the floor and sniff around a bit.

Alternatively, you can use a black light to scan for urine, saliva, and other body fluid-stained spots. That’s because these fluids glow a yellowish-green* under black light.

However, the glow might be too faint to spot so you’ll have to scan at night with all the lights turned off.  

When you’ve found the spot, you can either treat it with a commercial pet odor buster or a homemade odor eliminator to neutralize the smell.

* Note that black light will cause a lot of things such as spilled drinks, and residues of cleaning products to glow, but they usually glow bright white.

11. Bathe pets regularly.

Most pets don’t mind a regular bath if you introduced them to it while they were pups and kittens. If your dog or cat stinks but doesn’t like having a bath you can get his/her groomer to bath your pet – I would really love to know how they do this with ease.

A regular bathing schedule will remove dead hair and pet dander from your pet’s skin, which will help reduce pet smells in your apartment.

12. Address any stubborn spots on walls with odor-sealing paint.

Many times, the sources of smell in your home are not limited to the floors. Some pets urinate in corners and lower portions of house walls.

And, getting the smell of pets from a wall is way tougher than dealing with the smell in a carpet.

The best way to address cases like this is to repaint the area with a stain- and odor-sealing paint primer. They’re designed to lock the odor in the wall and prevent them from being perceived inside the house.

13. Remember closets and stairways.

While tackling the sources of pet odor in your home, remember to clean spots that your pet occasionally hangs around that aren’t top of mind.

Some pets love to snooze in the stairways, closet, or cupboards.

These won’t come to your mind immediately, but you have to include them in your must-clean list for your house to be free of pet smell.

14. Perfume your home if all else fails.

There are a few cases where you might only be able to minimize but not eliminate the scent or odor associated with having pets. 

In such cases, you must tackle the minor odor-causing spots in your home as best as you can, then try to obscure what’s left with scented or odor-neutralizing sprays.

Just make sure you make it subtle because the nose will feel suffocated when the smell is too strong – whether it is pleasant or not!

What NOT to Use!

Ammonia tops the list of things not to use when cleaning up dog or cat urine smell.

That’s because urine already contains a generous amount of ammonia. Adding more will just worsen the smell.

Plus, cats and dogs feel compelled to pee on a spot that already smells like pee and you don’t want that.

Another thing worth noting is that you must never combine bleach with ammonia. The fumes produced by the mixture are dangerous and can kill you.

Common household items such as baking soda, peroxide, vinegar, or dish detergent are a much safer alternative. However, if you want the best result, then you must get a commercial pet-odor remover.

Finally, an ounce of prevention…

…is worth tons of curing techniques.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that your fur baby will continue his/her output without the house is clean or not.

If you are responsible for the pet(s) in your home, it is up to you to prevent further accidents. And, that’s why cleaning your house is important because cats and dogs recognize their scent and will continue to mess the spot.

Thoroughly cleaning these spots help neutralize pet urine smell and other odors in the house which will reduce the likelihood of your pet(s) soiling the house. 

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