How to get rid of pet odor in a small space — 9 fail-safe tips from cleaning experts

All the expert-approved hacks for getting rid of pet odor in your home

A fluffy dog sat on a chair by a bed
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When it comes to getting rid of pet odor in a small space, I know that it can seem like a rather overwhelming, and almost impossible, task. The good news is that there are a range of steps that cleaning experts swear by and always recommend trying. 

Unlike other odors, pet odors (especially the smell of pet urine) have a tendency to really linger. So, when it comes to removing pet-related odors from your home, it actually takes a lot more than a quick wipe-over and some vacuuming. 

Whether it’s getting rid of that doggy smell at home or removing the stench of cat urine from your carpets, we’ve got you covered. I’ve spoken to cleaning experts about all the best ways to approach removing pet odors from a small space, as well as doing some digging on all of the best pet-safe cleaning products to use.  

How cleaning experts tackle pet odor in a small space

When it comes to removing pet odors from your home, such as adding one of our best air fresheners, there are lots of different hacks that you can try. But how can you specifically tackle getting rid of pet odors in a small space? And what steps does it actually take to totally remove the smell, rather than just masking it? This is what cleaning experts have to say, so you can replicate what people with nice-smelling homes always do.

1. Ventilate the space properly

Open windows with airy curtains

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One of the best things that you can do to keep your home free from pet odors is to ventilate it properly. 

Ben Gold, Founder of Recommended Home Buyers and Home Cleaning Expert, says: “Ensure proper ventilation by opening windows and using fans to circulate fresh air. This helps disperse pet odors and promotes a healthier indoor environment.” 

If you're concerned about pets escaping out of open windows, a great hack is to install pet-safe window restrictors that allow you to open the windows for fresh air flow but block pets from being able to fall out. These self-adhesive window restrictors from Amazon, that I have at home, are a great buy. 

Ben Gold

Ben Gold is a Cleaning Expert and Founder of Recommended Home Buyers.

2. Create a regular cleaning schedule

Person wiping glass table

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Regular cleaning, using the right products and methods, is essential for keeping your home free from nasty pet odors. 

Gold says: “Establish a consistent cleaning routine to stay ahead of pet odors. Clean pet bedding, litter boxes, and other surfaces frequently using pet-friendly cleaning agents. This not only removes odors but also contributes to a hygienic living space.”

To keep litter boxes clean and smelling fresh, lining them with a litter tray liner (like these litter tray liners from Amazon) can help prevent lingering smells. For cleaning the litter box out, using a pet-safe litter box cleaner, like these litter box wipes from Amazon, is a great option. Plus, they're quicker than scrubbing the whole thing from top to bottom so you can clean the little box more often. 


3. Keep pet bedding and furniture clean

Orange cat sleeping on white chair

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Keeping pet bedding and furniture that your pets use clean is essential for ensuring that your home smells fresh and clean, despite sharing it with your pets. 

Angela Rubin, Cleaning Specialist from Hellamaid, says: "Launder pet bedding, blankets, and any fabric-covered furniture regularly. Use pet-safe detergents or enzyme-based cleaners (like this enzymatic pet laundry cleaner from Amazon) that effectively break down organic odors. Consider using washable, removable covers for furniture for easy cleaning."

Lina DeSilva, owner of Toronto Shine Cleaning, says: "Washable covers and removable liners are ideal for easy maintenance." 

For keeping pet bedding and upholstery, opt to wash items with an antibacterial laundry cleanser, like this Lysol laundry cleanser from Amazon, to remove lingering odors.

Angela Rubin, cleaning expert at HellaMaid
Angela Rubin

Angela Rubin works at Hellamaid, a top-rated cleaning company in Canada. Hellamaid are industry experts specializing in residential and commercial cleaning services. 

Lina DaSilva
Lina DaSilva

Lina DaSilva is a cleaning expert and is the Founder of Toronto Shine Cleaning. 

4. Vacuum and mop frequently

Person vacuuming bed

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Pet hair and dander can cause a scent to occur within your home so vacuuming these up, followed by mopping is crucial. Investing in one of the best vacuums for pet hair is a smart choice as they're specially designed to handle pet dander and odors.

Our top team pick for a pet hair vacuum cleaner is the Shark Stratos Cordless available on Amazon, but my go-to product for this is the Shark Life Away 2-in-1 steam mop from Amazon which I use every single day to keep my floors and furniture smelling fresh. 

Rubin says: "Vacuuming floors, carpets, and upholstery is vital in controlling pet hair and dander. Use a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filters to trap airborne particles effectively. Follow up with mopping hard floors using pet-safe floor cleaners to eliminate residual odors."

A great hack for pet-safe mopping is to use a multi-purpose steam mop that simply uses boiled water to sanitize floors and upholstery, as that way you don't have to worry about little paws stepping on potentially dangerous cleaning chemicals. 

5. Implement odor neutralizing products

Eco-friendly cleaning products in glass bottles

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When it comes to removing pet odors from your home, it's important to remember that they aren't as easy to remove as normal odors. That's where odor-neutralizing products come in extremely handy. 

Gold says: “Employ natural odor absorbers like activated charcoal (like these activated charcoal odor removers from Amazon that have over 7000 five-star reviews) or baking soda (we always like to recommend Arm & Hammer baking soda from Amazon) in key areas. Place these near pet beds, litter boxes, or other problem areas to neutralize odors effectively.”

Rubin says: "Utilize specialized pet odor neutralizers (like these pet odor absorbers from Amazon) or enzymatic sprays (like this enzymatic spray from Amazon that has over 20,000 five-star reviews) specifically formulated to combat pet odors. Apply these products to carpets, rugs, and other affected areas, allowing them to penetrate and break down odor-causing molecules."

Admittedly, there are some areas that it's harder to remove pet odors from, such as removing cat pee from carpets. But, with the right products that neutralize these odors, you can leave the space smelling fresh and clean. 

6. Utilize an air purifier

White air purifier on floor next to table

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Sharing your home with pets means being mindful of keeping the place smelling fresh and clean, which is where one of the best air purifiers can come in handy.

Rubin says: "Invest in air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters to capture pet-related allergens and odors. Open windows for ventilation whenever possible to improve air circulation and reduce stale odors in small spaces."

For removing odor particles from the air, an air purifier can be a game-changer. In a bid to get rid of the "catty" smell I noticed in my home, I started using this Levoit air purifier from Amazon on a daily basis. And, honestly, it's worked a treat. 

7. Make litter box maintenance a priority

Orange kitten in beige litter box

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If you leave your cat's litter box to smell, the odor will quickly travel through your home. This is why regular litter box maintenance is so vital for reducing pet odors in a small space. 

Rubin says: "If applicable, regularly clean and maintain the litter box. Use clumping litter (like this Arm & Hammer clumping cat litter from Amazon) that absorbs moisture and odors efficiently. Clean the litter box daily and consider placing an air purifier nearby to minimize odors."

If you don't have the time to properly clean your cat's litter box regularly, a great alternative is to opt for disposable litter boxes, like these single-use litter boxes from Amazon, that come highly rated by shoppers. 

8. Use a UV black light to locate pet stains

Purple UV light

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Admittedly, this might sound a little over the top but hear me out. As a pet mom to both a dog and a cat, I know just how smelly a dried patch of pet urine can be. 

The issue is that finding these stains isn't always simple, that's where a black light can come in handy, like this handheld black light from Amazon. Once you've found the site of any hidden pet stains, you can then use an enzymatic carpet cleaner, like this Rug Doctor cleaning formula from Amazon, to remove the odor. 

9. Use home fragrances

Reed differ on tray with greenery

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While don't want to cover the smell, adding an odor-eliminating air freshener or one of the best reed diffusers is a great way to help with any unpleasantness. Look for fresh scents like lavender or fresh linen which will help make your surroundings feel light and clean. Our team's favorite is the Nest New York Himalayan Salt & Rosewater Reed Diffuser available at Amazon. We take the best home fragrances pretty seriously around Real Homes and only recommend the best of the best.


Can you use baking soda and vinegar to get rid of pet odors?

For a natural approach to removing pet odors, cleaning with baking soda and cleaning with white vinegar can work really well. 

Rubin says: "Sprinkle baking soda on carpets and upholstery, leave it for a few hours, and then vacuum it up to absorb pet odors. Additionally, create a solution of water and vinegar (1:1 ratio) and spray it lightly on affected areas to neutralize smells."

Is it possible to neutralize really strong pet odors?

Yes, even if your space smells strongly of a pet odor, it is possible to remove it, if you use the right products, that is. 

Rubin says: "For persistent smells, place bowls of activated charcoal or coffee grounds in the room. These natural odor absorbers can help neutralize and absorb unpleasant pet odors effectively."

Knowing how to remove pet odors from a small space can be a little bit more difficult than you might think. Especially as pet-related odors can be tougher to remove than normal odors. 

DaSilva says: "Dealing with pet odors in small spaces requires a combination of regular cleaning, strategic odor management, and an understanding of pet behaviors."

It's easy to assume that an air freshener or two will combat the problem but actually, they tend to just mask the smell, rather than actually combatting it. Instead, finding cleaning products that actually remove the source of the odor is a great place to start. 

It's also important to make sure that you know what cleaning products to avoid if you have pets

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.