Home Sweet (Smelling) Home: How to Get Rid of Pet Odors Without Getting Rid of Your Pet

Having pet odors inside your home can turn off potential home buyers and keep your home from selling. Ask your real estate agent for an honest opinion about whether your home has a pet smell—you may not smell it if you are living with it day to day. If your agent holds their nose, here’s how to get rid of the smell.

Air Your House Out

While you’re cleaning, throw open all the windows in your home to allow fresh air to circulate and sweep out unpleasant scents.

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Scrub Thoroughly

Scrub bare floors and walls soiled by pets with vinegar, wood floor cleaner, or an odor-neutralizing product, which you can purchase at a pet supply store for $10-$25.

Try a 1:9 bleach-to-water solution on surfaces it won’t damage—like cement floors or walls.

Got stubborn pet odors covering a large area? You may have to spend several hundred dollars to hire a service that specializes in hard-to-clean stains.

Wash Your Drapes and Upholstery

Pet odors seep into fabrics. Launder, steam clean, or dry clean all your fabric window coverings. Steam clean upholstered furniture.

Either buy a steam cleaner designed to remove pet hair for around $200 and do the job yourself, or pay a pro. You’ll spend about $40 for an upholstered chair, $100 for a sofa, and $7 for each dining room chair if a pro does your cleaning.

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Clean Your Carpets

Shampoo your carpets and rugs, or have professionals do the job for $25-$50 per room (try a Groupon to lessen the expense), depending on their size and the level of filth embedded in them. The cleaner will try to sell you deodorizing treatments. You’ll know if you need to spend the extra money on those after the carpet dries and you have a friend perform a sniff test.


If deodorizing doesn’t remove the pet odor from your home, the carpets and padding will have to go. Once you tear them out, scrub the subfloor with vinegar or and odor-removing product, and install new padding and carpeting. In the case of pet smells as opposed to surface stains, you must replace the pad as well as the carpet. Only replacing the carpet is merely putting a band-aid over the problem. If the smell is in the subfloor, that will also need to be replaced and is a much bigger project. This is often the case with cats.

Paint, Replace, or Seal Walls

When heavy-duty cleaners haven’t eradicated smells in drywall, plaster, or woodwork, add a fresh coat of paint or stain, or replace the drywall or wood altogether.

On brick and cement, apply a sealant appropriate for the surface for $25-$100. That may smother and seal in the odor, keeping it from reemerging. Kilz blocks most stains including water, smoke, tannin, ink, pencil, felt maker, and grease, and seals pet and smoke odors. Use on interior surfaces including wood, drywall, plaster, paneling, wallpaper, masonry, brick, painted metal, and properly prepared glossy surfaces.

Control Ongoing Urine Smells

If your dog uses indoor pee pads, put down a new pad each time the dog goes. Throw them away outside in a trash can with a tight lid. Remove even clean pads from view before each showing.

Replace kitty litter daily, rather than scooping used litter clumps, and sweep in around the litter box. Hide the litter box before each showing.

Place Potpourri or Scented Candles in Strategic Locations

Put a box on your deep clean with potpourri and scented candles. Don’t go overboard and turn off buyers who are sensitive to perfumes. Simply place a bowl of mild potpourri in your foyer to create a warm first impression, and add other mild scents to the kitchen and bathrooms.

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Relocate Pets

If your dog or cat has a best friend it can stay with while you’re selling your home (and you can stand to be separated from your pet), consider sending your pet on a temporary vacation. If pets have to stay, remove them from the house for showings and put away their dishes, towels, and toys. This will accomplish two goals.

1.) Some buyers may be viewing homes with children who are frightened of pets.

2.) if your pet has a distinct smell attached to them(we can’t bathe our furry friends every week)then by removing the pet you are also removing some of the smell.

The goal is to keep potential buyers in your home for as long as possible so that they can begin to envision themselves living in the space; imaging where their furniture will fit, dreaming of cooking in the kitchen, planning that Super Bowl party in the open living roommate. If the home emits a foul pet odor they will be far less likely to spend time in the home dreaming, and thus less likely to purchase.

Once your house is free of pet odors, do what you can to keep the smells from returning. Crate your dog when you’re out or keep them outdoors. Limit the cat to one floor or room, if possible. Remove or replace pet bedding.

Yes, pet odors can derail your home sale, but with a real honest look(smell) and a bit of advanced preparation, you can solve the problem before it becomes insurmountable and thwarts the sale.