8 Ways to Get Rid of Awful Pet Smells That Turn Off Buyers

You probably only think you’ve eliminated pet odors. Here’s how to make sure.

Dog sitting on colorful striped rug
Image: Ellen Mertens

Having pet odors inside your home can turn off potential home buyers and keep your home from selling. Instead of trusting your own nose or diplomatic friends, ask your real estate agent for an honest opinion about whether your home has a pet smell.

If your agent holds his or her nose, here’s how to get rid of the smell.

#1 Air Out Your House

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

Once your house is free of pet odors, do what you can to keep the smells from returning. When you're out, crate your dog or keep them outdoors. Limit the cat to one floor or room if possible. And don't forget pet bedding. Remove or replace it.

#2 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 to $25. 


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

#3 Wash Your Drapes and Upholstery

Pet odors seep into fabrics, so you'll need to launder, steam clean, or dry clean all your fabric window coverings. Steam clean upholstered furniture. 

You can 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.

#4 Clean Your Carpets

Shampoo your carpets and rugs, or have professionals do the job for $25 to $50 per room, depending on the room size and level of embedded dirt. If the cleaner tries to sell you deodorizing treatments, have a friend perform a sniff test after the carpet dries. That way you'll know if you need to spend the extra money.

If deodorizing doesn't remove the pet odor, the carpets and padding will have to go. Once you tear them out, scrub the subfloor with vinegar or an odor-removing product, and install new padding and carpeting. That is, unless the smell is in the subfloor, in which case that goes next.

#5 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 to $100. That may smother and seal in the odor, keeping it from reemerging.

#6 Place Reed Diffuser Sticks or Scented Candles in Strategic Areas

Put a bow on your deep clean with reed diffuser sticks or scented candles. Just remember to avoid going overboard. You don't want to turn off buyers sensitive to perfumes. Simply place reed diffusers in your foyer to create a warm first impression and add other subtle scents in the kitchen and bathrooms.

#7 Control 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 up around the litter box. Hide the litter box before each showing.

#8 (Temporarily) Relocate Pets

If your dog or cat has a best friend they can stay with while you're selling your home (and you can stand to be separated), consider sending your pet on a temporary vacation. If pets stay, remove them from the house for showings and stash their dishes, towels, and toys so they're out of sight.

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G. M. Filisko

G. M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer. A frequent contributor to publications including Bankrate, REALTOR Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, personal finance, and legal topics.