A parent and child's bare feet on a gray carpet

Why Does My Carpet Smell Like Feet?

Having a stinky carpet is a common problem, but when it’s your floor that smells, you may feel like the only one dealing with unpleasant odors in your bedroom, living room or another area of your home. The truth is that many people find that their carpet smells like feet from time to time. There are many reasons why this problem can occur, and knowing what the underlying cause is can help you take the right approach to addressing smelly carpeting. In this post, we’ll explore reasons why carpet odors occur and share tips on how to clean stinky carpets to make your home smell fresher. 

Causes of Carpet Odor Smelling Like Feet

If your carpet smells like stinky feet, a number of things may be at play. Some of the most common causes of this type of odor include the following: 


Often, carpet smells stem from moisture. Humidity can cause chemicals in synthetic carpeting to escape into the air, leading to unpleasant smells. In addition, humid conditions can cause smells from other sources to be more intense and noticeable. Repeated exposure to moisture can allow mold and mildew to grow on carpeting. These fungi give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be detected as foul odors when released into the air. 

Spills and Stains

In some cases, spills and stains are the reason why a carpet smells. Food residues left behind on carpeting may break down over time, releasing stinky VOCs. The substance that you spilled may also give off an odor on its own. For example, spilling vinegar on a carpet could cause a strong, overwhelming scent that you can detect all the time or when it’s humid. 

Lack of Ventilation

In spaces without much airflow, stinky carpet is more likely to occur. Without adequate ventilation, dust, pet dander and other fine particulates can collect on rugs and carpeting. Over time, these impurities may decompose like debris left over from spills, leading to odors. 

Dirt and Debris

Sometimes, your feet or shoes may be the source of carpet odors. Tracking dirt and debris onto soft floor coverings can introduce contaminants that emit VOCs over time. Sweat and bacteria from skin could also contribute to carpet odors. 

Pet Urine and Feces

Pet accidents can lead to lingering odors even if you do your best to clean up the mess. Cat and dog urine and feces have very pungent smells that can penetrate carpet fibers and be easily detected when you’re in the area.

How to Clean Stinky Carpet and Prevent Odors

Cleaning stinky carpeting and preventing odors go hand in hand. To get and keep your carpet smelling great, follow these tips. 

Deal With Stains Promptly

Respond to stains as quickly as possible, applying a spot cleaner that is safe for your carpet’s fibers. Follow the directions for use on the packaging closely to ensure that you get the most benefits. 

Clean Regularly

Vacuuming on a regular basis can go a long way toward controlling carpet odors. A model with a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA filter) can remove up to 99.97% of airborne particles to deeply clean. Keeping your hard flooring in other rooms mopped and vacuumed may also help, as impurities from one area can easily get tracked into another. 

Protect Your Flooring

If you have a puppy, a senior pet or a dog or cat with a health issue, try using protective products for your carpeting. Place puppy pads on the floor when you won’t be at home, or consider blocking off the room where the carpeting is with a baby gate or by closing doors. You might also want to put inexpensive machine-washable throw rugs down in areas where your pet likes to nap or play. 

Hire the Pros

Professional carpet cleaning services can eliminate stubborn odors and refresh your floors. Consider hiring professionals to come and clean your carpets or renting a carpet cleaner and doing the job yourself. Once you’ve addressed smells with an initial cleaning, have the pros return once every 12 to 18 months to maintain the results. 

Use Fresh Wave's Odor Eliminators

Nontoxic odor eliminators can address carpet smells and improve the smell of the air in the rest of the room. Add Fresh Wave Odor-Removing Vacuum Beads to the canister or bag of your vacuum, and benefit from odor-absorbing plant-based ingredients that neutralize bad smells as you clean. Place Fresh Wave Odor-Eliminating Gels in rooms where the carpet smells to control odors. You can also spritz your rugs with Fresh Wave Odor-Eliminating Spray to freshen them up. 

Get On Your Way to Better Smelling Carpets

A regular cleaning and maintenance schedule and odor-eliminating products can help address carpet smells and keep them at bay in the future. Consider setting up an appointment with a carpet cleaning service now, and shop all of our Fresh Wave products to find the right odor-neutralizing solutions for your home.