My dog spends half his time on the couch. Rolling, licking himself, and grinding his fur into the couch cushions. Knowing how to get dog smell out of couch upholstery might be one of the most underestimated pet ownership skills. Depending on where you live, there’s anything from a 35% chance to a whopping 78% chance that you let your dog on the furniture. And most people who share the sofa with their dog say it increases their bond. Dog smell is a fragrance to be reckoned with though. Couch cushions can turn into big sponges for eau de dog, and change the smell of the whole room. So here’s how to eliminate dog smells from your upholstery and keep your lounge fresh!
Canine couch potatoes and smelly sofas
Several years ago I read something on a pet forum which stuck with me. A poster thinking about getting a dog was worried that her couch would end up smelling like dog. Someone replied that you tend to stop noticing the smell of your own dog, and that is both a good thing and a bad thing. My own dog enjoys almost unfettered access to all our furniture – including sleeping in the beds, when they’re vacant. And since reading that post, I’ve spent a lot of time preoccupied with whether the sofas smell like Max now. And if they’re making the rest of the room smell like him too.
Protecting your sofa from dog odor
I won’t beat around the bush – some of the most effective ways of keeping dog odor from getting deeply embedded in your sofa happen before your pup even touches it. These include
- Keeping your dog clean
- Using throw blankets and slip covers
Fragrant dog = fragrant sofa
All dogs carry a bit of doggy odor, and trying to eliminate it entirely is generally not a wise idea. Dogs’ smell comes from the natural oils secreted by their skin. And also from normal populations of bacteria and yeast living in their ears and on their paws. Your dog’s own personal aroma might be supplemented by fragrances from his environment too. Like the laundry softener you use on his blankets, or the grass in your yard.
Some dog’s coats have almost magical self cleaning properties (except it’s not magic – it’s those oils in their skin!). But others trap musty smell over time, which can rub off on your furniture. To keep your dog’s coat smelling sweet:
- Brush it every two or three days. This lifts out dust and dirt and helps distributes those natural oils. It also dislodges lose old hairs, so that they’re less likely to get left behind on your furniture. Along with any smells that cling to them.
- Rinse and dry your dog thoroughly whenever they get dirty, or go swimming.
- Wash them with a dog-friendly shampoo every 4 – 6 weeks or so. Over washing them or using human shampoo can upset the delicate chemistry of their skin and cause problems, so don’t be tempted to overdo it
Use throw blankets and slip covers
This is probably hands down the most effective way of protecting your sofa from absorbing dog smell. Cover it with a big throw, blanket, or stretchy slip cover which is completely washable. Set a reminder on your phone to wash it every month or so, and the sofa underneath will remain as fresh as a daisy.
Despite how undeniably obvious and effective this is though, I’ll happily put my hands up and admit that it’s one of my least favorite solutions. This is because firstly I saved hard to buy sofas I like, so I don’t want to never see them properly again. And secondly throws and blankets constantly look like they need adjusting and straightening back out. I’m not the kind of person who can ignore that.
How to get dog smell out of couch cushions
So you’ve done everything you can do (or in my case, are willing to do) to stop dog smells permeating your couch in the first place. But they’re getting in anyway. Possibly because like me, you didn’t actually do that much to stop it. Let’s get them back out again!
1. Open the windows.
Throwing open the windows and allowing fresh air into the room is one of the easiest ways to freshen up a sofa that smells a bit like dog. Pop on a sweater and open the windows on a breezy day if you can. The movement in the air will lift the dog odor particles out of the fibers, and carry them away somewhere they can’t bother you.
Just like us, our dogs are constantly shedding hair and old, dead skin cells. Use your vacuum cleaner to remove this doggy detritus from your couch and it will keep on top of their odor too. Remember to lift off all the seat and back cushions and vacuum them on both sides, as well as underneath them.
3. Run what you can through the laundry
Check which of your throws, blankets, seat protectors, and scatter cushion cases can be put in the laundry, and give them all a good wash. I add a capful of laundry fragrance booster to the washing machine (the only time I use it) and dry them outside whenever I can. My favorite is the Downy ‘fresh’ scented Unstoppables. (paid link)
4. Do the covers come off?
Have a look at whether the covers come off your sofa. Some are designed to be easily removed. Others can’t be removed at all. And still more are advertised as removable, but you have to partly dismantle the couch first. So it depends how far you’re willing to go to achieve this, but the next step up from washing blankets and scatter cushion cases is to remove and wash the sofa covers entirely.
5. Baking soda
Baking soda is an extremely effective natural odor absorber. It reacts with all kinds of odorous particles and forms new, odorless compounds. You can use baking sofa to remove dog smell from your couch by adding it to a laundry cycle, or scattering it directly onto non-removable covers and vacuuming it back off later. You’ll need a big bag like this one from Arm and Hammer, (paid link) not a little tub from the home baking aisle at the grocery store.
A sugar shaker (paid link). is a really effective way for distributing it over your sofa cushions.
The aim is to cover the couch cushions with an even layer that is just thick enough to be mostly opaque. For the best results, do it before you go to bed, and vacuum it back off in the morning. Baking soda is great because it’s not just masking the smell of dog behind a perfume, it’s completely neutralizing it. However, it isn’t perfect. If your couch smells like dogs due to months or years of dust and oil from their coat, those will still be in there.
6. Deodorizing sprays
Deodorizing sprays for upholstery like Tide (paid link) or Lysol are a quick fix for smelly sofas. Some formulations neutralize or breakdown odorous compounds, but others just cover them with perfume. They’re useful to have on hand for sudden unexpected landlord visits, and the like.
7. Hire or buy an upholstery cleaner
Upholstery cleaners force steam or hot water mixed with cleansing agents into your couch cushions, and suck it straight back out again using a vacuum. They’re the ultimate in getting dog smells out of couch cushions because they physically remove dirt, and eliminate smells. They’re the only solution which effectively neutralize allergens too. You can hire upholstery cleaners from hardware stores, home improvement centers, and equipment rental shops. If you have the budget, the space to store it between uses, and you think you’ll get enough use out of it, there are plenty of carpet and upholstery cleaners available to buy as well. This example from Hoover (paid link) is a popular choice.
8. Get someone else to do it for you
Professional upholstery cleaners use equipment and chemicals that are more efficient and more powerful than most people can afford to buy for occasional use. Your couch won’t just be rid of doggy aromas – it’ll be left smelling brand new! But, this is the most expensive solution on this list, and a luxury purchase for lots of us.
Some important notes
Now you’re nearly ready to embark on a new era of dog smell free couch ownership, but first read these important notes:
Do a test patch
For example, before using a rug and upholstery cleaner all over your couch, check that it doesn’t damage the fabric or lift the dye by testing it on a small discreet area first.
Keep your dog safe
If you’re going to try baking soda, make sure your dog can’t get to it while it works its magic. If your dog has allergies, use things like a laundry scent booster or deodorizing spray on a single scatter cushion case before using it on all of them. Then wait a few days to make sure your pup doesn’t have a reaction to it.
Don’t copy everything you see on the internet!
A popular odor-busting cleaning hack on social media at the moment is to soak a microfiber cloth in a dilute solution of laundry detergent or dish soap, then wrap it around a pan lid and wipe it over the couch. This will mask dog smells in the same way as a deodorizing spray. But it can leave residues that perish fabrics or trap dust and fine particles of dirt, causing the couch to look dirty again more quickly than before.
How to get dog smell out of the couch – summary
Just like with every other cleaning task in your house, dog odor in the sofa is best tackled with a combination of frequent maintenance activities and occasional deep cleaning activities. Such as opening the windows as often as possible and vacuuming regularly, and removing and washing covers twice a year. All this can be made easier by protecting your couch with throws, blankets, slip covers and seat protectors. For a big reset on deeply embedded odor, consider renting or borrowing a rug and upholstery cleaner, or paying a professional to do it for you.
I’ll leave you with one last photo of my own couch potato:
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The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website