Carpets are notorious for hanging onto bad odors — from mold and moisture to spills, pet accidents, and normal degradation. And Febreze is one of the most respected odor-eliminating products on the market. So, can you spray Febreze on carpet for a quick odor refresh?

Here’s the TL;DR:

You can spray Febreze on carpet to temporarily remove bad odors. Its cyclodextrins can effectively trap and eliminate odor molecules, while its added fragrances leave a pleasing scent. Though Febreze can refresh a smelly carpet, odors will return until you neutralize them at the source.

However, while you can spritz some Febreze on carpeting, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Keep reading to learn how Febreze works, its pros and cons (in the context of carpet), and more reliable alternatives.

What Is Febreze?

Febreze is one of the most popular brands of odor-eliminating products. In fact, in 2020 alone, 118+ million Americans used one of their products. Assuming these are all adults, and given the U.S. had 258.3 million adults in 2020, 46% of American adults used Febreze.

Its lineup includes air fresheners (sprays, plugins, and gels) and fabric refreshers and sprays. But let’s start with the basics — what it’s made of and how it works.

How It Works

The “magic” behind Febreze’s odor-neutralizing abilities is two-fold. It uses odor-removing chemicals and pleasing fragrances.

The main ingredients in Febreze are known as cyclodextrins. Cyclodextrins are donut-shaped molecules made of sugars with a hollow core. These molecules are hydrophobic — or dislike water — on the inside and hydrophilic — the opposite — on the outside. 

Naturally, Febreze also contains a lot of water. When you spray Febreze, this water evaporates, leaving these odor-busting cyclodextrins behind. 

Now, odor molecules also tend to be hydrophobic. And hydrophobic molecules naturally gravitate toward one another. This allows the cyclodextrins to draw odor molecules into their centers and trap the odors. 

As a “freshening” product, Febreze also contains added fragrances. These include natural extracts, essential oils, or synthetic fragrances. 

Any odors that the cyclodextrins don’t remove are easily masked with these pleasing scents. Their powerful scent convinces the olfactory receptors in your nose that the bad odors are gone. 

In other words, spraying Febreze on your carpet will partially remove and mask the odor.

Best Febreze Products for Carpet

Remember: Febreze is a brand, not a specific product. It’s like how we call them “Band-Aids” rather than their actual name — adhesive bandages.)

Febreze suggests using its Fabric sprays on “hard-to-wash fabrics” and mentions carpets as a possible use. I use the Febreze Fabric Touch spray when I need a quick carpet refresh (link brings you to Amazon). It comes in a convenient pack of two 16.9-ounce bottles with two scents: Mountain and Ocean.

Febreze touch fabric spray mountain and ocean
Febreze Touch Fabric Spray: Ocean and Mountain

Bissell also has an entire lineup of carpet cleaners infused with Febreze. For example, several Little Green Machine formulas contain “Febreze freshness.” They also have a Heavy Traffic Carpet Foam packed with Febreze and Gain.

The only Febreze product I wouldn’t recommend for carpets is its air fresheners.

Benefits of Using Febreze on Your Carpet

A quick spritz of Febreze could be a great fix for carpet odors, leaving your floors both odor-free and smelling fresh. Let’s discuss some of the benefits of this strategy.

Neutralizes Bad Odors

The greatest benefit is that Febreze’s main active ingredient — cyclodextrins — can trap and neutralize odors. It’s a decent temporary fix for tackling absorbed odors, like those from pets, spills, and cigarette smoke.

Exactly how effective Febreze is at removing carpet-based odors depends on:

  • The odor’s source: Mild, surface-level smells can be neutralized long-term. But the effects will fade quickly for deeper, persistent odors (like soaked-through pet urine).
  • The carpet’s depth: High-pile, plush carpets are more stubborn and will hang onto bad smells longer. Their longer fibers trap odor-causing particles more easily, and the deep fibers provide more surface area for odors to attach to. Sprayed Febreze may not sink deep enough into the carpet.
  • The carpet’s material: Natural carpet fibers like wool are more absorbent than synthetic fibers. Though more durable and resilient, they can absorb and retain odors more readily. 
  • The carpet’s age: As carpets age, the fibers break down and become more porous. This makes them more susceptible to holding onto smells.
  • The carpet’s padding: Low-quality padding is more likely to hold onto odors.
  • Ventilation and humidity: Carpets in areas with high humidity or low ventilation will retain odors for longer, intensify them, or have a musty fragrance.
  • Amount of odor exposure: If the odor is continuous (like those from pets or smokers), the effects of Febreze will quickly be replaced. 

Provides a Pleasing Scent

Spraying Febreze on your carpet will add a fresh layer of fragrance that can make your home — at least temporarily — smell more inviting.

There are also plenty of scents available, including:

  • Sweet Peony
  • Hawaiian Aloha
  • Mountain
  • Spring & Renewal
  • Pet Odor Fighter
  • Extra Strength
  • Linen & Sky
  • Berry Hula
  • Ocean

Some Febreze Fabric sprays pack an even more powerful fragrance punch with Gain or Downy infusion. 

Easy to Use

You don’t need anything other than a bottle of Febreze Fabric. In a quick sweeping motion, slightly dampen the problem area with a light mist. Even if you don’t spray the entire carpet down, its powerful fragrance will fill the room in minutes.

Generally Safe on Most Carpets

That Febreze mentions carpet as a possible use for its Fabric and Fabric Refresher sprays is a good sign. When used correctly, it shouldn’t cause any damage. In fact, the only fabrics they suggest not using it on are those that water spot — like leather, suede, or silk — which aren’t common carpet materials.

Regardless, always test it on a hidden area first to ensure it doesn’t discolor or damage it. 

May Reduce Allergens

Febreze has also upped its game to include something called Febreze Fabric Allergen Reducer. The bottle claims it can reduce up to 95% of inanimate allergens. These typically include household allergens trapped in fabrics — like dust mites, pet dander, and pollen. 

However, remember that this product should be part of your normal cleaning routine. It can refresh the carpet’s scent and possibly remove some allergens, but it won’t replace regular vacuuming or disinfecting. 

Reasons Not to Use Febreze on Carpet

Just because you can use Febreze on your carpet doesn’t mean it’s the best solution. Let’s review some of the places it falls short.

A Temporary Solution

While Febreze’s cyclodextrins can, in fact, trap and neutralize carpet odors, they don’t always eliminate the odor at its source. Febreze works best on lighter, temporary odors that haven’t soaked deep into the carpet’s fibers. But more persistent, deep odors will need deep cleaning or professional treatment to eliminate them. 

Now, Febreze Fabric sprays can penetrate carpet fibers — to an extent — to remove set-in odors on the surface. However, spills or odors that soak through the carpet and into the padding or underlay are a different story.

There are a few reasons for this. But the common theme is that Febreze simply can’t reach deep enough into the carpet to contact and kill these odors. 

Let’s review a few of the roadblocks here.

Often made from materials like foam, carpet padding can be highly absorbent and soak up liquids and spills. Febreze won’t sink deep into the padding to remove them. 

Carpet padding and underlay also see very little air circulation. This limits how well moisture evaporates and odor molecules spread (i.e., they’re uber-concentrated). Febreze may mask the odor temporarily with a nice scent, but it won’t reverse it.

To make matters worse, spills that reach the padding can react chemically with it and create a host of new odors. So the smell isn’t on the surface for Febreze to neutralize; these odors can make the whole house smell — not just the carpet!

Some odors that seep into the padding — like pet urine — also require special enzymes to break down and neutralize. This is well beyond the scope of cyclodextrins and a surface-level Febreze application.

Could Cause Issues for Those With Sensitivities

This really depends on how often you use it and how well you douse your carpet. However, some fragrances can irritate those with chemical sensitivities, asthma, or allergies.

Not a Cleaning Agent

Unless the odor’s source is on the carpet’s surface, Febreze won’t do much other than mask it with a more powerful fragrance. Febreze is not a cleaning product and cannot clean or disinfect carpets. It won’t remove stains, bacteria, or dirt — which is especially problematic if they’re behind the bad odors. 

You can spritz Febreze Fabric on your carpet for a quick, scented refresh. But it won’t do anything to make your carpet “cleaner,” per se.

Cost Over Time

If you’re using Febreze regularly to cover up bad odors, price will eventually become a problem. You’re spending money to simply mask a smell long-term rather than the more efficient method: removing the odor entirely.

5 Febreze Alternatives to Refresh Your Carpet

Febreze will work in a pinch for a temporary carpet refresh. But to actually neutralize the carpet odor at its source, I recommend these five Febreze alternatives.

1. Baking Soda

baking soda in cup
A small cup of baking soda

Whether or not you should use baking soda on your carpet is one of the more hotly debated topics in the cleaning community. 

Some swear by its deodorizing capabilities. Others insist its fine particles sink beneath the fibers (where your vacuum can’t reach) and can potentially damage vacuums when sucked up.

Used occasionally, it shouldn’t cause any issues, but if you have any concerns, I suggest moving on to the next alternative. 

Baking soda is a natural odor absorber and is naturally alkaline. Its higher pH makes it particularly effective at neutralizing acidic odor molecules. 

Now, baking soda consists of extremely fine particles, each porous and with a large surface area. These traits make it highly adsorbent. It can attract and stick odor molecules to its outer surface — neutralizing any odor-causing acids in the carpet’s fibers.

Materials Needed: Baking soda, a vacuum cleaner

  1. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda evenly over the carpet. Focus on the area where the odors appear strongest.
  2. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes. For more stubborn odors, allow it to absorb for several hours or even overnight.
  3. Vacuum the carpet thoroughly to remove all of the baking soda.

2. Vinegar

distilled white vinegar in bottle and in cup
White distilled vinegar in a small cup

The opposite of baking soda, vinegar is naturally acidic and works best against alkaline odors. It’s especially helpful against ammonia-based odors, like those found in pet urine. 

Vinegar’s odor-neutralizing powers come from its acetic acid. When vinegar comes into contact with anything alkaline, it reacts to produce water and salt, which helps to neutralize the bad odor. 

Now, vinegar isn’t technically a disinfectant, but it does have some disinfectant properties. That means its acidic nature can kill some odor-causing bacteria and microorganisms. And as the potent smell of vinegar fades, so do the odors.

But while it can help remove bad odors (like the smell of cigarette smoke), vinegar only really works on surface and airborne odors

Materials Needed: White vinegar, an empty spray bottle, water, a clean cloth or sponge

  1. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water (1:1) in an empty spray bottle.
  2. Lightly mist the solution over the carpet. Be careful not to soak it.
  3. Let the carpet air dry completely. (The smell of vinegar will fade as it dries.)

3. Commercial Odor Neutralizers

There are also plenty of commercial products designed to eliminate carpet odors instead of masking them. 

Examples of these products include:

  • Enzymatic cleaners: Use specific enzymes that break down and digest organic matter — like pet urine, feces, or spilled food. Some products can also remove odors within the padding if allowed to soak deep enough.
  • Oxygenating cleaners: Release oxygen molecules that break down odor-causing substances. These are most effective against surface-level carpet odors but may be able to penetrate deeper.
  • Activated charcoal or baking soda-based carpet deodorizers: Adsorb a wide range of odors due to their porous nature that can trap odor molecules. However, unless they have specific active ingredients, deodorizers tend to mask odors and don’t go deeper than the fibers.
  • Bio-enzymatic foams or sprays: Formulated to target specific odors like pet urine with the help of microbes that consume odor-causing bacteria. Depending on how well the product can penetrate, they can work for deeper-set odors.
  • Carpet shampoos and cleaners: Designed to seep deep into a carpet’s fibers for deep cleaning, removing the dirt and bacteria causing the odors. These work best for surface and slightly deeper odors but may not reach deep into the padding. 

Again, exactly how effective these are depends on the product, your carpet, and the source of the smell. Not all carpet deodorizers, for example, will neutralize 

Materials Needed: A commercial odor neutralizer

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly as described.
  2. Typically, you’ll spray or sprinkle the neutralizer onto the carpet — focusing on areas where odors are strongest.
  3. You may need to let it sit for a set time before either vacuuming or blotting.

4. Steam Cleaning

steam cleaning a patch of carpet with the bissell steam shot
Steam cleaning a patch of carpet with the Bissell Steam Shot

Steam cleaning relies on hot water vapor (and sometimes chemicals) to open up and penetrate deep into a carpet’s fibers. Once there, the high heat can loosen and lift dirt, debris, and other odor-causing bacteria. You can use a steam cleaner to extract deep-seated, persistent odors. 

Materials Needed: A steam cleaner, water, a carpet-safe cleaning solution (optional)

  1. Fill the cleaner with water and a carpet-safe cleaning solution (for tough odors).
  2. Vacuum up the carpet to remove all surface-level debris first. 
  3. Slowly move the steam cleaner over the carpet and let the steam penetrate its fibers.
  4. Let the carpet dry completely. This can take several hours.

5. Enzymatic Cleaners for Pets

As I touched on in alternative #3, enzymatic cleaners — specifically those for pet odors — are remarkably effective. They work by breaking down the organic matter causing the smells, such as pet vomit, urine, and feces.

The enzymes digest the proteins and bacteria and eliminate the source of the odor rather than merely masking it. Some enzymatic carpet cleaners can also remove pet stains.

Materials Needed: An enzymatic cleaner (designed for pets), water, 

  1. Following the instructions, apply the enzymatic cleaner directly to the affected area.
  2. Some cleaners require dilution with water, while you can use others directly.
  3. Let it sit for the recommended time to break down the odors.
  4. Blot or gently scrub if needed.
  5. Let it dry completely. 

I’ve used Nature’s Miracle Advanced Cat Stain + Odor Eliminator with great success (link brings you to Amazon). It removed the embedded odor of cat urine from carpets and upholstery and left behind a refreshing scent.

Many enzymatic cleaners are for a specific type of pet (i.e., dog or cat). For maximum odor control, ensure you’re using the correct one!

Final Thoughts

So yes, you can use Febreze on your carpets to make them smell better and remove surface-level odors. However, only use Febreze Fabric sprays or carpet-cleaning products infused with Febreze. Don’t use Febreze air fresheners on your carpets.

For deeper or more complex carpet odors, Febreze won’t go beyond masking the odors temporarily.