Even the best-behaved dog or cat can have the occasional accident or become genuinely ill, and sometimes alas this can happen on an expensive carpet in an area of the house that you prefer not to have smell like a pet bathroom for the rest of its working lifespan. When that happens, it may be time to call in the professional house cleaners to remove all traces of the offending substance from every layer of the carpet. But you don't want to have to keep smelling that odor any longer than necessary, so here are three ways to help neutralize or contain it while waiting for the pros.
1. Baking soda
Baking soda is a strong odor neutralizer. And while you probably don't want to leave a pile of baking soda on the carpet forever to keep the smell as buried as possible, it is known to have a positive effect on odor reduction. You can sprinkle baking soda liberally over the spot and allow it to work its way down between the fibers. Be sure to sprinkle enough on that some will be covering the spot on the surface of the carpet--you want to use a generous helping of baking soda, which means probably several tablespoons for even a small spot.
2. Enzyme cleaners
You can often buy enzyme-based cleaners at the pet store or in the pet section of your local supermarket (or online, of course). These can actually attack the components of the offending substance rather than just neutralizing or covering up the odor. Before using any such cleaner on your carpet, you should carefully test a little on a small, out-of-the-way area of the carpet (such as a corner that's always covered by furniture or inside a closet) and then allow it to dry so you can check and make sure it doesn't affect the carpet's colorfastness.
Vinegar is a mild bleaching agent (although it doesn't actually contain bleach), so it can be good at getting spots out as well as helping with smells. Of course, you should test it as described above before using it on your carpet. You can either use straight white vinegar or combine it with an equal amount of water and then spray it liberally on the carpet. If you use a lot of different cleaners on the carpet while trying to get the spot and the smell out, be sure to let the professionals know about it.
Remember, some chemicals can interact badly with others, and sometimes it's very important to avoid mixing two types of cleaner (such as the well-known example of bleach and ammonia, which we hope you weren't using on your carpet anyway, even separately; bleach in particular can strip practically all the color out of something). And you should always test any cleaner before using it on a large or prominent area of your carpet.