March 17, 2015

When dealing with pet stains on your carpet there are three main concerns. In this report, you will discover the best remedies for each of these concerns. Those areas of concern are:

  1. The Odor
  2. The Spot or Stain that remains
  3. The Cleanliness of the area damaged

Before we can deal with how to fix these issues that are going to come up in every pet owner’s home, we need to understand what urine is and its chemical make up. Urine, when it leaves the body, is an acid with a pH that is typically between 5 and 6. Though urine is sterile with no harmful bacteria or microorganism when it is in the body (unless there is a urinary or bladder infection), it quickly becomes a breeding ground for these harmful ingredients upon contact with the air and carpets in your home. It is very important to clean up as much of the urine that is expelled as quickly as possible. (I will lay out best course of action later on in this article that will be a step by step guide on what to do when your pet has an accident.)

The exact makeup of urine is different for each pet based on the pet’s species, age, health, diet, and other factors, but the basic make up is the same in each. Urine’s principle ingredient is uric acid, followed by yellow pigment, cholesterol, urea, among other things that will differ from pet to pet. The longer urine sits it begins to be break down into ammonia and carbon dioxide. The ammonia due to its high alkaline pH (usually 11+) is what can damage the dyes in your carpet which could result in permanent color damage that will not be able to be corrected through cleaning. That is why it is important to attack the spot as soon as possible.

If left untreated the acid from the urine reacts with the ammonia that is being created and will form alkaline salt crystals. These crystals are the source of much of the odor that is present in your carpet. The crystals when totally dry do not have a very strong odor, but they absorb moisture from the air which keeps them chemically active. This condition is why you likely smell the presence of urine much more when humidity is high or if there is moisture exposed to areas where your pet has urinated in the past.

Any area where untreated urine is present becomes a great place for bacteria and microorganisms that may be present in your home to breed and grow and cause an unhealthy living environment. Even if the potentially harmful bacteria are killed the ammonia and the other chemicals present often still produce an odor. Due to these conditions sometimes it is necessary to do further treatments to neutralize odors along with sanitizing the area.

One question that I have received is how long does it take for the urine to soak through the carpet, into the pad, and ultimately into the subfloor beneath. Unfortunately, there is not a standard answer for this. It truly depends on the amount of urine, the thickness of the carpet, what the carpet is made of, and the type of pad. With that said, it doesn’t take long though. That is why it is important to stay vigilant and get on the issue as quickly as possible!

  1. The ODOR

As we discussed briefly above, the odor of urine is created from the ammonia gas that is created from the alkaline salt crystals. To remove these odors, you must find ALL of the damaged areas first. To find all of the areas there are many techniques used. They are:

  • Eyes – This is the easiest way to see a pet stain. The yellow pigment present in urine is the tell tale sign of pet urine. However, it will not guarantee finding all of the areas.
  • Nose – Now that we have seen some areas, it is time to smell. The ammonia gas and other off gases produced from contaminants attracted to urine is the second best way to find areas damaged by pet urine. In many cases this will allow you to find all the pet stains present, but not always. According to a recent study, men can identify 3, 000- 5, 000 distinct odors. That is a lot of odors! However, women can identify nearly 10, 000 distinct odors. Many times that means that the homeowner can identify areas where I do not detect an odor. If this is the case, I move to the next indicator.
  • Moisture detectors – As we discovered above, urine changes into alkaline salt crystals. These crystals are hygroscopic, meaning that they draw moisture from the air and remain chemically active. The fact that they draw moisture from the air assures that areas where a pet has urinated will have a higher moisture level than other areas around them. You may be able to feel the increased moisture with your hand or it may require a commercial moisture meter, depending on the level of urine present.
  • Ultraviolet lights – If you are having a really hard time finding all of the areas where a pet has ‘done his/her business’, ultraviolet lights are another way to find them. Urine will glow under ultraviolet lights. Although urine is not the only thing that will glow under uv lights, they are easy to spot based on their distinct colors and shape of the spot.

Once the areas of the smell have been identified, it is time to start the odor removal process.

One of the components present in urine is cholesterol (lipids), which is animal fat. If there is a large presence of lipids present the spot will feel sticky and oily. The oily condition left by an excess of lipids will prevent water and some cleaning agents from penetrating the area and stop it from getting clean. Therefore, in some cases, it is necessary to use a specialty spotter that will break the lipids up before moving forward with the normal cleaning process. Once the lipids have been broken up, normal cleaning procedures can proceed. (See the step by step process later in this report!)

If the odor is still present after the normal cleaning process it is time to use a topical deodorizer to eliminate the urine smell. I have found that this will eliminate almost all normal pet smells.

A topical deodorizer is a product such as lysol, febreeze, or other odor eliminating spray.       These products are effective as long as the source of the smell has been neutralized.

There are some cases where a topical deodorizer will not be effective. The cases where we must get more involved are rare and are usually due to multiple pets, prolonged illness to a pet that results in lots of accidents, or neglect. If the smell has persisted to this point, it has often times migrated to the subfloor or into the walls. If the smell has migrated to the subfloor, the flooring that is installed will need to removed, the subfloor disinfected, and then sealed. We also have found that a use of an air scrubber is needed at this point. An air scrubber actually pulls the odor molecule into the machine and destroys them. This is not usually necessary, but is an option if necessary.

  1. The spot or stain that remains

As we previously discussed, unfortunately, urine can cause a chemical change in carpet which will result in permanent fiber damage to your carpet. If this occurs, there are no cleaning options that will repair your carpet. There are other repair options that you can explore. If you have any left over carpet from the installation, you can have a flooring installer patch the carpet. Depending on the location of the spot, it may be perfectly acceptable. However, like any textile, seams are usually visible (especially if you have carpet that is brand new seaming to carpet that has been walked on). If you do not want to seam the carpet there are companies that have the ability to dye carpet on site.

Before you get to the point of having to replace carpet though, there are several options for your carpet cleaning professional to try. In a lot of cases, normal carpet cleaning agents will remove unwanted spots.

If the spot is removed, but returns in a few days it may be necessary to pull the carpet back and clean the backing of the carpet and/or the padding that is under the carpet.

If the normal cleaning agents are not powerful enough there are several specialty spotters that can be attempted (Enzyme based, bio-modifiers, hydrocide, oxidation). These options can be tried based on the amount of time and cost you would like to invest.

  1. The cleanliness of the area damaged.

One of the biggest concerns about pet spots is the cleanliness of the area where your pet has decided to expel their waste. As we mentioned in a previous section, these areas are breeding grounds for many unwanted organisms to grow. All of the cleaning options mentioned above are used in order to make sure that the environment is left in a healthy state, so that it is not harmful to breathe the air or even sit on the carpet. Hot water is also an important part of the sterilization process. In all cleaning processes it is best to use the CHAT cleaning method.

Cleaning Agent. Use the best cleaning agents for each soiled area.
Heat. Make sure the water reaches at least 212 degrees.
Agitation. Work the cleaning agent into the area to make sure the cleaning agent gets maximum coverage.
Time. Allow the proper dwell time to ensure the cleaning agent reaches its maximum effectiveness.

The last step you want to take anytime you put a cleaning agent on any surface is to rinse the area with hot water to ensure all cleaning agents have been properly removed.

If there is ever any blood in your pet’s urine or feces, be sure to give the pet care professionals of Pet Care Animal Hospital a call immediately to schedule an appointment.

What can a homeowner do when their pet ‘goes’ on the carpet?

  1. Use a white absorbent towel or wet vacuum (Shop vac, pet stain remover, or any other vacuum that allows for liquid clean up) to soak up as much of the urine in the carpet as possible.  When using a towel apply constant steady pressure to absorb the liquid blotting it onto the carpet. Do not use a wiping motion or you will just make the spot bigger.
  2. Use an over the counter hydrogen peroxide applied directly to the area in question.  Allow to dwell         for about 5 minutes.  Remove the hydrogen peroxide with a wet vacuum or a new towel as described above.
*NOTE* Before using any chemicals on your carpet it is best to test it in an closet or another area where it is not visible to make sure the product will not bleach or change the color of your carpet. 
  1. Rinse with hot water, and remove using a wet vacuum or new towel.
  2. Apply white vinegar directly to the area in question.  Allow to dwell for about 5 minutes.  Remove the white vinegar with a wet vacuum or new towel.
  1. Rinse with hot water, and remove using a wet vacuum or new towel.
  2. If the troubled area persists or you do not have the time to work with the effective area, feel free to give us a call.
The same process will work with the removal of feces spots as well, just be sure to remove as much of the solid waste as possible before introducing any water or cleaning agents.


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