What to do if….

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Our pets, the love and care we give them can be pushed to its limits sometimes the moment we discover that ominous little “gift” they left for us on our family room carpet. Once our disappointment wears off after finding the urine, feces or vomit they left behind, we now have the not so fun task of removing it from the carpet.

In the preceding article (part one), I explained how to deal with the most common of pet accidents, urine. But now I would like to discuss what needs to be done about the other two “gifts” our pets occasionally leave us – feces and vomit. So what can you do when they happen?

Many of the steps in treating pet feces and vomit are the same as in treating urine, but with some variation.

As with any pet deposit, the sooner you act in taking steps to remove it, the better your chances are in it not becoming a permanent stain on the carpet.

The first step in treating pet feces or vomit involves removing as much excess contamination as possible. You are going to need some disposable gloves, a spoon (use a plastic one if you have it so you can just throw it away once you are done with it), white paper towels and a small trash bag.

  • After putting on the disposable gloves take the spoon using its edge and scrape the excess starting from the outer edge towards the center, scooping it up and then placing it in the trash bag. After each scrape, it’s a good idea to wipe the spoon off with a paper towel. The reason for using the spoon edge is because it acts like a squeegee in pulling the excess contamination away from the carpet fibers. Once you have removed as much as you can, wipe the spoon off to get it ready for the next step. (If a feces deposit is relatively solid, you can just pick it up with some paper towels; throw it in the trash bag and move on to the next step.)
  • For this step, you will need an enzyme protein digester spot remover that you can get at your local pet store. Spray enough of the digester to dampen the contaminated fibers. Using the spoon edge, gently agitate the fibers to work the digester in and allow it to dwell on the carpet for 10 to 15 minutes. This dwell time will give the enzymes in the digester a chance to break down the proteins in the feces or vomit which will help dislodge and suspend the contamination off the fibers.
  • After the dwell time is up, spray more of the digester on to the carpet and use the spoon edge again to scrape slowly across the spot from the outside towards the center.  (Avoid scraping too hard so as not to damage the carpet fibers) You may notice some foam as you do this but this is okay because it’s removing some of the suspended particulates on to the spoon which is a good thing. Wipe the spoon off with a paper towel after each scrape.

Now it’s time to rinse. Get a glass of purified water. Distilled or reverse osmosis water is best, but if you do not have either one of those, tap water will do.

  • Slowly pour a little of the water on to the spot. Take some paper towels and blot the area from the outside towards the center. Blotting in this way will help contain the spot from getting bigger. If you possess a wet vacuum or some other kind of water extraction equipment, this will work even better. Use it the same way by extracting from the outside towards the center. Flush the carpet a few times this way or until you feel it has been rinsed thoroughly. Once you have blotted (or extracted) out as much of the water as you can, it’s time to go to the next step.
  • This next step may sound a little strange but it’s an important one. Take several paper towels (five or more) and layer them over the spot. Now weight it down with something a little heavy. Something that water can’t damage. You can even use a stack of books, but put a plastic trash liner on top of the towels so no moisture will soak into the books. The reason for doing this is to absorb any remaining water and residue left in the carpet. Leave the area weighted down for at least 12hrs. By then, most of the wicking will have taken place. After 12hrs, remove everything off the spill area and allow it to finish drying.

After drying, if there is a discoloration stain from the feces or vomit, you can spray a little hydrogen peroxide on the area to slowly fade the stain away. It can take up to eight hours for the peroxide to work. Peroxide should only be used on synthetic fibers (which are what most wall-to-wall carpeting is made out of), do not use it on natural fibers like wool or cotton.

By following the steps as I outlined above, you should have pretty good success in removing the feces or vomit from the carpet. If you feel the area needs more attention, avoid the temptation to use other chemicals or cleaners on the spot. Doing so could set the stain making it permanent.

Instead, contact the I.I.C.R.C. (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification) www.iicrc.org and they will direct you to a local certified carpet cleaning company in your area that can assist you further. If you are in the San Diego California area, you can contact me by email or by leaving a comment below and I will be more than happy to help you out.

Part One

We all love our pets! They are part of the family. They bring comfort and joy into our lives. Yet, there are times when that love or joy can go right out the window when we discover, much to our dismay, that ominous deposit they left us, right in the middle of our living room carpet. Whether it is urine, vomit, or feces, no pet owner ever enjoys this aspect of having a pet(s). So what can you do about it when it happens?

You see, most carpet out there is made from nylon. And the way color is added to a nylon carpet when it is manufactured is by using a heat-based acidic dye. So when an animal urinates, vomits or defecates on the carpet, the same chemistry is happening to add color to a carpet; the heat from the animal, the acid in the urine, vomit or feces, as well as the dye (or color) from it. This is why pet contamination can permanently stain even the best stain-resistant carpet.

So, let’s first deal with the pet accident that happens most often and can be the hardest of the three to remove – urine.

Pets will urinate on a carpet for several reasons: to mark their territory, anxiety, sickness or simply out of need. But whatever the reason, the quicker you take steps to remove it; the better your chances are from keeping it from becoming a permanent stain and a source for bad odor.

Urine is mainly comprised of water, proteins, hormones, inorganic salts, urea, uric acid, urochrome (a yellow natural pigment), and many other components too long to list. So because of this long list of ingredients that make up urine, trying to remove it after it dries can be quite difficult, even for professionals.

What about the smell?  How does that happen?

Urine starts out as an acid (uric acid) when it comes out of your pet. But as it sits on the carpet and begins to dry, it chemically changes to an alkaline. As soon as the urine hits the carpet, the bacteria that exists on everything, begins to feed on the protein-based urine. The bacteria then off-gas ammonia and sulfur as they feed on the urine, thus creating the bad odor we smell.

That’s enough though, about the chemistry of urine. Here’s what you can do to remove as much of it as possible yourself before having to call a professional.

On a Fresh Urine Spot:

  • Grab several paper or cloth towels, and begin blotting from outside the spot towards the center to remove as much of the urine as possible. Make sure you start from the outside because the size of the spot you see on top is actually three times bigger underneath. Pushing down on the spot from the middle can make it become bigger. (ie: What would happen to the water in a kitchen sponge if you were to push down on the middle of the sponge? It would come out the sides would it not?) So, since the pad underneath the carpet acts like a sponge, you will want to blot from the outside towards the center to confine the spots’ size.
  • Once you have removed as much as you can, next get a glass of cool purified water (distilled or reverse osmosis) if you have it. If not, tap water will do. Slowly pour some of the water on the spot and again, blot from the outside towards the center. If you happen to possess a wet vacuum or some other piece of water extracting equipment, even better. Just remember to use it the same way – extract from the outside towards the center. You may have to do this step several times depending on how much urine was initially deposited. (A Chihuahua will not have nearly as much urine as say a German Shepard would.)  But why just plain water?  Because water is technically a solvent and has a neutral pH, so it will dilute and slightly neutralize the urine.
  • Once you have blotted (or extracted) out as much of the water as you can, you will then need to get several layers of paper towels or a few cloth towels and place these over the area. Now get something heavy like a stack of books and place them on top of the towels. (You can place a plastic trash liner between the books and towels so the books aren’t affected by any moisture that is absorbed into the towels). The reason for doing this strange but important step is so that as the carpet dries, any remaining diluted urine will bypass the face yarn of the carpet and wick into the towels. Leave this on for at least 12 hours so that all the wicking can take place.
  • After 12 hours, remove the books and towels. If you feel the urine and smell are not completely gone, you can then apply a digestive enzyme product you can buy at any pet supply store. The enzymes in these products are specifically made to break down and digest protein-based deposits like urine. Just make sure you follow the directions from the manufacturer on how best to use it. Most will usually say to leave the product on the carpet for at least 24hrs to allow the enzymes to do their work. If after this step, it is still not satisfactory, call a local professional carpet cleaner and he (or she) will to come out and assess what needs to be done further to finish the task.

On an Older Urine Spot:

As I mentioned above, as urine dries it chemically changes. Once dry, it actually bonds tighter to the carpet fibers, the carpet backing, the carpet pad below and even into the substrate floor, which will either be wood or cement.

If the deposit is from a small pet and it’s not an area that’s been visited several times by your animal, you may be able to remove it with an enzyme product as I referred to above. But if it’s a larger spot where the carpet has been saturated by a large pet or repeated visits in the same area, to remove it properly requires expertise. It calls for a carpet cleaning professional who has the right equipment, chemical knowledge and field experience to handle the situation.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called to a job were the customer has used every chemical they have under the kitchen sink, every wives tale do-it-yourself home remedy or latest infomercial miracle spot remover, only to be disappointed with the results and then ask me if I can get it out. The problem is though, that by this time, my hands are tied. By playing chemist, they have made it virtually impossible to remove the stain and may have done irreversible damage to the carpet.

Sometimes just finding where the pet urinated can be a challenge. You can walk into a room and smell that your pet has been in there, but you just don’t know where the smell is coming from. You could crawl around on your hands and knees sniffing with your nose, but who wants to do that! Here again is where a professional comes into focus. They will have the right tools to help locate where the areas are, how extensive they are   and what needs to be done to treat them.

So basically what I am saying to you is – call your local IICRC certified carpet cleaning company first before heading down that road of trying to find and treat an old urine deposit yourself. See what they can do to help you out. If you are in the San Diego, CA area, please call me and I would be more than happy to take care of it for you.

In the following article, Part 2 will discuss what you can do regarding the other two pet accidents, vomit and feces.

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. We reach for that full glass of soda, milk, wine, coffee or juice, and oops! we knock it over, right onto our carpet.

Many people’s first reaction, after the panic sets in, is to grab a bunch towels, start rubbing the spill or standing on the towels to blot up as much of the spill as possible. After that, they begin spraying any cleaner that is handy to try and clean out the spill. When one cleaner doesn’t work, they move on to the next one, not realizing though, they could be doing more harm than good, and possibly turning the spill into a permanent stain! Nobody wants that!

So what is the best way to handle a fresh spill?

Well, the first reaction, as mentioned above, was right! You need to remove as much of the spill from the carpet as you possibly can. But removing it properly is the key first step.

Get a few terry cloth towels or a handful of paper towels (white ones with no print) and start blotting, not rubbing the spill. Using both hands, blot from the outside of the spill towards the center (like you are kneading dough). Why do it this way? Because if you push down or stand on it with the towels, you are only going to make the spot bigger!

You see, when a full glass of anything spills on the carpet, a lot of the liquid has bypassed the face yarn and has now gone into the carpet pad, which acts like a big sponge.

The size of spill you see on top is actually twice as big underneath. So blotting from the outside towards the center is the best way to contain the spill and keeping it from getting any bigger.

(What works even better yet, if you possess a shop vac or some other piece of equipment that can extract water-based liquids, use it in the same manner by vacuuming from the outside towards the center)

Once you have removed as much of the spill as you can, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Now, get yourself a glass of water. Preferably, purified water – reverse osmosis or distilled is best. If that is not available, then tap water will do. Next, pour a small amount of water where the spill was and then blot again. [Remember, outside towards the center.] Do this a few times or until you feel you have rinsed a good portion of the spill out of the carpet. You may need to use several towels to accomplish this.

But you may ask, “Why just plain water?” The reason is – water is technically a solvent. A “solvent”, as defined in the dictionary, is “A substance, usually a liquid, that is capable of dissolving another substance.” And that’s exactly what water does! Water is also neutral on the pH scale so it can slightly neutralize and dilute whatever water-based spill fell on the carpet, lessening the chance of it becoming a permanent stain.

After blotting as much water out of carpet as possible, you might think you are done. Not true! The next step may sound a little strange, but it’s an important one!

What you need to do now, is get yourself a couple more dry terry cloth towels OR layers of paper towels, and lay them over the spill area. Now weight it down with something a little heavy. Something that water can’t damage. You can even use a stack of books, but put a plastic trash liner on top of the towels so no moisture will soak into the books.

The reason for doing this is to absorb any remaining water and spill residue left in the carpet and pad. You see, as carpet dries, it dries from the bottom up, not from the top down. So anything that is left underneath in the pad, will want to wick to the surface. Since moisture always seeks its driest point, the remaining water that is left, will now bypass the face yarn on the carpet surface and go straight into the weighted down towels.

Leave the area weighted down for at least 12hrs. By then, most of the wicking will have taken place. After 12hrs, remove everything off the spill area and allow it to finish drying.

After drying, if there is still a spot or discoloration where the spill was, call a certified I.I.C.R.C carpet cleaning professional like myself to remove what’s left. If you are in the San Diego area, you can call me. If you are not, look up the I.I.C.R.C online and you will find one in your area.

We will have the proper chemicals, techniques and expertise that can finish removing the stain. If you use any chemicals on the remaining stain, you could set the stain. This will also make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the trained professional to remove it.

While many stains can be removed, sometimes due to what the carpet is made out of and what was spilled on the carpet, after attempting to remove the left over stain, the technician may have no other choice but to do a patch with a spare piece of carpet. But, if you follow the steps as I outlined for you above, the chances of that happening can be reduced.