September 2010

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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.

I wanted to write an article that will help you the consumer, clear up some of the confusion in selecting a company for the cleaning of your carpet. Why? Because as you have seen on the internet and in the phone book, there’s quite a few businesses in the carpet cleaning field!

So what I would like to do right now is to answer some of the more commonly asked questions to assist you in making your decision on which company to choose.

First question:  Will the company you choose, be using the best cleaning method for the cleaning of your carpet?

Choice of the proper cleaning process is important. Some methods can leave behind chemical residues, which would promote rapid resoiling, and this of course, would defeat the whole purpose for cleaning. So which method is best?

Is it absorbent powders, like Host or Capture? Is it the bonnet method, often referred to as dry-cleaning? Is it the dry foam method? The shampoo method?  Or, is it the hot water extraction process?

Well, Shaw Industries, the largest carpet manufacturer in the world, asked themselves that very same question!  So instead of just taking anyone’s word for it, they decided to do their own research on the matter. The results of their findings were to go into their Carpet Care brochure.

Here’s what they did:  Since there are basically five different cleaning methods being used today by carpet cleaning companies, Shaw Industries took five identical pieces of carpet and soiled them all the same. (They measured the same amount of “laboratory soil” that would go into the carpet so they would know how much soil would have come out of the carpet after each piece was cleaned)  They then asked five cleaning professionals, each one professed in one of the methods, to clean the carpet piece given to them. What was the result?

Well, I’ll quote this straight from their Carpet Care brochure – It says: “Shaw Industries recommends the hot water extraction system, which research indicates, provides the best capability for cleaning.”

Why do they recommend this process? Because the hot water extraction method (often referred to as “steam cleaning”, although no steam is actually generated) is a restorative deep cleaning process that removes the soil, spots, indoor pollutants, allergens, dust and other particulates from your carpet!

And if you stop and think about it for a moment, how do you wash your hair or your clothes? You see, all fiber, whether it grows out of your head, whether you wear it or walk on it, all needs to be cleaned the same way. So it’s no wonder that this is the best method for the cleaning of your carpet!

Are their other benefits that come from using the hot water extraction cleaning process? Yes! Shaw Industries says that with periodic cleanings every 12 to 18 months,  your carpet will look better, smell better, last longer, and most importantly, provide a healthier home environment for you and your family!

That’s why my company uses a state-of-the-art truck mounted hot water extraction system and equipment, coupled with our residue-free hypoallergenic cleaning solutions, as our primary way of cleaning carpet!

Second question: How can you know that the company you select, be the best qualified to take care of your carpet cleaning needs?

First, make sure they are licensed and insured! (You would be surprised how many are not) Then, make sure they are certified by the I.I.C.R.C. (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification). The IICRC is an international independent certification organization founded in 1972, to set standards for the carpet cleaning industry. An IICRC certified firm is your assurance that the company has pledged to provide you with the best professional care of your carpet and furnishings!

IICRC certifications cannot be purchased! They are acquired through field experience, study courses and by successful completion of written examinations of those courses!  In addition, certified technicians have pledged to do business with you honestly, observing the IICRC code of ethics in maintaining the highest standard of service and workmanship for your home!

Third question: In pricing out the job, is it better to be charged by the room or by the square foot?

For the most part, the majority of the carpet cleaning companies out there, charge by the square foot. Why? Because that way, you only get charged for what is being cleaned.  But whether a company charges by the room or by the square foot, (and this next part is very important) make sure they follow the industry cleaning standard set by the IICRC.

The industry standard consists of five steps –

  1. Vacuum – to remove as much dry soil as possible from the carpet. Many companies skip this most important step because of the time it takes to do it. They will ask you to vacuum before they arrive or charge you extra for the service. This should not be the case with an IICRC certified firm as they are required to perform this step (as well as all the others) as part of being certified.
  2. Chemical Prespray and Conditioning – to loosen and suspend the soils from the carpet fibers.
  3. Rinse and Extract – this step flushes and immediately removes the suspended soils up and out of the carpet.
  4. Grooming – this step helps to lift and separate the carpet pile to allow it dry more evenly.
  5. Drying – making sure the carpet is brought back to normal use within 24hrs. by utilizing all available air movement and ventilation to speed up the evaporation of the moisture off the carpet. This can be done by opening up windows, using portable fans and turning on the fan from your central air unit. Some companies even use specialized fans made specifically to cut down on the drying time.
  6. Protectant – this step is optional, it is not a required step but one that is highly recommended. And that is applying a carpet protectant to the freshly cleaned carpet to provide an invisible shield around the carpet fibers to help protect them against most oil and water based spills. This adds longevity and cleanability to your carpet.

I hope this article has helped you in choosing a company for your carpet cleaning needs. Please feel free to email me at or leave a comment in the space provided, if you have any questions about what you just read.