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.
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