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A professional's guide to solving pet problems on your carpets

  • Author: animalrescue
  • Updated: April 29, 2016
  • Published June 10, 2010

Article written by Michael Carlson

Power Clean Carpet Cleaning

A little long, but definately worth the read. I was going to break the article up into several days, but I think it all needs to be said as one.


Dear Pet Owners,

I know you love your pets probably like we love our rescued animals. Along with enjoying our pets, comes the occasional frustration of "accidents" in the house. Perhaps your animals are accident free but still get your carpets and upholstery dirty.

As a professional carpet cleaner for more than 30 years I heard hundreds of times home owners telling me that they had to get rid of their cats or dogs because they were peeing on the carpets. It breaks my heart to know that people are willing to send a loving pet to an almost certain death rather than learning how to deal with urine issues. Very rarely did anyone ever say to me," I want to keep my pet, what can I do to keep this urine issue manageable.

My hope in sharing this information is that if pet owners understand better how to deal with the problem, their situation will not get so bad that they think "getting rid" of the pet is the only answer.

I would like to give to you the benefit of my over 30 years of expertise in eliminating these kinds of pet problems.

This article is full of professional "tricks of the trade" about how you can more effectively and easily eliminate pet stains and odors. Also included are some important do's and don'ts which you should be aware of.

The information about how you can eliminate pet urine problems is further down this page. I first would like you to understand what urine is so that the instructions on how to eliminate it makes more sense.

What is animal urine?-

Animal urine consists primarily of water, yellow pigment, enzymes, urea, uric acid, cholesterol, and traces of other chemicals. When the urine leaves the animal's body it is an acid , but as bacteria begin to feed and grow on the urine, the bacteria emit a waste product that is an ammonia gas. Ammonia is a highly alkaline compound. So, what started out as an acidic stain after about 12 hours turns into an alkaline stain. Urine deposits form alkaline salts. It is the alkaline salts and the yellow pigments that cause the yellow spots we call urine stains. Why is this important to know? Because the cleaning chemicals needed to remove alkaline salts and alkaline stains is exactly the opposite of what is needed to remove an acidic stain.

Lesson number one is the process of cleaning up a fresh urine stain is different than cleaning up an old urine stain. Remove urine from the carpets as soon as possible.

The amount of time that these urine components are in the carpet fibers has a great deal to do with how well we can remove the stains and odor. When the bacteria emits the ammonia gasses this creates ammonia, which can cause a loss of color in the carpet fibers. When this happens, the dyes and carpet fibers may be permanently damaged. Often times you will see a yellow, red or orange stain that is often mistakenly associated with the current presence of urine. These colors are often the results of other colors, primarily blue being bleached out of the carpets by the ammonia. There are times with old urine that we can not remove the stain, simply because it is not a stain but a loss of color.

Remove urine from the carpets as soon as it is detected.

Fresh urine does not actually have an unpleasant odor, but the ammonia smell of old urine is primarily the smell of the ammonia gases and the bacteria itself. The bacteria needs food,(the urine), oxygen and moisture in order for the odor to be very noticeable That is why the smell becomes stronger on humid days, or soon after a carpet has been cleaned (while it is damp) If it has not been treated properly for the urine. It is not enough to just clean the stain, the bacteria that is causing the smell also needs to be removed. This is where most do it yourselfers have trouble knowing what to do..

Situations to be aware of when doing this work yourself-

As a professional carpet cleaner I have seen this situation many hundreds of times. This is perhaps the worst thing you can do when you have a urine situation.

People often will let urine spots sit there until the smell becomes noticeable and then they buy and use a product that does a good job of removing the stain but dos not kill the bacteria that are causing the smell. What they have done is they have hidden the urine. I have gone into a home where there is not a single visible stain on the carpet yet the house has a strong urine odor.

Also sometimes people will use the proper products that will eliminate both he stain and the bacteria but they only treated the top of the carpet while the urine (and the bacteria have sunk down deep into the carpet backing or even into the padding under the carpet. The result is odor with stains.

With urine over 12 hours old, the bacteria must be killed. Cleaning without an enzyme or proper disinfectant will not eliminate the odor.

Lesson number two- Do not hide the urine by removing the stain without killing all of the bacteria.

To effectively get rid of the odor, you must locate and treat every area that has urine. You can either crawl around with your nose in the carpet sniffing for urine, you can pull up the carpet and look at the back of the carpet for the stains there, or you can use a UV long-wave blacklight made for urine detection. You can find these at most pet supply stores.

Lesson number three- You must locate all of the urine in order to get rid of it.

Okay, so you know where the urine is what do you use to treat it?

Fresh urine is easy to remove. See the section below where this is discussed.

With urine more than 12 hours old you need to deal with three different situations.

You need to kill the bacteria.

You need to remove the odor already caused by the bacteria that is clinging to the carpet fibers.

You need to remove the stain caused by the pigment and the salts.

My suggestion is do not use home remedies. They may or may not work.

If you use professional products created for this purpose we know they will work if you use them properly.

Find a professional carpet cleaning supply store in town where you can use what the professionals use.

In Anchorage I would suggest either Interlink 274-5725 or Warren and Son 562-4980.

There are different approaches to killing the bacteria. The main three are-

Disinfectants- These actually kill the bacteria on contact and to me, the safest way to go.

Bio enzymes- These are live bacteria that eat the urine and causes the bacteria to starve to death. These bacteria take much longer to work and need certain conditions to be effective. They need to stay most for several hours; they need a consistent temperature of around 72 degree and if there is any disinfectant already in the carpet it will kill the enzyme. But many professionals prefer this method.

Oxygenation- With time plain old oxygen will remove all odors, however you don't want to wait for several years before the odors are completely gone. There is a process where they can greatly accelerate the process so that stains and odors are gone in hours. However this is a messy and in my estimation an unreliable method of cleaning carpets.

When using enzymes do not let the enzyme treated area dry quickly. This will lessen the effectiveness of the enzymes. Placing a piece of plastic over spot helps keep it moist. Do not use enzymes and disinfectants together. The disinfectant will kill the enzyme.

To get rid of the stain an acidic solution is required. They should be used separately from the bacteria eliminators.

The other solution needed is an odor counteractant. Most disinfectants and bio enzymes have this in them.

Lesson number four- Choose the best chemical and use enough to get the job done.

All pet urine situations are not created equal.

The process most effectively used will vary depending on the severity of each different situation.

What do you do when you find fresh urine?(This is for individual spots, not for saturated areas.)

How to take care of the fresh urine problem yourself-When the urine leaves the animal, it is in an acid state, so it must be neutralized so that it doesn't cause damage to carpet fibers.

1. Remove the majority of the urine by blotting with a clean white towel. Press down firmly to remove as much moisture as possible. Repeat until no stain appears on cloth.

2. Then mix one half cup of household ammonia in one quart of warm water.

3. Dip a clean white absorbent cloth into the solution and then blot the spot and continue to blot until stain is not apparent.

4. Apply straight water to the spot to rinse all residues.

5. Mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar per cup of warm water.

6. Blot the area with this solution to remove all alkaline residues.

7. Dry carpet with towels or hair dryer set on low heat setting.

Urine stains over 12 hours old-(This is for individual spots, smaller than your hand, not for saturated areas.)

It is best if you have a shop vacuum so you can extract the water you put in the carpet.

Pour your acidic stain remover on the spot. Gently agitate the area.

Extract or blot

Pour the disinfectant or the enzymes on the spot

Follow the directions according to the product that you have used.

If these do not work, call a professional.

Caution; if you use vinegar, do not use water over 150 degrees, because you could actually set the stain in.

Areas where cats have urinated several times- This is a serious problem that will not be solved by simply cleaning the surface of the carpet. Can it be fixed? Yes, most of the time but there are several steps involved.

Cats usually have 1-3 favorite places where they will go over and over. It is almost always up against a wall, usually in a corner and usually area about three feet long by two feet wide along both walls at that corner. Cats tend to go repeatedly in the same place, saturating the carpet fibers, the carpet backing, the pad, and even the wood floor underneath. Tack strip and trim can also become saturated with urine. One reason why cat urine staining and odor is so difficult to remove is because the fibers become saturated with urine and as the water content in the urine evaporates, the urine becomes more and more concentrated.

With cats about 90% of the time the only effective treatment is to:

1. Pull up the carpet, remove the affected pad.

2. Disinfect the sub floor, using a disinfecting product made for carpet cleaning. (Go to your local carpet cleaning supply store) and explain what you need.

3. Seal the sub floor with Kilz sealer paint.

4. Extract as much of the urine from the carpet as possible.

5. Saturate the carpet with your choice of how to get rid of the bacteria. We use a strong disinfectant followed by a urine deodorizer. This to us is the most sure and effective treatment. (ask your carpet cleaning supply store what they recommend for cat urine.

If you decide to use an enzyme you need to saturate the carpet with this and leave wet for several hours to give the enzyme time to work.

6. (Disinfectant) Let sit for 15 minutes.

7. Flush and extract the affected carpet.( you can do this effectively with a watering can and shop vacuum made for wet pick up. Just use the end of the wand not the floor attachment)

8. Repeat steps 5, 6 and 7 until there is no more urine odor in carpet.

9. Install new pad and reinstall carpet.

10. Thoroughly clean all surrounding carpets.

If this process does not completely work, there is a technology called encapsulation that might be helpful. Contact me and I will explain the process to you.

What you should know about dog urine-Dogs piddle all over the carpet, seemly wherever the notion hits them. Actually they have their reasons and understanding dog behavior will help you to avoid these situations. Occasionally dogs will have a spot they use several times, but the rule of thumb is all over the carpet. Dogs that have not been neutered or spayed may mark their territories.

The size of the urine spot is the main factor in deciding which process to use. The concern is that spots larger than about the size of a hand is enough urine to soak into the backing of the carpet. It is important to saturate the carpet and the pad in this area with the disinfectant or enzyme.

Occasionally with severe urine problems where there has been overlapping urine stains or very large stains, the only effective treatment is to follow the procedure above for severe cat urine problem.

Lesson number five- Be thorough.

SUMMARY-Timing is crucial for removing stains and odors. If you can remove urine before 12 hours odor will not be a problem. After 12 hours you need to both remove the stain and kill the bacteria. Stains big enough to penetrate the backing of the carpet need to be flushed out completely. It may be necessary to replace the padding in these cases as outlined in cat urine elimination. Long standing urine may cause color loss to carpet resulting in permanent stains. With long standing urine is more difficult to remove odor as well. If you have any questions please contact me or another IICRC certified professional. The easiest way to contact me with a question is by email at