Pet Stain and Pet Odor Removal: Meet the Challenge Head On

May is National Pet Month, and there are few things more fun to celebrate than our pets. Our dogs, cats, and other animals provide love, loyalty, and companionship (never mind plenty of laughs). Let’s face it – given the choice, we’d never live without them. On the other hand, living with them provides challenges – especially cleaning challenges.

If you’ve been scouring the Internet for information on pet stain removal, pet odor removal, and how to remove pet urine stains or smells from your carpet, you’re like many of COIT’s customers who are battling to handle the most common pet cleaning problems. Indoor “accidents” or marking, shedding in warm weather, and litter box odors are just a few of the challenges you face.

In the most frustrating moments, especially when there are accidents, it’s tempting to yell at or punish your pet. But please remember that even when your pet makes “mistakes,” he or she is behaving in ways that seem natural; your pet is not trying to frustrate you or be “bad.” Yelling at your pet or punishing the animal will only confuse and scare him or her, and damage your relationship.

There are many positive, loving ways to train or re-train your pet. The Humane Society of the United States offers tips for dealing with pet training, and they also provide some good information on how to deal with stains and odors. We’ve summarized the organization’s advice below:

Figure out where the accident happened, and re-train your pet

Which areas has your pet soiled? Find out by spotting and even sniffing (yes, sniffing!) out soiled areas. Or, you can use a black light (available at many home supply stores – just turn out the lights and use the black light to identify urine stains). Once you’ve found the soiled spots, lightly outline the areas with chalk. At this point, you’ll have to re-train your pet to avoid eliminating in problem areas by using positive reinforcement techniques. They key is to show your pet the appropriate place to eliminate. The Humane Society’s recommendations for retraining your pet are available at the following links:

One of the basic steps that is important to take is to make the "accident zone" unattractive and/or unavailable to your pet. The appropriate "bathroom" area, meanwhile, should be made as attractive and available as possible.

Clean up

Now to pet stain removal and how to remove that pet urine smell! To be successful, carefully follow each of the Humane Society’s recommended steps. As long as your pet can smell that personal scent, he or she will continue to return to the "accident zone." Even when you think you’ve removed the smell of pet urine and the soiled area appears to be clean, your pet will smell any traces of urine that exist. The following tips will help you remove pet urine stains and smells from a variety of home objects:

  • To clean washable items: Wash garments or other items in the washing machine, but add a one-pound box of baking soda to your regular detergent. Air dry the clothes if possible. If you can still see the pet stain or smell urine, repeat the process and add one of the enzymatic cleaners available at pet supply stores to further break down pet-waste odors. Be sure to follow the directions carefully.
  • How to remove pet urine stains from carpet
    • To remove "new" pet urine stains (spots that are still wet): Soak up the urine with a combination of newspaper and paper towels. Place a thick layer of paper towels on the wet spot and cover that with a thick layer of newspaper. If possible, place newspaper under the soiled area as well. Stand on this padding for one minute. Remove the padding, and repeat the process until the area is barely damp. Put the fresh, urine-soaked paper towel in the area where it belongs—your cat's litter box or your dog's designated outdoor "bathroom area." Rinse the soiled area with clean, cool water. Then remove as much of the water as possible by blotting or by using a wet vac. 
    • For pet urine stains that have already set: If possible, rent an extractor or wet vac to remove all traces of heavy stains in carpeting (rentals are often available from a local hardware store). Follow the instructions, and don't use any chemicals with these machines; they work much better with plain water. 
    • Tip: Avoid using steam cleaners to clean urine odors from carpet or upholstery, because the heat will permanently set the stain and the odor by bonding the protein into any man-made fibers. 
    • Use a high-quality pet odor neutralizer once the area is really clean (available at pet supply stores). Be sure to apply it to an out-of-sight area of the fabric first to be sure it won’t stain your carpet, and follow directions carefully. 
    • If the area still looks stained after it's completely dry from extracting and neutralizing, try any good carpet stain remover – or call 1-800-FOR-COIT for advice and information on our professional carpet cleaning options. Let us know what efforts you’ve already made to remove the pet stain and pet odor from your carpet.

Important tip: Avoid using cleaning chemicals on pet stains, especially chemicals with strong odors such as ammonia. You should even avoid using one of our favorite natural cleaners: vinegar. From your pet's perspective, these substances don't effectively eliminate or cover the urine odor and may actually encourage your pet to reinforce the urine scent mark. Also, neutralizing cleaners won't work until you've rinsed every trace of the old cleaner from the carpet if you've previously used cleaners or chemicals on the area.

In drastic cases, such as when the pet urine has soaked into the padding beneath your carpet, you might have to remove and replace that portion of the carpet and padding.

If you find that home cleaning simply won’t do the trick, call COIT. Our specially trained Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning technicians will help you identify and eliminate pet stains and odors from carpet or upholstery, and can apply CoitGard™, a non-toxic, pet-friendly protective coating that protects your carpets and upholstery from future staining.