Cleaning Up Pet Accidents

Many pet owners have not-so-fond memories of housebreaking their pets. Like humans, older animals may be prone to incontinence. In addition, pets recovering from some types of surgery may void in inappropriate places. It’s certainly a nasty job, but delaying cleanup will only increase the chances for a permanent stain or persistent odor.

Solid stools: Pick up the stool with plastic bag, secure tightly and discard in the trash, or flush the stool (but not any plastic) down the toilet. Disinfect the site or apply a pet-accident product, sold in pet-supply stores. Follow all label instructions carefully for best results. When finished using any product, blot the area thoroughly with moistened white paper towels, and then blot dry, also using white paper towels. Ink can and does bleed from colored or decorated towels, complicating cleaning.

Diarrhea: Put on rubber or latex gloves and, using paper towels, soak up as much waste as possible. Have a plastic trash bag at hand to dispose of soiled paper towels immediately. Spray a pet-accident product containing digesters or enzymes on the site, following all label instructions carefully. Be prepared to allow the product to work for several hours – even overnight, if necessary. Depending on the instructions, you may need to follow up by disinfecting the spot. Don’t use household bleach as a disinfectant. Bleach will permanently remove color from almost all fabrics. Use white paper towels as instructed above to blot the area until dry.

Urine: Urine has its own distinctive odor, and it attracts bacteria, which can add to the stench. If your family has pets, urine stains can be especially exasperating because of animals’ superior sense of smell (they may relieve themselves wherever they detect pre-existing urine). Immediate action is your best defense against persistent odors.

Remove urine from carpets, upholstery and other fabric surfaces with the following procedures:

1. Blot up as much urine as possible with paper towels.

2. Mix a teaspoon of colorless hand dishwashing liquid in a cup of lukewarm water, then soak a clean, white towel with the solution and blot the stain. Soak up as much as you can with another clean, dry white towel.

3. Use another clean, white towel to blot the area with a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water. Use a dry towel to blot up as much of this solution as possible.

4. Dry the site. If you have one, use a wet-dry vacuum cleaner, but first make sure the nozzle is clean. Whether or not you have a wet-dry vac, cover the area with several clean, dry terry towels, weigh the towels down over the area and allow to dry for at least six hours.

Enzyme-containing products such as Biz or Nature’s Miracle will also help remove the source of urine odors, but check labels carefully before buying. Don't use enzymes on wool carpets, for example, because they’ll break down the wool as well as the stain. Follow all label directions closely to give the product you buy a chance to work well.

You can also try a bacteria digester. Digesters are an effective way to deal with odor from organic decay and stains on porous surfaces caused by urine, vomit or fecal matter. They contain friendly bacteria activated by water. The bacteria release enzymes that digest the offending organic matter until it’s gone, after which the bacteria die off because the nutrition source is depleted. Marketed under names such as Brampton Labs’ Out!, digesters cannot be combined with any other cleaners, and label instructions must be followed carefully for best results.

To clean urine stains from a mattress, apply a pet stain and odor removal product containing enzymes, following all label instructions closely. Try to stand the mattress on its side and use liquids sparingly to keep from soaking too deeply into the mattress padding.

Pet urine can be especially challenging. After soiling a particular spot, Fido or Fluffy may be tempted to return to the same place repeatedly. Attempting to steam clean an accident will only set odors into the fabric permanently — animals will still be able to detect the scent. While ammonia or vinegar might neutralize the odor enough so that humans can’t detect it, some pets might “mark” the spot again if the scent hasn’t been completely removed.

Machine-washable items may be cleaned as follows:

* Add 1 pound (454 g) of baking soda to regular detergent and wash as usual. Don’t use a dryer — allow the item to air dry.

* If stains or odor remain, wash a second time using detergent and a laundry product containing enzymes. Again, allow the item to dry in the air.

For successful odor and stain removal from carpets and upholstery, try these procedures:

1. Act as soon as you discover the urine stain. Use a thick layer of paper towels and a few sections of newspaper to blot fresh urine out of the material. Place paper towels on the stain, lay the newsprint on top of the paper towels and stand on the newspapers for at least one minute.

2. Rinse thoroughly with cool, clean water, then blot the water or remove it with a wet-dry vacuum or carpet/upholstery extractor. An extractor can be used instead of these first two steps. Use cool water with no chemicals in the extractor tank. Dry the area thoroughly.

3. Apply a pet-odor neutralizer, available at pet stores, once the area is completely clean. Follow all label instructions carefully for best results.


Jeff Bredenberg, editor, Clean It Fast, Clean It Right: The Ultimate Guide to Making Everything You Own Sparkle & Shine

Consumer Reports editors, How to Clean and Care for Practically Anything

The Dumb Friends League / Humane Society of Denver, CO

© 2006

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