Pets are a fun and loving addition to any household, but it's not all belly rubs and nose boops. Sometimes, whether from illness, emotional distress, inexplicable animal orneriness or just being a new baby, pets can forget the rules of potty training. This can be a smelly disaster if the stains are not immediately and thoroughly removed. Steam cleaning is a good option, but only after you have pre-treated the stain.
Facts About Pet Urine
Pet urine contains proteins that create strong odors. They also attract bacteria, which can worsen the problem by encouraging mold to form. Both the proteins and the mold can damage your carpet, the padding underneath and even your subfloor over time. Steam cleaning an untreated pet stain can actually bond these proteins to the man-made fibers of your carpet, making it impossible to remove the stain. The chemicals in a steam cleaner, by only partially masking the smell of the proteins, can also make your pet more determined to mark that spot. The solution? Pre-treat.
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Most pet supply stores carry carpet cleansers that contain natural enzymes that break up the proteins causing the odors. Before using an enzymatic cleanser, it is best to blot up as much of the urine as you can, if it hasn't dried. Lay a thick pile of paper towels over the wet spot and place several layers of newspaper on top. Stand on the newspapers for at least one minute. Repeat with fresh paper towels and newspaper until the carpet is as dry as you can get it. Do this barefoot or in shoes so that you don't end up with wet socks.
Then Vacuum and Steam Clean
Thoroughly vacuum the area you intend to steam clean. Do this in one direction and then again perpendicular to the first strokes, to make the carpet fibers stand up. Then fill the steam cleaner's tank with an enzymatic carpet cleaner according to the manufacturer's instructions. Push the steamer or its hose away from you to release the cleanser, and pull it very slowly back toward yourself to extract the water from the carpet. Do this in two directions, the same way you vacuumed. Allow the area to dry completely.
Natural Alternatives to Chemical Cleaners
One of the chemically purest ways to eliminate pet stains is by thoroughly flushing the area with clear water. Most large hardware stores rent out extractors that work like a steam cleaner but without the heat. Fill the extractor's tank with a solution of 1 tablespoon of pure liquid Castile soap for each quart of very hot water. Castile soap is oil based and will attract the proteins in the pet stains. Fill and use the extractor according to the manufacturer's instructions. After the carpet has been cleaned, go over it again with a 50–50 solution of water and white vinegar to remove any traces of the Castile soap.