Flooring and Carpeting/Pet stains


QUESTION: My problem is an older dog urinating on my frieze carpet due to seizures, so more dog training is unreliable.  I've read that steam cleaning with a broom style steamer works. But I subsequently read it would ruin the twist of the fibers and you should only professionally clean your carpets, which I do.  But this is an ongoing problem and I can't professionally clean every week. The Oreck Pet Spray Cleaner has helped in the past but is no longer helping that much. Do you have any suggestions beyond getting rid of the dog, which is family?

ANSWER: Barb, my apologies; I wrote this the evening you sent the question, but apparently I somehow failed to get it on its way to you.

Let's take one issue at a time.

First, the broom style cleaner. It will not untwist the yarn as it does not get nearly as hot as the temperature at which the twist was set.  On the other hand, it does very little, if any, real cleaning - they tend to drive the stains down and out of sight but the odor will remain.

You did not use the term "odor" but I assume that is the major problem since you used the Oreck product. You don't indicate if the problem is concentrated in specific areas or is random, but due to the seizures I will assume it is random.  

The reason cleaning is not helping much at this point is that the urine has gotten down into the backing. Getting it out at this point is very difficult. You might try one of the small household type extractors, we have a Hoover and it seems to work well at light cleaning, although I have no experience with urine.  The limitation of these units is that they only carry about 1 gallon of water; therefore they don't put out much hot water when used at the recommended speed.  If you try this, I suggest you experiment with moving it at maybe 1/3 to 1/2 the recommended speed.  This will deliver more water into the carpet pile. BUT - keep in mind that this water must be recovered, so make a number of passes with the vacuum only.  

The odor reducing products with which I am familiar are based on enzymes.  These are organic molecules that are chosen to break down specific molecules; such as the stuff in urine. Enzymes take time to work, so you might allow these to work for perhaps 6-8 hours before extracting. Try letting whatever you choose dwell for several hours, then extract with the machine.  

Hydrogen peroxide might also be beneficial; the 3% stuff is fine. Use it liberally, it can't hurt anything as it breaks down into oxygen and water.  The free oxygen oxidizes some stains and odors. You might follow up the enzyme treatment with peroxide.

If locating the specific spot is difficult, pick up a small UV light (black light) at Radio Shack or a large pet store. In a darkened room, urine will glow a light green.  

If the dog is going in the same spots, there is a good chance the urine has gone down through the carpet backing into the pad, this situation is essentially impossible for a homeowner to deal with as it involves pulling up the carpet and replacing the pad.  

One web site that helps with the procedures is  http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Dog-Urine-Smell.  There are a couple of errors such as where they say the peroxide will discolor carpet; 3% isn't strong enough to discolor anything - and it breaks down before it could. I like their procedural process.   

Hope this helps.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks so much for your reply. Your questions tell me I did not include some key information. It is mostly in one area, which is in the path to the back door just off a step-down off a tile area. Because the stain area is so large (and the dog is small)and the stain appears quite dark and has a "gummy" feel, almost like the spill of a sugary soda that keeps attracting dirt I thought it was a foundation problem that was seeping ground water.  But then I caught him in the act on multiple occasions.  When I use the Oreck cleaner the discoloration and gummy feel go away, but return...sometimes after I can tell he has returned and sometimes not. Are you saying it is safe to use the hydrogen peroxide straight from the bottle or should it be diluted.  I've seen formulas mixed with Dawn dishwashing soap but I was hesitant to put detergent into the carpet.


OK, thanks for the clarification, now we can get to the root of the problem.  

Urine contains a number of constituents, some of which are salts, similar to table salt.  Like table salt, these are hygroscopic - recall that table salt on a humid day absorbs moisture from the air.  These behave the same way, and at the same time impart a peculiar feel to the carpet (I have never heard a term to properly describe this), but that is what you are feeling. They also turn the carpet into a very effective shoe cleaner by holding onto soil particles.

Most of this "stuff" is readily soluble in water.  Try one of the home extractors, using plenty of water and lots of vacuuming.  You could also use a shop vac, which would have much more suction to remove the water.  It will take a lot of wetting and vacuuming to dissolve the salts and get them out.  

Once the carpet feels normal, then you can attack the odor.  The 3% hydrogen peroxide is safe to use straight from the bottle; remember, it can be used as a mouthwash !   

Let me know how it turns out.

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Carey Mitchell


Any question regarding carpet, including specifications, maintenance, installation, regulation.


Retired after 44 years in carpet manufacture, technical and research. Served 33 years as Director of Technical Services for the world's largest carpet manufacturer.

The Carpet and Rug Institute, Technical Chair - 12 years; American Society for Testing and Materials (40 years); American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (39 years); Society of Cleaning and Restoration (Board of Directors); US National Textile Research Consortium; Cleaning Industry Research Institute (Board of Directors and founder); Canadian General Standards Board Technical Advisory Committee; The Fiber Society; Alzheimer's Association of NW GA (Board of Directors); Trout Unlimited; Federation of Fly Fishermen

AATCC Review (Textile Chemist and Colorist Journal); Journal of the American Industrial Hygiene Association; International Journal of Flooring Sciences Cleaning Digest; Cleanfax Magazine; Floor Covering Weekly; Floor Covering News; Proceedings of the Technical Conference of the Polyurethane Association; Proceedings of the Symposium on the Science of Cleaning;

BS in Chemistry and Business Administration, University of North Georgia

Awards and Honors
Carpet and Rug Institute, Smrekar Award, 1998; Carpet Industry Leadership Award, 1994; Cleanfax Magazine Person of the Year, 1996; Cleaning Digest, person of the year, 1997; Institute of Inspections,Cleaning and Restoration Certifications award,1997; ISCT Lipscomb Award, 2004

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