We all love our four-legged family members, but we don’t love the accidents they occasionally leave in our carpets. Treating pet spots can be one of the most challenging tasks that a carpet cleaner comes across. They require more than just a cleaning, they require a decontamination to remove a health issue. Pet spots present three areas of concern that must be properly resolved.
- The Stain
- The Urine Salts
- The Smell
To properly treat these three areas requires a good mix of proper cleaners, the right technique and a little bit of good timing. We take the time needed to follow all of the steps below to provide the most thorough treatment possible.
Treating the Stain
This is usually the first area of concern for most homeowners, and what prompts the call to a professional carpet cleaner. While the spot is only the tip of the iceberg regarding what needs to be addressed, it is still the most visible. Many times a carpet cleaner’s work is judged only on his ability to remove the spot.
Two factors come into play in determining if the spot will come out or is permanent:
- How long has the spot been left on the carpet without proper treatment? Urine starts out on the carpet as an acid, with a pH around 5. Once it contacts oxygen and bacteria, it begins to transform. The chemical reaction and bacteria change the pH to highly ammonia, 11 or higher. The high ammonia and the chemical reactions taking place will damage carpet fibers. At this point the fibers are no longer discolored by the soils; they are damaged and have been bleached or re-dyed by the high ammonia. This results in a permanent spot.
- What was used to treat it? Everyone wants to clean up a spot quickly, but taking the wrong action is as bad as taking no action at all. Most retail spotters will set the stain and only temporarily hide a spot, not stop the pH and chemical reactions. These spotters do not address decontamination or deodorizing, and can leave their own permanent discoloration in the carpet.
Since quick and proper action is the key, what is the best way to handle an accident?
- Immediately blot the spot with a towel or paper towel. Do not rub, since this will force the urine deeper into the carpet. The goal is to remove as much as possible before it soaks into the carpet.
- Rinse with cool water. Apply cool water to the spot and remove with a wet-dry vacuum or blot with a towel to absorb the water.
- Treat with a professional spotter. We recommend using Vet’s Trust, which we leave with our customers, or any other professional grade spotter you are certain is appropriate for your carpet. These products treat the stain without discoloring the carpet.
Decontaminating, and removing the urine salts
Many people underestimate the health issues that are presented by urine in carpet. Bacteria will grow rapidly when it has the right conditions; warmth, darkness, and ample food. A pet spot in carpeting provides all three, creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. How fast will bacteria multiply?
- In ideal conditions, the number of bacteria in a contaminated area will double every 20 min, creating exponential growth.
- In about 8 hours, each bacterial cell will produce over 16 million additional bacteria cells.
- Contact with these bacteria can cause illness. Additionally, the bacteria will continue to produce foul-smelling gasses while they are active.
- An animal will commonly continue to soil the same area, feeding the bacteria there daily.
Proper treatment of a pet spot must sterilize the entire affected area. This includes sanitizing the visible spot on the surface of the carpet, and several inches around the spot in the carpet backing and pad.
The urine salts are formed by chemical reactions which convert the acidic urine into an alkaline. These salts form hygroscopic crystals that absorb any water in the air to keep them chemically active. The moisture they pull in will keep the bacteria active and releasing off-gas. Additionally, this moisture keeps the amonia crystals releasing ammonia gas. Both processes continue putting unpleasant odors into the air.
- These salts cannot be rinsed out with water. Once the urine salts have formed, they must be re-liquefied first before they can be removed.
- The re-liquefied urine must be thoroughly flushed out of the area or the salts will re-form and the problem will quickly return.
- Many professional pet spot treatments do not treat these salts, so make sure your carpet cleaner does.
Removing the bacteria and the urine salts will remove the source of the odor. However, there are other factors that come in to play with deodorizing. If the level of contamination is high, other textiles or furniture in a room may have absorbed the odor and need to be treated. In some cases, replacing the furnace filter can be helpful.
There are 4 aspects that come into play with deodorizing
- Finding the source of the odor: If all the pet spots in a room are not located and treated, the bacteria will continue to multiply and produce odor.
- Proper pre-treatments: The right cleaners must be used to remove lipids, urine salts, and kill bacteria. They must also sit on the affected area long enough to do their job.
- Re-creating the conditions: Providing the proper conditions causes the textiles to release the contaminants, allowing the cleaners to remove the cause of the odors.
- Sealing: Any odor source that cannot be cleaned needs to be sealed to prevent odors from returning.
What to expect with deodorizing
Our minds play a large part in what we smell. Smells, memories, and emotions are all interrelated. The smell in your home is an integral part of your lifestyle. We will provide you with a realistic expectation of what to expect with your deodorization project. We will make recommendations of what it will take to care for your home, but we will always give you many options to pick from. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- The level of contamination determines how much work is required to remove the odor.
- As long as an animal is in the house, no odor issue will ever be 100% removed. All animals have smells and body oils that will be present with them. However, removing pet spots should drastically improve the environment in the house.