Tips for Removing Light to Heavy Pet Urine Contamination

November 6, 2001
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The first step in proper pet odor removal? Remove the source of the contamination. But since most customers probably won't go for getting rid of the family pet, a proper and thorough cleaning is usually the answer.



Find yourself facing a stinky problem? Well, as both the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) and Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration (ASCR) will tell you: The first step in proper pet odor removal is "Remove the source of the contamination." But since most customers probably won't opt for getting rid of the pet, a proper and thorough cleaning is usually the answer.

As a service, pet odor removal is lucrative for the cleaner who knows what he's doing. Some cleaners rely heavily on this add-on service as a good portion of their additional cleaning income.

"This is a fairly large percentage of my business, and I seek it out as a specialist by advertising Guaranteed Odor Control," says Gary R. Heacock, Heacock's Custom Cleaning, Portland, Ore. "I always start with a bacteria/enzyme product, and go to an oxidizer when and if needed. I have been doing this aspect of the cleaning business some 20 years or more, and so far have only had one failure, which cost the customer nothing."

If you're cleaning a residential complex or prepping a single-family home for a move-in by new owners, there are choices your customers need to make.

* Replace just the affected area then seal the substrata, walls and carpet trim board.
* Clean the contaminated carpet area and seal the substrata.

However, remember: Never guarantee urine odor removal if the animal is still there.

First up, eliminate the odor. There are four principles of deodorizing:

* Remove the source;
* Clean any surface exposed to significant contamination;
* Apply a sufficient quantity of odor counteractant to penetrate to the source of the odor in the carpet, cushion and subfloor; and
* Seal surfaces and subfloor materials as necessary, and encapsulate the odor so it doesn't recontaminate freshly deodorized cushion or carpet.

The types of damage from pet stains can be diverse and are dependent upon the makeup of the urine. Urine content changes over a pet's life because of diet, medications, age, health, sex and reproductive cycles. Because of these variations, some urine stains may not be removable.

Treating urine-damaged areas
Once you've located the urine-damaged area of carpet, CRI (www.carpet-rug.com) offers the following basic, first-level six steps for treating urine-damaged areas.

* Blot damp areas as soon as the urine is detected, with plain white paper toweling.
* Apply a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of a liquid dishwashing detergent (non-bleach and non-lanolin) with one cup of lukewarm water. Do not use automatic dishwashing detergent or laundry detergent.
* Absorb the moisture with a towel, rinse with warm water and repeat the application of detergent. Continue rinsing and blotting with the detergent solution and water as long as there is a transfer to the toweling or improvement in the spot.
* Follow the detergent application with a solution of two tablespoons of ammonia with one cup of water. Rinse with warm water and repeat. Blot dry.
* Blot the area with a solution of one cup white vinegar to two cups water, and blot dry.
* Apply a half-inch layer of paper towels to the affected area, and weigh down with a flat, heavy, non-fading object. Continue to change paper towels until completely dry.

Be prepared: Urine can affect the dyes used in carpet. While not all deposits result in a permanent stain, the content of the urine, the dyes and finish used, and the time elapsed after the deposit are important. Some urine spots may be immediately noticeable, while others may take weeks or months for a reaction.

According to ASCR, urine may change the color of dyes immediately. They advise:

* Color can sometimes be restored by treating the area with a solution of two tablespoons of clear, non-sudsy ammonia in a cup of water.
* While it may not restore color, the ammonia can be effective in removing urine content and reducing objectionable odors.

Contamination equals smell
The major problems are contamination and the smell. Cleaners should determine the extent, location and age of the contamination. Cleaning fresh urine confined to one or two spots can be guaranteed, and larger or older deposits require more perseverance and technical skill.

"I am not a fan of enzymes since I really don't have the patience," says Kirk Saiger, president of Merles Steam Clean & Restoration, Inc., Bemidji, Minn. "I first will start out with an urine preconditioner, Water Claw and extract with an acidic rinse and repeat if necessary. I have found also a 'Glut' or a 'Quat' to be very effective in neutralizing the odor."

Not all efforts pay off, he admits. According to Saiger, on "Several occasions we have had to replace the pad and seal the subfloor. That is where the good money is. I may have to follow up with a strong oxidizer if and when it is needed."

According to ASCR, it's important to know the animal that caused the contamination, including its sex. If the information is not available, use a urine probe, especially if you are searching for dried urine that has turned to salts. An ultraviolet (UV) or black light simultaneously will speed detection.

"Finding the source can be a problem," admits Heacock. "I use a black light and a probe together. The black light shows where it is (usually) and the probe tells me how big it is, whether it has penetrated the padding and the floor, and if it can be treated from the surface or if the carpet needs to come up."

If the carpet surface has been cleaned, it's harder to detect urine stains with UV light. Consider using a probe as backup to differentiate between urine stains and cleaning chemicals with optical brighteners. ASCR points out that optical brighteners appear white-blue under UV light. Care should be taken here because an optical brightener may wind up covering improperly cleaned urine deposits. Cat urine appears as a brilliant green under the UV light while a dog's appears lighter and yellowish.

ASCR says
You've adopted pet odor removal as a mainstay of your business. You've taken the appropriate courses to understand how urine can sometimes hide out within the 'well' of carpet fibers. You've isolated the spot. ASCR advises the following cleaning options according to the degree of contamination. Touch is important here.

Light to moderate contamination: If the spot is dry and not oily or sticky to the touch, then the contamination is light to moderate. Saturate with urine pretreatment as they are found with UV light with. Allow it to work for three days before you clean the surface fibers.

Moderate to heavy: Lift the edge of the carpet and feel for dryness. Make sure it's not oily or sticky. Remove the pad, apply odor barrier sealer to the floor surface, apply odor barrier to the backing, lay new pad and clean the surface with a bioenzymatic digester.

Heavy to extreme: In this situation, the urine smell is heavy and very noticeable. If the backing is sticky or oily to touch, repeated contamination has taken place and surface fibers are coated. Use urine pretreatment to saturate carpet front and back, followed by 30 minutes dwell time. Clean the front and back, and let the carpet dry. Air movers may be required. Treat the area as a moderate to heavy contamination by sealing the floor, wall and backing. Clean the surface fibers with bioenzymatic digester.

An enzyme odor barrier serves as both an odor neutralizer and a gas vapor barrier to the carpet backing. It dries quickly due to its alcohol base, preventing odor from penetrating it. The fast drying prevents the treatment from wicking up the face fibers while the back is being saturated. When the odor barrier dries, it is no longer water-soluble, so no moisture will reactivate odors.

According to Paramus, N.J. cleaner John Rupich of JR Cleaning & Restoration," We have been pushing this specialty for many years and found it to be a nice niche and very lucrative. I don't know of anyone in my area that is pushing it and have gotten a great response from it."

He says his company's success is based on a simple formula: "We have followed up many carpet cleaners that just treat it with a deodorizer and call it odor treatment and have left many unhappy customers that then call on me."

"Most carpet cleaners here do not want to do it or don't know how to do it properly, which is fine with me," says Rupich. "Niche cleaning is the way to go if you want to make the real money in cleaning - trying to compete for clients with hundreds of other cleaners for carpet cleaning is way too hard. I'll stick to what they are lacking in."

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