Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Ur-ine, Ur-Out

June 13, 2000
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Nice headline. It could be perfect for a product formulated to remove urine stains or odor. However, no novel name will succeed in sales unless the product’s functionality can be recognized as being exceptional.

While on the road recently, I came across an odor that smelled like ammonia—a foul odor that had the ripened smell of a camel’s breath and aged urine at the same time. My immediate thoughts were that a carpet cleaner could reap a small fortune in cleaning this place up. The concentration of malodor made my eyes tear. This exposure made me realize what a carpet cleaner experiences when a hot water solution hits a urine stain.

Our psychological reaction to urine causes us to consider this smell as one of the lowest order. Many cleaners have commented about the raw odors of poorly run rest homes and improperly maintained preschool buildings, reeking with foul odor.

One of urine’s unworthy features is that after someone has been exposed to this off-odor over time, it loses identification. Overexposure camouflages its presence. The nose nerve endings allow familiar off-odors to go unchecked through the olfactory sensory system. Once this inability develops, you would have to go outside and get a breath of fresh air to realize how horrific the aged urine odor has become.

The Facts

Urine is a pale yellow fluid (waste products, excess water and chemical substances) produced by the kidneys and excreted from the body via ureters, bladder, and urethra. The yellow color is known as urochrome and nobody seems to know of its exact development.

A liter of urine is composed of 20 grams of Urea, 6 g. Chloride, 3 g. Sodium, 1.5 g. Potassium, 1 g. Phosphate, 1 g. Sulfate, 0.7 g. Creatine, 0.3 g Uric Acid. Normally a sterile liquid, the smell of stale urine is due to the action of bacteria, which prompts the release of ammonia.

Thanks to the presence of urea, we can easily determine the presence of urine by exposing the area to ultra-violet (UV) light, otherwise known as “black light.” Urine has a dominance all of its own and being a liquid, it automatically seeps into the deepest recesses, which makes surface cleaning futile. You have to examine all the prevailing odor conditions to completely remove the problem.

Urine Removal

Logging onto ICS’ web site, I searched the topic of urine. The results ran the spectrum from “Doggie Pee Stains Everywhere” to “Stumped by Pee.”

Our sensitive computer posters did reflect on the process of urine removal, which is based on two approaches. When you talk of urine removal, you address it first by determining if there is an odor; second, if there is a stain. Both approaches are entirely different and require a little understanding of what we are going after.

Urine odor is caused by a bacterial breakdown of the urine and its base with an ammonia odor. If the urine odor is in this stage, the approach to remove it is relatively simple in that you neutralize it with an acid compound. In fact, vinegar could be used if you can substitute one odor for another. The acrid odor of vinegar can be overbearing and I am sure some people would rather have the “PP” fragrance.

To remove urine from large area stains requires an alternate approach by using an oxidizer. When the problem is due to a dog that has spotted everywhere on the front room carpet, the approach is dogmatic (pun intended). First, if the dog is a puppy, then the urine is not totally saturated into the carpet, and more than likely a straight clean up with an acid rinse will promptly remove the urine stains. This concept of removal is based on the age and sex of the animal and of course, the amount of time the urine has been on the carpet. Remember, if the dog is allowed to roam the house, then the problem will reoccur. Animals in general will duplicate what they have done before.

Don’t let size fool you. A small dog may appear to leave a small deposit on the surface, but can still be ruinous for the carpet. I’ve also heard a homeowner comment on how housebroken the dog is. All in good, but check the underside of that carpet and you will see a different story about being potty trained.

Consequently, the process of cleaning is more complicated because the matting will now have to be removed, along with painting the floor surface and attempting to remove the urine from both sides of the carpet. If anything, a new carpet and pad may have to be installed. Now, it stands to reason that if the urine is encrusted for long periods of time, permanent carpet dye/color loss can occur. I’ve seen situations where the carpet fiber is broken down to small twists and the tack strips were dry rotted. This becomes a hopeless condition.

One of the key ingredients in the removal of urine is the use of an acid rinse. When using an acid, don’t use one that will blow your socks off, such as hydrochloric or sulfuric acid. Use weaker systems, such as a formulation based on phosphoric or glycolic type acids, that give better control and minimum hazard conditions. The dilution of chemicals is based on the severity of the problem. Rates can vary from 2 to 4 ounces per gallon and as high as one to one. I would like to thank all the participants of ICS Online for their inspiration on this article. They all do such a great job. You should check it out. There’s a lot to be gained by it.

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