Urine Odor Removal: What Are You Missing?

I’m often approached by consumers, cleaning contractors and, especially, chemical formulators who claim to have found some “super juice” that absolutely eliminates all urine odors under all conditions with only one application.

These statements simply reinforce the old saying that “Ignorance is bliss.” Urine decontamination takes a lot of time, patience and understanding of the problems pets create. As a pet owner myself, I can attest to this statement!

Professionals should exercise common sense in evaluating any deodorizing products. Permanently neutralizing malodor and removing it, is very different from covering it up with heavy, long-lasting perfumes.

Direct contact is required to kill odor-causing microorganisms followed by thorough cleaning to remove residues.

Since there is no “magic potion” to fit all situations, exactly how do we get deodorizing results that are consistent with industry standards of care?

First and foremost, education is essential. Otherwise, you too, will fall victim to the marketing rhetoric that is misleading and can cause permanent damage to your customer’s valuable property.

Second, select the proper chemical for the carpet or rug’s fiber and construction. Products that are appropriate for use on synthetic fibers can be disastrous on wool, silk or other protein fibers.

According to WoolSafe:
  • Cationic (quaternary ammonium chloride) disinfectants destabilize wool’s dye-fiber bond or remove stain-resist treatments, they should not be used on wool or SR nylon.
  • Enzyme deodorants containing protease can damage wool fiber, and enzyme cleaners typically have a high pH, which can remove color and permanently damage protein fiber. High pH also causes permanent damage to SR nylon.
  • Alcohol-based disinfectants must be used in concentrated form, which makes them expensive, and alcohol can move dyes on some protein fiber.
  • Oxidizing deodorants typically contain hydrogen peroxide or sodium perborate, which converts to peroxide in water. They can remove color from and damage both natural and some nylon fibers.
Therefore, the most appropriate deodorant to use on wool or silk and even nylon is a low-pH or acid deodorant, which usually is combined with detergents to dissolve, emulsify and suspend urine contamination.

The deodorant should be mixed and applied properly. For machine or hand-tufted carpet or rugs with a secondary backing that might delaminate (and may require repair) during prolonged soak cycles:
  • After testing for colorfastness, the deodorant should be poured onto individual spots in a saturation application.
  • It should be worked in for complete penetration, and allowed sufficient dwell time to kill odor-causing bacteria and dissolve, emulsify and suspend urine contaminants.
  • Excess deodorant should be extracted, and spots on backings and pile yarns should be thoroughly rinsed using an acid solution.
  • Finally, the carpet or rug should be slowly and carefully cleaned overall using hot water extraction; wicked residues may require a second or even third rinsing.
For colorfast submersible rugs, I recommend a multiple-step process, including:
  1. Place the rug in a soak container or pit.
  2. Mix an appropriate deodorant, according to label directions, in sufficient quantity to totally saturate the rug.
  3. Roll or brush in the deodorant for thorough distribution.
  4. Allow the deodorant to remain on the rug for one to two hours.
  5. Fill the soak pit with water and circulate it for several hours to completely suspend the urine.

The carpet or rug should be cleaned thoroughly using approved detergents. Machine or hand-tufted carpet or rugs should be cleaned slowly and meticulously using cool or warm water extraction. For submersible rugs:
  1. Place the rug in a bath and agitate it with dual cylindrical brush action.
  2. Flush the rug with an appropriate cleaning tool under laminar water flow.
  3. Turn the rug over and flush the backside.
  4. Reverse the rug again and agitate the pile side to determine if urine or deodorant residue remains. If so, repeat steps a-c. If not, final flush the pile under laminar water flow.
  5. Extract the excess water from the rug and set the pile with grooming.
  6. Dry the rug and evaluate the remaining odor.

Please note that masking agents or fragrances deal with psychological odor, while covering slight residual odors as nature takes its course in eliminating them. Professional technicians trained in deodorizing techniques should be diligent in using all appropriate systems available and, from an ethical standpoint, in carefully outlining alternatives to customers.

In severe contamination situations, consider making statements like, “The odor will be reduced to the point at which it should not be a problem,” rather than, “I guarantee the odor will be completely eliminated.”

One often overlooked, though common sense, observation should be made. I certainly know from experience that no matter how well trained we homeowners think our pets are, recontamination of a clean, deodorized carpet or rugs eventually will occur if the pet is allowed access to it.

This could result in complaints that, “You failed to get the odor out completely.” Obviously, this could become a never-ending battle. With this in mind, no guarantees of long-term effectiveness can be made or even implied as long as the animal has access to the rug or carpet.

Finally, remember stains and discolorations from urine may be permanent, depending on the color, fiber and type of rug or carpet. Removal, if possible, will require additional specialized training in color correction.

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