- THE MAGAZINE
As most cleaning professionals know, animal urine, feces and vomit require specialized treatment. Your customers should be informed that these substances can permanently discolor and possibly permanently damage wool fibers. The extent of urine penetration into carpet or rug cushions, tackless strip, baseboards, ductwork and subfloor often creates challenges that cleaning alone cannot remedy. All of these contaminates can also create offensive odors that may be difficult to remove. While cleaners may have the tools and training to address such damage, the client should be advised of possible additional costs as well as difficulty guaranteeing permanent remedies as long as pets still occupy the home.
The following statistics were compiled from the American Pet Products Association 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey:
• There are approximately 78.2 million owned dogs in the United States
• Thirty-nine percent of U.S. households own at least one dog
• Most owners (60%) own one dog
• Twenty-eight percent of owners own two dogs
• Twelve percent of owners own three or more dogs
• On average, owners have almost two dogs (1.69%)
• The proportion of male to female dogs is even
• Twenty-one percent of owned dogs were adopted from an animal shelter
• On average, dog owners spent $248 on veterinary visits (vaccine, well visits) annually
• There are approximately 86.4 million owned cats in the United States
• Thirty-three percent of U.S. households own at least one cat
• Fifty-two percent of owners own more than one cat
• The average cat owner has two cats
• More female cats are owned than male cats (80% vs. 65%, respectively)
• Twenty-one percent of owned cats were adopted from an animal shelter
• Cat owners spent an average of $219 on routine veterinary visits
These statistics are great news for the professional cleaner, since animal urine, odor, stains and discolorations are reported as one of the most common consumer complaints with textile furnishings. You can make a lot of money in your cleaning business by becoming a deodorization and decontamination expert. Just keep in mind, however, that dealing with urine problems is never as simple as pet owners think or some product manufacturers claim!
Years ago, Dr. Steve Spivak wrote a classic article titled “Pet Peeves.” The information in this valuable article is just as true today.
Two things to remember:
1. Foremost, it’s the pet owner and their “darling” pet that are responsible for damage resulting from pet accidents. Don’t assume the blame when you can’t make your customer’s furnishings look or smell like new! The stain or discoloration was there to begin with and is purely their fault, not yours. As a professional cleaner, you can attempt to clean, deodorize or remove spots and stains, and/or recolor the fabric, but if your actions can’t remedy the damage, that’s unfortunate. It’s the pet that caused the problem, not your effort to improve a difficult or impossible situation. Cleaners are not responsible for circumstances beyond their control, although many times, pet owners try to shift that responsibility to them.
2. There are some great products and procedures available
for professionals to use for decontaminating and deodorizing, but remember
there is no magic one-step treatment or product that you or your customer can
use to completely eliminate pet stains or odor.
When the fabric has been stained or discolored from the pet urine, it takes a lot of time and effort to attempt to reverse the damage.
Urine components have the potential to stain (dye) and/or bleach (discolor) fibers, especially those like nylon or wool. Don’t forget, when theses fibers are manufactured, they are contact-dyed with acid dyes. When urine, feces or vomit are first excreted from the body, they are highly acidic, just like the dye solution used to fix color on nylon and wool fiber. If customers act quickly, removing urine’s yellowish stain can be accomplished with almost any cool, neutral detergent solution. If they don’t act quickly – and who has time to follow their animal around all day – then more complex oxidizers and professional techniques are usually required to remove the stain. Also keep in mind that the color of the stain can vary based on the age of the animal, and the amount of water and food or medications it has ingested.
Urine stains on a Chinese rug
Furthermore, if the contaminating substance has not been diluted, neutralized and extracted quickly, then as bacteria in the urine multiplies, the deposit becomes highly alkaline (smells like ammonia, doesn’t it?) and actually bleaches color from fibers. It’s the ammonia that causes the color loss and/or odor dye migration, especially in rugs, not necessarily the presence of the yellow pigment in the urine itself. The loss of dyes caused by prolonged exposure to ammonia is another story entirely. That ammonia can permanently damage wool fibers, too. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that the urine can be removed with a simple cleaning solution. It takes specialized cleaning products and procedures to guarantee odor removal. There are several products that have been tested and approved through WoolSafe.
Severely contaminated rugs may need to be soaked and submersion cleaned to remove the animal contamination. If you don’t have the ability to perform this service, you shouldn’t even attempt to clean the rug! You and your client will be greatly disappointed in the outcome.
Correcting color loss caused by alkalinity can only be accomplished by adding color or spot dyeing fibers.
First, you must locate all areas of discoloration. Discolorations from animal urine may show up readily under high