Cleaning up pet accidents
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By Mickey Zeldes  April 12, 2013 12:00 am

Those of you who read last week’s column know one of my dogs was recently sick. Whatever bug she had started in the upper GI tract with more than 24 hours of vomiting and then moved to the lower GI tract with a couple days of diarrhea. Her system is totally cleansed, and now we’re left with trying to clean the carpets.

There are as many favorite tricks to getting stains and odors out of carpets as there are pet owners. Everyone has a tip and sure-fire product to share – just ask around. My husband and I have been cleaning up after a houseful of pets for decades, so you’d think we’d have it down. But because there are always new products coming out, I decided to research the topic a bit.

Two common suggestions are to use bleach or vinegar, but neither is recommended by the professionals. The strong odor of these products can actually increase the likelihood of your pet “remarking” the area you are trying to clean. So save the vinegar to clean the litter boxes – it can get out the toughest stains and caked-on urine – and making it attractive to the animal is exactly what you want.

Note that there are actually two different processes you need to do – one is to visibly get rid of the stain and the other is to remove the odor; and to remove it to the point your pet, with a nose 10,000 times more sensitive than a person’s, isn’t attracted back to the spot. Sadly, there is no consensus on one product that works for both things, but some of it depends on how old and set in the stain is. Obviously, your best success is to get to the accident while it is still fresh and hasn’t soaked all the way through the carpet yet. Here’s what to do:

• Step one: Remove as much of the urine as possible by soaking it up with towels or a wet vac. Do not use a steam cleaner at this point as it can set urine into the carpet. Really get it as dry as possible. If the area still smells strongly, you can then try soaking it with water to dilute the urine and drying it again. When the area is fairly dry, proceed to the next step.

• Step two: Use a pet product that says it contains enzymes to eliminate the remaining odor. Urine and fecal matter are organic, and these enzymes will actually break down and destroy the material on a molecular level. You want to use this before any stain cleaner so the enzymes are working directly on the urine or fecal matter. Carpet cleaners may contain scents and perfumes that cover up the smell, but you can’t trick a dog’s nose. Some popular products are Nature’s Miracle, Anti-Icky-Poo (an embarrassing name to ask for in a pet store but effective in that you will remember it), or Zero Odor. They are all good and each has their fans. Follow the directions on the bottle for best results.

• Step three: If the stain is still visible, now is when you can get out the various carpet cleaners. A few good ones are: Resolve, Mohawk’s Carpet Stain Remover (sold in carpet stores) and Spot Shot. Again it’s important to follow the directions written on the bottle. For deeply set stains you might have to do this more than once. 


Of course no one enjoys cleaning up mistakes, so prevention is your weapon in keeping the carpets clean. It’s nice to know new carpets are stain resistant and will clean up with just water. When you re-carpet your home, be sure to upgrade the padding to include plastic coating to prevent liquids like urine from soaking through to the floorboards. If you are having difficulties housebreaking a young dog, consider hiring a behavior consultant and using a crate to restrict his access to carpeting. My poor dog was deeply embarrassed by her accidents, so no sense in punishing a sick dog. I’ll just have to invest in some more enzymatic cleaner.

Upcoming Events:

Meet the Bunny Event, second Saturday of each month (next is Saturday, April 13), 1-5 p.m. Meet our adoptable rabbits, have your care questions answered by our knowledgeable rabbit volunteers, bring your rabbit for a free nail trim and support our small animals by shopping our Bunny Boutique for fresh hay, treats and toys.

• Dine and donate: Enjoy a delicious meal at El Torito on Thursday, April 18, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and the animals benefit. Be sure to print out a flyer from our website ( and bring it with you and we will get 15 percent of your food bill.

 Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at

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