You walk into the living room and notice that your cat has soiled your carpet. There's only one thing to do - clean it up. But you've got to make sure you clean it right or you'll have more trouble.
The first issue is preventing a permanent stain. Here, time is of the essence. The faster you start working on a stain, the better. Leaving it may give it time to set, or worse, discolor the rug.
The second issue is deodorizing. It is important to eradicate not just the odors that you can smell but those that your pet can smell as well. If a pet can pick up the scent, he may return to the same spot. So be wary of deodorizing products that simply mask smells instead of eliminating them chemically.
Finally, your clean up must be thorough and take hidden problems into account. When a liquid saturates an area, it can seep down into the carpet padding and flooring where it will generate odors out of sight.
The challenge you face depends on the kind of carpet you have. Different fabrics such as wool, synthetic and cotton, react differently to various stains, water temperatures and cleaners. For instance, according to D.A. Burns and Sons Inc., of Seattle, Wash., a nylon carpet, although very resilient, will stain easily if it is not treated with a stain blocker. Almost all household stains can be removed from Olefin, which is a synthetic fiber. Berber carpets are particularly hard to clean since their fibers are tightly woven. Products and Equipment A cleaning agent. You can use anything from products that are specially designed to clean up after pets to common household cleaning staples like a combination of detergent, ammonia and vinegar (see instructions below). Pet-cleaning products like Get Serious! Pet Stain Odor and Pheromone Extractor®, Simple Solution's Stain and Odor Remover® and Nature's Miracle Stain and Odor Remover® are available at pet shops. Febreze® Antimicrobial Fabric Spray offers an effective way to deal with odor-causing bacteria on a wide variety of soft surfaces such as carpets, sofas, pet beds or even stuffed animals. According to the label, Febreze ® Antimicrobial will kill 99.9% of odor-causing bacteria that fester on these items. Whatever you choose, make sure that it is non-toxic and pet safe. Otherwise, a pet could get poisoned by licking his paws after walking across the spot. For problems that are primarily odor related, see Reducing Cat Urine Odor.
Deodorizer. A number of products sold in supermarkets and pet stores are formulated as pet deodorizers. They include Non-Stop Marketing, Inc.'s Makes No-Scents Odor Control®, Ryter Corp.'s Odormute® and Arm & Hammer's Pet Fresh Carpet and Room Deodorizer®. Ammonia and vinegar properly applied can serve the same purposed. Deodorizers, too, should be non-toxic and pet safe.
Wet/Dry vacuum. This is a vacuum cleaner that allows you to clean up both wet and dry spills. Some also dispense detergent and water. Use a machine like the Hoover Steamvac Jr.® or the Dirt Devil Easy Steamer® to shoot water deep into the fibers of the rug to get the stain out. Afterward, use it to suck the liquid back up out of the rug. It's important to do this because otherwise, trapped liquid can cause mildew buildup in a rug.
Professional steam cleaner. When you get a really tough stain, it's time to hire a professional steam cleaner. The hot steam penetrates the rug and lifts the stain out. Look in the phone book to find one in your area.
Get the Job Done Right
Before using a cleaning product try blotting the stain with warm water or club soda. Blot with a clean white cloth or non-printed paper towel. Don't rub: You may damage the carpet fibers. Work from the outside of the stain ring inward to keep the mess from spreading.
Test your carpet's color fastness before applying a cleaner or deodorizer by applying a small amount on a hidden part of the carpet. Wait 24 hours. If the carpet has not changed color, the cleaner or deodorizer should be safe to use.
Make sure you get the cleaning products out of the carpet and dry the carpet completely to keep carpet padding from rotting.
You may find that the stain works its way back to the surface of the carpet, reappearing a week or two after you cleaned it. If this happens, dilute the stain with water and use your cleaner again.
Remember that light-color carpets will show remnants of a stain more easily.
If that still doesn't do the trick it's probably time for steam cleaning.
How to Make Your Own Cleaning Solution
The Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration International suggests the following for cleaning and deodorizing a pet stain using common household products:
Detergent. As soon as you discover the stain, apply a bleach-free detergent solution (1 teaspoon neutral, white or colorless detergent dissolved in a cup of lukewarm water).
Ammonia. Using a white terry cloth towel, blot the area with an ammonia solution (made from 1 tablespoon of clear or sudsy uncolored household ammonia dissolved in 1 cup of water). Absorb with another clean, dry white towel.
Vinegar. Last but not least, blot the area with a vinegar solution (1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water.) Absorb this again with towels and weigh several down over the spot for a minimum of 6 hours.
For problems with odors caused by urine, see Reducing Cat Urine Odor.