How to Remove Pet Stains from Carpets: 7 Tips for Cleaning Pet Messes on Rugs

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We love our pets, that’s a given. However, cleaning up after them isn’t always fun. Yes, our carpets will need to be vacuumed regularly to deal with their fur and dirt they may track in. We expect that.

But what happens when they accidentally go to the bathroom in the house? How do you remove pet stains from carpets and get rid of the odor? Completely eliminating pet urine, feces, and vomit stains and smells can be a difficult, but we’re here to help. Thankfully, there is always a solution for every problem, even the stubborn stains like dog and cat urine or feces.

Here are some of our favorite ideas on how to clean pet messes from carpets. And if your beloved pet makes a mess on the furniture, many of these will work for that too!

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7 Ways to Remove Pet Stains from Carpets

how to remove cat urine from carpet - cat sitting next to wet spot on rug

Before we get to our tips, we need to address an important matter. When it comes to cleaning pet messes such as urine and feces from your carpets there are two things we are dealing with — the actual “stain” and the odor causing proteins. It is important to know that just because you can’t see the mess anymore doesn’t mean that the job is done.

When you have urine or feces on carpets, especially if it has set in for a while, you need to not only clean the mess, you also need to kill the proteins. If you don’t not only will the odor remain (or come back on humid days), but it also increased the likelihood that your pet will return to the scene of the crime. This requires the use of an enzymatic cleaner.

If you catch the mess quickly and/or it’s an isolated incident, you may not need to use both a cleaning solution and an enzymatic cleaner (unless you get a combination cleaner). However, if your pet is a frequent offender or you are dealing with set in pet stains, you are going to need both. Or if you want to be extra sure, you can always follow cleaning stains by spraying the area with an enzymatic cleaner.

Okay, now that we are armed with this piece of information, let’s take a look at effective ways to remove pet stains from carpets and rugs.

Related: Best Carpet Cleaning Solutions for Pet Stains

Blot Out New Stains as Quickly as Possible

You can train your pet not to stain your carpets, but accidents occur. When you notice pee or vomit on your carpet, blot it out immediately using a piece of cloth or paper towel. Of course you will want to remove feces or scrape up vomit first. Next you will want to dab on the stain lift up as much moisture as possible. Do not scrub or rub at this point — the goal is to get as much of the urine or vomit out of the carpet before tackling the stain. Blotting is only useful when the stain is still fresh, not dry.

Apply a Pet Stain Remover solution

After dabbing as much of the moisture off the carpet as you can, it’s time to start the cleaning process to remove the stain. For small stains, this can be done by hand using a pet stain remover spray. If you are using a regular carpet cleaner, ALWAYS make sure it is ammonia free because it will actually draw your pet back to the same spot.

If you are unsure of whether a cleaning solution is safe for your carpet we recommend spraying some in a corner or out of the way area first. You will want to follow the directions on the package to see how long to leave the cleaning solution to soak. Once this time has passed, gently blot up the spot to soak moisture. For serious stains, you may need to gently rub with a soft brush first and/or repeat the process.

Remove Pet Stains with Vinegar and Baking Soda

If you don’t want to use a commercial chemical cleaner, and are only dealing with small stains, you can use products you likely have in your cabinets to clean the mess by hand. Namely, white vinegar and baking soda. Vinegar helps to neutralize the ammonia in urine, while baking soda absorbs odors. Do keep in mind that neither of these actually kill the proteins, so for set in stains or repeat offenders, you should follow with an enzymatic cleaner.

Combine 2 cups white vinegar, 2 cups warm water, and four tablespoons of baking soda. Mix the solution well, and using a spray bottle, sprinkle a generous amount of the solution onto the stained part of your carpet. After spraying, use a clean cloth or towel to blot it out. For heavier stains, you may need to repeat this process and use a soft carpet brush, scrubbing gently so your carpet is not damaged.

Once you are satisfied that the stain is gone, pour baking soda directly on the spot and allow it to dry completely. This will help to pull out remaining odors from the stain. Finally, vacuum your carpet to lift the odors soaked up by the baking soda.

By the way, you can also use hydrogen peroxide instead of vinegar, but make sure you test it on a hidden area of your carpet first.

Use a Portable Spot Cleaner to Remove Pet Stains

How to Remove Pet Stains from Carpets Using Bissell SpotBot® Pet Portable Carpet Cleaner

If you are in a situation where pet messes are a frequent issue, or have larger areas to deal with, cleaning the stains by hand may not be an easy task. In these cases spot cleaners are extremely useful. You can use either a portable spot cleaning machine or a handheld model like the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush. If you want to clean the entire carpet not just the spot where the stain is, go for an upright carpet cleaning machine.

When using a spot cleaner or carpet cleaner for pet stains, you will want to get a cleaning solution that is made for pets. Additionally, make sure you get the right kind for your machine. Many pet stain removers are not designed for both spot cleaners and carpet cleaners. For example, Bissel has one pet stain remover for upright carpet cleaners and another for portable spot cleaning machines.

Do not use steam cleaner to clean pet stains from your carpet. The high heat will actually make things worse. Yes, it may remove the stain, but at the same time it will cause the proteins to affix to the carpet fibers.

Related: Best Portable Spot Carpet Cleaners For Pet Stains

Hand or Machine Wash Area Rugs

If your pet has done his business on an area rug, you have the option of cleaning the entire carpet rather than just spot cleaning it. If your rug is small enough to fit (and is machine washable), you can put it right into the machine. For larger area rugs, or delicate carpets, you can hand wash them if spot cleaning is not enough to get rid of the mess.

For machine washing, you can use your regular detergent with the addition of four tablespoons of baking soda and clean as usual. You may need to run the rug through an extra spin cycle to get rid of excess water. You could also put it in the dryer on low for just a few minutes. However, the best way to dry an area rug that has been “used” by your pet as a potty is to air dry it. The heat from the dryer will actually bond remaining proteins to the fibers.

When there is a serious mess that can’t just be spot cleaned in place, larger area rugs can be removed and hand washed. The easiest way is to bring it outside. Laying it on a picnic table is a great way to keep it off the ground. Otherwise you can put down some plastic under the carpet. Use your preferred cleaning solution from above and allow the carpet to soak for 30 minutes. Next, scrub gently with a soft brush. Rinse the cleaning solution from the carpet — using a hose works well.

Since you went to all the trouble to do this heavy duty cleaning, it’s a good idea to apply an enzymatic cleaner after you have gotten the stain out. Finally, allow your carpet to air dry. If you have a wet/dry vacuum, you can use that to remove a lot of the moisture.

Hire a Professional Cleaner

While most pet stains can be handled by the pet owner, there are times when you are going to need a professional. This is especially true if you are taking over the cleaning task of a carpeted home with pets that has been neglected. Or perhaps you have done your best, but you can’t seem to break your pets habits of going back to the same spot, over and over again. This may be due to not getting out all the odor causing proteins, not because of “bad pet-parenting.”

Another reason to use the services of a professional carpet cleaner is if you have an expensive rug and don’t want to risk ruining it. Oriental rugs are a good example. Commercial carpet cleaners can either come to your home, or in the case of area rugs, you can take the carpet to them if you prefer. Ensure to explain your concerns regarding the carpet, stains, odor, etc. They will take care of it.

Curb Future Incidents

As we mentioned previously, the first step to help ensure repeat incidents is to make sure you don’t just clean the stain you can see. When the odor causing proteins still remain, pets can often smell them even if you can’t. When a pet smells the scent of their mess, they will always return to the same place to do the same thing.

Tackling messes quickly can avoid bodily fluids from sinking deep into your carpet fibers. Using an enzymatic cleaner may be necessary for set in stains, larger messes, or when you have a repeat offender.

When training your pet, use positive reinforcement to reward them when they go where they are supposed to. If you have a new puppy who is not yet potty trained, make sure they have a designated area to go to the bathroom in between trips outside. If your dog or cat usually obeys rules but then starts to go astray, it could be due to stress our a medical condition. Get them checked by a veterinarian to ascertain they do not have any health issues. 

We can’t stop pet stains from happening 100% of the time, but the above mentioned are brilliant ways that can help you get rid of the stains and leave your house clean and smelling fresh again. If you are new to how to remove pet stains from carpets, these processes work well.

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