Methods for Cleaning Pet Stains From Carpet

dog next to stain on carpet

toddmedia / E+ / Getty Images

When you have a furry friend living with you, accidents can happen. If you're dealing with a pet stain on your carpet—urine, poop, or vomit—a combination of immediate action and deep cleansing can typically restore the carpet to pristine condition. Even if you don't notice a stain until it has dried and set into the carpet, there are still ways to clean the area. When cleaning pet stains on carpet, never use harsh chemical cleaners that have a strong, caustic smell. They rarely remove the odor from the carpet fibers and might actually cause pets to want to mark the spot again. Instead, there are several homemade cleaning products that can tackle pet stains.

The following tips will help you to neutralize the odor and remove the stain. All of these carpet-cleaning processes can be repeated as many times as necessary to get the job done.

Immediate Action for Pet Stains

The site of an accident often will be fairly apparent visually. If not, you can typically locate the affected area by smell. If both of these processes fail, you can use a black light to detect areas where accidents have occurred. Unless you remove all traces of the stain, your pet might continue to use that spot to relieve itself.  

If you spot the accident while the area is still wet, then immediately try to soak up as much of the moisture as possible. The more liquid you can get up before it dries, the easier and more successful the entire process will be.

  1. If there are pieces of vomit or feces, use a plastic bag to pick them up off the carpet, being careful not to further embed anything into the fibers. With vomit you want to work especially fast because the acid in vomit can quickly discolor carpet fibers. 
  2. Drop paper towels onto the affected area, and firmly blot the carpet. Rags can be used for this as well, as long as you later sanitize them in the wash.
  3. Remove the paper towels. Then, put a fresh set down, and press firmly once more. Repeat this process until a dry paper towel is no longer picking up much moisture.
  4. Place a final layer of paper towels over the stain, and apply heavy foot pressure for at least a minute. (Make sure you are wearing shoes for this!)
  5. Remove the paper towels. Now, you are ready to apply a cleaning solution to lift the stain and odor.

Vinegar Solution

One homemade pet stain cleaner to try is a solution of 50% white vinegar and 50% water. The vinegar will act to neutralize the stain and eliminate much of the odor.

  1. Mix the solution in a clean, empty spray bottle.
  2. Apply the solution liberally to the stain, so it soaks down into the carpet and the pad. If the stain is on an area rug over a wood floor, be sure to lift the rug to prevent the floor from getting wet and damaged.
  3. Use a soft-bristle brush to work the solution into the carpet fibers.
  4. Blot the area dry with a clean cloth or paper towels. Allow an area rug to dry completely before laying it flat on a wood floor.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda

If there is still staining or an odor after cleaning with the vinegar solution, you can try a combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. These products will break down the stain, kill bacteria, and absorb odors. You might want to test this process on a small, discrete section of the carpet first to ensure that it won't discolor the fibers.

  1. Sprinkle a generous handful of baking soda on the stained area, making sure it covers all the affected carpet fibers.
  2. Mix 1/2 cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide with 2 cups of water in a clean, empty spray bottle. You can also add a teaspoon of plain dishwashing detergent if you wish for extra cleaning power.
  3. Spray this solution over the baking soda, saturating the area well. Again, if the stain is on an area rug over a wood floor, remember to lift the rug to prevent floor damage.
  4. Work the solution into the carpet using a soft-bristled brush.
  5. Leave the solution to dry for an hour or two.
  6. Once it's dry, you should just see dry baking soda on the carpet. Vacuum the baking soda.

Using a Wet Vac Carpet Cleaner for Pet Stains

A wet vac is a machine that forcefully flushes a carpet with clean water and vacuums out the resultant dirty water. This is particularly useful for pet stains, as the wet vac can clean deep into the carpet fibers and then draw out any residual waste particles. You can usually rent these machines from your local hardware store or home improvement center. Follow the instructions for your particular wet vac model

Warning

Never use a steam cleaner to deal with pet odors and stains. The heat from this process will set the stain on the carpet, making it permanent.

Behavioral Techniques to Help Prevent Future Stains

Keeping your carpet free of pet stains is an ongoing process. Especially if you have a new puppy, you will have to dedicate time to work on house-training. There's a variety of behavioral techniques to help train your pet to relieve itself in the appropriate location.

  • One technique is to place paper towels stained with the pet’s urine in places where you want it to relieve itself, such as in a litter box or a particular spot outdoors. Dogs and cats both react strongly to smell, and they are very likely to want to mark where they smell those odors. 
  • Make extensive use of positive reinforcement. Whenever your pet relieves itself in an appropriate spot, use lots of verbal praise and/or treats. This will ingrain the good behavior, but it does require patience. Some animals take longer than others to understand the training.
  • Never punish a pet for having an accident. But you can try to interrupt it if you catch it in the act and quickly move it to an appropriate spot to relieve itself. Then, praise it for going in the correct spot.