We love our furry family members, but, as all pet owners know, they can create some serious messes on our home carpets. Unfortunately, when it comes to cleaning those messes, there are a lot of mistakes made by pet owners. This leads to old stains on the floors and unwanted smells permeating the household, which, let’s be honest, no one wants to see or smell when they enter the door. So here is a list of common cleaning mistakes made by pet owners so that you can learn, apply, and make your guests happy when they come to visit.
1. Not cleaning it up immediately
This is a fundamental mistake that can cause many problems later. It can be easy to get caught up in finishing what you were doing rather than dealing with the mess. Or, another common excuse, you were running out the door for an engagement and decided that you could clean it up later. Big mistake. The rule of thumb here: the longer the mess stays there, the harder it is to clean. To add to that, if it sits there long enough, it can become impossible to clean, will continuously release unwanted odors into the home, and your only solution will be to remove and replace the carpet. When you come to that realization, taking the five minutes to clean up the mess in the moment sounds a lot better than being forced to replace your carpet, doesn’t it?
2. Using rags or paper towels to scrape up the mess
Many of us are guilty of this. It really does seem like the right thing to do. However, what most people are not aware of is that it can actually push the mess deeper into the carpet which is the opposite of what you want. The goal here is to remove it, not force it in. So what’s a pet owner to do? Get a putty knife from your local hardware store (they’re cheap!) or a dustpan that is dedicated to this use only and scrape it off the carpet gently. You’ll be surprised to see less of it remain when using these tools rather than paper towels or rags!
3. Not extracting the urine first
If you’re dealing with urine, you need to pull that out of the carpet before you start treating the spot. Otherwise you’ll end up just spreading it even more, or worse, leaving it behind because your cleaning solution had too much to work on. Carpets are extremely absorbent so you want to get as much out as possible. While a handheld extractor will provide the best results (check out this bundle that includes cleaning solutions), if you’re on a tight budget, you can throw down some paper towels and blot gently. It’s fine to use paper towels in this instance because you’re dealing with urine, not solid matter that you’re mashing down into the carpet fibers. What this means though is that you will have to be very thorough in your treatment of that carpet.
4. Scrubbing the carpet
Do not scrub at your carpets, please. We point this out for the same reason we advise not to use rags or paper towels to pick up the pet mess. All it will do is force the material deeper into your carpet and possibly into your padding and subflooring which is even harder to clean. Basically, it will make the mess worse. If you’re dealing with only urine and using paper towels, BLOT gently. Gently is the key here. Do not stomp or scrub (no matter how frustrated you may be)!
5. Using home remedies with vinegar or baking soda
We know, this defies everything your mom taught you about cleaning the carpet. However, there are some very good reasons for this. For one thing, they only mask the smell for a short time. You’ll basically be stuck in a never-ending cycle of rinse and repeat until you get fed up and replace the carpet. Another reason is that if the smell comes back, it can actually encourage your pet to go to the bathroom on that spot, even more, further reinforcing that cycle of rinse and repeat until you replace the carpet. See the expensive pattern here?
Here’s a way you can avoid that expense: look for products with enzymes, especially for the small surface stains. These actually break down the unwanted material in the carpet without damaging the carpet, and if there is no pet mess lurking in your carpet fibers, there’s no smell. Funny how that works! Most of your average carpet products only have a carpet detergent and an odor-masking solution in it, but they don’t treat the source. Bio-enzymatic cleaners (think the ones you see at the pet store) actually neutralize and break down the uric acids and eliminate the proteins and starches leftover in the carpet. One of those cleaners that is strongly recommended is Nature’s Miracle Urine Destroyer (about $15 per quart from your local pet store). For the larger stains that have set in for a period of time, look for cleaners with bacteria, enzymes, and an oxygen booster. It should also be noted here that you should never treat the mess with steam cleaners! That heat only infuses the stain into the carpet fibers and will make it worse!
6. Not cleaning a larger area than the original stain
Carpets are very absorbent, remember? So, believe it or not, that liquid has spread farther than you can see on the surface. This makes the area that you need to treat with a solution much bigger than what you visibly see! So when you’re cleaning up, make sure you hit a bigger radius around the stain to ensure that you’ve treated all of it. That way you don’t leave it behind to set in and generate those horrible smells later.
7. Not vacuuming regularly
Although this is not normally considered to be a “mess” that your pet leaves, it actually is. Pet hair and dander can build up in the carpet faster than your own hair and dander. Why? They have more of it and they spend a lot more time on, near, and rolling around on the carpet than you do. The build up in your carpet and upholstery can actually cause odors and trigger allergies in your family members or guests, so this is an important item to be mindful of as well. Regular vacuuming is an essential part of owning pets, so treat it as such! There are alternatives to getting the fur out of the carpet with a vacuum. You can take an old paint roller and wrap the roller end with masking tape. Roll it over your carpet to lift off the hair. You’ll still need to follow up with a vacuum, but with less hair to pick up, you won’t have to empty the bin or bag as often! Another alternative is to buy what’s called a carpet rake! Yes, this is a thing. Essentially it’s a rake with rubber bristles as the end instead of the normal plastic or metal teeth you find on your average garden rake. The rubber bristles will pull the hair out of that carpet surprisingly well. Also, a lesser known trick is to apply the same concept to your upholstery, but without the rake bit. If you are trying to remove hair off of your couch or chairs (or even the cloth interior of your car), put on a rubber kitchen glove and wipe your hand across the surfaces. The rubber is a really good at attracting the fur and extracting it from surfaces!
Now that you’re armed with the proper knowledge and tricks to take care of those messes, you don’t have to be worry and wonder if your house smells like urine or smelly pets (unless those pets need a bath--there’s really only one way to take care of that issue). Not only will your house smell fresh, you’ll extend the lifespan of your carpets, which will save you a lot of money in the long run. We like to call that a win-win!