The secret to pet odor.......
So let’s talk Urine…
That’s not a way I ever thought I would start a blog post, but here we are… Hang with me...
Alright, it’s time to get real people!
It seems these days every company out there makes some snake oil or magic potion to remove or alleviate pet odors.
Before we get into all of these miracle cures, let's dive deeper into urine than you ever thought possible.
What is Urine?
Well, Urine is a body’s liquid waste. Kidneys generate it when they filter toxins and contaminants from your blood. Urine is mostly comprised of water. This water is filled with salt and chemicals like uric acid and urea.
To be more specific:
Dog urine contains urea, creatinine, uric acid, carbohydrates, enzymes, fatty acids, hormones, sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, ammonia and medications if your pet is taking them.
Cat urine contains urea, creatinine, uric acid, sodium and other electrolytes and medications if your pet is taking them.
We’re gonna call all of this stuff “Salt and Chemicals” for ease, and the fact that I don’t want to type all of this over and over again.
As pets don't drink as much water as us, we can safely assume their urine is several times more concentrated and thus, far more pungent than human urine.
That being said, we know water dissolves these salts and chemicals. (Remember this! It's gonna be on the test later)
Pet Urine Temperature:
Yes, your pet is likely warm blooded. Normal body temperature for dogs and cats is 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius). This means their urine is likely the same temperature if you’re a logical person.
Pet Urine pH:
In healthy pets, the pH of urine is typically in the 6.5 to 7.0 range.
Remember High School Chemistry? No? That’s okay, here's a quick breakdown:
- pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14.
- pH is the measurement of the activity of free hydrogen (H+, acid) and hydroxyl (OH-, base) ions in a solution.
- pH 7.0 is considered neutral, or balanced; it has the same amount of acid and base ions.
- pH below 7.0 is considered acidic.
- pH above 7.0 is considered alkaline (or basic)
For those of you who skipped that, congratulations, you're smart.
Now that we are all on the same page, pet urine is surprisingly neutral to slightly acidic.
Now this seemingly neutral to slightly acidic urine is full of bacteria. What does bacteria do? That’s right… bacteria in an open environment under the right conditions multiply like a Mogwai getting wet (If you don't understand the reference, we can’t be friends).
Now that we have a puddle of urine teeming with bacteria, the pH begins to change from acidic to alkaline (That’s more than 7 if you were keeping up with the class).
At this point,the water begins to evaporate. Bacteria simply go dormant as the water leaves behind the dissolved chemicals and salts.
This one is obvious, but commonly overlooked, The water of the urine takes the salts and chemicals deep into the carpet. If your pet is a repeat offender, the urine likely has taken the salts, bacteria and chemicals deep into the carpets pad and subfloor/ concrete.
No, not the salt you eat… This post is about urine, remember?
Salts found in pet urine, if you’re interested, are:
-Struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate)
No, I’m not going to bore you with descriptions, just know these salt crystals are humectants, meaning, they pull moisture out of the air. (See where I’m Going with this yet?)
You now have pet urine crystals (likely deep in your carpet) that keep rehydrating the salts and bacteria, reintroducing and re-filling your room with that wonderful custom aroma Pee-Pee-De-Pet.
If you’re still with me, you likely know now more about urine than you ever wanted to know, but, lets recap:
We have four fundamental components to urine:
- Salt and chemicals in the urine (dissolves in water)
Without further adieu, let's get into all those over the counter products or “Bottle Cures”.
There is no nice way of stating this, but typical store bought chemicals usually end up backfiring! How, you ask?
These products are designed to lock the smell in and do little to actually remove the cause. This is called encapsulation… It works well on SURFACE (not, IN the carpet, but ON the carpet). Encapsulation works best on solid soils like dirt or catching your fur babies ONE TIME (Cannot stress this enough) accident.
This means you were likely home and witnessed the accident that only happened once and will likely never happen again!….. Catch my drift?!
If you are lucky enough to treat the piddle puddle within an hour or so of it happening, and before gravity does its thing and the bacteria multiply. These over the counter cures might help.
If your pet is a repeat offender, we can estimate that adult dogs in a normal environment will produce approximately 20 to 40 ml of urine per kilogram of body weight per 24 hours… and normal adult cats produced an average of 28 ml of urine per kilogram of body weight per 24 hours…
This means your pet has likely helped to ensure many gallons of urine, teeming with bacteria, salt and chemicals have fully saturated the carpet, pad and subfloor/ concrete.
These products only work on non-saturated, surface spots, meaning anything below that is only masking the iceberg under it!
But what about enzymes?
Enzymes are catalysts, meaning they speed up chemical reactions.
Over the counter chemicals are well regulated for consumers, meaning you will never get enough chemicals or enzymes into your carpet, pad or subfloor/ concrete to break down the salt crystals or the bacteria.
By pouring the enzyme cleaner into your carpet, you re-dissolved the urine salts and bacteria into water.
Then, the water dries out and re-deposits the same bacteria covered salt crystals in the same spot, if not making the spot larger and deeper by introducing more water.
Now you've just caused the issue to get worse and forced the bonds and crystal structures to strengthen, making it harder to remove at a later date.
Let’s not forget that enzymes, are deactivated by extreme pH, temperature and positively charged surfactants and must remain wet for them to work…
I don't know about you, but I don’t have the time to babysit, contain, keep the enzymes wet and keep them within the boundaries of pH and temperature, all to have the urine move deeper into the carpet and make the issue worse.
So how do you remove pet spots and odors?
You have to recreate the conditions in which the spot/odor was created.
In this case the urine went in wet, hot and neutral.
So, let's back that same screw out the way it went in.
1.) The urine went in at a neutral pH!
As it dried it changed to an alkaline.
Meaning one needs to treat it with a light acid pre-treatment to bring the pH back to neutral.
This makes it water soluble (I said you should remember this at the beginning, or did you forget?).
Neutralizing pet urine lets it break its bonds from the carpet so it can be suspended with a surfactant (fancy word for soap). It also allows any natural or added enzymes to work properly.
2.) Bringing us to the fact that the urine went in wet!
You have to re-hydrate the salt crystals, bacteria and chemicals.
Water activates soap. The surfactant now can suspend the aforementioned soils.
3.) The Urine went in Hot
Hot water is more chemically reactive. It can penetrate deeper and remove that hard to reach nastiness and honestly just help to extract more of the surfactant suspended soil (Salts, Chemicals and Bacteria).
So you have a carpet cleaner or want to rent one…
Brilliant! Let’s discuss that!
Now you're looking to combat the gravity that’s taking all that nasty stuff deep into your carpet!
Let's talk logistics:
Consumer or rentable machines don’t have the temperature necessary to react with the surfactant to properly re-suspend the salts or break their bonds from the carpet fibers and rely mostly on the temperature from your water heater
Consumer and rentable machines don't have the suction power to remove the weight (specific gravity) of the salts, especially since the water didn’t get hot enough to break the aforementioned bonds.
Consumer and rentable machines typically flood the spots in order to reach all effective areas but again can't pick up the salts as the bonds have not been broken and it's far heavier than water. The machines also lack the power to fully extract the water it has now flooded into not only your carpet but the padding and the subfloor/concrete... So here we go making the problem worse taking the salts and bacteria deeper into your carpet and spreading them around.
Consumer and rentable machines, typically put down the perfect temperature water to give that bacteria a nice warm bath where it can again multiply (which are no longer mogwai but full on angry Gremlins in water)!
So, That's not working out…
Call the Professionals!
You've now spent $5 per enzyme cleaner x 10 spray bottles, $25 on super strength gallon bottle, got a $250 carpet machine and just like that you're over $300 for a pet stain that's still there and getting worse!
What Do Professionals Do?
Well, being an IICRC trained professional myself, I can tell you!
- We start with addressing the source and carpet type
- We use professional grade products to balance the pH specifically for urine and your carpet type.
- We use machines that actually heat the water, matching our heat to your carpet type’s specific temperature. This, as you now know, activates the surfactant and penetrates deep into the fibers breaking the bonds and suspending the crystals, bacteria and chemicals.
- We use profesional extraction systems that can overpower the specific gravity of the heavy salts and chemicals covered in bacteria.
- We do this rapidly as to not oversaturate your carpet and use proper extraction processes, preventing the issues from going deeper into the fibers, which is essential to avoiding the continuation of odor from re-settling into your home and causing something known as “wicking” or “re-soiling”. (I’ll do a blog post on these a little later)
There you have it! You now know more about urine and how to remove it from carpet than you ever wanted to know!