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Removing Pet Odor

by Matt Goering

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If your home has pet odor problems, you're in for one of the toughest odor removal projects known to man. That doesn't mean you should give up hope. It just means that depending on the nature of the odor, and the material, this isn't going to be an easy task.

General Pet Odor Removal
If the extent of your pet odor problem is just a general pet smell (not urine), you've just encountered a best-case-scenario when it comes to pet odor removal. It's not pleasant, and it's still going to take some work to remove the odor from your home, but there are a number of pet odor removal solutions out there to take advantage of.

Clean, Clean, Clean
The first step is the most obvious. Clean any affected areas as thoroughly as possible. That doesn't mean a quick vacuum or running over your hardwood with a Swiffer. Pet odor removal is only effective if you give affected areas a good, deep cleaning. Scrub and mop hard surfaces as thoroughly as possible, and think about using a vinegar or baking soda solution as you do so. Both are rumored to work wonders when it comes to removing pet smells. And if you're dealing with pet odor removal from carpeting, hire a professional. Make sure they use the hot water extraction method (also known as "steam cleaning"), since it provides the deepest clean, and ask if they use a truck mounted unit. These units do a much better job of getting down into the carpet pile, where much of the pet smell resides, than other professional carpet cleaning techniques, or any homeowner operated unit you can rent.

If Your Home Smells Like More Than a Wet Dog . . .
If your specific issue is trying to remove pet urine odor, you're in for another treat altogether. Pet urine odor is one of the most difficult smells to remove from any surface, and at times requires you remove the flooring altogether, and replace it, if none of the less substantial solutions do the trick. Still, it can be done. Here's how.

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Use an Enzymatic Based Pet Urine Removal Solution
About the only proven way to remove the smell of pet urine from your flooring is to purchase an enzymatic based cleaner from your local pet supply store. Don't use this like carpet shampoo, however.

You need to soak the affected area thoroughly, and allow the solution a long time to dry, whether you have carpet, wood floors, or masonry flooring. No fans or open windows are needed here. In fact, it's a good idea to place a piece of cardboard over the affected area to slow down evaporation. The solution works to eat away at the natural enzymes that are causing the odor in the first place, and they need time to do their work. If after all this, you still have pet odor problems, you're going to need to take more drastic measures. With carpeting, you'll probably need to replace it. And if the pet urine has made it into the subfloor, you may have to replace that as well. The same goes for wood flooring. It can be a timely, and costly, project. But when compared to living with the smell of pet urine, it's often worth the trouble.

Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter, is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over 600 articles.