Pet Accidents Happen. Now What?

Pet activity may happen on your favorite rugs this summer. Guests in the home, or you away from home, restless pets can end up doing things they should not.

With an inexpensive tufted rug, this can be a blessing because it is protecting a much more valuable wood floor underneath it.

With an oriental rug (hand woven), this can be a curse because pet urine on a rug is one of the most dangerous spills on a textile – not only for the rug itself, but for the occupants if you allow the accidents to happen over and over.

With woven rugs, the foundation fibers are typically cotton. This means the wool fibers are tied around cotton warps. So pet urine (or vomit or #2) will penetrate the wool fibers – because this accident is hot and acidic – and will become absorbed by the cotton interior fibers. This means the accident you see is only the tip of the sewage iceburg.

This Chinese rug has much more urine absorbed in its foundation.This Chinese rug has much more urine absorbed within its foundation fibers.

Ideally, when you notice an accident has happened – you jump to action. These are your spills steps:

1) If there is anything to scoop up – scoop it up. Blot up what you can with a cotton towel.

2) Pour some club soda (or if you have no soda water – a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and cool water) into a container. Use a sponge, wringing out the excess, and DAMPEN the affected area. Then blot with a cotton towel to pull out the urine or vomit or fecal matter.

3) Blot until you see nothing coming into the towel. Then take a hair dryer on warm (not hot) and dry the fibers. Ideally raise the rug up in this area so air flow is along both sides.

WARNINGS! If you see the rug dyes transfer into the towel, you need to stop getting the rug damp, and blot and dry as quickly as possible. If you get a woven rug too wet you will risk potential mildew and mold problems, so do not get the fibers WET, just damp. If you SCRUB wool instead of blot, you can potentially create fiber distortion/breaking.

The bigger problem with rugs comes when you allow repeated pet accidents on your rugs. The stains will be permanent, the odor strong, and long term exposure can lead to mildew and dry rot of the rug.

Besides of course the fact that this becomes an open pet toilet in your living space – which is not good for the health of you or your family.

Mildew growth on back of Persian rug with repeated pet urine activity - this is the stage before dry rot sets in.Mildew growth on back of Persian rug with repeated pet urine activity – this is the stage before dry rot sets in.

The only way to remove the urine from the inside of these rugs is to have them completely immersed in a plant specializing in washing rugs. The rug needs a thorough bath.

Cleaning rugs like these in the home only surface cleans them. It gets the top fibers cleaner, but does nothing to the inside fiber contamination.

They may spray some disinfectant, or deodorizer on the rug to make it smell “good” – but smelling good does not mean it is CLEAN. This is not any different than spraying fragrance on a diaper, and then expecting it to be used again. It may not smell bad – but you know that would be completely unacceptable and unhealthy.

Proper cleaning presents a catch 22 though, because what is needed is a good thorough soak for an extended period of time. You soak it first in white vinegar (acetic acid) to penetrate the inside of the rug to liquify and help remove the urine salts from the inside of the rug – many times you can see the water literally run gold from pet problems.

However, pet urine stains, if they have sat on the rug for longer than a week, can create a break in the dye bond to the wool and can make even very colorfast rugs “bleed” during the wash.

The catch 22 is that because there are pet urine stains, the rug needs to be soaked completely… but because there are pet urine spills the dyes will likely bleed if the rug is washed, no matter what a professional cleaner does to stabilize dyes during cleaning.

It is important, as rug cleaners isto inform our client of this, and to make sure they are informed of these four things: 1) the rug must be given a wet wash to remove the odor causing contaminants from the inside of the rug; 2) that pet urine stains are permanent; 3) that even though white vinegar will be used to remove the urine salts, and stabilize dyes during the wash process, pet affected areas are likely to bleed despite all of your best efforts; and 4) that pet urine causes damage to rugs that devalues them permanently.

If a rug can be cleaned properly soon after any significant pet accident, you can avert permanent damage. If a rug cleaning cannot happen quickly, then the steps outlined in this post can help you minimize the damage.

At Connoisseur we can clean your modern. less soiled rugs in the home quickly and safely. If pet urine damage has occurred we recommend having Talisman Rug Cleaning in Santa Cruz or Artisan Rug Studio in Watsonville perform a hand washing to save your valuable piece. We can assist in delivering your rug to either company if we are already in your home cleaning your carpet or tile floors.