What is the Best Carpet Cleaner for Pets?
When your carpet smells of pet odors like urine, feces, vomit, drool, or has embarrassing pet stains, it can be extremely frustrating. Especially if you have friends or family coming over to visit. No one wants their house to smell like their pet’s bathroom and your friends and family certainly don’t appreciate those smells or stains either.
So the question becomes — how can I get rid of pet odors and stains on my carpet?
You may have scoured the internet looking for solutions and you’ve probably even tried various odor/stain removers on the market only to be left disappointed as the supposed “solution in a bottle” didn’t end up working like it said it would and only masked the odors for a short period of time.
Before we get into any specific solutions it is best that we understand the science behind the odor and associated stains. There is various biochemistry taking place behind the scenes which are the underlying reason and/or contributing factors as to why your carpet smells. If we understand the root cause, that being the chemical makeup of the smell/stain then we can properly address the problem at the source level.
Let’s take a moment to review some of the most common odor sources from a scientific perspective.
The Science Behind Pet Odors
- Decarboxylation: a chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide while removing a carboxyl group where it most often refers to a reaction of carboxylic acids — removing a carbon atom from a carbon chain. There are many unpleasant odors that can be associated with decarboxylation:
- putrescine/cadaverine = dead animals/foul breath
- methylamine = fishy smell
- butylamine/ethylamine = ammonia
- Sulfur Compounds: organic compounds that contain sulfur which is often associated with a rotten egg smell. The rotten egg smell comes from the breakdown of the sulfur-containing amino acids which then release hydrogen sulfide(rotten eggs) and mercaptans. Mercaptans have been known to be associated with a variety of unpleasant odors:
- rotten eggs
- decaying cabbage
- Indoles/Phenols: aromatic organic compounds produced by plants and microorganisms. These compounds give off strong pungent odors.
- Deamination: the removal of an amino group, which is then converted to ammonia, the pungent smell most often associated with urine which can also be found in feces.
- Volatile Fatty Acids (VFA): VFAs are organic short-chained fatty acids with 2-7 carbon atoms in the molecule which are produced by the microbial metabolism of organic material that comes from plants/animals and food waste (i.e. amino acids, dietary fiber, starch, protein). These acids can cause very strong odor issues, especially for anyone near the source. Examples of a few of the malodorous acids include:
- acetic acid = sharp/vinegar smell
- butyric acid = vomit/rancid smell
- isobutyric acid = sweat smell
- isovaleric acid = stinky stale cheese smell
- propionic acid = stinky feet smell
- valeric acid = vomit smell
Ok, now that we have a little background of the origins of the odors we are smelling, we can now begin to discuss what to do about them. What we don’t want to do is use a product that is simply going to be a bandaid solution where it’s a nice fragrance that covers up the odor temporarily but never addresses the underlying science that is taking place at the source.
An analogy would be the idea of spraying yourself with perfume/cologne to rid your body odor as opposed to addressing the real issue which is to take a proper cleansing shower rinsing away the sweat + odor-causing bacteria. There is no amount of perfume/cologne that can be used to solve the odor issue and in most cases will make the smell even worse.
When we look at all the products on the market (Amazon and across the internet) it can get very confusing. There are products that claim to have magic cleaning enzymes while others that call themselves bio-enzymatic cleaners.
What does all of that even mean?
Let’s break it down so we can understand what’s going on here.
In most cases, the names being used are just a marketing tool to sound scientifically advanced. In reality, all we care about and I am assuming all you care about is whether the product actually works and does what it claims, not whether it includes some fancy verbiage on the packaging.
A lot of the pet cleaners on the market are claiming to use some sort of biology and/or chemistry to assist in the cleaning of your problem area — which is some sort of organic matter: urine, feces, etc. There are typically 4 different solutions that you will see on the market, however, without conducting actual tests on each individual product it is tough to know whether their claims are actually valid. But nonetheless, the 4 common solutions you will see are the following:
- Pet Carpet Cleaner with an Odor Counteractant
- Pet Carpet Cleaner with Enzymes
- Pet Carpet Cleaner with Bacteria/Microbes
- Pet Carpet Cleaner with Enzymes + Bacteria/Microbes
1. Pet Carpet Cleaner with an Odor Counteractant
These products are essentially deodorizers only. They will diffuse and/or mask the odor temporarily with the odor counteractant, however, the problem smell will be right back as soon as it wears off. This product does not address the problem and is just attempting to temporarily cover it up.
2. Pet Carpet Cleaner with Enzymes
There are lots of different enzymes that can tackle many different substrates but the correct enzymes must be used otherwise there will be no results that take place. Enzymes are great for breaking down the odor-causing source, however, they are unable to consume the source odor, which means that they are unable to remove the odor.
Another point to understand is that enzymes are non-living proteins which means you will need to continue to use more and more of the cleaning product since they cannot grow and multiply. Enzymes are typically best used in drain applications where they can aid in the breakdown of the food or other organic material.
3. Pet Carpet Cleaner with Bacteria/Microbes
There are a lot of different bacteria/microbial strains on the market that claim to tackle pet odor problems and the great news is that when the correct genus + strain is used, the results can be terrific. The microbes are able to produce 100’s of different enzymes which make them very unique in that they can address a wide array of problem odors.
Since the microbes are living organisms unlike enzymes, they will gradually begin to work on the affected odor area, but will continue working long after the initial treatment due to the fact that they are growing/multiplying. Meaning, you don’t have to continue to spray and spray because the microbe’s food source is the odor, so they will continue to work (consuming the odor) until the odor (their food source) is gone.
4. Pet Carpet Cleaner with Enzymes + Bacteria/Microbes
These cleaners are combining the two ingredients together where the enzymes will get to work immediately breaking down the source odor and the microbes will continue to work on consuming the odor source. The benefit of a combination formula would be the potential for faster results if in fact the correct enzymes + bacteria strains are used to tackle and address the exact odor source which is causing you problems.
What is the Best Carpet Cleaner for Pets?
This is a great question and requires that you consider your specific needs: application, speed, and breakdown vs. consumption. Now we know that when a cleaning product says it’s a bio-enzymatic cleaner, the question then becomes does it simply just include enzymes or bacteria, or a combination. We also know that there are pet cleaning products that are just deodorizers which will never work.
Something to note is that bacteria/microbes produce enzymes themselves which is different than a product that is initially formulated with both enzymes and microbes. There are positives and negatives to each pet odor formula/solution and it all depends on your specific application as stated above. The main point to consider is whether you are wanting to simply breakdown the problem area(enzymes) or permanently rid odor from its source (bacteria/microbes).
There are many different use cases and reasons why certain formulations may be best for your particular problem, so there isn’t necessarily an end all be all since it depends on your particular situation. However, now that you have a better understanding as to where the odors are originating from (the science) and what the cleaners are actually doing, this should help in your search for the right product to use for your odor problems.
What Carpet Cleaner for Pets Do You Recommend?
The product we recommend to all our pet owners is Urine Zero, a multi-strain microbial formula that comes in a 10x concentrated solution. The 10x means that it must be diluted — 1 part Urine Zero to 9 parts water, so when you purchase 1 gallon of 10x concentrate you are really buying 10 gallons of product. One of the reasons for the 10x concentrate is this — they could ship you a diluted formula that already has the water added like the vast majority of products you currently see on Amazon, but that would mean you would be paying a lot of money to ship water. Since shipping is based on weight/size and water is rather heavy that makes shipping water expensive. They thought it would make more sense to ship the actual product as opposed to water.
As we mentioned previously, a lot of the products on the market use fragrance and counteractants to mask the odor without any science working on the actual problem. So when the masking wears off, the pungent odor returns in full force. Urine Zero is different because it does contain fragrance + counteractant but the magic is contained in the specific microbial strains selected to consume and eliminate pet odors. Meaning, the odor counteractant will immediately subdue the odor while the microbes begin working behind the scenes to eradicate the problem. So the product has immediate as well as long-lasting results.
Urine Zero is unique in that it can adapt to its environment, changing its metabolic makeup depending on the food source present. Food sources could be feces, urine, vomit, or drool. The microbes will get to work on their first food source and continue to adapt themselves to the next odor source until all pet odor sources are gone.
When you use Urine Zero, repeat offenders (your pet going to the bathroom in the same spot) are significantly reduced since the familiar smells of their everyday bathroom spot are permanently gone, not simply covered up where their powerful noses can still identify them.
If you’re interested in learning more about Urine Zero and/or want to purchase a bottle to give it try and see how it can work for you, you can do so here: Urine Zero.