Best Products for Dog or Cat Stains and Odors

Our family has a cat and two indoor dogs (Japanese Chins). And on most days, we love them.

OK, so we love them every day. But when you’re training a new puppy to “wait to go outside,” or dealing with a cat that believes she owns the house and can cough up “whatever wherever,” sometimes you have to remind yourself that you actually love them. 🙂

As a multi-pet household, we’ve tried most of the leading products out there to get rid of pet stains and odors, and have finally settled on a few that we feel work best for us. So following is the list of products I recommend to help remove cat or dog urine smells from carpets, as well and other stains and odors.

First, avoid any products intended to cover up the smell. Animals’ sense of smell is much better than ours, and just because you don’t smell it, that doesn’t mean they can’t. If they still smell their own scent, they’ll interpret that as the OK to keep using that spot (or those spots) to go potty. You have to eliminate the odor completely.

Enzymes Are Your Friends

The best way to completely remove odors is enzymes. Enzymes are biological molecules (proteins, actually) that accelerate chemical reactions. In geeky terms, here’s what happens:

Enzyme catalysis

Enzyme catalysis

The substrates are the smelly things in pet messes. Enzymes “bind” to them on a molecular level, jump start (or “catalyze”) the chemical reaction that breaks it down, and the result is called a “product” (or products) that no longer smell. The products that remain after the enzymes do their job on pet urine are usually ammonia and carbon dioxide, both of which simply escape into the atmosphere… leaving nothing on your carpet or floor.

Enzymatic cleaners work great on any biological mess: urine, feces, blood, vomit, etc. Crime scene cleanup crews use it all the time. If a stain has DNA in it, an enzymatic cleaner will break it down. So even if you don’t have pets, having at least one enzyme-based cleaning solution at home could come in handy.

Locating the Source of the Smells

Before you know where to put the enzymes, you need to find the source(s) of the smell(s). Some you can see, but other are harder to find. You can walk around your house sniffing the carpet, but again — we’ve established that just because you can’t smell something doesn’t mean your pet can’t. The best way to locate biologic messes (even invisible ones), is the same way they do it on TV crime shows (like CSI): with a UV light.

A UV light will cause biological material on carpets and floors glow white when you shine the light on them. With pet urine, the dried urea crystals (which actually aren’t what smell) light up really brightly, making dried pee spots super easy to find.

We started out with a 12 LED UV flashlight like this one. It worked OK, but it wasn’t strong enough to use in daylight, so we’d wait until night time. For only a couple dollars more, we upgraded to a 51 LED UV flashlight, which only $13 on Amazon. It’s awesome. Even in daylight, it can reveal hidden stains on carpet and upholstery:

A UV flashlight easily reveals hidden stains that smell

A UV flashlight easily reveals hidden stains that smell

The first tool in your pet stain and odor fighting arsenal should be a UV flashlight.

Best Enzymatic Cleaners for Spots

It’s good to have a decent enzymatic spot cleaner in your arsenal, for occasional pet messes. They’re extremely easy to use. If you get to the stain while it’s still wet, just use a paper towel to blot what you can, then soak the area with the enzyme cleaner. And if you don’t even want to blot, you don’t really have to. Just soak it a bit more. On carpet, it’s important to let the cleaner soak down into the carpet pad (where even the black light can’t “see”). The enzymes work as the liquid evaporates, it removes the stain and odor. Use the UV light to check after it dries (usually overnight). If anything still lights up, soak it again. A second application is generally all it takes for even the worst stains. Spot spraying is easy enough that you can assign it as a daily chore to one of your kids. They might even think it’s fun to go “pee hunting” with the flashlight. 🙂

With enzyme-based pet stain cleaners gaining popularity, there are lots of products now available. One of the first in the market is still one of the best: Nature’s Miracle. It’s available in bottles ranging from 16oz to 1.5 gallons, but if this is your first time buying it, I recommend getting both the 1 gallon jug and the 24oz Spray Bottle. When the spray bottle runs out, refill it with the gallon jug.

We’ve also had success with Rocco & Roxie Professional Strength Stain & Odor Eliminator. Available in both gallon and 32oz bottle, it smells a little bit nicer than many other products and works just as well.

Another product we like is Doggone Pet Products Enzymatic Cleaner Concentrate. It comes in a small bottle, which mixes with water to yield one gallon of solution. It’s a great way to go if you already have a spray bottle, and just want to mix your own enzyme solution to same some money. It’s also available in two different scents, both of which smell pretty good. I prefer the “Fresh” scent version.

I also like Bubba’s Pet Stain and Odor Eliminator. It smells great, works great, and also comes in 1 gallon as well as a smaller spray bottle.

As for which of these four to get? I’d be lying if I didn’t simply say they all work. I’ve used all four, and like all four. All of them guarantee their results. Try one, then when you run out try a different one. Then stick with the one you like best… which will probably just be based on smell. 🙂

Best Carpet Cleaner for Pet Stains

For houses with puppies, or multiple pets, or if for any other reason your pet stain problem is bigger than just a few spots, I recommend getting a carpet washer. We’ve tried a few, and by far the best right now is the Hoover FH50150 Power Scrub Deluxe. It retails for around $220, but for less than $150 on Amazon, it’s a bargain. Not only is it a great overall carpet cleaner, but the designers actually thought through how customers would use it; it’s very easy to add fresh water, add more cleaning solution, and dump out the dirty water… all without getting any mess on yourself. It’s also got an 8 foot upholstery tool for removing stains on the couch. Even if you’ve tried (or rented) other carpet cleaners before, give it a shot — I know you’ll think this one is the best you’ve used.

If you can buy a carpet cleaner, and your wife is so ecstatically happy about it that she actually calls it “one of the most romantic presents you’ve ever bought me” without any sarcasm… you’ve got something special. 🙂

Hoover Power Scrub Carpet Cleaner

Hoover Power Scrub Carpet Cleaner

Best Carpet Cleaning Solution for Pet Stains

The best cleaning solution for use with the Hoover (or any other carpet cleaner) is Bubba’s Rowdy Friend Super Steamer Carpet Cleaner. First, you gotta love that name. It comes in a 32oz bottle, but you only use 1oz per gallon of water (so it will make 32 gallons of cleaning solution). Like all other enzyme-based cleaners, it’s environmentally friendly and safe to use around kids and pets (would be kind of dumb for me to recommend a non pet-safe pet stain cleaner). The smell reminds me a bit of Simple Green. This stuff works… and combined with the Hoover Power Scrub, it works miracles. For really bad areas, it might take a second pass, but this will get the job done.

The Killer Combo

By using all these tools in combination: the UV flashlight, spot cleaners, carpet cleaner, and carpet cleaning solution, I guarantee you’ll get results. Use the UV flashlight after the carpet or upholstery has dried to make sure you got everything. Remember, even if you can’t see it or smell it… if any of the stain remains, your pet will smell it and take that as a sign that you are OK with them continuing to make messes in that spot.

Make things easier on yourself, and your pets, by investing a little in a pet stain and odor strategy that actually works. You, your pets, and anyone visiting your house will thank you for it!

As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback below!