How to get rid of pet and human urine odors in a home
How to remove problem urine odors for good
If you have moved into your dream home and find that what you thought was going to be a great experience ends up smelling like a cat litter box, or a nursing home room don’t be embarrassed. It happens more often than you would think. It actually happened to us and we look for those kinds of things while purchasing a home.
Just recently a good friend asked me to tour a potential home he was looking at buying out of foreclosure. He was concerned with what he thought were water stains all around the room edges thinking the home may of flooded.
As I entered the home, I immediately was overtaken by the ammonia and smell of cat urine. As I walked into the living room I told him that stain was cat urine and not caused by flooding. There were no stains on the walls or other signs of flooding, still not convinced we walked up stairs to find the same situation, and I asked him how a second story would flood in this location?
We determined they must have had over 50+ cats in that house to make that big of continuous stain around every room. It was a nice newer home in a rather nice neighborhood. After I shared our experience we determined that house was probably going to need a total gut out and start over, even then getting rid of the odor was no guarantee.
He later bought another house, not realizing it too had some cat urine in the upstairs carpet. It was nothing to the magnitude of the previous house but he ended up pulling out the carpet in one bedroom treating the sub-floor and painting it until they could afford to purchase new carpet. Needless to say he was very appreciative that he didn't purchase the first home.
I will never figure out how the previous owners were able to mask the cat urine odor in the home we bought, we toured the home at least three times before buying it, never smelled a thing until after they moved out. It could be the odors are more pungent on humid days, and on the days we visited the humidity was low.
Luckily we had planned on replacing the carpet anyway, but we really felt sorry for the carpet installers when they pulled it up and found what was really underneath down into even the sub-floor. The carpet and pad on the bottom stunk to high heaven while the top was filled with a white powder, either baking soda or a carpet deodorizer. They probably used this by the bucket full to mask the odors.
Cat urine is one of the most difficult odors to rid, as cats tend to spray into corners where the baseboard, sub-floor and carpet meet. They will continue to use the same location and the urine over time ends up saturating the carpet, carpet pad, and down into the sub-floor. If the room is not carpeted the urine still runs in under the base board and is absorbed into the sub-floor even if it is a concrete slab.
Considering this may go on for years as even new cats will gravitate to the same area, you could possibly have a saturation of cat urine under the carpet or floor of five, ten or even more years.
Finding the area(s) where cats have sprayed is the first search. The best quick search is to invest in a good black light, preferably battery operated, but the electric tube type will work if you don’t mind toting an extension cord room to room. Go in after dark and turn off all the lights to see the areas the black light will point out as potential urine stains.
The best next option is on hands and knees sniffing the room, start with the base boards, and then work back and forth across the room in a pattern. Sometimes cats will go behind a chair or couch that was sitting out in the middle of a room.
We have found three basic options to kill the bacteria that cause the odors, other products just mask and cover up the odors. To permanently eliminate the urine odor it must have the underlying bacteria eliminated.
The first option is a strong mixture of bleach and water per manufacture recommendations to disinfect; obviously this works fine on hard surfaces but will destroy carpet curtains and other fabrics.
The second option is a liquid enzyme product that actually eats and destroys the bacteria. This product can be purchased at janitorial chemical supply houses. It is sold by chemical companies under various names; just ask for liquid live bacteria in the quart bottle. It will be concentrated to mix in a spray bottle. It was originally developed to use around waste treatment facilities but is mostly used in the hotel, nursing home, schools and other industries.
Check with the manufacture but many also mix this enzyme product with carpet shampoo to clean carpets in nursing homes. Pet stores carry a similar product, but generally it only comes in an 8 oz bottle, it is not concentrated and is a bit expensive. A full quart bottle should cost around $5-$8. These enzymes’ can be used on fabrics, as well as hard surfaces. Always do a test in a closet corner to just be sure.
A new third option is now available to the general public. Odormed is a natural product made from a mix of essentials oils and preservatives. It is was made for professional veterinary practices and can be used on any urine odor that has saturated into fabrics, carpets sub floors and in around toilets. It does have to make contact down in where the urine has accumulated. Odormed leaves a natural fresh scent as well.
Odermed is available in a 22 ounce spray bottle with a gallon refill. Cottage Craft Works now sells it in a kit containing the spray bottle and the gallon refill. It should take care of the serious urine odor problems but with a long shelf life keeping the spray bottle full and ready for routine use in the little boys and even big boys bathroom as well as the area around litter boxes will keep the home odor free for a long time. The Odermed kit runs around $80 but may save you from having to replace carpet and furniture. If you had pet accident in a car well this may be your one and only option.
Going after and eliminating the source of urine odors generally ends up being much worse than it may appear on the surface, as we discovered. If you are not in love with the carpet anyway, probably your best bet is to strip all the carpet and pad out, treat and seal the sub-floor, and around the base boards and then go with all new carpet. In the long run this may be the quickest way to resolve your problem especially if the previous owners had multiple cats or you find more than one spray location.
If you can’t afford new carpet, you don’t need to live with the odor, consider stripping it out and painting the sub-floor using throw or area rugs until you can afford to have new carpet installed like our friend did. You will need to seal the sub-floor anyway.
Hopefully you are only dealing with a possible mild issue of cat urine on carpet, first try to spray the areas detected and see if this resolves the issue, it may take several soakings. If this does not work the carpet will need to be pulled back so that you can reach the underside the pad, the sub-floor, as well as the tack strip and under the edge of the baseboard.
You can rent or purchase a carpet knee stretcher that allows you to push and release the carpet from the tack strip, and then reattach the carpet. (Harbor Freight carries an inexpensive knee carpet stretcher). Apply the enzyme liberally so that it will soak in under the tack strip and under the baseboard. Spray both sides of the pad and carpet and hold them back separated with weights or duct tape until they dry.
You will be able to quickly visually see the area of sub-floor and to what level it has been saturated with urine. If so the sub-floor, the carpet and pad may require several treatments with the enzyme to reach down into the fibers and flooring. Allow the floor to dry for at least 24hours, and then seal it with shellac or clear varnish. Carpet pad is cheap, easy to install and maybe worth cutting the section out and adding in a new section.
If the entire carpet and padding has to be removed, the process of the treatment and sealing of the sub-floor will need to be completed before new carpet is installed. Use a marker to outline the stained areas and then overlap the areas to be sure they are completely sealed. Be sure the installers remove the old tack strip and install all new, something that should be done anyway.
If the floor is laminated or hardwood flooring, your challenge will be more difficult as both these products do not take well to moister. The attack still needs to concentrate on the cracks and crevices that the urine has possibly soaked into.
Solid Hardwood flooring will take a good wet down, laminated and engineered flooring has the potential to swell and separate, so a serious urine issue may cause a total replacement down to the sub-flooring. Realizing this as a potential allows you to experiment and go a little heaver on the saturation to see if that will resolve it first without swelling or separating the top surface of the flooring.
Ceramic tile is much easier to treat if the grout and tile are solid. Tape off and use rolled up old towels in the door ways where the bleach might damage adjoining surfaces. Open windows for ventilation, and apply a heavy bleach water mixture over the area (follow manufactures dilution ratio to provide the maximum disinfecting abilities), allowing it to run back in and under the baseboard. Allow the area to dry and repeat if the urine odor is still detected. Clean the grout if needed and then reseal with grout sealer and caulk the base board bottom with clear silicone.
Human urine odors can also be a problem in previously occupied homes, generally it will be a bathroom used by young boys, but some boys never grow up and perfect their aim. It can also be in bedrooms and bathrooms where an elderly person stayed. The same procedures in locating the source and treating it apply above.
If the urine odor is contained to a bathroom and it remains despite disinfecting the floor, walls base board and toilet base, the problem is most likely old urine saturated under the tank, base of the toilet or in under the base boards. If the flooring is vinyl, it could be saturated in the backing and into the sub-flooring, or if ceramic tile has cracked it may have become saturated under the tiles.
Before getting too in-depth, remove the toilet seat and look between the tank and base of the toilet for dried yellow brownish substance, this often is the source of most old urine odors, clean with a disinfectant such as bleach water and replaces the toilet seat with a new one.
If the problem continues, look closely at the caulking around the base of the toilet, all the way around to the back. Look to see if the toilet bowl bolt down caps are intact or are missing. By design of the bowl urine will naturally run down the outside bowl down into uncovered bolt holes and down around the base and back in under the base where caulking is missing. Most likely the same situation has occurred with the base boards where urine splashed up against a wall and ran down behind or under the base board.
The simplest treatment starts by cleaning all the old caulking out from around the toilet base, roll up an old towel at the doorway and tape it down with duct tape so water will not flow out into the adjoining floor or carpet. Use a walk off mat at the door way so you don’t walk out on to carpet with bleach water on your shoes.
Literally soak the bathroom floor with a bleach water mixture to about a 1/8” deep to where it will run in under the toilet and back in under the baseboards, but not enough to where it will soak into the bottom of the drywall or run under the walls to adjoining room carpet. Let the mixture sit for about an hour, then return clean and dry the area.
Because water can stand for days under the base of the toilet and base boards a hand held hair dryer is your best option to push out and dry those areas. When dried run a new bead of caulk around the toilet base making sure that it runs continuously around the back and then add some caulking into the inside of the toilet floor bolt caps and push them on removing excess caulk so they will end up being sealed to the toilet base.
If the bathroom will be inhabited again by young boys, run a clear silicone bead along the floor base and along the top of the baseboards that are subjected to potential over spray. The objective is to create a sealed area where the urine will hold and not run back in under these areas, so the entire area can be cleaned and disinfected during routine bathroom cleanings.
You will find keeping a bottle of the liquid enzyme around will come in very handy to spray hard to clean areas, such as the space that runs between the toilet tank and base. It is also handy to have if your pets should have an accident, or use it around the litter box. The enzyme works just as well on vomit or other accidents that just happen with kids, including using as a presoak for clothing, and on automobile seats and carpet.
If the bathroom floor is carpeted as for whatever the reason some are, you can try the enzyme but most likely that carpet and pad will just need to go, and the sub-floor will need to be cleaned and sealed with an exterior grade varnish.
If the bathroom floor is ceramic tile, the grout will need to be cleaned and sealed. If it has missing grout or cracks in the tile, these are all problematic areas for urine to run into and create ongoing odors.
If the urine odor still persists, you just haven’t located the source of the bacteria, meaning the toilet will probably need to be pulled and maybe even the flooring replaced. Always remember the sub-flooring still needs to be disinfected and sealed before adding new flooring on top.
Your flooring installer may disagree as they probably don’t want to take the time, or wait to let it dry, but it is your home and something you still don’t want to smell after the new flooring is installed.
Good luck, remember you don’t have to live with urine odors, they are embarrassing, they stink are unhealthy and provided a welcome sign for your pets to travel to for their own bathroom needs.
Also if you have dogs or even kids that encounter a skunk be sure to purchase the skunk spray eliminator kit from Cottage Craft Works .com It will save you in the middle of the night when the dog comes charging in and starts rolling in the middle of the living room carpet. This spray will take of the smell right out in the matter of minutes. We use it and are amazed at how much it has saved us. Previously a skunked dog became an all night venture of washing soaking and rewashing and still we couldn't get the smell out. Now we can spray this eliminator on and return to our normal evening routine. You can purchase the Skunk Odor Eliminator Kit at Cottage Craft Works .com