This article was crafted with the help of Steve Colton of Zerorez of Atlanta.

Cats and dogs are more than just pets; they’re genuine companions and meaningful members of our households. But along with the benefits of owning a four-legged friend c­omes the potential for unpleasant pet odors. More than just an unpleasant smell, pet odors can present real health risks and deter any potential homebuyers. We spoke with Steve Colton, president and owner of Zerorez of Atlanta, to learn more about how to eliminate pet odors from the home, particularly those caused by dog or cat “accidents.”

A Little Science

To understand how pet odors originate, it’s helpful to have a sense of what it is that actually causes the scent. Steve explains that there’s nothing inherently smelly about urine itself (unless the animal’s kidneys aren’t functioning properly). Rather, it’s the bacteria that feed upon urea crystals within the urine that produce the distinctive stench. In order for the bacteria to thrive and emanate odor, they require a moist environment. For this reason, many homeowners will notice the insides of their homes begin to reek of pet odors in the spring, when the dry winter months give way to humid, rainy weather. Therefore, thorough pet odor removal requires not only eliminating the bacteria but eliminating the bacteria’s food source as well.

Stop the Stench Before It Starts

The best way to combat an offensive pet smell is to prevent it from forming in the first place. Regular vacuuming, daily litterbox cleaning, and proper house training will go a long way toward keeping your home odor-free. Steve advises dog owners to “stick to a very localized area when training the dog, and don’t let it run all around the house. A dog can smell where it has urinated in the past, and that way, if it does have accidents, they’ll occur in that one centralized location.” It’s far easier to clean up puppy puddles if you know where to find them and which areas to reinforce with some sort of absorbent padding.

Pet Accidents Happen

Despite homeowners’ best efforts to prevent them, accidents may occur from time to time, no matter how well trained the pet. The key is to act quickly in order to keep a minor mess from turning into a seriously stinky scenario. “The faster you get the urine out, the better,” Steve says. “First off, trust your nose; it’s going to be the best resource for finding the accident. Then, take an absorbent cloth and pat rather than scrub the soiled area.” For accidents that have had time to evaporate, Steve recommends a solution of one part vinegar to two parts water to help rehydrate the area and reduce the smell.

While nonporous surfaces like ceramic tile can generally be cleaned with relative ease, it’s when the urine seeps into the porous grout between those tiles that odor removal becomes a real hassle. Likewise, male dogs are prone to lifting their legs and spraying on walls, and since drywall is very absorbent, Steve says, “You’re going to have this smell emanating from within the wood itself.” Additionally, any accidents that occur on sofas or other furniture are especially troublesome because the foam padding that makes up the cushions is incredibly absorbent. Unfortunately, in a worst-case scenario, that couch may need to be tossed, and that drywall may need to be completely replaced.

Carpet: The Real Showdown

By and large, it’s removing pet odor from carpet that presents the greatest challenge for homeowners. Catch the mess early enough, and more often than not, you won’t have to worry. However, since carpet is especially adept at absorbing and retaining liquid, if the urine manages to reach the base of the carpet, the padding, or the subflooring, “that’s when you’re going to have it pretty bad,” Steve says. It’s at that point—when pet pee becomes the ultimate pet peeve—that you’ll want to call in the professionals.

Any liquid that seeps through carpet is going to expand after penetrating the top layer. What was originally a five-inch puddle can become a saturated area at least double that size underneath, so carpet cleaning professionals will know to clean a considerably larger area than what was initially soiled. They’ll first treat it with enzymes, which break down and eliminate the urea crystals that bacteria feed upon. As Steve says, “Bacteria that can’t eat can’t cause the smell.” After allowing the enzymes to do their work for ten or fifteen minutes, they’ll give the carpet a thorough cleaning just as they normally would. Simply using a deodorizing agent might mask the unpleasant smell for a short time, but it’s a temporary fix, and Steve doesn’t recommend it. It’s only by completely removing the source of the problem that a homeowner can feel confident that the unpleasant scent won’t reemerge down the road.


No one wants to deal with pet odors. Finding and attending to soiled areas immediately is always going to be the best way to avoid a more serious, lingering problem. Just keep in mind that your furry friend doesn’t mean any harm, and with proper training, regular cleaning, and loving attention, you can enjoy your pet’s companionship and an odor-free home at the same time.

This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Zerorez of Atlanta, a Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning Best Pick in Atlanta. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.

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