Dogs have taught me a great deal about what I call “the canine stain” and coping with cleanup. Every once in a while, over the years, one pup-in-training would let loose a yellow river in the house — and the pervasive pungency of that liquid can be truly shocking. Naturally, this sort of epic cleanup crisis usually took place in the middle of the night for maximum effect, when I was clean out of my fave stain and odor extractor.
Lucky me, I can sweep in my sleep because 1) I’m a Shakespeare scholar from way back who never forgot Lady Macbeth and 2) I’m such a quick study in the department of homekeeping (this motivated me to author a book called Pretty Pet Friendly).
Here are the lessons I’ve learned from my canine professors on the DIY science of eliminating dog stains and odors. I hope you’ll use the comments section to share what your dogs have taught you!
1. Use Water Sparingly
Pouring water over any yellow liquid (urine or vomit) is a mistake, especially on a rug, carpet, or mattress — it merely spreads the foul mess further and causes it to sink in deeper, while doing nothing to neutralize its odor.
If, on the other hand, you’re tackling an old, dried-on stain (let’s say some fecal matter got tracked in a while ago on a paw-pad or sneaker and you’re only just discovering it on a carpet or dog-bed cover), mix water and white vinegar 1:1 in a spray bottle and spritz on the area. Then follow the directions in tips 2 and 3 below.
2. Dry Cleaning Trick
Dry, absorbent powder is a dogsend whenever your dog has an accident. If the carpet is what got urinated or vomited on, quickly blot the area with paper towels then immediately scatter something dry and white over it, to absorb the offending liquid. Most everyone has baking soda in the fridge — now’s the time to grab it and use it unsparingly and without delay.
Don’t be stingy — you can’t possibly overdo it, so go ahead and dump out the box’s contents. Once it’s finished doing its absorbent thing, vacuum the area — you’ll be sucking up the stink as well as the powder. Repeat as necessary.
Note: The box of baking soda kept in the fridge will be kind of damp, so I like to keep an extra box or two in a dry place, so it retains maximum absorbency.
3. High-Powered Powder
Diatomaceous earth, a natural desiccant made of pulverized fossils, is much more absorbent than baking soda — and the more absorbent a powder is, the less staining and odor you’ll have to contend with later. How absorbent is this stuff? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends using it to clean up toxic liquid spills!
I keep a glass cracker jar full of fine-ground, food-grade diatomaceous earth on my pantry shelf for a variety of uses, from keeping fleas and ticks off my dogs to crisis cleanup situations.
4. Don’t Abhor a Vacuum
Make sure you have a powerful vacuum cleaner on hand — you’ll need it for homekeeping emergencies like these. Just forget about conventional vacs of yore; it’s well worth it to invest in a high-tech cleaning machine that doesn’t lose suction.
Once the white powder of your choice (baking soda or diatomaceous earth) has dried, meaning it’s absorbed the gross liquid, you’ll be ready to deploy your vac and suck up those yellow-stained particles.
5. DIY Odor Eliminator
A quart bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a tablespoonful of dishwashing liquid, and a quarter cup of baking soda make a foamy, homemade cleanup concoction that works wonders to destink dogs that have been skunked — or sheets and towels that got bombed by any dog emission, liquid or solid. Caution: Don’t try to bottle this mixture or it will explode, no joke!
Combine the ingredients only when you’re ready to deploy them. (If you’re out of hydrogen peroxide, substitute vinegar; and if you haven’t got measuring cups handy, just eyeball and wing it.)
You can mix these cleaning components directly on the stained sheet or towel, or do it in, say, a dog food bowl (bonus: the bowl gets disinfected, so you’re multitasking here) and pour the foamy white stuff over the stained textile as a pre-treat. Then just toss everything in the washing machine with some detergent — no need for chlorine bleach now (that’d be redundant, as the mixture works like a bleaching agent).
6. Mattress Mayhem
If you’ve got an old urine or vomit stain on your mattress, try the DIY odor eliminator concoction above. Spoon it on, then wipe off the excess foam. Sprinkle the area with diatomaceous earth and leave it to dry. Then use your trusty vacuum — again, don’t stint on horsepower; use a serious vac that doesn’t lose suction — to sweep up the stink-soaked powder. And prevent a “do-over” by covering the bed with a mattress protector!
7. Carpet Caretaking
Did your carpet get bombed? For wall-to-wall broadloom or an inexpensive area rug with no sentimental value, applying a batch of the formula in tip #5 above, followed by a thorough vacuuming, works like a charm. If it’s not nylon but a pricey Persian wool carpet you’ve got there, take care when using this mixture, as it could fade away the rug’s vibrant colors on the spot where it’s applied (it is a bleach, after all). In that case, liberally sprinkle diatomaceous earth over the offended area, allow it to dry, then vaccuum up the white powder.
If you have a backyard and a garden hose, you can haul the treasured wool rug outdoors and follow up by shampooing with a gentle dishwashing liquid, then thoroughly rinsing the entire rug so the whole area gets clean and no one spot gets discolored. (And hey, if the rug undergoes an overall fade, that’s desirable — makes it look vintage and shabby-chic!)
Dogster readers: Has your dog ever stained your carpet or furniture? Let us know how you dealt with it in the comments below!
Top Photo: English Bulldog by Shutterstock
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