Effects of Urine on Carpet

Below are some of the effects urine has on carpeting and upholstery, and reasons why prompt professional cleaning is imperative to removing the stains and odor, and preventing serious damage.

Stains and Odor

Urine is made up of several waste products of metabolism such as urea, cholesterol (lipids), and uric acid. Another component, called urochrome, gives urine the yellow color. The exact make up depends on the animal’s diet, health, age, and other factors. When urine leaves the body, it comes in contact with bacteria in the urethra, the animal’s skin, and microorganisms in the carpet. The warm acid environment is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which begin to flourish. The bacteria give off gasses, which is one component of the odor we smell.

As the urine decomposes, it changes in pH from an acid to an alkali. Alkaline salt crystals from when the acidic urine reacts with the ammonia being created. These hygroscopic salts draw moisture from the air and remain slightly moist and chemically active. As long as it remains active, it will produce ammonia gasses. Dried urine salts will give off more ammonia gas once re-moistened, which is why the odor is stronger on humid days or after cleanings.

Bleaching

Pet urine stains can have a permanent bleaching effect on some types of carpet depending on how they are dyed. Over time, as urine sits in your carpet, it becomes highly alkaline, and can bleach out primary carpet dyes until you are left with a yellowish or white discoloration. Bleaching may not become apparent until the carpet is cleaned, at which point the carpet dyes previously released by the pet urine are removed, and suddenly a light spot appears. At that point, the only option to repair the damage is to re-dye the spot or patch the carpet.

It’s Not Just On the Carpet

Although a pet stain may look small on the surface, it can be 2-3 times the size underneath. Just a few ounces of urine can quickly soak deep into the carpet backing, the padding, and even the sub-floor below. Urine odors can permeate from the floor, be it cement or wood, from the tack strip, and even from the framework of the house behind the walls. Cleaning the area as soon as possible will help prevent the urine from soaking through to the backing and pad below and avoid permanent bleaching.

 

Time Does Matter

Besides the obvious health and sanitary issues left untreated, urine causes difficult to remove yellow stains, or worse yet, dye loss. The amount of time that these components remain in the carpet fibers has a great deal to do with the success rate of completely removing both the spots and the odor, and prevent bleaching or other damaging effects.