Puppy Piddles. Kitty Calamities.
The most important first step in knowing how to deal with animal-related rug problems is to know what your rugs are. Find out what you rug is, where it’s from, how old, and the types of materials and dyes that were used in its creation. Armed with this information, you can better know what to do and what not to do to handle urine, fecal matter, vomit and/or physical damage caused by a pet. When “that” time comes, and you turn to get your old standby spotter and scrub brush – STOP! This inevitably causes more permanent harm than good.
A good emergency system is a very simple one, and all you need is a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water and cotton towels (preferably white or light color). If this is a large spill, vomit, etc. you may want to quickly grab your shop vacuum.
Pet urine and vomit stains are the worst stain on an oriental rug. If you do not get to them right away, you can have permanent dye loss, dye migration (“bleeding”), urea discoloration, food dye discoloration, and of course odor.
The vinegar will help lessen the dye bleed risk, and will help suspend and help you blot away the acidic urine or vomit.
If the spot is saturated or a real mess on the surface, grab your shop vac and gently extract the liquid, vomit, food, etc. Do not rub as this can damage the wool. Now take your towel and follow these procedures:
BLOT – RINSE – BLOT (for small urine spots only – not repeated or large animal accidents)
- Immediately blot the wet area with a white cotton towel. Do not scrub the affected area, as this untwists and breaks the wool, silk, or cotton face fibers. (If an oil or dense substance, use a spoon or other curved tool to scoop up as much as you can before you begin the blotting process.)
- Look at the wet towel for two things: is the liquid spill absorbing into the towel, and also, are any of the rug’s dyes absorbing into the towel.
- If the rug’s dyes are absorbing into the towel, blot a bit more and then STOP. No more work can be done to this area without causing the area’s dyes to bleed together. This type of damage can devalue your rug, so you want to stop before you make it worse. At this point you can pack the area with corn starch (or salt) and this will absorb the moisture and the spill into the powder.
- If the rug’s dyes are NOT absorbing into the towel (you only see the spill absorbing into it), then place a folded towel underneath the affected area and using a sponge dampen the affected area with white vinegar/water mixture. This will help you continue to remove the spill substance into the towel. Once you believe you have removed as much as you can through blotting, if you are still worried about anything foreign being in the fibers, or possible damage occurring to the dyes (if it is a pet stain or other damaging acid stain), then you can pack the area with corn starch.
- When you believe the absorption to be complete, elevate the treated area so that airflow can reach the back of the rug (prop it up) and dry the foundation thoroughly. Do this for at least one day to ensure complete drying. The rug will feel dry to the touch, however, the cotton foundation will still have moisture within it, and without air drying it will eventually lead to mildew and dry rot. Use a warm hair dryer to assist if needed. (If you have used corn starch it becomes hard to the touch when dry, and this can be broken apart with a spoon and scooped up and vacuumed away. However, you want to make sure the inner most cotton fibers are 100% dry, so still elevate the rug to dry for at least a day.)
If your work looks good when done, then TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE to get the area dry, and dried thoroughly. If you leave the area damp too long you risk dye bleed and mildew. Use a hair dryer (on warm only) if needed to help make sure BOTH sides are 100% dry. Keep the affected area elevated for airflow along both sides for at least a full 24 hours to be safe. 48 hours if possible.
If your work does not look “done” – and you still see red wine and food dye, or pet discoloration, then the next step is to try to absorb as much as possible before taking the rug to a professional rug cleaner (like us!). =)
Pack the area with CORN STARCH. Make sure you cover the spill affected area completely. The corn starch will pull up more of the spill as it dries. It is very absorbent.
Corn starch covering a spill on a wool rug.
>> Do NOT accidentally use baking soda! <<
Baking soda is alkaline and can create a yellowing of wool that will likely not be reversible.
>> Do NOT use any household spot removers! <<
Carpet spot removers that you buy in your grocery store are meant for the synthetic fibers in your wall-to-wall carpet and not for natural fiber rugs. Folex, Resolve, Oxyclean are all no-no’s.
Odor Issues: As far as the odors associated with all of these pet “emergencies,” misting Nature’s Miracle on the areas helps to remove some of the odor-causing bacteria. Resist the urge to saturate the rug with Nature’s Miracle, because pouring any product on a rug is never a good idea. With pet urine, if it is a substantial amount (dogs over 15 lbs or repeated accidents) then it has (because it’s hot and acidic) penetrated the wool or silk fibers and has been absorbed into the rug’s cotton foundation. In this case, the only way you will be able to remove the odor will be to have the rug get a bath and be soaked completely in an enzyme solution. You need to find a rug specialist to do this.
A different set of problems arises with “old” pet urine stains. When a pet urine stain is “fresh” it is a strong acid stain. After it has dried completely, and has sat in the fibers for several days, it becomes a strong alkaline stain. The problem with high alkalinity and wool is that it yellows the wool, and it also counteracts the mordant process that holds the dyes on to the wool fibers. It essentially makes the dyes “dissolve.” Even a rug with colorfast dyes will bleed and fade in areas that have old pet urine stains. So, the key in handling all pet stains is getting to the area as soon as you can (and use the spill steps so that you can minimize the damage).
Repair Issues: Cats often use their claws to create pulls in the field of a rug. These can usually be clipped without issue. Most pet damage, as far as chewing corners, etc., can be fixed, but depending on the rug, it can be expensive.
Summary: Knowing what your rug is will help you to know what you should and shouldn’t do to handle animal-related activity. Never use solvents or spot removers. Blot, dilute, blot… until you can bring your rug into a rug care professional for a thorough cleaning.
Information provided by rugcarecentral.com