"What is the best cleaner for removing urine and stool stains and odors?"
Environmental Clean Up
There is no perfect cleaner that will clean and sanitize every surface safely and effectively. There are dozens if not hundreds of products available commercially along with homemade cleaning recipes that can be used. Some products are more effective on solid impermeable surfaces such as concrete, tile, and vinyl floor coverings, while others are designed for use on carpet, upholstery and fabric. Products designed as air fresheners or room deodorizers are designed to mask odors and will not be effective at removing the source of the odor.
1. Do not use ammonia or ammonia type compounds to clean urine from surfaces, especially fabric or carpet. There is ammonia in urine already, and consequently the cleaning ammonias do not remove all the urine compounds and odors and are less effective at decreasing future urination in the affected area.
2. Diluted household bleach is quite effective at neutralizing urine on hard sufaces. Caution must be used in diluting the bleach safely to disinfecting strength (see bottle label for directions) as bleach is highly caustic and can cause injury if not used appropriately. Use in a well ventilated area. Be cautious with its use on heavily urine saturated areas as the bleach can react with residual urine related ammonia to form a toxic gas.
3. Lightly soiled carpeting can be cleaned with one of the many urine removers available. Enzyme based cleaners typically require the affected areas to remain moist for at least 24 hours after application, usually by covering with a dampened towel. Chemical based cleaners do not need to be kept wet after use. Sometimes an ultraviolet light/black light used for illuminating certain types of artwork is helpful at detecting the presence of urine stains.
In general, remove as much of the urine as possible before application by soaking up the urine with a paper towel. Do not use vinegar to clean affected areas before using an enzyme based cleaner as the vinegar's acidity may render the enzymes inactive. Most products recommend treating a small inconspicuous area of the carpet first prior to the entire affected area to make sure no staining or bleaching of the carpet fibers occurs.
4. Heavily soiled carpeting may need replacement of at least the carpet padding for resolution of odors and repeated soiling. Ideally, the carpet and carpet padding are pulled up, and the subflooring underneath is evaluated for discoloration. Wood and cement can absorb urine and retain the urine odor. Even faint odors may attract the cat back to that area. The subflooring should be cleaned with an appropriate cleaner to remove residual urine, and then sealed to prevent escape of any lingering odors. Cement and concrete sealers are available at home and garden stores, as are polyurethrane sealers to seal wood subflooring. Obtain the advice of a knowledgeable salesperson to determine the optimal product for your floor type.
5. Replace the carpet pad after sealing the subflooring. Carpet padding is highly absorbent, and in most cases it is impossible to remove all urine saturated into the padding. It is also quite economical to replace. Remove the affected carpet padding from the soiled area and replace with new padding. Treat the underside of the caret with the cleaning prduct you have chosen (a chemical based product is usually most effective in this case) and tack the carpet back down.
6. If the carpet has been damaged beyond repair, remove it but do not replace it until the subflooring has been treated and sealed. Address the causes of the inappropriate urination eg have the cat treated medically, make the recommended household litterbox changes and start behavioral modification. Make sure that the inappropriate urination has stopped before recarpeting. If you are unsure whether complete resolution has occurred, consider replacing the carpet with a solid surface flooring such as vinyl, tile or laminated wood type products such as Pergo. These flooring materials are both significantly easier to clean and also less attractive as a litter box alternative to most cats.
Cleaning walls that have been urine sprayed
Often urine drips behind the baseboard of walls that have been urine sprayed. If possible, remove the piece of baseboard to clean and seal behind it, then replace. If unable to remove the baseboard, clean the wall and baseboard thoroughly and apply a sealer and if possible an unobtrusive line of silicone caulk such as that used to seal bathroom fixtures. This seals the gap between the baseboard and wall and both prevents more urine from dripping behind the baseboard and seals in any residual odor from urine trapped behind the baseboard.
Cleaning furniture that has been soiled with urine
1. There is a great deal of variety in the materials used in furniture upholstery in particular, and the manufacturer's recommendations should be followed for cleaning.
2. In general, leather furniture should be treated with appropriate leather cleaners and conditioners.
3. Furniture upholstered with fabric should be treated in an inconspicous area first to test for staining or discolration. Bleach is not recommended for most upolstery fabrics. Many enzyme and chemical urine stain removers designed for carpet cleaning are also effective on upholstery. If the furniture has upholstery slip covers, remove the slip covers and clean the affected areas underneath with appropriate cleaning products. Launder the slip covers as directed by the manufacturer. Bleaching is helpful in removing urine odor and stains if it is tolerated by the slip cover fabric.
4. If the inappropriate urination has not completely resolved, temporarily cover the targeted piece of furniture with a liquid resistant material such as a plastic painting cloth or a vinyl table cloth. Although this may be unattractive, it buys time to resolve the problem completely.
Cleaning bedding or clothing that has been urine soiled
1. Bedding should be removed and laundered thoroughly with bleach or an appropriate color safe cleaning booster. If the underlying mattress has been soiled, follow the mattress manufacturer's directions for cleaning.
2.If a particular blanket or comforter has been the recipient of multiple urinations, remove and store after cleaning. Replace at least temporaily with bedding that has a different texture and consistency. Many cats are drawn to very soft plush fabrics for urination especially when cystitis is present or they are stressed. A bedspread with a nubby or rougher texture may be significantly less desirable to the cat as a urination surface. If necessary, temporarily place a vinyl table cloth over the bedding as a protective easily cleaned surface while the litter box issues are addressed.
3. Keep clothing off the floor to avoid it becoming an easy target for urine soiling. If soiling does occur, launder as soon as possible using the hottest temperature setting safe for the fabric and use fabric deodorizers such as Febreeze if possible.