Living with pets can bring joy to our lives. It can also bring some challenges not the least of which is, what to do with those “presents” our animal companions sometimes leave for us. Whether it’s a hairball, potty accident, vomit or spray debris from a caged pet, the key to any stain removal is to move quickly and take care of it immediately.

Wet stains

For accidents on the carpet or upholstery, remove any solid material using a blunt instrument. A plastic scraper or putty knife, purchased from a local home improvement store works well in most cases. The plastic is easy to clean and causes less damage than metal, but use what is available. Once the bulk material is removed, use plain white towels (cloth or paper) to blot the liquid. Some textiles can bleed when wet so use care if using anything other than white as the colors may bleed, which may permanently damage your furnishings.

While a giant hairball may make you feel like you want to scrub your carpet clean, avoid the urge to scrub vigorously. Carpet and many upholstery fabrics are comprised of fibers twisted or woven together. Enthusiastic scrubbing can cause the material to come apart creating holes.

Once you have the solid material and most of the liquid removed, place additional towels on the area and place a heavy object (like books or weights) on top to absorb the remaining liquid. If you own a wet vacuum, use it, it will be faster and easier than doing it by hand.

Dry stains

If you did not see the stain until well after it was dry, fill a spray bottle with plain water and dampen the area. Don’t over wet the area as it can cause the stain to spread further. Scrape up any solid material and blot the liquid with a white towel or use a wet vacuum. Repeat as needed until the stain is removed. If the area smells or you can’t get the stain out, choose an enzyme cleaner specific to the surface you are cleaning—wood floor, carpet, tile grout, concrete, linoleum, clothing/bed linens—and follow the directions on the bottle (enzyme cleaners are available at most pet supply stores). Resist the urge to grab just any cleaning product as many of them can eat away at the material you are cleaning or cause bleach/whitening stains to occur, further damaging the surface you are cleaning. Pet enzyme cleaners are more effective than standard household cleaners are, as they tend to lift the stain entirely (including all smells, often only detectable by the original offender); whereas, household cleaners merely mask the pet smell and can invite further staining.

For urine stains, only washing your linens or using a household cleaner on a hard surface will NOT take care of the stain and may invite continual “accidents”. To determine if all trace of the original stain has been removed, use a black light. If you can see it under a black light, your pet can most definitely still smell it and may continue to use that area until the stain is cleaned completely and the behavior is stopped.

Call in a professional

If after cleaning, you are unable to get rid of the stain or your pet continues to soil the area, call in a professional. They will discuss cleaning options, such as chemical-based or natural products with you and help you decide which one best fits your needs. To find a cleaning professional in your area, visit