DIY Natural Pet Odor & Stain Removal – The Vinegar Experiment.
With three dogs and two cats in our home, pet odor and stains are just a part of life. Accidents happen, upset stomachs are a given, and let’s not get started with hairballs. Uggh! I’ve gone through a number of carpet cleaners, spent thousands on having hardwood floors installed and should have bought stock in products that are supposed to help with clean up and odor control. For the most part I have been able to keep things under control and clean… or so I thought.
Last week however, one of our Chihuahuas decided that it was WAY too cold outside to take care of business outdoors and that the stairs were a much warmer and softer place for such a task. Perhaps the humans in the house wouldn’t notice the yellow spot just under the tread on the second stair.
Believe me, I have tried all the commercial products. Some work better than others, but all of them struggled with spots that were frequently used by our small family members. I used our go to commercial product that says it will break down the elements in pet urine and remove the stain and odor from my carpet. Admittedly, I’ve used this product for years because it is better than anything else I had tried before. The enzymes in the commercial product are formulated to break down the urine to remove the odor, and it does a fair job at that.
With that said, I was beginning to notice that the product wasn’t really working all that well so decided that it was time to drag out the carpet cleaner and give the stair a good cleaning. I became frustrated when I noticed that the more the carpet was shampooed, the more the machine kept pulling up years of enzyme and detergent buildup. Not the regular dirty, soapy water that you expect with carpet cleaning but more and more, for lack of a better word, solution.
What my husband and I suspect is that whenever we had to treat a urine spot, the cleaning solution never really all came out of the carpet. It became so bad that I stopped trying to clean the stairs with shampoo and just used clean water to try and get out as much of the dirty shampoo yuck as I could. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper.
After that fiasco I decided to look into natural odor and stain removal remedies. A small fortune has been spent on store bought products that apparently weren’t working, so what did I have to lose? Plus, the idea of using something that wasn’t harmful to us or our pets is a huge bonus. Through research of many home stain remover solutions, the simple idea of white distilled vinegar and baking soda came to the top. Hey, I had both of these items in my pantry already as I bet you do too. What came next is what I like to call the Vinegar Experiment!
I hate when a cleaning project has a lot of steps. The whole wipe, spray, rub, scrub, spray, wipe, do the hokey pokey, turn yourself around etc. is not a favorite so for my Vinegar Experiment I went with an easy 3 step method.
Pour enough vinegar to soak the area you a treating, followed by a small layer of baking soda on top to cover the wet area. The baking soda will snap, crackle and bubble as it is sprinkled on top of the vinegar. This will take you back to fifth grade Science class and building volcanoes :).
Cover your treated spot with a bowl or plate so that no one steps in your baking soda, tracking it all over the house. You will need to let your spot dry for two to three days. Check on your spot and you will sometimes see the baking soda turning yellow from the stain it is pulling up. Its kind of gross but also kind of cool to see it working.
Vacuum up all of the baking soda. Voila! No more stain!! No more odor!!! I am not kidding you. I was shocked to see how good of a job this simple solution could do. Now I will tell you that there most likely will be a crust of baking soda around the edges of your treated area. I just used my long thin vacuum tool to break it up when I was vacuuming. If you didn’t let the area dry long enough you may have to come back later and re-vacuum any remaining baking soda residue. Also if your area is too wet, you will make a mess out of your vacuum. That note is from personal experience :). I tried to rush one area I had treated. Patience is really a virtue with this experiment.
I used this method on the stairs that I mentioned earlier but I was so pleased with the outcome that I treated a number of other spots around our home. I had some old stains, that even though they had been cleaned, the discoloration just wouldn’t come up. The vinegar and baking soda worked on those spots too!
Why it works:
Remember high school chemistry? Me neither. But the chemical reaction here is pretty simple. Vinegar is a mixture of 5% acetic acid in water. When acetic acid is dissolved in water, it breaks apart into two components, the hydrogen and the remainder of the molecule, called the acetate. The hydrogen will try to bond to any molecule that it encounters, acting like a third wheel and weakening the molecule’s structure. These hydrogens are great at cleaning stains made from alkali substances, like soap, urine, and limestone. The baking soda performs two functions: 1. neutralizing the pH of the urine and vinegar solution, and 2. removing the odor, much like it does in your refrigerator.
Besides the method above, I also tried using a spray bottle with a mixture of the vinegar and baking soda. I tried one recipe that used 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. It didn’t seem that the diluted mixture cleaned as well. I was happier with 1 cup vinegar to 1 tsp of baking soda. Use a large bowl to add the ingredients together and do it VERY SLOWLY as the mixture will bubble like crazy. Remember the volcano I mentioned earlier? That will be your kitchen. Once mixed, add the liquid to your spray bottle. Spray your spot with the mixture and let it dry for a day then vacuum.
Using vinegar and baking soda to clean up pet stains was so easy and very inexpensive. I had the needed items already in my pantry, but I priced them out at the grocery store the last time I was there. A 32 fl oz bottle of Heinz distilled white vinegar was only $2.29 and an 8 oz box of Arm & Hammer baking soda was only 79¢. That’s crazy cheap!! Plus it worked beautifully and didn’t use any harsh chemicals. I had my whole family give me their opinions and even lend me their noses for this experiment and trust me, they would have told me in no uncertain terms if it hadn’t worked. So try your own Vinegar Experiment and let me know what you thought. Happy cleaning!!!!