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How to remove pet stains from carpets, clothing and furniture

Here's what to do when your cat or dog has an accident, makes a mess or sheds hair everywhere, according to cleaning experts.
“Keep in mind that your pet will return to the soiled area if they can smell their personal scent,” Vera Peterson told TODAY Home.
“Keep in mind that your pet will return to the soiled area if they can smell their personal scent,” Vera Peterson told TODAY Home.Alamy

Cats, dogs and other furry and feathered friends make wonderful companions, but they’re not always the tidiest housemates. One downside of living with pets is that they sometimes make a mess. TODAY Home reached out to cleaning experts to ask their advice for dealing with pet stains on carpets, clothing and furniture, whether from pee or poop, vomit, blood or simply dirt your critters tracked in on their paws.

Here are their top tips for cleaning pet stains, as well as their suggestions on how to clean pet hair from fabrics and rugs.

How to remove pet stains from carpets

The best thing to do is to act fast! Clean the soiled area as soon as possible.

  1. If there are solids involved (like pet poop, vomit or chunks of mud), remove them with gloves and paper towels. Do this delicately, so you don’t end up smearing the solids on the carpet and making the stain worse.
  2. If the stain is from urine (or blood) and it’s still wet, soak up as much as possible by placing paper towels or a damp cloth over the soiled area and then applying pressure by pushing on it, or standing or placing something heavy, like a laundry detergent container, on top of it. Repeat, if necessary, until the area is barely damp. With urine, Vera Peterson, the Dallas-Fort Worth-based president of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company, told TODAY Home, the more you can remove before it dries, the easier it’ll be to manage the stain and any odors.
  3. Rinse or moisten the area with cool water. For tough pet stains, said Peterson, you can also try putting undiluted soda water directly on the stain. Let the water absorb into the soiled area for about a minute.
  4. Blot the stain with a dry towel. Apply pressure if you need to soak up any excess water.
  5. Assess the stain. If the stain is still visible or has an ammonia smell, you may want to use a pet stain cleaner, like an oxygen- or enzyme-based cleaning product (follow the instructions on the package). “Keep in mind that your pet will return to the soiled area if they can smell their personal scent,” said Peterson. She also cautioned against using aerosol fresheners. “(They) don’t eliminate odors,” she said. “They simply mask the unpleasant odor with a better one.”

What to do if a pet stain has already set

For an older stain that’s already set and dry, Peterson recommended repeating the steps above and using a pet odor neutralizer. A carpet stain remover can also be used if the stain is still visible after cleaning. “An odor disposer multi-action enzyme formula like Nature’s Miracle or Bissell carpet cleaning products (should) completely eliminate all odors and stains caused by pet accidents on water-safe surfaces,” she said.

You might also be interested in cleaning with a steamer, but the Humane Society suggests avoiding this method, since heat can permanently set pet stains and odors. The organization also warns against using ammonia or vinegar to remove pet stains. The strong odors these chemicals emit could trigger your pet to try and reinforce their own scent marking in the area. Peterson suggested taking a different tack. “A product we really like, specifically for carpets, is Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro, which does great on carpets and other floors.” And finally, she added, “if all else fails, consult with a professional carpet cleaner.”

How to remove pet stains from clothing

  1. Remove any solids.
  2. Rinse and pre-treat the stain immediately, advised Peterson. (But check the care label to make sure the fabric doesn't require professional cleaning.)
  3. If the care label allows, run the item through a normal washing machine cycle. “Always check the item to see if it needs to be washed again before drying,” said Peterson, since putting it in the dryer can sometimes set a stain and make it harder to clean.

How to remove pet stains from furniture

It’s always a good idea to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning your upholstery first, since certain fabrics may require professional cleaning.

If the upholstery is machine washable and you can remove slipcovers or cushion or pillow covers, Peterson indicated that washing them in a washing machine is the best way to clean furniture with pet stains on it.

“Furniture that cannot be laundered can be tricky to clean and deodorize,” said Peterson. She recommended blotting the area, soaking it with soda water and blotting again to lift the stain and any odors. “Pet stain and odor remover products that have been specially formulated for use on upholstery can be helpful as well.” Just be sure to follow the instructions on the product’s label so you don’t end up fraying or discoloring your furniture.

How to remove pet hair from clothing, bedding and area rugs

What about all that pet hair? “Pet owners are used to finding pesky hair on their clothing, blankets and bedding," Jason Kapica, the president of Dryer Vent Wizard, a Neighborly company, who is also based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, told TODAY Home. Regularly brushing and bathing your pet can help, but it probably won’t be enough to keep your home pet-hair-free.

One easy way to clean pet hair from your clothes and other washable items is to throw them in the washing machine, but as Kapica pointed out, it’s often the dryer that’s doing the bulk of the hair removal, which is why it’s important to clean your lint trap after each use — and regularly check to see if your dryer vent needs to be unclogged.

“If you own a pet, you should prioritize having your dryer vent professionally cleaned at least once per year, if not more,” Kapica suggested. “This will allow you to manage the pet hair on your clothing and other personal items while maintaining the efficiency of your dryer and preventing fire hazards.” He added that if you notice an excessive amount of pet hair in your lint trap or on your clothing after the dryer has finished its cycle, it’s a sign that it’s time to call a professional.

In addition, Peterson recommended keeping a lint roller handy. “There’s nothing a good lint roller can’t accomplish,” she said.

How to remove pet hair from carpets

When it comes to cleaning pet hair off carpets, vacuuming is the best method, said Peterson. “It’s simply an efficient way to eliminate as much hair as possible.” However, she pointed out that if the hairs get buried deep in the carpet, you may need to use a bristle brush to comb through the carpet as well. “Obviously the more frequently you clean your carpet, the easier it is to keep up with pet hair and keep it minimal,” she said.

How to remove pet hair from furniture

Peterson recommended dusting and vacuuming furniture on a biweekly basis to keep it clear of pet hair (weekly is better if your upholstery tends to attract and hold onto pet hair). Additionally, she suggested using a dry brush to remove any hairs that are deeply embedded in the furniture’s fibers. “The brush loosens up the fabric,” she said, “(and) helps get a better overall clean.”

Don’t forget to flip pillows and cushions around when cleaning them. Be sure to tackle all the furniture's crevices too. “Whether or not your furniture moves,” Peterson emphasized, “hair does.” She recommends using the crevice cleaner attachment on your vacuum to remove pet hair from hard-to-reach places like the corners of your furniture, between the cushions and the carpet along the wall.