If you have a new puppy or adopted dog, it is more than likely that there could be a few accidents that occur in the house. While it is important to work on a consistent toilet training regime, with lots of opportunities to get outside and huge praise and rewards when they successfully go there, accepting that you may need to clean up some indoors too is the best attitude to have.
Never punish your dog for any indoor accidents, they usually won’t associate the punishment with going indoors and it is much kinder and more effective to reward them for when they do go in the place you want them to.
See our article on puppy potty training for more detailed guidance on mastering this important skill.
When your pup does have an accident it is really important that it is cleaned up thoroughly. Not only is it a hygiene issue but, if it is not cleaned up well enough then it can increase the chances of your dog returning to the same spot to potty again.
If you don’t use an effective Stain and Odor remover you can be left with permanent unsightly patches on your carpet too.
This article offers some suggestions for effective stain and odor removers on the market, some useful home remedies and some other tips and tools that may be useful too.
Normal cleaning products don’t cut the mustard when it comes to urine stains
Why Are Pet Urine Stains so Hard to Remove?
The biggest culprit for staining and odors is the uric acid that is contained within a dog’s urine. When the urine is not properly cleaned up the strong uric acid forms into crystals.
Uric acid is also found in human urine and the crystals are what can cause the unsightly and odorous brown/yellow stains that you often see around a poorly cleaned toilet and in the toilet bowl. They are expert bonders too and they will tightly latch onto the surface they are exposed to. This means that they can dig deep into the fibres of your carpet and linger there.
Uric acid is not soluble in water and this means that a normal cleaning product or water-based solution is generally not effective at removing it. Sometimes you may think that you have gotten rid of them but when the uric acid crystals are exposed to more water (or your dog potties in the same place), they recrystallize and the smells resurface again with a vengeance.
Why is It So Important to Thoroughly Clean Them Up?
If you are not able to banish the uric acid from the flooring properly then not only will it be a place for bacteria and germs to harbour, but it also means that the smell will continue to linger. Even if, when dry, you think that you have managed to rid the area of the smell it will likely still be there.
If you live in an area with humid temperatures, for example, then the moisture in the air can be enough to trigger the uric acid crystals and the smells can become overpowering.
Given that our dog’s sense of smell is massively stronger than our own that means that it will continue to attract the dog to that spot to wee on again.
To stop attracting your dog back to the same spot over and over you need to completely banish any traces of the uric acid.
If the uric acid is left for prolonged periods without effective cleaning or there are repeated accidents in the same area this can cause the uric acid to permanently damage your carpet or flooring, so that even future thorough cleaning will not remove the staining and you can be left with permanent unsightly staining marks or changes in colour of the flooring.
To minimize any long-lasting damage to your flooring, urine stains should be cleaned up as soon as possible
Cat Urine Stains Can Be Even More Stubborn
If you have a cat in the household and they have had an accident, it can be even more of a challenge to remove the stain and smell. Cat urine is generally a lot more concentrated than that of dogs and so the proportion of that stubborn uric acid will be higher. If your cat uses a litter tray, it is important to use a safe but very effective cleaner as the uric acid can even build up on the inside of the litter tray and it can mean that, even after cleaning, an unpleasant smell will linger.
Why an Enzymatic Cleaner is Often Recommended
It is widely accepted that most general water-based cleaning solution may get rid of some of the staining and odor, but they will not be effective at completely removing the uric acid from the area (given its lack of water solubility).
To really remove the uric acid, the most effective solution is to use a product that relies on the use of enzymes that will break down the uric acid crystals.
Enzymes are molecules that can cause a chemical reaction when exposed to other molecules.
Generally, the enzymes that are present in stain and odor removers are ones that are designed to react with the uric acid molecules and will break them down and turn them into something else that is easier to then clean up.
It is not enough to just do a couple of light sprays either. You really need to saturate the affected area to give it a chance to fully dissolve all the uric acid crystals. For a heavily toileted area or one that has been sitting uncleaned for a while, you may even need to use multiple applications of the product before it is completely clean or sometimes the manufacturers will recommend covering the area after saturation to prolong the period before it dries, giving it longer to do its work.
It May Seem OTT But A Stain Detecting Torch Can Be Really Useful
Sometimes your dog may have had an accident but you didn’t see where they did it exactly. Maybe you are getting a strong smell of urine but can’t isolate it to a particular spot. Sometimes you may have cleaned an area but are not sure if you have completely eradicated the stain. In these instances using an Ultraviolet Urine Detector Torch can be a quick and easy way to scan the carpet for that offending area.
They are extremely effective, not expensive and easy to use. They are particularly useful if your dog keeps going back to one spot and you want to see if it is because the area is not properly clean or if you have children and you want to ensure that they are in a bacteria-free zone.
It may seem a bit over the top, and some cleanliness obsessives can get a bit too attached to this tool, but it does have a genuinely practical function.
Make Sure Whatever You Select is Safe For Use Around Dogs
It is extremely important that whatever solution you use, that you ensure that the product is safe for use around dogs. Some products can be dangerous if ingested by dogs, even occasionally some of those advertised as being suitable for cleaning up pet stains. If these are ingested by your dog, or even if they get some on their paws and then lick it off, it could cause an upset tummy or worse.
Always make sure that you do your research to ensure that it is something that does not carry any risk for use around dogs.
Products containing bleach, for example, may have strong cleaning properties but they can be highly toxic and they can also risk stripping the color from your flooring too.
Well-Reviewed Stain and Odor Removers
Some products that claim to be enzyme based may actually not contain very high volumes of the enzymes and their effectiveness will be poor or limited. Picking one that has a good reputation can save you time and money, and give you a better long term result.
The products listed below are ones that, when used following the manufacturer’s instructions closely, generally have good results.
Don’t forget though, if the stain has been sitting in the carpet for some time, while the product may remove any lingering bacteria, the damage to the carpet may already be irreversible and no amount of cleaning may remove burnt in stains. The sooner you can properly clean up the accident, the better!
All of the enzymatic product manufacturers recommend saturation of the area. If it is not soaked then the enzymes may not get the opportunity to break down all the uric acid crystals. For very stubborn or older stains, the manufacturers suggest covering with plastic or a wet towel to slow down the drying out process and giving the enzymes even longer to do their work.
After the area has been treated and dried out. You should check if the stain has gone using an ultraviolet light. If there is still any evidence of the stain, further treatment may be required. Once you have finished treatment and the last application has dried out you may want to rinse the area with tepid water and then blot up any excess moisture. If you don’t do this dirt particles could attach themselves to any residual cleaning product and make the carpet look soiled or dirty.
Also remember that, even after you completely eradicate the stain and odor, some pets will still return to the same spot if they have gotten into the habit. Don’t forget to block the area if possible and work hard on going back to basics and mastering the toilet training regime.
BUBBAS Super Strength Commercial Enzyme Cleaner
Bubbas is a small company with an extremely well-reviewed product. While it may not be as cheap as some other bigger manufacturer products it consistently receives great feedback on its effectiveness.
Like all the other products recommended here, it relies on enzymes to break down the uric acid. No major complaints about smells (like those received by Nature’s Miracle and a bit by Urine Off) and many people rave about its practicality for use on other stains and odor related problems. They also offer a money back guarantee.
Rocco & Roxie Professional Strength Stain & Odor Eliminator
This is an enzymatic cleaner that has received thousands of top reviews. It is non-toxic, compares well in terms of price alongside the other big hitters and, like BUBBAs, they are a smaller business which appeals to some too.
As with all the products, some stains may require repeated treatments and there are some that are not a fan of the smell but, none of the products are going to please everyone in every way and this one comes out right at the top in terms of the number of positive reviews.
This is one of the most widely available, well-reviewed products on the market. It is more expensive than some products, especially if you have a number of large areas that you need to treat, but many users are happy to pay a little more to know that their carpet, hard flooring area or soft furnishings will be effectively cleaned.
Because of its popularity Urine Off comes in a wide variety of sizes, various strengths and it is widely available in many vets and general stores too.
Some users are disappointed that it does not have a fresh smell but it surely beats the smell of old urine!
Nature’s Miracle Stain and Odor Remover
This is another popular, tried and tested formula that is well reviewed when used as per the manufacturer’s instructions and providing an old stain has not already caused permanent damage.
Nature’s Miracle is another enzymatic solution. For stubborn stains, they recommend that a gentle scrub with a soft bristle brush on the affected area after it has been saturated can be helpful.
A number of recent reviewers have complained the original formula has changed and, while most agree it is still effective, complain the smell is not as pleasant.
A Tried and Tested Homemade Solution
Be aware that we do not know of any home solution that will remove the uric acid from your flooring or soft furnishing the way that any of the enzymatic cleaners will. But, if you do not have any enzymatic cleaner around and you want to at least clean up the worst of an accident, especially if it is fresh one that has not had time to really soak in, then this homemade solution is one that is often suggested. We would still recommend then making time to go and get an enzymatic product to then guarantee all traces are completely removed.
First of all, you should blot up as much of the recent accident as you possibly can. Once you have soaked up as much as possible, then you can apply your vinegar solution. Some people recommend initially using a solution that has a greater proportion of white vinegar (so perhaps three-part vinegar to one part water) and leave this to dry. Then you can use a second solution that is one part vinegar and three parts water (so that the vinegar smell will not be so strong). Others just recommend one or two applications, equal parts water and vinegar.
To help remove any lingering smell, once it is completely dry, the area can then be lightly sprinkled with baking soda. The baking soda can help to neutralize the smell further. After it has been left for about 15 minutes this can then be hoovered up. For maximum impact it can be left overnight.
Don’t mix the vinegar and baking soda together as a solution, their acidic and alkaline properties will cancel each other out.
Both products are safe to use around dogs and cats and while they will not be as effective at completely eradicating any traces of urine as an enzymatic cleaner will, they can be a good temporary solution and are more effective than many other cleaning solutions.
Baking Soda can be useful for helping to neutralize the odors caused by the urine
As well as using products to help get rid of stains and odors, it is also important to consider other management tools. Of course, as mentioned, working on toilet training is the most important thing, but there are other things that should or could be considered too
Be Mindful of Underlying Medical Conditions
If your dog has always been great with their toilet training and is suddenly starting to have accidents in the house and you can’t understand why, the first thing to rule out is any possibility of an underlying medical condition. Some medical conditions can cause your dog to start drinking a lot more and some of these can be serious and receiving a prompt diagnosis and treatment can be important. Some of these can include kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, and diabetes. It is important to consult your vet whenever there are sudden unexplained accident occurring.
Certain drugs can also make your dog more thirsty and they may need to go out for the toilet more as a result. The most common of these are steroids.
If you have an elderly dog with mobility, incontinence or canine dementia issues they may start to have more frequent accidents inside. Sometimes upping pain medications, or using certain drugs can help alleviate some of the issues, sometimes more management may be required.
Puppy Pads Can Be Helpful
If you are working on toilet training with your pup but want to minimise the amount of damage occurring to your floorings, then you could introduce puppy pads. They are not a full proof solution but if you can cover the flooring with pads or paper to start with and then gradually reduce the amount being used this can encourage your dog to go there rather than on random or repeated other spots on the bare flooring. You may need to then do further work to master full success in toilet training outside, but if they are constantly going on the carpet, the puppy pads can be a helpful middle step.
Is it Worth Considering Neutering?
For some dogs, they may be totally toilet trained but continue to do small, territorial scent markings in the house. These can often be dotted all over the house and can be strong, undiluted urine patches.
While neutering is not a guaranteed solution, and ideally this should not be your only reason for considering it, there is a possibility that, along with some additional training, neutering could help prevent this type of urination from occurring in the house.
For more information, please read our article on the pros and cons of neutering.
Are Belly Bands or Diapers Appropriate?
If you have a dog that does do a lot of territorial marking or has an incontinence issue then belly bands or diapers can sometimes be useful as a management tool rather than as a cure.
Belly Bands are particularly useful for the male dogs that constantly cock their legs and just relieve themselves of a few spots of very strong urine to mark their territory.
For those dogs that cannot hold in a full release of their bladder, then diapers may help. Some dogs may take a bit of help getting used to feeling relaxed wearing them, they are not cheap and they need to be checked regularly and removed when soiled to prevent any bacteria from building up or skin problems developing.
Breaking the Habit
For a dog that is generally house trained but is repeatedly going back to one spot in the house to relieve themselves (even after it has been thoroughly cleaned), sometimes it is enough just to break the habit cycle. Blocking off the area that they are constantly returning to and then making sure that you consistently reward them whenever they go to the toilet outside can sometimes be a simple way to snap them out of what has simply become a habit for them. Of course, it is not always as simple as this, but it is always worth a try!
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.