Oh, no. Not THAT smell!
If you’re a pet owner like me, you know how awful urine smell can get. As much as I love my furry children — and I know that accidents are inevitable — the smell is hard to get rid of. Cat urine, in particular, is the bane of any householder, but dog urine is not much better.
Pet urine on a hardwood floor can be a real nightmare. As you know, wood can easily absorb and trap liquids and their odors. Sealant helps, but those little claws and paws can scratch the finish, leaving exposed wood to absorb urine.
If you have the same problem, you may be asking yourself: Do I need a special cleaner? Do I need a hardwood floor vacuum? Am I going to have to refinish my hardwood? Can it be saved?
First, Assess the Damage
Is the urine recent or old? How strong is the smell? Is the floor sealed and, if so, is the sealant in good shape? Are the seams tight or loose? Is it visibly stained? How big is the problem area? Are your pets likely to soil the area again?
Based on this assessment, your cleaning will fall into one of three categories:
- First aid only: If the floor seal is tight and odor is not widespread, you may just need a special cleaner for pet urine.
- More testing required: If the floor isn’t sealed or is but damaged, you see visible stains and/or the smell is fairly strong, you may need to sand it to remove the smell, provided simple cleaning doesn’t work.
- Major surgery required: If steps 1 and 2 don’t work, and the urine has soaked thoroughly into the wood, you may have no other choice but to replace it.
First Aid: Get the Right Cleaner for the Job
Nature designed pet urine to be smelly and stick around — it’s an animal’s way of marking its territory. The best cleaners use enzymes or other chemicals to break down the urine, not just cover it up with fancy fragrance. Breaking down the molecules that cause the odor removes the odor.
Your first line of defense might be lurking in your bathroom cabinet — hydrogen peroxide. Try pouring hydrogen peroxide onto the stained area, cover it with a cloth soaked in hydrogen peroxide, cover that with plastic (try a trash bag) and leave it overnight. I’ve also had success with commercial products designed to remove urine odor.
An important tip: Test your cleaner in a hidden area of the floor. You don’t want to get so excited about cleaning the stains that you damage the floor’s finish!
More Testing Required: Sand the Floor
If simple cleaning doesn’t work, the urine has soaked more deeply into the wood’s upper layers, and those layers have to go. You need to sand and refinish the floor.
You can find many DIY articles online with instructions on sanding and refinishing, but here are the basic tools you’ll need:
- A vibrating floor sander or disk sander for minimal sanding
- An edge sander or random-orbiting sander for working close to baseboards
- A pry bar for removing quarter-round prior to sanding
- Stain and/or sealer
If you have finished sanding and you still have an odor issue, then you have a bigger problem.
Major Surgery Required: Replacing the Floor
If your hardwood floor was exposed to years and years of pet urine (a particularly bad problem with repossessed homes), then it may be toast. After a certain point, it’s simply impossible to get rid of urine odor from soaked wood. You’ll need to replace it and, possibly along with the sub-floor too.
As with everything, prevention is key. Always have your pet-urine cleaner of choice on hand and go after accidents as soon as they happen. And here’s hoping you never have to do major floor surgery in your home!