Identifying and Removing Pet Stains & Odors

Many of us adore—and sometimes live for—our beloved pets. Many pet lovers own homes, and as often happens, begin to think about selling. However much you stand by your animal, and whether not you’re thinking of selling (though more so if you are), how would you like some good tips on how to remove any unpleasant pet smells, stains, or damage? You love your pets, but: they’re your pets. If you’re going to sell, a potential buyer is more likely to put an offer on the table if they don’t see, or smell, anything under it!

Start with the basics. Let’s say you have a cat or do that uses a litter box or potty pad:

  • Keep these private animal rest areas private if possible, but in all cases spotless, and changed or cleaned often. Without throwing your pet off its routine, try to keep the litter boxes and potty pads as out of sight as possible.
  • Get rid of stains or ‘accidents’ as soon as they happen. Stains often occur on, under, or near your pet’s potty areas. Use water and detergent (more tips later).
  • If a stain seems permanent or is serious enough, consider bringing in a professional to remove it. If the stain can’t be treated, consider replacing tiles or other floor coverings in the area.
  • Don’t rely on air fresheners, candles, or incense to cover up foul smells. In any case, they may be off-putting or cause allergic reactions for some. How will you know if you’ve done a good job? Bring in a friend or two, and let them do an informal sniff test.

The above isn’t meant to imply you ‘let things go’. Rather, it’s more a matter of us living with our pets day in and out, and maybe not noticing something over time.

The Humane Society of the United States has some great tips for removing pet stains and odors. One of the first things they suggest you do is to, literally, “use your nose” to discover exactly where the ‘accident’ took place. Once you do that, you’ll still have two jobs.

First, you will need to begin the process of re-training your pet to not use those areas to relieve itself.

During the re-training period, try to ensure the spot or spots where your pet urinated or defecated are off-limits. Cover them up (literally) if you need to. In terms of re-training your pet, there are many other things you can do. For instance, make your dog’s potty area or your cat’s litter box area more attractive; make off-limit areas less attractive. Take your time with your pet … it took her or him time to get the bad habit going. If your best efforts don’t work, consider visiting your vet. Perhaps your animal has a medical problem or condition the vet may discover right away; then appropriate treatment can begin.

Second (or concurrent to the training) comes the cleanup. The Society has some great ideas for the clean-up drill as well. For example, if the soiled areas include urine on carpet or upholstery, use paper towels and newspapers to first soak up as much as you can. Following that, rinse and re-rinse the area with cool or cold water, drying up as much as you can. If the stain has already dried, consider using a wet-vac or good carpet stain remover. Note: avoid using steam cleaners as the extreme heat will tend to set the stain in place rather than remove it.

For baseboards, walls, or flooring, your job may have to be much more thorough. Varnish and paint react to the acid in urine. You may have to sand and remove a layer of varnish or paint. Check with your local hardware or home store for additional expert help.

If you’ve more than adequately taken care of odor and stains, your cleanup job isn’t quite done. Cats and dogs shed, and their hair or fur gets over, on, and into almost everything. Furniture, clothing, bed spreads, and other household items are pet hair magnets. Also, cat and dog dander can be hugely irritating to people with certain allergy problems. If you’ve ever tried to vacuum away the hair or fur on the arm of your cat’s favorite chair, you’ll understand the job at hand. This takes a lot of work: no question. Vacuum often, and use lint rollers (or if you have to, plastic covers here and there). Time for play? Consider your pet or pets’ favorite play or sleep areas as extra-duty work.

Here’s another idea: put an old towel or throw rug down for him or her. Animals love their smells and where they leave their scent. Some get quite accustomed to that old towel and will keep coming back to it. It’s easier to put a towel in the wash than shampoo a carpet. (Here’s another tip, for later use: do not wash the towels before you move. Wait until after, once your pet has had a chance to familiarize itself with it in the new place.) Retail companies and services that cater to pets, suggest a different approach to fur or hair: treating the root cause of shedding. They offer pet grooming services that may lessen the amount of shedding or fur or hair left on furniture, clothing, and carpets or rugs. They may suggest some kind of de-shedding shampoo or treatment. Finally, in addition to what you can do to help your pet, you may need to re-examine its diet. Some kinds of foods may be better than others for promoting healthy skin and fur/hair.

If rugs, furniture, bed spreads, floorboards and floor coverings, and carpets are in hand, consider one or two other high-traffic areas. For example, what happens when rover comes in from the rain, all wet and muddy? These areas need your special attention, as they’re often seen right away by prospective buyers. Consider having a plastic mat or throw rug in place for rainy days. If you need to, you can quickly take it up for a showing.

Agreeing to have pets is agreeing to modify life styles; theirs and ours. Make your existing home as attractive and alluring—and seemingly unscathed by pets—as it was to you when you bought it.



  1. The Rob Morrison Team says:

    Awesome information. Thank you! May be referencing this post in today’s Sellers submission: “What Greets Your Buyers When They Walk In the Front Door?” at

    Thanks again!

    The Rob Morrison Team
    Coldwell Banker Residential
    Barrington, IL

  2. Thanks for the update!