Best Way to Clean a Dog Pee Stain

18 Dec

Sooner or later, every dog owner has to deal with urine accidents in the house. Whether housetraining a puppy, caring for an older/incontinent dog, or dealing with male dogs who mark, it’s going to happen. I’ve experimented with many methods and products over the years, and have come up with a system for cleaning dog pee off the carpet that really works.

The most important thing when cleaning up a dog pee stain is to get as much of the urine out of the carpet as possible. Odor-fighting treatments and cleaning chemicals will not work if there’s urine in your carpet, padding and flooring.


Soaking up the liquid is at least as important as what you treat it with.

When a dog has an accident in the house, the liquid enters the carpet, than soaks down and spreads. The size of the spot you can see is smaller than the size of the spot under the carpet, on the floor and padding. The best way to get it up is to use towels and pressure. Place a folded towel over the spot (I use bath size to get as much of the urine as possible out). Then step on the towel right over the center of the spot. Put your full weight on that foot and stand there for several minutes. I have read home cleaning advice that says to put a heavy book over the towel and leave it there overnight. I find that unless you have a 60-pound book, that’s not enough pressure. I stand on tip-toe on the towel to concentrate as much pressure as possible.

The towel wicks up the moisture, pulling it from below. It’s like dipping a towel into a glass of water. The water immediately begins to soak upward into the towel. Flip your towel over and see the big wet area that has been created by what you’ve pulled out of the carpet. Use a second (dry) towel and do it again. Repeat until the towel is dry or nearly dry when you flip it over. Take as long as you can for this step, because nothing else will really be effective if there’s still pee under the carpet. For a stain from my 70-pound dog, I usually see a fairly dry result on the third bath towel.

Leave your last towel over the stain because by now, it may be difficult for you to see where it was, and you’ll need to know exactly where it was when you treat it. There are all kinds of enzyme-based treatments, high-tech cleaners and nifty machines that will do the job, but I usually use an old-fashioned formula and I’ve never found anything that works better.

In a measuring cup, combine water and distilled white vinegar in a 1:1 ratio. Do not use apple cider vinegar. I suppose it would work in a pinch, but might leave a stain on lighter carpets. If you have big dogs like I do, you might want to use half a cup of vinegar and half a cup of water. For smaller dogs, reduce to a quarter cup of each. Pour the water/vinegar mixture over the pet stain. As you pour, the mixture will soak right in to dark areas where the urine was, and sit on top of the carpet initially where the carpet was not previously wet. Using this visual guide, make sure you pour the vinegar/water over the entire spot where the dog urinated. It will seem like a lot to pour over your carpet, but remember how big that stain is under the carpet.

Let it soak in for several minutes, then use the towel method to soak it back up. Yes, your carpet – and your room – will smell like vinegar. But only until it dries. Vinegar is very good at eliminating odors, and once it’s dry, the room will smell like neither urine nor vinegar IF you soak up the vinegar with towels until the towel comes away dry. If you leave some in the carpet and padding, your room will smell like vinegar a bit longer.

For older stains, use the same method, although you may not be able to get as much out of the carpet as when it’s fresh. However, the stain under the carpet will be larger, since it’s had more time to soak into the padding. Take up as much as you can with towels. If it’s dry, just add the vinegar and start there, then agitate the carpet surface with a towel to loosen the stain a little. Let the vinegar penetrate the carpet for 10 minutes, then wick it up with towels. Ever notice how urine smells different when it’s fresh vs. when it’s a day or two old? That’s because bacteria in the environment breed in wet spots, causing the “pee smell” we all know so well. So with an old stain, you may need to repeat this process with an enzymatic cleaner, which attacks the bacteria that breed in urine. These are widely available and can help eliminate the smell on an older stain.

A ceiling fan will help to finish drying the carpet and get the vinegar smell reduced.

So, to recap, here are the steps:

  1. Wick with as many towels as it takes by standing on a towel over the spot
  2. Soak with 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water and let sit for 5-10 minutes
  3. Wick with as many towels as it takes to get the spot damp-dry

I’ve trained two puppies, had two male dogs in the same house (marking) and have cared for two elderly/incontinent dogs, so I’ve cleaned up hundreds of pet stains using this method. When my husband and I were considering selling out house, we had some real estate agents over to evaluate the house. They all said the house smelled good, which was important for first impressions. I was not using a candle, had not baked anything or used any air fresheners. That’s just how the house smelled. You’d never know how many messes I’ve cleaned up over the years. 


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30 responses to “Best Way to Clean a Dog Pee Stain

  1. Copper's Corner

    December 19, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    That is great advice. Who knew.

  2. franciepetrone

    December 19, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Great Article! Very helpful! I have found that using a enzyme cleaner also will help remove the scent completely. I always use pet friendly and environmentally safe products.

  3. messypets

    December 20, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    We have an article similar to this on removing pet urine. I like your advice, great tips!

    • bridget

      March 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm

      i am defently gonna try this,cause my dogs are driving me nuts with this…i let them go outside and they stay out for a while but then turn around and come in and potty in the house

      EDITOR’S NOTE: My dog did the same thing until I started going out with her. I put her on a long leash and went out with her, and we just didn’t go back in until she did her business. Sure, it takes more effort this way, and I really didn’t want to be leashing my dog and going out with her every time she went out. But even more than that, I didn’t want to be cleaning up dog pee every day, or having my house smell like urine. Try going out with them. You won’t have to do it forever. Just until they understand what going out is for.

  4. Dog Coat

    July 7, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Wouldn’t something like OxyClean or Borax work really well also because they are super good with organic stuff? And well, dog pee is about at organic as you get. I suppose the vinegar doesn’t leave a residue and the others will, though.

  5. Eric K.

    July 11, 2012 at 12:34 am

    This is an insightful article. I knew vinegar was commonly used as a household product, but not for urine. Now I know. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Chris

    August 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Editor’s Note: The following comment is from someone who works for the company they are commenting about.

    Wow. Great info you got there! I would also like to share my experiences in removing urine odor… It was very hard to remove and I thought of giving up but when my neighbor handed me SUN – Severe Urine Neutralizer) Concentrate – Complete Urine Odor Remover (you can find it in amazon or check their site at

    I loved it. It’s incredibly easy to use and works immediately on contact. Spray it on and you’re done. It also contains a professional-strength odor neutralizer that binds to and absorbs odors. It can be used even on concretes or tiles anywhere actually.

    Neutralization is newer technology. It is an amazing new odor counteractant. It does not fit into the traditional categories of odor control agents. It’s specially designed molecular structure has an expanse of surface area that absorbs, binds to and counteracts odors. It is very effective on dog urine.

    Neutralization works immediately on contact with odors to make your cleaning job more pleasant. Neutralization contains no bleaches, no bacteria, no enzymes, no oxidizers nor chemical de-sensitizers. It is safe to use even when children or pets are in the home.

    Finding the exact source of a pet urine odor can be difficult. A black light can help to find the exact spots. Pet urine stains, under a black light, glow very distinctly.

  7. Susan Hall

    August 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    What does it mean to “wick”

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Wicking is when you draw liquid up, as with a towel or something absorbent. You know how when you drop a corner of your towel into a swimming pool or bathtub, and the water begins to climb the towel? That’s a wicking action. Hope this helps.

    • Jeff

      August 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

      it means to pull moisture away from something.

  8. Sharon Miller

    September 9, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Thanks very much!

  9. Tonja Hall

    September 18, 2012 at 9:20 am

    I just tried this today on the back of my couch and it works!!! Thank you so much!!!

  10. Jackson

    November 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    If you are looking to remove pet odors, you need to ensure you clean the area where the odor is coming from. If there is any trace of urine in the carpet, this smell will continue to be present until you fully remove it. It is important you do so for a number of reasons. First of all, there are many germs and bacteria in urine which can cause illness. Second, it creates an unpleasant environment and is embarrassing if guests were to come over, and third, if your animal smells the urine in they carpet, they will be inclined to urinate in that spot again. This is because animals instinctively urinate in the same spots.

    To completely remove the odor, you should use a cleaner that will not only disinfect the area, but one that will deodorize. The best cleaner available for this is Genesis 950. It will lift the stain from the surface, and kill the bacteria associated with the urine. This will in turn deodorize and remove the smell. There are several ways to clean – you can do so by spot cleaning, however a carpet cleaning machine is more effective as it actually gets the cleaner down to the base of the carpet.

    Stay away from anything ammonia or vinegar based. These both contain some of the same chemical compounds that are found in urine. Because of this, the smell of either cleaner may draw your pet to continue to urinate in that spot. You should also stay clear of enzyme based cleaners. These cleaners are ineffective if you ever cleaned the carpet at any point in time, with anything else. Instead of attacking the urine stain, they focus on breaking down residue from previous cleaners. They also contain bacteria, which are designed to eat away the stain. However they are living, and all living things die. When they do die out, the smell is often far more invasive then it was prior to using the enzymes.

  11. katie

    November 16, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    is this stain?cause i wont to talk to him

  12. Elizabeth

    November 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I use a product called OdorXit when dealing with pet odor problems. It neutralizes the odor using a blend of natural oils and salts that changes the chemical composition of the Urea Salt in dried urine. It works well on water tolerant surfaces. In the matter of carpet, if used properly can cause the odor issue to disappear. This is not an enzyme product. Healthy animal urine does not contain enough bacteria or proteins for enzymes to be truly effective. In a lot of cases using them causes more harm than good. Urea Salt draws moisture from the air and binds with sulfer producing Mercaptan Gas which causes the odor; Not bacteria as most people believe. This product is also the only one I have had success with in curing my home of cat urine odors.

  13. Lakayla

    December 28, 2012 at 11:56 am

    It wont take the color out of my carpet? I have a shampooer but didn’t want to put shampoo on my new carpet. I’m going to try this, just wanted to make sure it was safe with all carpets and colors. Thank you!

  14. Cash Warren

    January 9, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Hello I just saw a post on another blog and they were saying how their sub-floor was ruined because of the dog pee. That got me worried because my pooch has started to have “accidents” inside the house (he is 14 years old) because he can’t hold it like he could before. Anyway I was wondering if you or anybody else had issues with the sub-floor needing to be replaced or cleaned.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, the sub-floor can be ruined with pee stains. The stain you can see on the carpet is smaller than the actual stain underneath. A four-inch stain on top can hide a 10-inch stain in the padding or flooring. That’s why it’s important to stand on the towel and pick up as much of the urine as possible before treating, then do it again after treating, so you don’t leave a bunch of liquid under the carpet.

  15. Sue

    February 9, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    I had a HORRIBLE urine stain that wouldn’t go away.. it was just awful and the smell was bad. I tried a few different methods, but then had a professional company come out and clean it off. They used a product called CitruSolution and even left me a small bottle of it. It smells really awesome. Has anyone else tested it out??

  16. drew

    February 19, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Montgomery triangle is awesome!

  17. Ellen

    March 3, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Will the vinegar not bleach the carpet?

  18. Rooma

    March 19, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    This method was not effective. When I tried this, I could still see the urine on the carpet with a black light. If it still shows up under a black light, the pee is still there and the smell will come back.

  19. Pete

    April 30, 2013 at 4:19 am

    Thanks for all the info lads and lasses, I am forever mopping up wee.

  20. Carpet Cleaners High Wycombe

    May 13, 2013 at 4:24 am

    I have successfully removed dog pee from the carpet, but the odor remains. Although there is no visible stain, something tells me that the bottom of the carpet is soaked. Any advice?

    EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s probably in the carpet padding underneath the carpet. Use a generous amount of vinegar/water solution, let it sit (and spread) for a minute or two, then get that towel and stand on it for four or five minutes to get it ALL out. I’ll bet there will be no smell after you do that. The trick is that the vinegar/water solution has to go as deep and as far as the urine did. If you did not discover/treat the urine stain for a while after your dog left it — i.e., if it was cold — then you may need to use more solution and let it spread for a longer time than a fresh stain.

  21. tracey

    May 19, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    I have a question that I would love help with. I have a four year old dog who is wonderful… but pees and poops in the house on one particular rug about once a week. I am starting to use the “feeding only at regular mealtimes” advise and want to finally get her fully house trained. I am wondering, since I am sure there is some residue pee marking on the run (although it doesn’t smell) if i need to get rid of the rug? Does the fact that it has been peed on in the past mean it is “her spot” to her. Will I be able to better train her If I remove the rug she has gone on in the past?
    Any advise?

  22. Agatha

    May 20, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I’m gonna definitely try this. I knew that vinegar could be commonly used at home, but not for that purpose. Do you think it would work with cat urine stains also? Thanks for sharing!

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, it should work with cat stains, as well. There is usually a vinegar smell after you clean up. Kinda scared me the first time or two because I don’t want my house to smell like a salad. But it goes away after a day or so.

  23. Chuck Fleaman

    June 30, 2013 at 6:19 am

    I have a handheld carpet cleaner, Bissell I think, that has worked well over the years. I think I am going to try the vinegar solution in it instead of the expensive carpet cleaning liquid sold for it…

  24. KT

    July 13, 2013 at 9:26 am

    What about urine on hardwood floors? Does anything help that?

    • kara

      September 28, 2013 at 9:52 am

      I would like to know as well!

  25. eco-emily

    October 13, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Gah we were so sick of cleaning out stains from everything we completely revamped how we trained our dog. We ended up resorting to this real grass potty box called DoggieLawn to completely avoid having to constantly clean our furniture. Has anyone else tried it? It’s pretty awesome. We don’t even have to clean up anymore.


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