It's National Pet Day today!
In honor of all our pets, I wanted to talk a little about how pets can affect carpet, and what is being done about it!
One of the biggest concerns that pet owners have is urine- what happens when your dog or cat (or here in Idaho we've also seen chickens, ducks, rabbits, gerbils, mice, rats, ferrets… no cows or llamas yet!) has an accident (or a purpose) on the carpet.
First, gravity works. Liquids will eventually seep down into the carpet, and even with the best grade flourochemical coating protector which will help liquids bead on the carpet, pee will still sink down and get into the backing and into the pad of the carpet. Once that pee is in the backing, it becomes very difficult to remove, requiring special treatments and work to remove the urine.
Carpet construction. Phot courtesy of Dow.com
Flooring mills recognize this problem, and have come up with some ways to combat urine. The first thing to come out was a "pet pad." Like normal padding, pet pads give good bounce to the carpet, but have an extra layer of thin plastic on the top, helping to keep urine from getting into the pad itself. But just like the federal government trying to fix a problem, this only created more problems.
The first one is that with the plastic coating, the pee spot in the backing becomes much bigger. The urine is going to go somewhere, and if it can't go down, it'll go out, creating a larger spot. Fortunately, it is in the backing, so can be easier to remove, but still requires additional work, otherwise, wicking may be a big issue, and the spot will reappear, but bigger, much bigger, than the original stain.
The second problem happens when the urine can work its way down into the pad- and get underneath the plastic coating. Most installers (well, retailers) will say that there aren't holes. But there are. Staples are used, causing small punctures in the plastic, seams that are only taped, and tears and rips in the plastic all happen, and create areas where liquids can penetrate into the pad. Then the problem becomes getting those liquids back out of the carpet- it becomes very difficult to perform a sublfoor extraction when this happens.
Enzymes, which are little nuclear reactors for bacteria, have also been fused into carpet fibers. These enzymes help stimulate bacteria growth to literally eat the pee out of the carpet. This is great technology, but it isn't perfect either- repeated spots in the same area, that isn't cleaned up, will eventually overpower the enzymes. Some enzymes don't last for more than a couple of years. One other problem we run into is the customer's belief that their carpet is impervious to urine, and so won't take care of problems quickly. Pee builds up, and then we have a real problem trying to get the pee out.
I did see a carpet recently that may hold some great answers to the problem- it is by Tigressa, and has a plastic infusion on the backing itself. I was fascinated to watch as the salesman, Gary, poured 8 ounces of water onto the carpet sample that he held just like a bowl. That may be the best way I've seen (other than training the animal or keeping it outside) to protect the carpet from pee.
Now, this doesn't mean that special treatments won't be necessary- the chemistry of urine is different than that of most soils in the carpet, and so requires different pretreatment to effectively remove, but it certainly will become far less expensive to treat and to remove the pee. I'm excited to see what this does to help us, as the cleaner, help you have a clean and sanitary environment.