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Carpet and Pets, Holiday Hazards

Erica, a D. A. Burns carpet cleaning customer from Bellevue, called us about taking care of some areas where her dog had been sick.

It seems Freddie got into the Halloween candy and had eaten some candy bars, wrappers and all. Freddie’s fine after a bout of vomiting and a trip to the vet, but it reminded us that we see an increase in calls to take care of pet-related spots around the holidays. Although many of the calls may be related to “keeping up appearances” there are some holiday-related reasons our pets may be more likely to have an accident. Keep these items in mind:

Holiday goodies – Both chocolate and the sugar substitute xylitol can cause vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. A little milk chocolate may not affect a large dog, but will cause stomach distress in smaller animals. Dark or baking chocolate is a larger concern for any dog. Xylitol is a common sweetener used in sugar-free gum and as a sugar substitute in baking.

Turkey scraps and bones – No problem feeding a pet turkey meat, but eating the fatty skin or gravy can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and turkey bones can cause constipation or can splinter and cause stomach perforations.

Holiday plant decorations – chewing mistletoe or holly can be toxic, and stagnant water in a tree stand may harbor bacteria that can cause intestinal stress.

Packaging tape and decorating ribbon – an animal playing with ribbon may chew and ingest pieces of ribbon, causing an intestinal obstruction.

Stress! – Increased activity and visiting strangers can change a pet’s routine enough to cause anxiety. Loss of bladder control and diarrhea can result. Keeping your pet away from the action may help.


Rebecca from Laurelhurst asked another question we hear often, “why is pet urine so difficult to remove from my Oriental rug?”

There are a few things that affect how removable a pet accident will be; the type of rug fiber, the treatment the rug received during manufacture, the body chemistry of the pet, and length of time the urine sits before being discovered.

Many hand-knotted rugs get a “luster-wash” treatment to mute strong colors and make the wool feel silky. Unfortunately this can make the wool accept staining agents more easily so they are more difficult to remove. Light colored rugs with large, open patterns will also show spots and stains more than darker or more complex patterns.

Most wool accepts dyes that are on the acid side of the pH scale. Urine, vomit and other bodily fluids are typically acidic, so the color is being chemically ‘set’ into the fiber. Medications, vitamins, food coloring and other food additives can add another staining variable.

As urine ages, bacteria begin to eat the proteins in the urine. The bacteria give off waste ammonia, which creates what we think of as a urine odor. The ammonia is highly alkaline and will start breaking down the existing dyes in the rug fiber, and those dyes can then begin to bleed into other areas. If the area is left untreated the urine dries to a hard salt that will require a pretty intensive cleaning procedure to remove, and both the dyes that move and the staining color may be impossible to correct.

If your pet has an accident you can always call us for help, but quick action on your part can be the difference between a removable spot and a permanent stain.

As with any spill, blot up as much liquid as possible. Solids can be gently scraped up and blotted as well. Get as much of the spot out as you can before applying a cleaning solution or water. Fresh accidents can usually be removed just by using a mild general spot-cleaning solution, blotting, and then rinsing with water. See our spotting guide for more involved procedures.  Carpet spot removal guide


Rob, a carpet cleaning customer from West Seattle asked, “What carpet is most pet friendly?”

We want to say that we’ve found that pets like all carpet, since it’s soft and warm and they don’t slip like they do on hard surfaces. We know what he meant though, “What carpet will stand up best to pet spots and wear?”

Like the ‘best’ of anything, there are a few factors to consider:

         Is cost a prime consideration?

         Is incontinence a prime consideration?

         Is wear a prime consideration?

Polyester and polypropylene carpet fibers are very resistant to staining from water-based spills, but prone to absorbing oils, and will show traffic areas faster than other fibers. Polyester has been taking market share from polypropylene (AKA olefin) due to the softer feel and less friction melting. If staining and purchase price are most important a poly might be the right choice.

Nylon fiber carpet will typically cost a little more than poly carpet. It is less resistant to water based staining so is always treated with a stain-resist coating like Teflon or Scotchgard. It is naturally more resistant to oily soils and traffic wear and it is also more resilient, meaning it is less likely to show crushing and matting in traffic areas.

If your pet likes to dig, scratch or is otherwise physically hard on carpet, a commercial carpet tile might be your best choice. The face fiber is set into a vinyl backing that makes for a very durable product, and if your pet does manage to damage a tile or two they can easily be replaced. Some have a cushion back and more have been recently developed for residential use.

This tip from the Carpet and Rug Institute – If removing pet hair from your carpet is troublesome, see their list of approved vacuum cleaners – or think about buying pet-colored carpet next time!

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