Thinking of buying new carpet? Read this first.

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Are you thinking of buying new carpet? There is a time to bite the bullet and pull out the old and put in the new. Before you do this, please ask yourself the following:

1. Does it really need to be replaced?

Many times what is considered ‘worn out’ is simply soil that can be removed with a good cleaning. Don’t give up quickly on your carpet. We clean for many who are having the “last cleaning” on the carpet. But the results are so impressive that they decide that there is really no need to replace. That’s a lot of money saved. Even if you really do need new carpets, a good cleaning can give a little more time to prepare.

2. What kind of carpet do you want?

This is a more important question than you might think. The reason is that unfortunately we see a lot of ‘buyers remorse’ in carpet purchases. Often, a homeowner wishes they could go back and just keep the old carpet they threw out! Whose fault is this? Blame is put all over; the carpet manufacturer and carpet salesmen take a lot of the heat. Now, admittedly, sometimes that is fair. But, often, a carpet consumer comes in knowing next to nothing about carpets. This needs to change.

Modern consumers have more information available to them than ever before. But often when buying carpets, a consumer may do next to no research! I have had numerous conversations with people that were only concerned with color and feel; ‘I want a thick blue carpet that will hold up to a lot of traffic and won’t show footprints.’  That is a good starting point, but what is a salesman going to do with that? Imagine going in to a car dealership and asking for a ‘blue car with a leather interior.’ What might you get? Who knows? You don’t really know what you want. The salesman will try his best, but most likely you are not going to be happy with his choice. We have been trained not to buy cars that way and we make better choices because of it. Perhaps you have spent hours, days, or even weeks scouring over websites and magazines before deciding on a car.

Approach carpet buying the same way. Consider the cost: some spend 5-10,000 dollars or more on new carpeting for their home. That’s like a car! But many go in ‘cold’ with no idea what types of carpet are available, the meaning of industry terms and brand names, the types of materials are used and their pros and cons, what cushions are needed, etc. Consider the amount of time and work to replace carpet; many are overwhelmed at how much has to be moved and replaced for installers to do there job. You don’t want to do this more often than you have to. Is it any wonder that ‘buyer’s remorse’ follows these purchases? As carpet cleaners, we benefit from your good choices. TAKE YOUR TIME AND DO YOUR RESEARCH!

P.S. Here is a good site to start with: www.carpet-guru.com

How often should I vacuum?

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Ugh! Who likes to vacuum. Okay, maybe some of you do. But realistically, most of us find it a chore. How often do we REALLY need to do this? Depending on how you feel about vacuuming, you may not like the answer.

First, can you vacuum too little? Without a doubt yes! At times we come into homes whose carpets have clearly been neglected. Perhaps weeks or months have gone by without a proper cleaning. This is very detrimental to the carpet; consider why. Soil is generally divided into two categories: oily and not oily. Soil that is not oily refers to things like sand, dirt, dust; mainly things that come in from outside your home. Soil that is oily refers to food, body and pet oil, tar, grease, etc. Now your carpet is going to get both.  If you are not vacuuming regularly, the soil just accumulates. The oily soil holds the non-oily soil near the top of the carpet. This is where most of the wear occurs. Normal use now becomes hard use and wear patterns develop prematurely, ones that cannot be cleaned out even with hot-water extraction, like we use. But vacuuming can greatly reduce the effects by removing most of the soil deposited. Just a side note: DO NOT SWEEP YOUR CARPETS! This is not an acceptable substitute and will accelerate the wear cycle. (Yes, we do run into this.)

Second, can you vacuum too much? Believe it or not the answer is no. Now, if you vacuumed continually 24 hours a day, yes, that would be too much. Vacuuming every day, or even a few times a day, is not going to create any long term problems. ‘But,’ you might be thinking,  ‘doesn’t the brushes spinning over the carpet on a beater bar wear it out?’ Sure, but a very small amount. The removal of the oily and not-oily soil is so beneficial that it negates the effect of the brushes.

So how often should you vacuum? That is a tough question to give a ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to. Each home will be different and each room in that house will be different. That being said we do recommend that all the carpets in the house are vacuumed at least once each week and the high traffic areas and/or rooms perhaps every day or every other day. Is this a lot of work? Maybe. But have you ever replaced your carpets? THAT is a lot of work and money.  A little elbow grease can go a long way!

Should I Clean My Own Carpets?

If you are like me, paying someone to do something in your home is distasteful. I know that in my line of work, that is exactly what I do. Ironic. But the fact is, if I can figure out a way to do it myself and save some money, I will. I fix my cars, repair my appliances, and do my own building. There is a real sense of accomplishment to figure things out. So what about carpet cleaning?

Even though I work as a professional carpet cleaner, I want to say straight out, that I am not in any way against cleaning your own carpet. Does this surprise you? Well, think about it from my standpoint: if you clean your own carpets, that means you want the carpets to last as long as possible; that’s what we want as well. But on a broader level, you care about the appearance not only of the carpets, but of your home as well. These are the types of people we like to work for!

Now this is not to say that cleaning your carpets can be done anyway you can think of. There are a lot of products that can be used to “clean” your carpets that we feel should not be used. We avoid naming brands to our customers as these change frequently, but instead focus on methods.

  • Liquids and powders that are applied, scrubbed in and left: This is a throwback method but we still run into it from time-to-time. This is a method that leaves most if not all of the detergent in the carpets. The problem is obvious. What happens to all the soap? It does not magically disappear or change. It sits in the carpet and will often attract more dirt especially when the humidity is high. When the carpets appear dirty, what do you do? Repeat the process. This creates a mess, no way around it. The carpets will appear dull and worn over time. This is a very tough situation to reverse.
  • Powders that are applied, scrubbed in and vacuumed out:These are advertised fairly frequently on TV and are often used in a pinch. They may contain odor absorbing compounds like baking soda. This has much of the same drawbacks as the above method. Again, a container of dry compound is sprinkled on the carpets and how much isreally vacuumed up? How many people are going to take the time to thoroughly vacuum? What happens to the the rest? It doesn’t go away. This method may give you temporary results but the long term results are poor.

What about methods that are good to use?

  • Home extraction units: These can be purchased at stores from Kohl’s to Home Depot. They work on the same principles as our truck-mounted units work. Water and a small amount of detergent are applied and then immediately vacuumed up. These work fine if used properly (SEE BELOW).
  • Rental extraction units: These are simply more powerful versions of the home units. The design may be different but they work the same. Your local hardware store, grocery store, and others may carry these (ex. Rug Doctor).

BE CAREFUL!!
Here are some things to consider when using the smaller extraction units:

  • DON’T — USE TOO MUCH DETERGENT!!!! This cannot be overstated. We tend to think that if a little is good a lot must be better. This is not true in this case. To illustrate, let’s compare detergent to fertilizer. What happens if you use too little fertilizer? The worst that can happen is the grass doesn’t grow as fast. What happens if you use too much? Well, has one of your kids ever tipped the fertilizer spreader in the yard? We found out effects the hard way in our house. The fertilizer acted like grass killer. It took two summer for the grass to recover. So it is better to use too little detergent when cleaning than too much. I suggest using perhaps half the recommended amount or less. You can always go over it again. But if too much is in the carpet, how are you going to get it out? Remember most of the soil you are trying to clean out is water soluble and doesn’t even need detergent to be removed.
  • DON’T — USE TOO MUCH WATER!!!! Anyone can wet a carpet. Honestly, all it takes is a hose. But, how are you going to get the water out? Make sure that you take a lot of vacuum strokes. Not only is this good for drying, as every drop pulled out is one less that has to evaporate, but remember, the water has soil in it. The carpet will be cleaner simply from this step alone.
  • DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE SIZE OF THE JOB!Doing the job right takes time with a smaller unit – no way around it. I have heard from my customers on many occasions that weekends have been lost to cleaning a relatively small area of carpet, an area that may take us an hour or so. You need to weigh the costs versus the benefits. Every do-it-yourselfer knows that there are some things it is better to pay someone else to do, whether because of the time, job size, or skill level required.
  • THIS DOES NOT REPLACE PROFESSIONAL CLEANING. I am not simply saying this for my benefit. It is the truth. While the small units work great for touch up cleaning or sprucing up for when the relatives visit, they simply don’t generate the heat and power that a truck mounted unit can. They don’t clean as deeply or as thoroughly no matter how much time is taken.

I hope this helps. Thanks for the nice comments about the blog. If there are other things that you have questions about let me know in the comments and I will try to address them.
Clean on!

How Can I Dry This Carpet?

Wet carpet! It is inevitable after having a hot-water extraction cleaning. You don’t want to walk on it, you don’t want to put anything back; your life seems like it is on hold. As carpet cleaners, we realize that the job is not REALLY done until the carpets have dried and life is back to normal. As a homeowner, no one needs to tell you this. So, how can this process be accelerated? Before I answer this, let’s consider some basic facts about drying.

Where does water go when it dries? That’s easy, right? Into the air; it evaporates and changes from a liquid to a gas. Why do things dry better on some days versus others? Basically, how much moisture the air can hold and how much it is already holding. What determines that? Mostly temperature. The warmer air is the more it can hold. Picture a balloon. When it is cold the balloon is small. As the temperature rises, the balloon gets bigger and can hold substantially more. As a matter of fact for every 10 degrees Celsius the temperature rises, the air can hold about twice the amount of water it did at the cooler temperature! What does this mean for us? Warmer is better for drying!

I consistently have well-meaning people proudly tell me that in order to dry their carpets faster, they are going to turn their air conditioning on. Based on the facts, is this logical? No. Think about it: we don’t do this in other areas of life. When your clothes come out of the washer, where do you put them to dry? In the refrigerator or the clothes dryer? The dryer of course. The dryer is HOT! Warmer air holds more water so things dry faster.

The other aspect of this is moving air. Again, remember the clothes dryer; it blows hot air around the clothes and blows it fast. So in order to dry your carpets faster, get the air moving! Fans, big or small, make a difference. Also, a simple step to take is to turn your furnace fan to the ‘ON’ position. This moves air throughout the home and can make your furnace act like a big dehumidifier.

Now, depending on outside conditions, there are a few other things you can do. You may want to increase the temperature in the house by turning the heat on. This works well in colder times of the year. Every degree helps. Opening windows is a great optionif it is nice outside. Even if it is hot and humid, the windows are still your best option. I get a lot of sideways looks in the summer when I say this. Again the air conditioning may seem like the best option. But consider: how does the volume of air that moves through your house with open windows compare to the amount moved by your furnace? The windows provide a massive increase in air movement, a must in drying.

So, we increase air temperature and air flow through the building. Now what? Time; we have to wait a bit. You can only remove so much water through extraction. Think again about your clothes. Even after an extended spin cycle they are still wet. It still takes time to dry. But we hope the results make it all worthwhile.

Common Misconceptions About Carpet Cleaning

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“How often should I have my carpets cleaned?” This is one of the most asked questions. What do you think? Every few months? Once a year? Once every two years? Only when absolutely necessary? Well, let’s examine what’s behind the question itself.

I’ve found that a person that asks this question usually has underlying concerns. Many times these are based on misconceptions.

Misconception #1 – Cleaning your carpets wears them out faster.
False. Wear in carpet does not come from any type of cleaning but actually from a LACK of cleaning. Soil is constantly being deposited in your carpet. This has a bad effect when it is walked on, much like sandpaper would have. You need to remove the soil, grit, sand, oil, etc. Vacuuming the carpets is a good start and is vital to long-term care. But you need to ‘wash’ out the deeper soil and especially the oils. Think about an oily spot on your counter. Doesn’t everything stick to it? The same thing happens on your carpet. Sand, grit, and other things readily stick to it causing further wear. You have to have it cleaned!

Misconception #2 – Once you clean your carpets they get dirtier faster.
False. This misconception comes from the days when you literally ‘shampooed’ your carpet. You soaped up your carpet, scrubbed it, and left it. It looked great for a while, but what do you think all that soap did? It attracted dirt. Time to scrub it again with more soap, and more dirt was attracted even faster. Do you see an issue? Today’s methods are far better. Hot-water extraction leaves very little detergent in the carpets. They will not resoil faster based on the cleaning.
Now it has to be said that cleaning can affect the factory protection. You need to replace this with Scotchgard protection. Often, though, the cleaning exposes the wear the carpet has endured. Worn carpet soils faster. Also, once clean, we are often sensitized to any soiling and it can appear that the carpet is soiling faster.

Misconception #3 – They don’t look dirty.
False. Carpets should be cleaned before they look dirty. When they look dirty, it is gone too far; damage is being done to the carpets and wear patterns are setting in. Remember, your carpets have depth. Soil does not stay on top for long. Where does it go? It works it’s way down into the carpet. Perhaps, out of sight, out of mind; but, it’s still there.

Sometimes, people using a combination of these misconceptions allow years, even a decade or more before cleaning their carpet. They are often quite surprised, even shocked, at the difference a cleaning makes. Don’t let it go this far. Regularly vacuum your carpet and have it cleaned professionally. Next time: How can I dry this carpet?

Why Does This Spot Keep Coming Back?

Have you had the frustrating experience of the ‘recurring spot?’ Someone spills some food, the dog has an accident, or someone walks in with something on their feet. You go into action and work like crazy on the spot. Success! The spot is gone and you breathe a sigh of relief; the night continues. But, soon after, you notice that it is back! ‘What?’, you ask. So you work on it again, but, a little while longer and it’s back again! What’s going on? Let’s break it down so we can understand what we’re dealing with.

Where is the spot coming from?
I have had many people tell me in frustration that the recurring spot must be coming up from underneath, maybe even from the padding beneath the carpet. Is this the case?

Well, in most cases the answer is no. In order for the spot to travel , or ‘wick up’ it needs moisture. So unless there is moisture constantly present it’s unlikely that it is coming up from underneath. So in most cases it’s something in the carpet that is attracting soil. Before we go further you need to answer a question…

How long does it take for the spot to appear?
Don’t worry if you can’t remember exactly how many days or weeks it takes to reappear. It’s much simpler than that. If the spot appears during the drying process, when there is moisture present, that’s Type 1. If it takes weeks or even months to appear that’s Type 2.

Type 1
If the spot appears quickly, during the drying process, this shows that it is either not completely cleaned or is a chemical reaction. Some things, like coffee, can go deep into the carpet when spilled and often take several tries to clean out. Every time you wet the carpet the wicking action goes into effect and draws more coffee to the surface to be cleaned. Many time, though, you get a chemical reaction, commonly called ‘browning’, that happens. This is a similar reaction to the one that happens when taking a bite out of an apple and seeing the meat of the apple turn brown as it dries. This is a very simple reaction to fix. Try misting some white vinegar on the area to neutralize the spot. Of course, we are also willing to help you out. We use citric acid which has a ‘magical’ effect making the spot vanish before your eyes.

Type 2
When the spot takes weeks or months to come back, this takes more patience to get out. Something is in the carpet and is attracting dirt. Think back to the day the spot happened, the initial clean-up. What did you use? We’ve all done this: in a panic we go under our sink and grab the first cleaner we see and begin to work. Many times it’s dish soap, a highly concentrated cleaner. Many cleaners are not designed to be used on fabrics like carpet or they need to be rinsed out thoroughly. Honestly, often we are the causes of the recurring spot. What should be done? Use a diluted white vinegar solution (4:1 or even 8:1) and clean the spot. Try to blot it up as best as you can. The vinegar will break down the soap and rinse it out. It may take a few times but it will eventually come out.

Many blame carpet in general when these things happen. But, that’s not completely fair. When we understand what we’re dealing with we can spot like a pro.

Is Scotchgard Really Worth the Money?

When we are cleaning a carpet, we will ask if the homeowner would like the carpets protected with Scotchgard. Often we are asked in return, “Is Scotchgard really worth it? Does it really work?” Those are a good questions. The simple answer to both questions is YES. But let me explain why.

First, how does Scotchgard work? Scotchgard is a name brand. It is part of a large group of protectors called flurorochemicals. By far Scotchgard is the most well known of these (One study showed a 97% name recognition!). The treatments all work on the same principles. By reducing surface tension they make fabrics less absorbent. When applied either at the mill or after a cleaning they coat the fibers giving them somewhat of a non-stick surface. Dirt, water, and even oil do not stick to the fabric, allowing it to be removed more easily. On certain carpets you may even see the liquid ‘bead’ up and sit on top of the carpet. Even if it does not have that dramatic of a result, the effect is the same – easier cleanup.

We have to be reasonable, though, about what is expected from Scotchgard. Some have been led to believe that once you have this protection either built into the carpet or applied after a cleaning, the carpets are invincible; nothing can stain it. Although that would be nice, it just isn’t so. Scotchgard has limitations. If a red liquid is spilled on treated carpet and left it will stain. Think about it; even concrete can stain if you leave something on it. Scotchgard gives you more time and a better opportunity to clean things, but you still have to clean it. Another key factor is regular vacuuming. Scotchgard has the same effect on dry soil as on wet. But again, if regular vacuuming is not happening you probably will think the Scotchgard is not working.

Is it worth the investment? Yes, even if your carpets have a stain resistance built into it. Now, there is no doubt that the treatment put on at the factory is superior. It is done under controlled conditions and on new, never touched, material. Think, though, of what your carpets goes through over the year: kids, pets, parties, spills, accidents, constant wear in high traffic areas, cleaning. Each one of these can definitely have an effect on the carpets and on the protection. But, after a deep cleaning, you can restore this protection by applying Scotchgard. Is your carpet going to fall apart if you choose not to apply the protection. Absolutely not. But, think of Scotchgard like the wax on your car. You don’t have to wax your car, but if you do, it will look better and last longer. Same with your carpet.

Allergies and Carpets – Not What You Think!

We often hear a common thought, ‘I’m getting rid of my carpet because I’m worried about allergies.’ Now, granted, we are carpet cleaners, and, therefore, we love cleaning carpets and prefer you don’t get rid of them. But this thought process of removing carpets may not be well-founded. There are some circumstances where getting rid of carpeting is the best choice. Many times, though, this is based on a lack of understanding on how carpets really work and can benefit a home.

You carpet is a filter. Does that make you uncomfortable? Many feel that way. But really, should it? Your furnace has a filter. When you changed it last what did it look like? Probably filthy and dusty. Did you conclude that there was something wrong with your furnace or the filter itself? Did you feel that because the filter was dirty there was something wrong with it? Of course not! We know that the filter was doing exactly what it was supposed to do, trap allergens and dust. You either replaced it or cleaned it. How does this relate to carpets?

Carpets act like filters in your home. When air moves over or through your carpets, the fibers catch and hold dust, hair, pollen, dander, dirt, etc. Is this bad? No. Think about it. If you had hard floors would there be any less dust? Obviously not. Where would this dust go? Well, every time your furnace or A/C  turns on, or even when doors open and close or people and pets move, it causes air to move. With nothing to hold the soil and allergens, they get airborne easily and can find their way into us. Carpets prevent this from happening. They can actually make your indoor air quality (IAQ) better!

There is a big condition on this, though! Think back to your furnace. What do you do when the filter is full? You change or clean it. Most filters are designed to be replaced with new, clean ones. Your carpet is not designed to be changed every few months. It is up to you to clean it. This is done quite efficiently by giving it a thorough, regular vacuuming. Also included in this would be a deep steam cleaning to remove oils and deep down soil that vacuuming can’t reach. Unfortunately, many disregard these vital steps and blame the carpet when really they simply aren’t maintaining it. This is not simply conjecture, or opinion. Check out this link and the information linked to it:
www.carpet-rug.org/residential-customers/selecting-the-right-carpet-or-rug/green-label.cfm

So don’t be too quick to get rid of your carpet. Really consider the pros and cons of such a move. Carpet has gotten a bad rap the last few years and it is really not deserved at all.

What kind of vacuum should I buy?

We often get calls or inquiries about this. It’s a legitimate question. You want the best cleaning ‘bang’ for your buck. But, as with many questions of this nature most people seem to want us to tell them a brand and model that they should buy. But it’s not that simple. In order to answer that question consider what a vacuum actually does.

 

The vacuum simply creates a low-pressure system inside of it which moves air from the floor and out somewhere else on the body. It’s important to remember that all vacuums do this. Some move more air than others, filter the air better, have other gadgets (like a beater bar), have onboard tools, etc. There is a dizzying array of choices out there from units that cost less than a hundred dollars to ones that cost several thousand. Which should you choose?

 

Again, remember, THEY ALL DO THE SAME THING! That may seem obvious, but it is true, right? From our perspective as cleaners, the honest truth is that regular vacuuming with a cheap model is way better than only occasional vacuuming with a two-thousand dollar model. It’s the regularity that ultimately matters to the life and appearance of your carpets. Having an expensive vacuum DOES NOT mean you can vacuum less. Your carpets and floors don’t magically get less dirty because you have spent mega-bucks. A more expensive model may make the job easier and faster, but you can get the carpets clean with a cheap model.

 

So what kind of vacuum should you buy? TV commercials would have you believe that only the expensive models will work. Our answer is don’t be pulled into spending more than you can. Let your budget guide you. You may want to read over Consumer Reports or other similar things to find out about the reliability and durability of different models. Talk to friends and neighbors to see how they like their units. Personally we have had good success with Kenmore’s, but again, that is just us.

 

Sorry we don’t have a direct answer, but hopefully the above information can help you make a better choice.

Help! My pet had an accident!

 

Most people have pets, and many have more than one. How about you? One dog? Two? More? What about cats? Multiple? If you answered yes, you know that these members of your family make your home happier. Until, that is, an accident. Maybe you are getting up for work in the morning and literally step into something that happened the night before. Or you come home to find that they wanted to show that you were missed. These can be frustrating. But… STOP. Now is not the time to clean this up hastily. If you clean it incorrectly, you may be left with more than a memory. So, how do you clean it up? What do you do?

First, you need to understand why care and urgency must be shown in cleaning up urine. When urine is in liquid form it cleans up like any other liquid. You can soak it up and be done. The problem is when it dries! When urine dries, it changes. It creates urine salts, or crystals, on the carpet fibers and backing. Bacteria will immediately begin to grow and hence, the odor. The problem is that these salts do not dissolve with normal cleaners. Other spots will break down when exposed to soap, but not urine. When allowed to dry urine will have an odor that can last literally for years. Also, because of it’s composition, urine will often leave a yellowish stain that is usually permanent. So, as you can see, getting to it quickly is important.Let’s start with a fresh spot. Perhaps you catch your pet ‘marking’ an area or you can see it has just happened.

First, blot up as much as you can with a towel. Do this by using your weight or by standing on it. Do not scrub! This will only push it down further. Continue doing this until you are not getting any more moisture. This is perhaps the most important step, so take your time.

Second, use a carpet spotter to clean the spot (You can also use white vinegar in this step). Follow the directions on the cleaner. This will remove most of what is left. Again, use weight to BLOT UP the cleaner.

Third, spray with an enzyme deodorizer. Enzymes will break down and digest whatever is left in the carpet, eliminating the source of future odors. Enzymes take a while to work (sometimes up to three or four days) so be patient. Because it is a new spot, as an alternative, you can wet the spot with white vinegar. Then put a towel that is folded up over the spot and weight it down with books. This will continue to break down the urine and the towel, with pressure on it, will wick up any remaining urine.

So, now comes the more difficult problem: the old spot. Many times these are areas that may have been used for some time before you find them, having, perhaps, dozens of ‘deposits.’ What now? In these cases you must understand that this is not a surface problem. Because urine is warm when it hits the carpet and also based on the amount, often it penetrates into the backing and goes down to the padding and even subfloor. Many times these problem areas require professional help. We can do this. If you want to attempt this here’s what you do:

First, identify the size and scope of the problem. If at all possible, pull up the carpet and look at the backing and padding. Is it only a few square feet? Or does it span an entire wall length? Upon inspection you may immediately know if you can handle this or not. If it is more than a few square feet, we highly recommend calling us to help.

Second, replace contaminated padding. You cannot save this and it is not expensive to replace.

Third, does the subfloor need to be cleaned and/or sealed? A spray polyurethane will work nicely for this. What about the wall, trim, and any furniture? Does that need to be cleaned or removed? Often urine is not limited to the floor.

Fourth, clean both sides of the carpet. Start with white vinegar. Use plenty of it. This dissolves the urine salts. Let is sit in the carpet for 20-30 minutes to allow it to work, then blot or extract. Follow up with a carpet cleaner and again clean both sides according to the directions.

Fifth, treat both sides with an enzyme deodorizer. Again, use it liberally. It needs to get as deep as the urine did. Allow it to work for a few days.

Sixth, assess the situation after a few days. Can you still smell it? Than you may need to repeat steps four and five. Urine is stubborn; be patient. (With urine, odor and stain are two different problems. Often the odor is treatable but the stain is not.)

Hopefully, with these few tips you can be in a better position to react the next time an accident occurs.