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How to Claw Out (or Simply Clean) Cat Urine Stains with Carpet Cleaners and Vacuums

If there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s pull stains out of carpets. A few months ago we wrote a pair of guides to removing wine stains and getting rid of coffee stains, and we’ve got plenty more on the way. And in a country where cats are the most popular pets (although we love dogs too), we frequently field questions on how to remove cat pee, urine, and general scents from carpets. While some will tell you the scent never truly goes away, we’re happy to report that you can at least remove such stains and scents to the point where your cats won’t find them and your guests won’t smell them (and neither will see them). Here are our best tips for cleaning out cat urine stains by hand, through vacuum cleaners, and finally, with carpet cleaners.

How to manually remove cat urine stains and scent from carpets (i.e., through a natural cat pee stain remover)
We're cat people. But not cat pee people. Here's how to get urine stains out of your carpets (if not into your litter box).
We’re cat people. But not cat pee people. Here’s how to get urine stains out of your carpets (if not into your litter box).

If you’re interested in removing cat pee stains from your carpets by hand, you’ll need to act quickly; the sooner you find and start to treat a urinated carpet, the less time both the urine and the scent will have to work themselves into the fibers, which reduces your odds of needing to use a machine-based method below. Start by blotting the urine immediately through a towel (we recommend working from the outside of the stain to the center so you don’t accidentally spread it). The more you can soak up, the better; this isn’t the time to worry about whether the towel will smell like pee, as it’ll be much cheaper to replace than a carpet. Once you’ve absorbed as much as you can into a towel, attack the stain with water and use a separate clean cloth to dab it. If you catch and respond to the scene quickly enough, you’ll often be able to clean out the urine before any of it meaningfully soaks into the carpet.

If the urine set in despite your best efforts, or if it occurred more than a few minutes before you arrived on the scene, try to add a gentle soap or detergent to the stain and use your fingers to work the solution into the carpet fibers. If you’re grossed out by cat urine, use some disposable gloves–we have several boxes of nitrile gloves for cleaning pretty much anything around the house–or buy a PVC pair you can wash and re-wear. Keep in mind you’re not pushing the stain into the carpet, or you’ll just embed the urine in the fibers. Think petting, not brushing your kitty. Once you’re done, the next step is to add water and dab it out using a clean cloth; the goal here is to rinse out both the stain and the soap solution at the same time. If you still have an obvious stain, you can try applying foam-based shaving cream with another cloth. Going back and forth between checking, blotting, and rinsing with clean water will help pull out most cat urine stains if you get there soon enough.

Once you’ve removed the stain and odor, you’ll want to lay down around a dozen paper towels on the wet spot and either walk back and forth on them to absorb the water or place a book or similar heavy object (e.g., a few boxes of long-lasting cat litter or a few bags of  quality cat food) on the wet spot. The goal at this point is to maximize absorption of water to minimize the odds of mold growth, mildew, dirt, or the odor of the urine itself, which can set in if the carpet stays wet. If you aren’t in a hurry, allowing the area to air dry will also work. Once the carpet is fully dry to the touch, a good vacuuming will bring back the fluff to the carpet, whether you have low-pile, medium-pile, or high-pile carpeting.

How to remove carpet cat urine stains with a vacuum cleaner

While we prefer natural methods if we’re only dealing with a small spraying and have the time, tools, and patience to deal with it, the practical truth is that most of us simply can’t set aside an hour to attack a urine stain the way our cats attack our carpets. For the rest of us, there’s actually a great time saver that most people never think about hidden in the closet: a good vacuum cleaner. A vacuum? For cat pee stains? Yes! Just as you can often clear out a wine or coffee stain with a vacuum cleaner, you can often get out a cat urine stain the same way. However, as is the case with wine, you’re not going to get out your cat’s latest territorial spat with just any vacuum cleaner. We don’t have the time to struggle with budget machines, and instead go straight to the vacuum that can handle every carpet we’ve found so far: the Miele Complete C3 Soft Carpet. It’s not a cheap vacuum cleaner, but it’s capable of literally sucking stains out of carpets. We’ve seen it perform miracles with cat urine in low-pile, medium-pile, and high-pile carpets; we’ve even seen it remove cat stains from handmade delicate area rugs.

However, costing more than $700, there are a number of families that simply might not be able to justify the C3 Soft Carpet. That’s where the Miele Complete C2 Limited comes in; at under $400, it’s roughly half the price of the C3 Soft Carpet yet provides almost as much cleaning power as long as you’re only using it on low- or medium-pile carpets. Similarly, if you’d like an all-around vacuum cleaner capable of cleaning just as well as the C2 Limited but also capable of doing an amazing job on hardwood floors, you’ll want to head straight to the Miele Complete C3 Calima, which we’ve repeatedly judged the best household vacuum under $700. Any of these vacuum cleaners will quickly pay for itself compared to the money you’d spend replacing a budget vacuum every couple of years; these are buy-it-for-life machines.

The best carpet cleaners for removing cat urine and spray stains

If you’ve got several cats or frequent messes, here’s the most effective way to deal with things: get a good carpet cleaner. While we’re fans of the Miele for small-to-medium-sized stains, if you’ve got deeply embedded or old urine stains, your best odds of clearing out both the stain and the scent from a low-pile, medium-pile, or high-pile carpet or rug is through a heavy duty residential or commercial carpet cleaner. If you have a multi-thousand dollar budget, the top carpet cleaner on the market is the EDIC Galaxy 2000 and its sister models. This is the cleaner we turn to for high-end hotel, office, or industrial tasks where we don’t have time to try different machines and strategies. However, this is generally overkill if you don’t a.) clean carpets for money or b.) have a decent six figure income.

For 99% of families out there, we’ll typically recommend (and frequently use in cleaning jobs) the Bissell 86T3 Big Green. Costing roughly $400, it’ll make a much smaller dent in the wallet than the EDIC, but it’ll still handle most of the cat or dog stains you’ll need to clean in a home, apartment, or condo. If you run a pet-friendly hotel, daycare, boarding-home, or multi-unit house or apartment rental, then yes, the EDIC will be the better fit. But if you’re in virtually any other situation, the Bissell Big Green will be enough to help keep your carpets clean no matter how many times your cats use them instead of the litter box. If you find the Big Green costly, we’d suggest the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner as a good compromise; it’s almost as effective while costing a bit less.

Our main recommendations for the best cat-urine-cleaning vacuum cleaners and carpet cleaners under $1,000 are the Miele Complete C3 Soft Carpet and the Bissell Big Green. If you’re on a smaller budget, we’d recommend the Miele Complete C2 Limited, and the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner. If you own a million dollar home, an apartment complex, a hotel, or simply make a living from cleaning carpets, you’ll want the EDIC Galaxy 2000. We also recommend a large box of nitrile gloves or a re-usable set of heavy duty PVC gloves for hand cleaning. And if you’re looking for our recommendations for cat food and cat litter, we feed our cats IAMS Proactive  and line their litter boxes with Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal Litter.

If you find our research on PMC helpful, you can support our efforts to keep maniacally reviewing home cleaning tools by bookmarking and shopping through this Amazon link. Canadians can use this link. We promise to keep fighting the good fight against every horror children, animals, and grown, yet messy humans can inflict upon a clean home or business.

How to Conquer (Or at Least Remove) Coffee Carpet Stains (and Which Vacuums & Carpet Cleaners Clean Them Best)

We’ve spent more years than we care to remember cleaning all kinds of stains out of all kinds of carpeting environments; we recently wrote a guide to removing wine stains, and we’ve got far more guides to write before we’re through. One of the most frequent requests we get from clients these days, though, especially in a world of Keurigs, espresso machines, and Starbucks, involves coffee stain removal from carpets. We’re happy to report that despite the rather striking impression a full cup of hot coffee can make on a Persian rug (or any other kind of carpet), it’s actually quite feasible to remove coffee stains from most low-pile, medium-pile, and high-pile carpets. We’ll share our best tips for banishing (or at least calmly removing) coffee stains from most carpets by hand, and then when you get tired of struggling, through vacuum cleaners and carpet cleaners.

How to manually remove coffee stains and spills from carpets (in other words, via a natural coffee stain remover)
We love coffee. But not in our carpets. Here's how to get it out (if not back in your cup).
We love coffee. But not in our carpets. Here’s how to get it out (if not back in your cup).

If you want to remove coffee stains from carpets by hand, you’ll want to act as quickly as possible; the sooner you treat a coffee spill, the less likely it is to turn into a coffee stain, which reduces the likelihood that you’ll have to use one of the machine-aided methods below. You’ll want to blot your coffee spill  immediately with a towel (starting from the outside of the stain to the center so the stain doesn’t spread). The more you absorb, the better. Once you’ve absorbed as much as possible, you’ll want to spray water on the stain and dab it with a separate clean cloth. With prompt treatment, this is often enough to clean out a coffee spill and keep it from turning into a coffee stain.

If this isn’t enough to remove the spill, or if the spill sets in and turns into a stain before you get a chance to treat it, you’ll want to add a gentle soap or detergent to the stain and work the solution into the carpet fibers with your fingers. You don’t want to push down in the process or you’ll simply embed the stain further. It’s a light caress, not a Swedish massage. Once you’ve caressed the carpet, you’ll want to add water and dab it out with a clean cloth several times; here you’re essentially trying to rinse out the stain and soap solution at once. If there’s still a stain, you can add some foam-based shaving cream to the stain and use a cloth to apply it gently. Keep checking your efforts and keep blotting and rinsing with clean water. This approach will get rid of 90% of mild stains if applied promptly.

Once the stain is gone, you’ll want to add about a dozen paper towels on the wet spot and walk back and forth on them to absorb the water. Failing that, you can use a book or other heavy object for a few hours; you want to absorb as much water from the carpet fibers to reduce the possibility of mold, mildew, dirt aggregation, or odors. If you’re not in a hurry, you can simply allow the area to air dry. Once the carpet and affected area have fully dried to the touch, finish things off with a good vacuuming to bring back the texture of the carpet.

How to remove coffee carpet stains with a vacuum cleaner

While the natural method is great if you’ve got a mild stain and the time, tools, and patience to tackle it, the unfortunate truth is that most of us are too busy to follow such paths. For the rest of us, a great time saver might actually be hidden in the nearest closet: a quality vacuum cleaner. Yes, just as you can remove wine stains with vacuum cleaners, you can also remove coffee stains in carpets the same way. However, as with wine, not just any vacuum cleaner will do. When trying this technique with clients, we don’t waste time with budget machines, and we go straight to the vacuum we trust with every carpet we’ve come across: the Miele Complete C3 Soft Carpet. It’s not cheap, but we’ve yet to find any other vacuum nearly as capable of literally pulling stains out of carpets. We’ve had success using it to remove coffee stains from low-pile, medium-pile, and high-pile carpets.

However, at more than $700, its price may be out of reach for a number of families. In that case, we’d recommend the Miele Complete C2 Limited; at under $400, it’s roughly half the price of the C3 Soft Carpet yet almost as effective as long as you don’t need to pull stains out of anything beyond low- or medium-pile carpets. If you’d like the abilities of the C2 Limited but also have hardwood floors, we’d recommend the Miele Complete C3 Calima, which we feel is the best household vacuum below $700.

The best carpet cleaners for removing coffee stains

If you’re dealing with a big mess, we’ll save you some time: just get a carpet cleaner. While we love the Miele for small-to-medium spills, if it’s deep enough or old enough, the most effective way to get out a coffee stain from a low-pile, medium-pile, or high-pile carpet is through a high quality carpet cleaner. If you’ve got a $3,000 budget, the best carpet cleaner on Earth is the EDIC Galaxy 2000 and its model siblings. This is the cleaner we use on high-end industrial cleaning tasks when nothing else will work. However, that’s overkill for pretty much anyone who doesn’t a.) clean carpets for a living or b.) live in a million dollar home.

For 99% of families out there, the machine we recommend (as well as the one we use on most carpet cleaning tasks at work) is the Bissell 86T3 Big Green. At roughly $400, it’s much, much cheaper than the EDIC, but at the same time, it’s strong enough to handle 99% of coffee stains you’re capable of making at home. If you live in a coffee factory with handmade shag carpets, then yes, you’ll want the EDIC. For pretty much every other situation, the Bissell Big Green is all you’ll need to take care of your carpets no matter how many times you spill your favorite beverage on them. If the Big Green is out of budget, we’d recommend the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner as a good compromise; it’s almost as effective and significantly cheaper.

Our top recommendations for the best coffee-cleaning vacuum cleaners and carpet cleaners under $1000 are the Miele Complete C3 Soft Carpet, which you can buy here, and the Bissell Big Green, which you can buy here. If you’re on a tight budget, we’d recommend the Miele Complete C2 Limited, which you can buy here, and the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner, which you can buy here. If you own a million dollar home, an apartment complex, a hotel, or simply make a living from cleaning carpets, you’ll want the EDIC Galaxy 2000, which you can buy here. And if you’re in the mood for coffee, here’s our favorite Keurig.

If you find our research on PMC helpful, you can support our efforts to keep maniacally reviewing home cleaning tools by bookmarking and shopping through this Amazon link. Canadians can use this link. We promise to keep fighting the good fight against every horror children, animals, and grown, yet messy humans can inflict upon a clean home or business.