Breaking the Cycle: The Chemistry of Pet Urine Odor Removal

pet urine odor removalPrepare home-made ‘concoction’ – apply home-made ‘concoction – odor be-gone – odor return – repeat cycle!

Have you ever wondered why your numerous DIY efforts to completely obliterate the foul odor of pet urine in your home have proved futile so far?

Well, the answer is in the chemistry……
• of the ‘pee’!

What’s in ‘pee’ anyway?

By virtue of basic urinalysis, human ‘pee’, dog ‘pee’ and cat ‘pee’ all have similar components.

You know,
• a significant proportion of water (>95%);
• urea;
• uric acid;
• sodium;
• potassium;
• creatinine;
• etc., etc., etc.

However don’t be deceived!
• ALL ‘pee’ is not one and the same!

There is a difference!
• By virtue of a detailed chemical analysis anyway!

And, no!
• You probably don’t want to hand in ‘Rover’s’ urine sample in lieu of yours, to be used for that diagnostic test that is being required of you at the hospital!

The Difference
The difference, lies in factors like the types of hormones, metabolites and bacteria (gasp!), that are present in each species’ relative urine sample.

For instance, you typically wouldn’t expect to detect dog specific hormones in a human’s urine sample or cat metabolites in a dog’s urine sample now, would you?

Furthermore let’s face it, our ‘furry friends’ don’t typically drink quite as much water as we (humans) do, so it shouldn’t be too far-fetched to expect a dog or cat’s urine sample to be several times more concentrated and subsequently more odoriferous than its human counterpart.

So what’s the problem?
Uric Acid!
• That’s the main problem!

Then there’s Urea!
• Not quite as big a problem, but a problem anyhow!

Uric Acid
Uric acid is a compound consisting of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. It has a crystal structure and is not very soluble in water. As a result of its low solubility in water, it is very notorious for reverting back to its ‘comfort zone’, its crystal/salt form!

Due to its very nature, the complete obliteration of uric acid, requires much more than regular soap, water and all of our other home-made concoctions.

The complete elimination uric acid requires enzymes such as ureases, which are specific to the break down or hydrolysis of uric acid into carbon dioxide and ammonia, both of which easily evaporate.

Today, most carpet care enzyme-cleaners are patented formulations of non-pathogenic microbes and enzymes.

The technology, commonly known as bio-enzymatic technology is pretty much is just a big word that ‘piggy-backs’ off of the general mechanism through which enzymes work. We shall discuss this mechanism in a little more detail later.

Urea plays a significant role in the metabolism of nitrogen-containing compounds by mammals, and it is the main nitrogen-containing substance in the urine of mammals.

It is typically colorless, odorless and soluble in water.

Although it is not toxic, it does also contribute to the foul odor of pet urine in that it also releases ammonia as a metabolic by-product.

Due to its solubility in water however, it can be eliminated using common household products.

Why Uric Acid is not Easily Removed

When pets urinate, the urine has the tendency to penetrate carpet fibers, carpet padding, sub-floor, wood floor or whatever porous flooring you may have, thereby introducing uric acid salt crystals which tend to bind tightly to whatever porous surface they come into contact with.

First of all, these crystals are invisible to the naked eye, that’s why ultraviolet or black light is typically used by professionals to detect soiled areas.

Secondly due to their low solubility in water traditional household products are only able to produce at best a temporary solution.

Finally, due to their easy tendency to recrystallize upon exposure to moisture or humidity, just when you think you have conquered the smell, it re-surfaces and the cycle repeats itself again.

Traditional household or carpet cleaners will ‘deal with’ most the water soluble components and aspects of pet urine.
• This is why hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and/or baking soda initially appear to be effective at eliminating the problem.

But the reality of the matter is that the problem was never really solved because the uric acid crystals were never eliminated to begin with!

Breaking the Cycle

The only way to obliterate uric acid and end the vicious cycle, is to destroy the chemical bonds that form uric acid. In order to destroy the chemical bonds, specific enzymes like ureases are essential to accomplish this process in it’s entirely.

So, what are enzymes?

Enzymes are biologically active molecules (typically proteins) that speed up/catalyze a chemical reaction, without itself (the enzyme) being affected. They are very selective, meaning that each enzyme only speeds up a specific reaction.

How do enzymes work (relative to pet odor removal)?

In short, like a ‘lock and key’ on ‘steroids’!

It is important to note that while some enzymes help break larger molecules into smaller molecules as in the case of uric acid and pet odor removal, other enzymes help bind smaller molecules together to form a new and larger molecule.

Enzymes typically have ‘grooves’ on them (called active sites), that serve as ‘the lock’.

Specific substrates, such as uric acid fit into a specific enzyme’s groove and bind to the enzyme (like a key), thereby to forming a new complex that has weakened chemical bonds.

This new complex is known as ‘the product’ typically separates from the enzyme and goes on to ‘bigger and better’ things, while the enzyme whose original form is unaltered repeats the cycle until all available substrate has been consumed.

In the case of pet odor removal, specific enzymes expedite the breakdown of uric acid (at the chemical bond level), thereby resulting in the release of carbon dioxide and ammonia (both of which easily evaporate).


The Bottom Line

The only way to achieve effective pet odor removal in your home is to utilize professional grade carpet cleaning products formulated with specific enzymes that break down the uric acid.

And what better resolution is there than to leave it to the pros!

For carpet stain and pet odor removal needs, call the professionals at Triangle Legacy Flood Restoration & Carpet Cleaning. Contact 202-888-2960.

Image 1:
Image 2:; Turns out Urine isn’t Actually Sterile: