Does Vinegar Kill Dog Urine Odor in Hardwood Floors?

By Elizabeth Tumbarello

Because dog urine changes over time, the re-introduction of any type of moisture, including inadequate cleansers, can cause the remaining residue to release ammonia gas into the air, causing the odor of dog urine to linger longer than other types of urine. The best cleaners for dog urine are enzymatic cleaners, which eat bacteria causing the odor. These products are expensive and can be hard to find. But any acidic substance, such as vinegar, can be used to clean dog urine stains. Vinegar is cheap and available everywhere; what's more, it has solvent and antibacterial properties.

Why Vinegar Works

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White vinegar has been used for centuries as a household cleaning substance. Because it is acidic, it dissolves mineral salt deposits, a basic component of dog urine. Vinegar is harsh, with a pH level of 2.4 to 3.4. This level of acidity effectively removes any lingering dog urine from surfaces. When using vinegar as a household cleanser, and especially on floors with a finish, it should be diluted with water by at least half. Test an inconspicuous spot first with the vinegar-and-water solution to see if it will damage the flooring.

How to Clean Urine Stains with Vinegar

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If the urine is fresh, mop it up thoroughly with a diluted solution of 50 percent water and allow the solution to sit for five to 10 minutes. Dry-mop the solution to remove it, and rinse the area with hot water. To completely remove the dog urine odor, the process may need to be repeated several times over a few days or even weeks.

When to Add Baking Soda

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If vinegar alone does not work, baking soda can be used as an additive. Pour baking soda onto the area first, then add the diluted vinegar-and-water mixture. This chemical reaction will cause the mixture to fizz. Baking soda has odor-absorbency properties and may help with particularly tough odors. This solution may damage hardwood floors, so test on an inconspicuous spot first to ensure no damage will be done to the finish.

Time Frame

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The removal of dog urine odors can with vinegar can take as long as a month or more. If this is an unacceptable time frame, chemical means should be used to rid the area of the urine odor. If the dog urine odor remains after repeated cleanings and does not seem to dissipate, or if the vinegar solutions ruin the finish of the flooring during tests, consider calling a professional cleaner.

When to Call a Professional

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Find someone certified with the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration (see Resource below) if possible. Professionals have access to chemicals that eliminate the bacteria and salt deposits causing the odor. If they cannot remove the smell, they also know the best way to repair or restore the area.