Urine Mapping and Detecting Urine in Carpet

I have been asked by several property management companies if we offer black light urine mapping as part of our services. We do use a black light, but our service is much more than that. Let's examine what a typical urine mapping is, and why I think it's a practice that is fundamentally flawed, and then a more comprehensive way to detect urine. Dog and cat pee will fluoresce or glow under a black light. A typical black light urine mapping is where the lights are turned off, shades are shut and the carpet cleaner will do a tour of the carpet with a sketch of the house in hand and mark down any spots on the carpet that appear to glow.  This can be very useful information, but it is not complete. A map made from black-light data only can be misused information because although urine will  fluoresce, so will many other substances including:

Things that fluoresce
Things that fluoresce
  • Woolite Carpet Cleaning Products
  • Baby Powder
  • Glue
  • Tonic Water
  • Most Laundry Detergents
  • Petroleum Jelly
  • And Many More

These "Urine Maps"  are sometimes kept on file, and when you move out another Urine map is created. If there are new spots that fluoresce the management company will tell you that you broke the no pets rule and may charge you for replacing the carpet, or other fines associated with having a pet in your apartment.  Even if you never had a pet in your apartment.

Another problem with using black light as the sole tool for detecting urine spots is that it can miss urine. Products made to protect carpet from UV damage from the sun like Solar Shield, will also make it so spots that should fluoresce, will not fluoresce.

Common sense is needed when detecting damage from urine. A black light is a good tool to figure out where to start looking for damage but is in no way a sure sign that urine is present. Urine maps based off of these black light tests seem to give management companies leverage is getting damage money from a renters deposit, but to really determine if there is damage further tests should be performed.

To really detect if damage has been done to a carpet you can use some of the following guidelines:

  • Use a black lite to find possible areas of contamination.
  • Include other areas that don't fluoresce but may show other signs of Urine contamination.
  • Smell the affected areas
  • Look for physical damage to carpet fibers
  • Look for discoloration and staining of fibers
  • Use a moisture probe or meter to check for Urine in the carpet backing, padding, or subfloor

As urine dries it leaves behind urine crystals and salts which consist of bacteria, urochrome, uric acid, urea, proteins and hormones. Once dry the crystals become more concentrated and the odor more pungent. Simple cleaning will not remove this odor. Urine salts  will draw the moisture from the air and always be a little wet and can be detected by moisture probes years after initially being contaminated.

After contamination is detected, a carpet cleaning technician with experience and training will quickly be able to determine what level of contamination has occurred and will have the tools to be able to help.

If you are being told there is a problem with urine in your carpet and you don't think that's the case, give me a call. I'll take a closer look at what's really going on.

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