From time to time, our cats and dogs can make a pretty big mess. Whether it’s pee, poop, vomit, blood or mud, it can be a challenge to find the best ways to clean up these messes before the stains set. So we asked our readers and pet experts for their go-to strategies.

From homemade cleaning solutions to black light usage, we’ve gathered the best advice in the article below. For tips like these and other carpet care solutions you can also visit your local floor care expert like Jones Vacuum Center of Walterboro, South Carolina.

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Prevention Is Key

Like so many things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure — and there are several ways to look at prevention when it comes to pet stains. First, keep your pets in mind when you pick out your flooring. If you choose carpet over an easier-to-clean surface like hardwood, make sure you treat it with a protector to guard against liquids and stains. “Synthetic fibers repel scents and stains much better” than natural fibers like wool or cotton, Dr. Marty Becker writes. You might also want to scatter small area rugs around the house, especially on days when it’s muddy outside or when your cat or dog isn’t feeling his best. Some area rugs are washable, and if not, they’re less of an expense to replace than carpeting.

Another key is learning your pet’s habits and what it looks like before he’s going to throw up or have an accident. (He might make hacking noises, circle a bunch of times or have a strange look on his face that gives it away.) By learning those signs, you have a better chance of interceding and redirecting him outdoors — or away from the carpet — so the cleanup isn’t as difficult.

Be Prepared

Of course, as much as you try to prevent it from happening, there will always be messes to clean up if you have a cat or dog. When a mess happens, the last thing you want to do is waste valuable time looking for what you need to clean it up. One of our readers suggests creating kits for each kind of flooring in your home, complete with the appropriate cleaning solution and rags or paper towels and a trash bag. Trainer Mikkel Becker notes that even if you don’t need this all the time, it can be helpful if your pet is going through some kind of illness or if you have a new puppy. It’s a good idea to keep lots of old towels on hand, too.

Make Your Own Cleaning Solution

Our readers have a flood of suggestions for homemade solutions to remove stains from carpets. Most include some combination of dish soap, hydrogen peroxide and water or white vinegar; plain seltzer and plain hydrogen peroxide are also recommended. Whichever solution you use, trainer Mikkel Becker says you need one with properties to break down the particles and bacteria that create the smell and leave the stain. Many times it’s helpful to use a cleaning product that stays on for a few minutes. Cover it with a damp paper towel and then soak it up afterward. Becker says she sometimes goes over an area one to three times, depending upon the stain. If you make your own cleaning solution, confirm that the ingredients you use are safe for pets. You can talk with your veterinarian about what you’re considering using to make sure it’s not toxic. You should also try the solution on a small part of your carpet first to be sure it won’t damage the carpet.  Or you might want to visit your local vacuum cleaner store like Jones Vacuum of Walterboro South Carolina.  Owner Rusty Jones has been helping customers with carpet stains for years with a variety of solutions available in his store.

For Deeper Cleaning and Smells

Many readers recommend using baking soda to soak up any smells and going back to vacuum it up later. Trainer Mikkel Becker says it’s important to do deep carpet cleaning if your pet has recently had a particular difficulty that resulted in more messes than usual. “It’s always a good idea to search for and destroy old stains. Even if you can’t smell anything, old stains may still have a lingering odor that can attract your puppy,” Dr. Becker writes. Both suggest using a black light to find hidden areas where a pet might be peeing or marking. But be forewarned: What’s revealed with a black light might be a little frightening!

Time Is of the Essence

Lastly, with any stain, remember that time isn’t on your side. Get to the mess as soon as you spot it to give yourself the best chance of getting it out before it sets — and smells. “Get on it immediately: Pick up what you can, blot off the liquid elements, then get the enzymatic cleaner working,” Dr. Becker writes. “If you can’t clean right away, spray water to keep the problem area moist. Since you want the enzymatic cleaner to have its best chance, apply as directed… and then keep the area moist longer by covering carpet with plastic wrap and putting a heavy book over the spot. Be very liberal with how much cleaner you apply.” Also, keep in mind that the mess may have spread further beneath the carpet than what you can see on the surface.