The Pet Owner's Guide To Enzyme Cleaners + 8 Options To Start With
As a pet owner, you probably have more to clean than most people: The splatter of mud on the walls after a dip in the lake, the accident left on the new rug in your bathroom, or a puddle of pee in the middle of the living room. Whatever the stain or smell may be, here's a dive into why enzyme cleaners are great for pet parents, how to use them, and the best ones to start with.
How do enzyme cleaners work?
Enzyme cleaners contain beneficial bacteria that emit enzymes to break down molecules found in organic material like urine, feces, and food.
Once the enzymes break the molecules down into smaller pieces, the bacteria swoops in to consume those molecules, leaving you with a clean carpet sans pee stain.
While enzyme cleaners can be used on many types of stains, they're especially popular among pet owners since they have such great odor-busting properties.
Enzyme cleaners are wonderful to use when you have pets because they "actively eliminate odors rather than simply covering them up with fragrance like most cleaning products," Micaela Preston, lifestyle blogger and founder of Mindful Momma, tells mbg. They're also nontoxic, safe to use, and unlikely to cause skin or respiratory irritation1.
With enzymes existing in every living thing on the planet, enzymatic cleaners are a more natural alternative to conventional cleaners. Still, sometimes it helps to use a combo of the two since enzymes alone are cleaners but not disinfectants2. (While they'll break down organic stains, they won't kill off viruses or bacteria.)
"Enzymes also help boost the cleaning power of laundry detergents, non-chlorine bleaches, and other laundry aids," Samara Geller, a senior research and database analyst for the environmental champion Environmental Working Group (EWG), says. "They're also added to more general household stain removers, dish detergents, and drain and septic maintenance products."
8 products to try.
Here's a list of some of the best enzyme cleaners available today for getting rid of pet stains and smells:
1. Biokleen Bac Out Natural Stain Remover
Biokleen Bac-Out uses a blend of enzymes and lime extract to combat organic messes on a multifunctional level: You can add it to the next load of dirty blankets or use it directly on pet stains.
Biokleen Bac Out Natural Stain Remover, $28.98
2. KisClean Natural Pet Cleaner
Talk about simple: The KisClean formula has a very minimal ingredient list, featuring folic acid and coconut oil to aid in the cleaning process. It receives a B rating from the EWG's database for healthy cleaning products with transparent labels and comes in three different sizes.
KisClean Natural Pet Cleaner, $8.40
3. Naturally, It's Clean Carpet Stains & Odors
Naturally, It's Clean carries an array of enzyme cleaners. This formula uses plant-based enzymes to get rid of odors and stains on various flooring situations. All packaging comes in recyclable or, better yet, refillable options so you can skip the extra waste.
Naturally, It's Clean Carpet Stains & Odors, $13.95
4. Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Stain and Odor Eliminator
Rocco & Roxie Supply Co.'s Stain and Odor Eliminator contains only five ingredients, with carefully selected bacteria to produce all the good enzymes. This cleaner is safe for the environment, pets, and children and has the Carpet and Rug Institute seal of approval as a superior carpet cleaning product.
Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Stain and Odor Eliminator, $19.94
5. Ecos for Pets! Stain and Odor Remover Spray
This Ecos for Pets formula is fragrance-free, uses plant-based enzymes to get rid of stains, and features lemon peel as a solvent. It's safe to use with a house full of people and received an A rating from the EWG. Plus, if you do decide to run a load of laundry after treating something, note that it's greywater safe and won't cause environmental damage.
Ecos for Pets! Stain and Odor Remover Spray, $4.69
6. Puracy Natural Pet Stain & Odor Remover
Over 30% of this formula contains a total of six plant-based enzymes, so you could say it's pretty darn concentrated (and will require dilution). It's hypoallergenic, has zero of the nasties (parabens, sulfates, and such), and sprays in foam form as the gentle scent of cucumber mint floats around the room.
Puracy Natural Pet Stain & Odor Remover, $31.98 for a pack of 2
7. Nature's Miracle Dog Stain & Odor Remover
Nature's Miracle has become something of a staple in the pet parent community with a plethora of products that can tackle whatever messes may arise. This formula offers a light citrus scent to replace the stench of what the enzymes break down and eliminate. Think odor first, stain second.
Nature's Miracle Dog Stain & Odor Remover, $4.68
8. Angry Orange Pet Stain & Odor Remover
This Angry Orange Pet Stain & Odor Remover formula actively rids your home of the trifecta of pet odors—hard surface, airborne, and fabric—and destroys stains on multiple surfaces. This means you can use it in your yard, in your pet's kennel, or on a pillow or blanket.
It comes in either a signature orange scent or fresh clean smell. Note that cats and birds may be sensitive to some ingredients in this concentrated formula, so save it for when pets are out of the room.
Angry Orange Pet Stain & Odor Remover, $22.97
Best DIY enzyme cleaner for pet odors & stains.
This recipe does require some fermentation knowledge, though, so those who are new to the technique might want to go the prepackaged route.
- 2 to 3 cups of fruit rinds or skins
- 4 cups filtered water
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baker's yeast
- A glass canning jar (a 2-liter or 1-gallon kombucha jar like this would be great) or plastic bottle
- Cheesecloth (optional)
- Put your fruit scraps at the bottom of whatever container you use. Add the filtered water. Pollard notes that if you opt to use a plastic soda bottle, you'll need to blend the scraps and water together to make them more pourable.
- Add the yeast and brown sugar to the container.
- Screw on the lid and shake it to mix everything together.
- Put the container in a warm, dark space (like a cabinet) to ferment.
- "Burp" your container to prevent any explosions! If it's glass, twist open its lid to release pressure once or twice a day. If it's plastic, once every other day should be fine.
- Ferment for 4 weeks, then strain the liquid into a spray bottle of your choice. (Optional: You can use a cheesecloth to squeeze any remaining enzymes out of the solid scraps and into the spray bottle.)
- Use as an all-purpose enzyme cleaner for up to one month.
Helpful tips for getting rid of pet odors.
Pet odors are notoriously hard to get rid of for long. Just when you think you've got it handled, you sit down to a smell so rank it's as if you never bothered to clean it (but you did!).
To keep odors from settling in the first place, Preston highly recommends using an enzyme cleaner on a spot as soon as you find it. If you can throw the stained material in the laundry, do that quickly, too.
Geller from the EWG adds you should "always read the directions and warnings on the label thoroughly before using a new product." Do your research into a product you're interested in and find out what enzymes are in the formula before purchasing it. Geller also cautions against using homemade enzyme cleaners unless absolutely necessary, as commercially made ones tend to be more controlled and effective.
The bottom line.
While the DIY recipes we know so well are perfectly capable of neutralizing pet smells (ahem, vinegar), enzymes are able to dig a little deeper to treat them at the root. It doesn't hurt that enzyme cleaners are a more natural alternative to harsh cleansers, and they don't cost an arm and a leg, either.
Alex Shea is a storyteller and generational healing life coach with words in Byrdie, Verywell Mind, HuffPost, Shape, and more. Outside of publications, Alex writes stories that touch on, and sometimes intertwine, themes of grief and magic.
With a unique view on life, she taps into her own experiences to guide folks to live life for themselves, empowering them to explore their inner wild and find their own way in adulthood. Her weekly newsletter is a tiny way she furthers her mission to hold space for the unfathomable, romantic, and messy parts of life that make it that much more beautiful.