If you smell the urine but can’t find the stain, try shining a black light on the piece in a darkened room. (Black lights are available from tool rental companies.)
And don’t rule out your two-legged friends and yourself: The source could be human sweat, which is most commonly found on the arms of the sofa and where the neck comes in contact with the fabric.
If the stain is confined to the surface of the furniture, you can try daubing it lightly with a white cotton cloth dipped in warm to hot water and wrung out. You could also use a solution of 10 percent white vinegar and 90 percent water, or combine a teaspoon of mild liquid detergent with 2 cups of water.
Only water-based cleaning solutions are effective on pet urine, because urine is water based. If the urine has soaked through into the cushion, you might need to clean the upholstery and replace the inside cushion.
Tip: If you're shopping for furniture and own pets, consider purchasing pieces with washable slipcovers.
“If it’s a musty odor, typically you’re not going to get rid of that,” says Houle. Cigarette odors are equally pernicious. Before calling a professional, leave the furniture on a porch on a dry day to see if that helps.
Houle takes a dim view of the fabric deodorizers that have become popular in recent years, claiming they simply mask odors and don’t get to the root of the problem. More effective are antimicrobials, such as those by Microban, but even those are most useful after a professional cleaning.
Dry cleaning uses a solvent, so colors and fabrics are protected. But the surroundings are not: respirators and ventilation are required, and steps have to be taken to minimize the chance of explosions.
For both types of treatment, the upholstery cleaner will come to your home. The average cost ranges from about $75 to $100 for a sofa, $60 to $75 for a love seat and $40 to $50 for a chair.
“The tricky thing about odor,” notes Hiatt, “is that it’s in the nose of the beholder.”
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