Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha. Her flagship column, “Ask a Clean Person”, debuted in 2011. Here on Lifehacker, we’ve launched a new iteration of it, focusing on parenting and all the messes it brings.
@joliekerr Any advice on a potty training accident (#1) on a leather sofa? ????— Lila Byock (@LByock) July 7, 2018
Leather furniture is, in some ways, easier to clean than other forms of upholstery, so there’s some good news for you!
Often, spills on leather can be cleaned by going over the area with a just-damp rag, which will remove stickiness and residue, followed by a dry rag, which will buff moisture away so that the leather isn’t discoloured by exposure to moisture.
Given the nature of this particular “spill”, however, a little more cleaning power may be needed. Enter white vinegar! White vinegar is excellent at removing odours, and is a disinfectant, which makes it perfect for cleaning a leather couch that’s been peed on.
Mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water, dip a soft cloth (such as an old T-shirt or a microfiber cloth) in the vinegar solution, then wring out very well, so that it’s damp but not wet.
Working in sections, go over the soiled leather with the vinegar solution, rubbing vigorously with the cloth and reapplying the vinegar solution as needed. As you finish each section, go over that area with a dry rag so that the vinegar solution doesn’t linger on the leather.
When the couch is clean, apply a light coating of leather conditioner to restore moisture, which will keep the leather from drying out and getting dull and cracked.
Here’s a little list of some products that are helpful, generally, when dealing with potty training accidents.
Absorbent powders are designed to absorb liquid spills — all the good ones, such as vomit, blood, urine and other bodily fluids — and their odours from hard surfaces.
To use an absorbent powder, sprinkle it on spills, let it sit for two minutes, and then sweep it up with a broom and dustpan once it’s turned into solid matter.
Absorbent powders can be used on soft surfaces, such as carpet and upholstery, though it may be a bit trickier to clean up the solid matter on soft surfaces than on hard ones.
If you have a cat, you probably have a bag of kitty litter. Weird but true: Litter can pull double duty on kid accidents.
It will work in two ways: First, it will absorb liquid, and second, it will neutralise smells. That is, it serves the same function on human urine that it will on feline urine.
Toss some clean litter down on areas that have gotten soiled to help absorb liquid that may be trapped beneath the surface of furniture, mattresses or carpeting, and let it sit for an hour up to overnight.
Just, uh, make sure to keep Kitty away from it so you don’t end up with a totally different mess in need of cleaning!
Shop towels are basically thicker, more absorbent paper towels, and they’re great for quickly cleaning up potty training accidents. Toss a roll in the car so you have them on hand to absorb liquid out of cloth car seats.
I talk a lot about Dr Bronner’s for odour elimination in clothes and hard surfaces, so if you’re a regular reader of this column you’re probably not surprised to see it listed here.
I just think it’s so great! There’s something about the castile soap formula that makes it super-tough on smells in laundry (it’s gotten out everything from strong perfumes to the smell of petrol) regardless of the scent you use. It also works well as an all-purpose cleaner for wiping down hard and upholstered surfaces that have gotten urine-soaked.
Handheld and/or Portable Upholstery Cleaners
Portable upholstery and carpet cleaners are pretty clutch tools to have in your arsenal if you have kids. They let you address spills on furniture, mattresses, carpet, and in the car by forcing cleaning solution into the fibres and using an extraction mechanism to suck the liquids back out.
Full-size machines can be rented or purchased, but for most people, the portable versions will be the right choice. Cordless handheld models are also available (I have one and I quite like it!), which are handy for use in the car and/or for people with limited storage space.
Do you have any can’t-live-without products for cleaning up potty training accidents? Let us know in the comments!