How to remove urine from carpet to pass black-light inspection?
January 25, 2012 10:50 PM   Subscribe

Need advice for getting urine (and other?) out of carpet for blacklight inspection by landlord!!

We are moving our of our apartment in a few weeks, and we had a pre-move out inspection (so we can fix anything before hand to keep as much as our security deposit as possible). Since we have a cat I was informed that they would be using a blacklight to locate any urine stains, and if there were any we would have to pay to replace the carpet. Okay, that's fine, but our cat hasn't peed on the carpet; unfortunately our 18 month old toddler has (a few times, maybe 5). I happen to have a blacklight so I took a look tonight to see how bad it is ... WOW! There are stains everywhere. I know for a fact that our kid has not peed THAT MUCH on our carpet. There are a few very suspicious areas that are very large - too large to be urine stains. I don't know what they are. The carpet looks okay without the blacklight.

I have already shampooed the carpet a few times prior to this, and I know that the carpet wasn't new when we moved in. I don't know if the previous residents had pets. I'm just wondering what to do- I know that there are MANY things that floresce under a UV light, not just urine & bodyfluids, and I don't know how I can argue that many of those stains are NOT urine! The carpet doesn't smell, and it doesn't have any other visible staining in regular light ... so what would you do in this situation? I really can't afford to pay for the entire carpet to be replaced. I want to get the stains out enough that they don't show under the blacklight, and I need to know what to say to the landlord since I am pretty sure we are not responsible for the majority of what is glowing. Thanks!!
posted by starfyr to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
In what legal jurisdiction are you renting this apartment? Your location says LA; is this City of Los Angeles? How long have you been in your current apartment?

This is all covered by landlord-tenant law. In general, they can't make you pay any more than your security deposit. As a rule, they cannot make you pay to fix anything that was broken when you moved in. Did you have a move-in inspection? With a blacklight? How old is the carpet? In general, the landlord can't charge you to replace it if it's past its "useful life". Even if the carpet replacement can be charged to you, it should be prorated against it's useful life (e.g. if it has a ten-year useful life and it's eight years old, you only pay for 20% of the replacement costs).

Read this, and be aggressive with your landlord. The tenant has the legal upper hand in most of these matters.

Frankly, I would insist that stains you can only see under a blacklight aren't stains and that if he doesn't return your full security deposit, you will not hesitate to take him to small claims court.

Be aggressive.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:11 PM on January 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

A quick Google suggests that urine fluorescence is due to uric acid and is more of a dull yellow-green. If what you're seeing is more blue to white, it's probably some sort of carpet cleaner, rather than something more undesirable or disgusting. What you are seeing is probably something similar to an optical brightener, which is found in many detergents.

There are enzymatic treatments for breaking down uric acid, but I'm not sure how well any of them work on carpeting. Or you can just do a quick wet vac with a shampoo that will turn your entire carpet into a sea of warm glow.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:15 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Mr Roboto: I am in Moorpark (Ventura County) at the moment.

I was not made aware of any kind of blacklight inspection until today, and was told they were doing it only because I own a cat. The lease states "Any damage caused by a pet will be your responsibility and you will be charged to repair it. This includes (but is not limited to) window coverings, carpet cleaning or replacement, damage to walls, flooring, screens and common area landscape." The lease also advises to use a blacklight to locate spots and use enzymes to remove pet urine (something I never thought of since our cat never urinated on the rug!!), but doesn't state they use it as an inspection device.

What I don't know how to fight is the fact that a) the urine that *is* present (and sadly, there are a few spots) is from my son, not my cat, and b) the carpet wasn't new, so I have no idea how clean it was when we moved in, or if they ever used the blacklight before we moved in. We have no baseline. I also don't know how old the carpet is, but I can find out. We have lived here for 21 months.

Kid: Yes, the larger stain does look like it could be from some spot cleaning I did. They all look the same color to me (kind of glowy green-blue). I might just try the enzymes too!

Thanks to you both.
posted by starfyr at 11:37 PM on January 25, 2012

in many places i've lived, anything that had to be replaced was prorated - so if the carpet had been put in 3 years ago and they replace carpets every 5 years, you'd only be on the hook for at most 2/5 the cost of replacement. every jurisdiction is different, but i'd fight hard against paying full price unless they installed it in the last 12 months.
posted by nadawi at 11:38 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

What jurisdiction? IMPORTANT!

Kid Charlemagne probably has it. As does mr_roboto.

There are laws about replacement of carpets. It sounds like your landlord might be fucking with you to offset the cost of replacing an already old carpet.

I'm assuming you didn't do the black-light test during the initial walk through? Then under what circumstances are they able to claim these "stains" that might not even be stains were caused by you?


You might try straight hydrogen peroxide wiped up with lots of water (a steamer and towels?) on the organic black-light satins, but that's risky and likely over-kill.

If the carpets are required to be replaced every X number of years (in CA, it's 8 years) your carpets may just be up for replacement via wear and tear laws. Either way, if you didn't do the black-light thing on the initial walk-through, I don't see how this would fly if it ever gets to court.

It won't get to court.

Just pointing out you shouldn't give in or freak out.


Let us know your jurisdiction and the length of your tenancy.

Do some research on the issue.

You'll likely be fine.
posted by jbenben at 11:42 PM on January 25, 2012

Ah! You're in California!

What was the length of your tenancy? I'll be watching this thread.
posted by jbenben at 11:44 PM on January 25, 2012

Response by poster: jbenben: I am in Ventura County, CA, lived here for 21 months.

I am definitely going to fight this. I moved in with a cat, this should have been mentioned from the beginning, and we should have had the blacklight inspection BEFORE we moved in! Will keep updating. Thanks again!
posted by starfyr at 11:49 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

OK. It would be nice if your landlord would be honest about when this particular carpet was installed. You should ask in writing (email communication is submittable in court in CA) when the carpet was installed. The law here is 8 years hard on replacement, or earlier for general wear and tear (say cheap carpet quality, previous damage by former tenants, etc.) Do you have any receipts (credit card invoices will do) about having the carpets cleaned? Just curious. I don't think this matters, but it is nice to have in your back pocket.

Go ahead and call the state Dept of Consumer Affairs, plus any Ventura County tenant help-lines.

Google for phone numbers. This sort of minutia is likely not covered in the civil code (state law trumps any lease in CA) but most help-lines will (hopefully) be familiar with any legal precedent concerning this issue, specifically the use of a black-light when that wasn't used upon move-in.

Go ahead and use the enzyme cleaners. Hydrogen peroxide bleaches fabric, eventually if left to soak, but hospitals use it all the time to get blood (organic matter) stains out. Test the peroxide on a soiled bed sheet or similar, rinse completely, apply black-light, see what happens.


I won't lie to you. As a landlord, I could easily have my carpet vendor fake a date on a receipt for me. Not that I've done that! Just telling you that you are in California, and people are effing shady.

Your better bet is fighting the fact that you never had the black-light treatment prior. LOTS of stuff that isn't urine shows up under a black-light. On a carpet installed prior to your tenancy, I'm not sure how they can make this stick.


You're looking at small claims court if they want to be aggressive about this. You'll likely win there, since there was no previous record WITH YOU concerning the results of a black-light inspection.


Call around. You likely have more rights than you realize. Landlords usually back off when they discover you know the law. Get informed.
posted by jbenben at 12:16 AM on January 26, 2012

You could try to go the complete other route and clean the carpet completely with a substance that fluoresces under a black light. That way they see that everything glows (conveniently miss some small spots near the edge so they don't glow as a control) and say that it all must be from cleaning the carpets. I bet some laundry detergent in a steam cleaner will do the trick.

Also I recommend never bringing the blacklight into a hotel room. You'll never sleep in a hotel again.
posted by koolkat at 1:26 AM on January 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

In general, they can't make you pay any more than your security deposit.

This is definitely not true in Texas, and I didn't find any mention of that skimming the handbook linked.

That said, a black light inspection sounds flat out crazy. If you need to bring in special equipment to identify damage, then it's not damage, and either your landlord knows this and will back down, or I imagine any judge would feel the same.

posted by cmoj at 6:29 AM on January 26, 2012

In California you are not responsible for the full cost of replacing the carpet if it was not new when you move in. I think the "lifespan" is 5 years but don't quote me on that.
posted by radioamy at 7:05 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

many pet stores sell an enzyme cleaner/carpet shampoo that will break down urine on carpets. try that
posted by gt2 at 7:08 AM on January 26, 2012

If you can't find something to remove the stains, maybe you could also go the other way? Find something that DOES show up under blacklight and dose the whole carpet in it. Technically, there won't be any stains...
posted by Fen at 8:15 AM on January 26, 2012

Try and enzyme cleaner, you can get posh ones but a bit of oxyclean mixed with warm water. Splash it on liberally, let it soak into the underlay so you get it all. After about 10 mins put a towel on it and apply pressure to absorb all the moisture back up. It's not great for the carpet but it sounds like the carpet isn't super great to start with and it should help break up the pee "stains".

Honestly if you didn't sign off on a black light inspection before you moved in I am not sure how he can prove you did the damage. Did you sign of on a pre inspection before you moved in?

I do like the whole clean the whole carpet with something with brighteners in so the whole carpet glows idea if you get stuck.
posted by wwax at 8:26 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming you didn't do the black-light test during the initial walk through?

This is key, and if they didn't, then you don't have anything to worry about if they can't prove it wasn't pre-existing. Heck, if you have to take them to court you'll be able to ask them for proof that they checked. I'm guessing that if they leave this blacklighting detail only until your moveout, they didn't videotape themselves walking around with the blacklight before you moved in.
posted by rhizome at 9:25 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just a word to the wise -- don't use anything other than carpet cleaner on your carpet. Using Hydrogen Peroxide or anything even slightly caustic will cause the carpet to be bleached and/or melt, guaranteeing that you have to pay to replace it.

As you've discovered, all kinds of stuff fluoresces under black light, and it goes without saying that your landlord is nuts to put such an (oxy)moronic thing on the lease. You have to pay for invisible stains? It's like making you responsible for ghosts.

As others have suggested, you could invest 10 bucks in a spray bottle of optical brightener (they make it for pets/cars/clothes), spray the entire carpet, and let the landlord have his/her fun with the black light. Or better, you can just tell the truth -- that your pet never, ever peed on the carpet -- and when the landlord tries to charge you for carpet replacement, make them prove that (1) you were responsible for the invisible stains, and not a prior tenant, and (2) that the invisible stains were indeed cat urine. (And if worse comes to worst, no small claims judge in the U.S. will take the landlord's side.)
posted by turducken at 1:21 PM on January 26, 2012

Response by poster: I'm sorry I left this question hanging. My grandma died a few days after I posted and I just forgot about it in the mayhem.

We ended up using a spray on carpet cleaner with enzymes, I think it was the Resolve high traffic pet area. I was there for the final walk through and they took photos (no visible staining), and that was that. No mention of the backlight. I got my refund check and they had billed $90 for a full carpet steam clean, but that was outlined in our lease. I don't know if they ever did use the backlight, but honestly with my family stuff going on I wasn't really concerned. Maybe the resolve really helped?
posted by starfyr at 10:53 AM on August 10, 2012

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