Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every other week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.
Long story short: My girlfriend's cat has a bit of a problem with hitting the sand in his litter box. He tagged a carpet and my favorite loafers got caught in the crossfire. How do I get the smell of cat piss out of leather?
If you could hear the amount of dramatic sighing that's gone on in the course of pulling together this answer, you would think that I'm about to call that cat into the formal living room for a stern talking-to. I'm not mad at you, I'd tell her, I'm just disappointed.
Except that under no circumstances would I ever call that cat into the formal living room because then that cat would foul up the formal living room with its vile cat essence. Also, I don't have a formal living room.
All of this is to state, very clearly, that I find cats to be revolting and I will suck my teeth in stern disapproval when you come to me with your cat problems. I will also suggest that perhaps the solution to your cat problems is to get rid of the filthy beast.
There are a bunch of ways to get cat pee out of leather–a little vinegar wash, cleaning with the suds part of a bowl of sudsy water, a wipe down with an enzymatic cleaner like Nature's Miracle–but they're not as easy as this: bury the shoes in a pile of (clean!) cat litter. Leave them be for 24 hours or so, and then remove them from the litter, wipe them free of the dusty residue and treat them to a polishing if they need it. (They will probably need it.)
You didn't ask about this, but if there's any staining, you can use saddle soap to get it out. The polishing will help, too. Wait what? You don't know how to polish your shoes?? Well why didn't you tell me??? Please step this way!
My dog is pretty sick; I'll spare you the details and leave it at 'it's coming out both ends'. I got to work with the intention of spending my morning looking for a good way to clean a soiled carpet; sure enough, the first thing I came across was your article on how to clean car seats that have been soaked in butter. So I figure it's, like, destiny or something. Got any secret cleaning guru advice? I'm planning on renting one of those wet vacuum cleaners, will it be enough?
If you could hear the amount of, "Ooooh da doggie, lookit da doggie, doggie doggie doggie, gooooo doggie" that's gone through my head in the course of pulling together this answer, you would think that I'm about to call that doggie over to the dining room table, put out the best china and serve him a nice porterhouse.
Except that under no circumstances would I ever call that doggie into the dining room for a porterhouse because it's not good for the doggie's manners to eat at the people table, and I believe in good doggie manners. Also, I don't have a dining room.
All of this is to state, very clearly, that I believe dogs to be God's gift to humankind and I will strike up an ongoing correspondence with you when you come to me with your dog problems. I will also make you send me photos of your adorable doggie.
lookit dat doggie
But there's still soiled carpet to get clean! The good news here is that your instinct is right on: A wet vac is the way to go. But it should be a wet vac, not a steam cleaner–the heat from the steam can cause staining to set in, so we don't want that. Before you get to vacuuming, however, sop up as much of the mess as you can with paper towels or rags. Then use the wet vac and water to clean the soiled areas. Once most of the mess has been dealt with, you can use carpet cleaner and/or a pet odor neutralizer like Nature's Miracle to treat any leftover smells or discolorations. Those are probably good things to have on hand in a carpeted home with a pet, anyway.
You might also consider buying a wet vac, instead of renting one. I was randomly looking at wet vacs online the other Friday night, because of course I was, and found this model, which gets good reviews and is under $50. If you have a pet and plan on having one for a while, it makes good sense to make the investment. Otherwise, you'll be renting a wet vac every time Toto has an accident.
In closing, please show me your doggie photos and tell the cat to knock it off with the cat-crap.
Jolie Kerr is the author of the upcoming book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume, Spring 2014); more cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr.
Squalor appears on Jezebel and Deadspin on alternating weeks. You can find her "Ask A Clean Person" archives at The Hairpin.