Selling Stain & Odor Products

Manufacturers are responding to consumer demand for products that remove, not mask, stains and odors.


The stain and odor category is one that thrives on innovation. Industry experts say consumers expect much from stain and odor products. Pet owners want products that completely and quickly remove urine and other pet markings from many different surfaces, including carpets, floors and fabrics. Also, it helps if the products do not contain harmful chemicals.

“First and foremost, this shopper demands a product that works,” says Joe Zuccarello, director of innovation and promotion for TropiClean. “They appreciate any additional benefits such as natural and environmentally friendly, but the product has to get the job done. Popular selections continue to be based on a desire for a solution for specific applications such as carpet, hard floor, bedding, upholstery, etc.”

He adds that consumers tend to be brand and product loyal, just as they are with many household cleaning products.

The Wentzville, Mo.-based company manufactures TropiClean Fresh Breeze products that are solution specific, including Hard Floors, Carpet and All, Upholstery and Pad Penetrators. The products contain TropiClean’s natural HabitBreaker formula, which is designed to lift stains and attack odors. The goal, says Zuccarello, is to get the pet to break the habit of soiling by preventing the dog or cat from smelling the site of the previous incident, because that can encourage them to create another stain.

That compulsion to re-soil is a detail that drives innovation in the category. Pet owners know that even if they manage to clean the stain so that human eyes and noses cannot sense the spot, the mark is still there for the animal with super smelling powers to find.

“When you are removing the source, it makes a big difference in the performance of your animal,” says Bill Hadley, CEO of Bio-Pro Research, the Hickory, N.C.-based manufacturer of Urine Off odor and stain remover. “People are using masking agents that do not fool the dog, and as a result, the dog goes back and marks. It’s a natural recurrence. Unless you remove that marking tendency, it’s going to happen over and over.”

A good stain and odor product can be a great training product, Hadley says, because it helps to teach the pet not to stain indoors. Hadley adds that efficacy is important, and so is safety. Many consumers now prefer to buy natural, bio-remedial solutions. “We are constantly improving our biological formulas,” he says. “They are highly effective.”

Urine Off uses bio-enzymatic technology and is certified in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred program. Products that meet certain USDA criteria can display the USDA BioPreferred label, which indicates that the product contains a verifiable amount of renewable biological ingredients.

In addition to Urine Off, the company also offers Zorb It Up! Amazing Absorbent Sheets for cleaning urine and other stains. “You put it down and step on it and clean it up,” Hadley says.

Also new from Bio-Pro is the Urine Off Clean Up Kit, which includes Urine Off, two packs of Zorb It Up! Amazing Absorbent Sheets and Urine Finder, an LED light that helps the user see whether the stain has been truly cleaned. The light, Hadley explains, is a consumer version of the commercial UV blacklight that hotels and healthcare systems use.

Hadley says Urine Off is the official cleaning product for the show rings at Crufts, the dog show in England. Also, the brand will begin a national advertising campaign this fall.

Another method of attacking stains without using chemicals is with bacteria. Las Vegas-based Austin Rose, Inc., offers Caroline’s Stain and Odor Remover, which contains non-pathogenic bacteria cultures to digest organic stains and odors from pet accidents and human spills. Mia Rose, president and CEO of Austin Rose, Inc., explains that the bacteria cultures produce their own enzymes, “like a double whammy over traditional enzyme-only cleaners.” The product is fragrance-free and biodegradable, and it uses a blend of natural surfactants from coconuts.

“More companies are coming into the green industry, making their products—including stain and odor products—with more sustainable resources, less impact on the environment, derivatives of natural ingredients, less harsh chemicals, etc.,” says Rose. “If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, should you really be using them in your home?“

Environmental friendliness is an important feature, says Cindy Rimer, vice president of sales for Vancouver, Wash.-based Biokleen. “Pet families feel better knowing they are using a product that works, and that isn’t harmful to their pets or the environment,” she says. “Just like families want more natural and organic alternatives for themselves, they see the same and oftentimes more importance for their pets, which are highly susceptible to chemicals and toxins found in many conventional products that use artificial fragrance to cover up odors on surfaces and in the air.”

One of Biokleen’s top sellers is Bac-Out Stain + Odor Remover, which uses live enzyme cultures to break down pet stains and odors, then digest them. Rimer explains that the product uses plant-based technology, cultures and natural citrus extracts. Biokleen has expanded the Bac-Out line to include Bac-Out Multi-Surface Floor Cleaner, and Bac-Out Fresh, a natural fabric refresher for pet bedding, couches and cars. All are plant-based with citrus and essential oil extracts.

Rimer says retailers can succeed in the category by reaching out to brands for training and samples. Promotions and endcaps can encourage trial. Also, it helps to separate conventional and natural stain and odor products, differentiating them through store signage and shelf tags.

“The pet stain and odor category has evolved from merely covering up odors to products that work to digest and remove stains and odors,” says Rimer. “As pet families grow, the stain and odor category grows.”

Brad Specter, president of Nature’s Pillows, Inc., agrees. “There are about 150 million pet owners in the United States. If you look at the trends in pet ownership, it’s increasing not decreasing. Stain and odor should be considered at the retail level as a growth category,” he says.

The Trevose, Pa.-based NPI launched Urine Gone 11 years ago and has sold more than four million units. “Our customers are very loyal,” says Specter. “They stick with our brand and tell their friends.” The product works with enzymes, so it works quickly, he says—an important consumer demand.

More recently, the company introduced Stream Clean by Urine Gone, which is also an enzyme-based cleaner. The spray format offers ease of use, which Specter says is an important consumer demand as people are aging in the U.S. “It is an aerosol-based cleaner, so you point and shoot,” says Specter. “There is no bending, no scrubbing, and you stand up straight.”

NPI has supported the two products with $30 million in television advertising. Specter says the retailers that succeed in the category display the products in end caps. Some retailers also recognize the slight seasonality of stain and odor products. Pets are more likely to soil inside the house over the winter, when they are confined indoors more. When spring rolls around, people tend to start cleaning, so they look to stain and odor products for the carpets and floors. Also, as the weather warms, indoor smells become more pronounced, so stain and odor sales increase as the weather warms.

Consumers also want the products to work outdoors and indoors. Health Technology Professional Products Inc., based in Riverside, Calif., makes commercial sanitation products, including products needed for cleaning animal care services and kennels at animal shelters. “The stain and odor products category is growing with many new brands hitting the market,” says Chris Quinlan, owner and CEO. “A lot of cross-marketing is going on with other categories. The products are being used outdoors as well as indoors. So the retailers are being asked by their customers how to clean and control odors in other areas like dirt, gravel, grass, synthetic turf, concrete, wood and around plants.”

Quinlan says retailers were asking the company for advice on what to use and how to clean their places as much as their customers were asking them for the same advice. In response, the company launched the got pee? brand. The brand includes concentrated stain and odor removers such as got pee? Odor Eliminator, got pee? Spot Eliminator, and got pee? Germicidal Cleaner.

The products are designed for use in the retail store itself, as well as for sales on their shelves. This crossover can help sales because the retailer can make valuable recommendations about stain and odor products. “This way their recommendations are based on personal experience,” says Quinlan. “Retailers become a consultant, helping customers get the results they are looking for.” The company will soon introduce a peroxide-based, ready-to-use product in the coming months to complement the current line.  

Retailers can indeed benefit from testing and using the product in their stores, and even in their homes, says Linda Cope, global marketing manager for Marshall Pet Products. “Customers are looking for personal recommendations to solve their pet stain issues and are more likely to buy based on the employee’s opinion,” she says. The Wolcott, N.Y.-based company manufactures 180XT, a stain, odor and pheromone remover that Marshall Pet Products says permanently extracts pet urine and waste from almost any surface by lifting the stain up and out from the subfloor, carpet pad and surface.

There have been many entrants into the category, says Hadley, from Bio-Pro Research, but consumers know what works. “At the end of the day all the hype and all the labels really pale in comparison to does it really work,” he says. “The most important thing is performance, and two is, is it safe for environment and for the animals.”


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