Dogs, Artificial Grass, Urine Odors, and Feces
What a wonderful idea to have artificial grass! It's always green. No mowing. No watering. No aeration. No fertilizing. No weed abatement. No care or upkeep once it's in place.
Hold on a moment, cowboy!
Do you have pets you plan to potty on the artificial grass?
If so, you've got a problem and should think carefully about a purchase of artificial grass.
I bought top-of-the-line stuff at Costco (made by Pegra; the stuff with brown "thatch" is much more realistic than the stuff with green thatch). I had it installed, following the manufacturer's directions precisely. I did not take shortcuts in site preparation and did not use cut-rate materials for the substrate. This project was not inexpensive, to participate in yunderstatement.
Before discussion of dog urine and feces, here are a couple pieces of advice on the installation, based on my experience.
- Cap off sprinkler heads completely. You don't want leaks under the artificial grass.
- Remove roots nearby. You don't want roots causing lumps in the grass as they try to break the surface.
- Prep site carefully. Make dirt as flat as possible. Any grades should be as gentle as possible, as substrate layers can "wash" out during heavy rains onto the patio, driveway, or walkway.
- Don't use any underlayment that is made of recycled tires.
- Don't skimp on any substrate materials.
- Cut with a box cutter, turning the artificial grass over and cutting through the backing first.
- Before cutting, think where you want the seams. And in which direction (north-south or east-west). In use, which way will all/most of the traffic be going? You want to minimize pull at the seam lines. If the traffic is going to be primarily north-south, your seams should run north-south.
- Don't give up on spreading sand after installation. Sand between the blades is what makes them stand up and look real. Spread out all the sand the directions recommend. If you have to rent a "fertilizer spreader," get one that has wheels so you can push it. You have to walk slowly, in any event, so it takes a LONG time to spread out the sand. Don't be lazy with this step.
- Put extra nails along edges of grass and at seams. I got a box of 3"-long nails at Home Depot. The installation kit from the manufacturer didn't come with anywhere near the number of nails needed!
- Using your fingers, "release" the blades from under the nail heads around the nail-insertion points. This helps to avoid "divots," which will indicate exactly where the nails were sunk.
- Be careful at the seams when in use and when cleaning. Edges will curl up.
- Individual blades do pull out. It's not indestructible.
- The graass is heavy, though. A small plot a woman can do (15' x 15'). A larger area will need more muscle than most women have.
Now it's time for the cautionary tale and how I attacked the urine and feces problems. I have two miniature poodles.
The urine smell is persistent in artificial grass. Summer is especially atrocious.
I've been in a pitched battle ever since I installed it (2010), trying to undo the damage done because I didn't know there would be a problem if I left the artificial grass "unattended" after my dogs pottied in the yard.
I anticipated odor might be a problem with my new artificial grass. I called the manufacturer's customer service before buying it. I was told, "Oh, no. No problem with odors; the urine washes right through! Feces will dissolve, too, in time. Just run the hose on the grass every so often."
Not true. Not even close to being true, which I discovered too late.
I know you are thinking, Won't rain wash away the odor, especially during the rainy season when there's a LOT of rain?
I have news for you: not only does water not wash away the odor, water seems to re-activate it!
There really is no way to deal with this problem without effort on your part. Sorry.
I installed the grass in the spring, and it wasn't until mid-summer that I figured out what was wrong. My nose was assailed with a fetid, sharp odor whenever I went outside. Sort of like a diaper pail that needs attending. I wrote it off to transitory odors blowing in on the wind. When I smelled it while I was inside my house (during a piano lesson), however, I knew it was not transitory and was coming from nearby. What in the world was this odor? I knew it wasn't the garbage cans (though I sniffed around them, anyway). Could it possibly be the artificial grass? Surely, any lingering manufacturing odors had dissipated. Could it be urine odor from the dogs? Willing to try anything to solve the problem, I crawled around in the grass with my nose in the blades. It didn't take longer than 5 seconds to figure out the culprit was the grass.
How was I going to solve the problem? I certainly couldn't ignore it. It would only get worse as more and more urine was contributed to the yard!
Here's a chronology of what I tried:
- First, I hosed off the lawn generously and daily, as I was instructed by the good folks at Pegra customer service. Waste of time. The urine smell continued as strong as before I hosed the lawn. Water wouldn't touch it. It almost seemed to have permeated the blades, as well as the underlayment; maybe some of the substrate, too.
- Next, I tried commercial anti-odor products (Nature's Miracle, etc.), even calling breeders to ask which products they used in their kennels. All these efforts were to no avail. A lot of money and no improvement.
- Remembering Grandma's recipe for freshening garbage disposals, I then dusted straight baking soda all over the grass, sort of like sewing grass seed. I bought a sprayer that attaches to a hose (Ortho Dial 'n' Spray) and set it up to mix the chemical and water at 50% strength. A little bit of success but short-lived (less than 24 hours).
- Since it seemed I was on the right track, however, I decided to increase the concentration of vinegar to water. So, I reset the sprayer to 60%. I also sprinkled the baking soda more heavily over the yard. Odor dissipation lasted 24 hours, but no more.
- So, in something of a snit, I took to putting baking soda generously right on each urine spot, not broadcast on the lawn. This I followed with a mixture of three parts vinegar to one part water, which I put in a plastic watering can because it was easier than rigging up the hose and sprayer. Stronger was definitely more effective. (Get the baking powder and vinegar by the gallon at Costco; I'm sure the irony here not lost on you. About $8 for a gazillion-pound bag and $4 for a two-pack of gallons, respectively.)
- Not long after, I decided to quit fiddling around and go to maximum strength and generosity. Now I put baking powder smack on the freshly-delivered urine (about 3/4 c) and follow it with undiluted vinegar (about 3 c). This works much better. The downside is that I cannot let the dogs go out unattended. I have to go out, too, so I can 'mark' the spot with baking powder and follow immediately with vinegar.
- To the daily baking soda/vinegar routine, I have added a weekly treatment with a product my vet uses in the kennels, dog runs, and in the fascinating places at the front door of the animal hospital. Selig Industries is the manufacturer of the product I bought, though there probably are others; Selig's brand name is "64-SX-91". It's for deodorizing, fungus, mildew, bacteria, viruses, etc. Anything that ails ya. I asked my vet, who's also a biochemist, if this stuff was safe for my dogs' feet/etc., when mixed with the vinegar and baking soda I planned to continue as a daily treatment. He said yes, it was safe, which is why they use it. I first mixed 60 cc per 1 gallon of water; then 120 cc for a stronger solution. (Both per instructions.) I poured the chemical into a "pump up" sprayer (from a hardware store). You pump up the container (like filling a kiddie pool). The air pressure inside the container is dissipated as you spray; then you pump again. This regimen has made a marked difference! I paid $16 for a gallon from the vet but found it on the web, also (for much more! plus shipping for a gallon of liquid!); you might check with your/a vet to see if you can get it cheaper. Janitorial supply places might have it, too; or something equivalent. And check with the vet about strength of the solution to use; don't take my word for it, please.
Believe it or not, dealing with feces is a whole lot easier than dealing with urine.
Feces are easy to pick up...however, if the stool is at all soft, make sure to have a roll of paper towels handy because you'll have to clean that spot thoroughly (wet the towel, wipe, then dry with another towel; repeat as needed; fun, huh?!).
If your dog has diarrhea, pick up what you can, wipe up the rest, and never feed bacon again.
NOTHING "seeps through" or "dissolves" on this grass. (Customer service lied!) If it's deposited on it, it's there for eternity - - or until you pick it up!
Artificial grass is VERY hot when the sun shines down on it, and dogs won't step on it because they'll burn the pads on their paws. As soon as shade covers the grass, it cools right off - - within less than a minute.
Be prepared, however, to give your pet another place to potty during the height of summer when the temperature is high, the sun is directly over head, and the grass is sizzling. Or, put your dog out while there are still areas of shade in the yard.
As you might have guessed, this stuff is not "perfect for a dog run," as advertisements claim.
Would I buy artificial grass had I read this file first? No. Absolutely not!
If you choose to go ahead, don't say I didn't warn you!
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Last updated July 22, 2013.