All About Odor-Free Artificial Turf for Dogs

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So, I know most of you are here trying to figure out how to potty train a puppy or dog, but I’m finding that more and more of my clients who are housebreaking their beasties are asking about whether having artificial grass installed in a dog yard is a good idea, so I thought some of you might benefit from an article on the topic. Since I’ve been mulling over whether to get artificial grass for years, I decided to make the jump so I could test whether fake grass works well in an area that experiences heavy dog traffic and lots of pee and poo… my own backyard! I’m going to update this article throughout the process in the hopes that it will help you to make the decision as to whether artificial turf is a good option for you and your pup!

Dog

If you saw the search history on my computer, you’d probably think I have an obsession with artificial grass that might require psychological intervention… every few months over the past 5 years, you’d see something like this:

Artificial turf for dogs
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Antimicrobial artificial turf for dogs
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Does artificial turf get too hot for dogs
Can fleas live in artificial grass
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Odor neutralizer for artificial turf
Cleaning protocol for artificial turf
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How to clean artificial turf dogs
How to remove urine odors from fake grass
Odor prevention artificial turf
And on… and on… and on…

These endless hours of research have thus far ended up with me saying, “Naaaah, too darn expensive!” or “Eeeek! I don’t want to risk having a yard that reeks of dog urine!” or “What if this stuff gets so hot in the summer that my poor dogs can’t even walk on it?”. You know how it goes… you get all excited after seeing a bunch of reviews that say getting faux grass was the best decision ever, then you see a few that say it smells so bad or gets so hot that they ripped it out and went back to real grass or some kind of hardscape. Hard not to be scared off by that, since the grass would have to be a pretty big disappointment to rip it out after having spent big bucks on it! I’m the kind of gal who keeps a close eye on my expenditures, so I’ve always wimped out after seeing a few of those negative reviews, but it’s time to make a decision… will I go faux or will it be a no-go??

I think it’s time for me to consult with a professional (no, not a shrink… a turf pro!). Partly due to my lawn being brown-n-crispy thanks to the Southern California drought and partly in the interest of having firsthand knowledge to better advise my clients on this stuff, I’m taking the next step and having some artificial turf contractors come out to give me some estimates, so we’ll see what they have to say about my concerns!

So, where to start? With more psycho-level Googling, of course! I read every review for every local turf installer and it was the usual… most of them had a bunch of glowing reviews and a few that basically said, “This company ruined my lawn and my life… may they burn in hell!!!” Hmmm. Well, I guess if I’m going to proceed, I’ll just have to pick one and hope I end up one of their happy clients, not one whose life becomes a turf-induced apocalyptic hellscape!

The plan is to have three estimates to get an idea of what’s out there. My appointments are set and I’m ready to dig in!!

UPDATE #1

Aaaaaand, here we are, post-estimates! Having the turf guys come out was actually pretty interesting, and I learned a few lessons that might help you out in your quest for an artificial lawn. Lesson #1: find out if there are seasonal differences in pricing in your area. I lucked out and found out my estimate would be 2/3 of the summertime installation price since I was planning to do the installation in February. Score!! Lesson #2: either know the dimensions of your yard or be sure to have more than one installer measure it. Turf Man #1 said I needed to cover a 750-square-foot area and quoted a price that was $2,000 higher than Turf Man #2, who said I only had 565 square feet. Company #1 was officially toast after that… NOPE!

And here’s the thing about Turf Man #2… he was so awesome that I cancelled Turf Man #3! He was super-knowledgeable, he gave me a very reasonable price, and when he found out I had relatives visiting from out of town two days after our consultation, he even shifted some things around to do a next-day installation for me! I never expected that, but it sure was nice… another perk of getting my lawn in their slow season!

So, I won’t bother with talking any more smack about Company #1, but I’m happy to share the name of the company I ended up using, because they were AMAZING. And because they have the rather precious name “Hunny Do Artificial Turf” and the tagline “Can’t we all just get a lawn?”! These guys were great. A crew of nice, hardworking guys showed up right on time and knocked out the installation in about half a day—including a double dose of Zeofill granules to help with urine odors (highly recommended!). And it is GORGEOUS!! I had the choice of a flat installation or a crowned installation that’s higher in the middle and lower on the sides. I went with the crowned installation and I’m so glad I did… you may want to consider doing the same, since it looks a lot more natural and aesthetically pleasing than a flat artificial lawn.

So now that I’ve got this amazing, gorgeous plastic lawn, it’s time to figure out the best cleaning protocol for keeping artificial turf fresh and non-stinky when you have dogs (and in my case, multiple big dogs that pee and poo a LOT!). Once again, I researched the heck out of this, but I wasn’t too happy with the answers I found online, so I’m making it my mission to do the legwork to find out what REALLY works.

Step one was calling a client who called me last year for housebreaking help when her dog started refusing to potty in her dog run and we determined it was because they had a big case of artificial grass stink going on. Her dog magically became housebroken again once the SUPERFUNK was gone, thanks to a product recommended by her installer. Since I knew this was a product that worked, finding out about it seemed like a good place to start!

Turns out it was a product called PE-51. I checked it out online and found that it’s quite expensive, so I didn’t think it was a good option for regular maintenance, though it might be worth a try if a serious stink problem crops up… I’ll update you guys on that if I ever feel the need to give it a try.

After determining that the PE-51 wasn’t going to be a part of my stink-prevention program, I started looking for alternatives. Most of the deodorizers that are made specifically for artificial grass are too expensive for a thrifty gal like me, so I started looking at odor neutralizers that weren’t made for artificial grass and found some more reasonably priced alternatives that I thought might work. In the end, I decided that a product called Odoban would be the first product I’d test. It’s cheap, available both online and at Home Depot (yay!), and it gets great reviews. Lots of folks use it for horse stalls and dog kennels, two places that have the potential for serious odor problems, so I’m feeling pretty confident it’ll be able to get the job done on my little ol’ lawn!

So here’s the protocol I’m going to test. Daily scooping with a dog scoop set with a spade (I found out quickly that the spade set is better than the rake set, which allowed for tiny poo nuggets to fall down into the grass when you scoop), followed by a spraydown of the poo spot with odor neutralizer, then a weekly spraydown of the whole lawn with odor neutralizer, followed by a brushing with an artificial turf rake. Since I have a doggie door, I don’t see my dogs peeing every time, but when I do, I grab my pump sprayer and give the spot a quick squirt. If you go out with your dog and witness every pee, I think immediately doing a quick squirt of neutralizer on each one would be some serious anti-stink insurance!

Every morning, I now head out to the yard and grab my scoop and a handheld pump sprayer filled with half Odoban/half water and do a quick poo cleanup. This is usually a pretty straightforward, easy process, especially since the poo tends to rest on top of the turf, rather than hiding between the blades of grass like it did in my original lawn… nice! You’ll notice I said it’s USUALLY a pretty straightforward process—that’s unless anyone has a soft poo or diarrhea, which makes things a little more challenging. In my research about artificial turf cleanup, I saw differing advice on whether to pick up loose poops right away or wait for them to dry before picking them up, so I decided to try both. My advice is to pick up ASAP—if you allow it to dry, it sticks to the blades of grass, making it harder to remove, then if it isn’t totally dry on the bottom, you’ll still have some goopy poo stuck to your grass. Or if it’s baked in the sun a little longer, it might be stuck like cement onto the grass, making matters even worse—so get out there and scoop that poop on a regular schedule!!

So far, everything’s looking and smelling great… but summer’s coming and hot, dry weather could be a challenge. I’ll keep you guys posted!

UPDATE #2

Stink alert! Don’t worry, it’s not MY artificial lawn that’s smelly, but I got a little nervous when I went to a client’s house and saw and SMELLED that she had artificial turf… uh-oh! The urine smell wasn’t overwhelming, but it was definitely noticeable and unpleasant. I didn’t want to be totally rude and ask “what’s up with the funk??”, so I went with “how do you guys like your artificial turf”? I was happy to hear her response… they’ve had it for years and LOVE it, but she sheepishly said that the only problem was that they’re bad about maintenance… they have two male dogs peeing all over their fairly small lawn and they hadn’t hosed it down in months. Given that we also haven’t had any rain in months, I was pretty impressed that things didn’t smell way worse out there! She went on to say that they had no odor problems at all if they were good about hosing it down occasionally, so that was nice to hear! And in the meantime, I’ve visited lots of other clients with artificial turf and there have been no other stinky ones… looks like the dream of a stink-free artificial lawn is possible!!

Now, another thing that’s been on my mind with this new lawn is whether dog hair is going to be an issue, since I have two VERY heavy shedders. I think that’s the one thing I didn’t think to Google during my many research sessions, so here’s the scoop in case you were wondering if dog hair would get caught in the turf like it does on a carpet. So far, the answer is NO, I’m pleased to report! Most of the hair just blows right off the grass and onto the concrete, where I can easily sweep it up. There were a couple of occasions where I noticed a bit of hair building up at the edge of the grass where it meets the concrete, but I just used my turf rake to sweep it right out, so heavy shedders and artificial grass will do just fine together!

UPDATE #3

SUPER STINK ALERT!! This time it IS my lawn… yikes! I had a minor heart attack when I walked out my back door and was smacked in the face with a heavy-duty dose of urine odor, but it wasn’t because my system failed, it was operator error! Somebody got a little lazy when a friend was visiting from out of town and skipped her weekly odor neutralizer spraydown—at the same time an unneutered male dog with super-stinky pee was visiting. Apparently, this was NOT a good idea!! I freaked out a bit, hoping it wasn’t a permafunk, then I sprang into action. Did a heavy hosedown with water to try to dilute the built-up urine, since we haven’t had any rain in months, then did two heavy passes with my good ol’ Odoban. And when I walked out the door the next day… still funky! And the next day, still stinky, but maybe a bit better. And the next day… fresh as a daisy (even when I stuck my nose down in it like a Bloodhound!!). And this is where I learned another lesson about cleaning your artificial turf: it might stink when it’s wet and the sun is beating down on it. So, there’s an important life lesson for you—if you want your grass to smell nice for a specific occasion, don’t deodorize or hose it the same day! I’d do it two days before to give everything a chance to dry out.

UPDATE #4

Summer has been rolling on by, hot and dry. And I’m still in love with my lawn! The heat-related odor problems I was so worried about haven’t come to pass, and though the lawn does get a bit toasty on hot, sunny days, my pups are still totally comfortable running and playing on it. I do make sure they have shady resting areas, of course, and we’ve put a couple of raised, cot-style beds on the lawn just in case the pups want to lounge in the sun, but not on the hot grass.

I’ve made a couple of tweaks to my maintenance program. I now use a rake-style poop scoop for some poops, and a spade for others. The spade is perfect for nice, firm poops or as a first step in cleaning up a mushy poop or diarrhea, but the rake has proven helpful for those lovely moments when I don’t get to the poo before the sun has baked a semi-soft poop onto the grass a bit. I turn it upside down, hook the tines under the stuck poo and pop it right off the grass. I’ve also added some disposable rubber gloves to my cleaning kit; I’ve only needed them a few times, but they’re the only solution I could come up with for the occasional teeny poo nuggets that fall down between the blades of grass. Sometimes I can’t get them with the scoop, so I glove up, grab ’em and toss ’em… isn’t being a dog parent FUN??

Now, let’s talk about diarrhea. I’ve come to the conclusion that folks whose dogs have a lot of tummy issues might find artificial turf VERY high maintenance. My diarrhea protocol has been working well, but it takes a bit of effort and I don’t know how I would feel about it if I had to do it multiple times per day instead of maybe twice a month. I’ve read that you can just scoop up as much of the diarrhea as you can, then hose down the rest, but…. ICK. I can’t do it, man. Not on my beloved, expensive new lawn! I can’t help thinking about the poo juice I’d be leaving behind, and that would make it ever so unpleasant for me to roll around on the grass with my pups! So I clean it up like I’d clean up diarrhea on a rug in the house. Scoop up as much as I can using my spade poop scoop set, then wipe up as much as I can with some dry, heavy-duty paper towels, then dump a bunch of odor neutralizer on it and scrub with paper towels. I repeat the odor neutralizer soak and scrubdown as many times as needed until the paper towels come up clean, and it’s working great. No residual poo smells EVER… totally worth that little bit of elbow grease as long as I don’t have to do it too often!!

Another thing I’ve discovered about having artificial turf for dogs in an area where it doesn’t rain much: I need to use almost as much water on my fake lawn as I used to on my real lawn! That’s kind of a bummer, since part of the sales pitch for fake grass is that you’ll supposedly save lots of dough (and the planet!) by not having to water real grass. But without my heavy weekly spraydown, I think I’d have a super-stinkalicious yard, so I’ll just have to keep using a bunch of water and paying that high water bill (sorry, Earth!).

UPDATE #5

This update isn’t about my lawn, but I thought I’d let you guys know about a cleanup protocol I set up for one of my clients with a small dog and an artificial lawn. She has a small lawn and didn’t want stinky poop scoops or a stinky trash can full of poo out there, so I have her picking up the poops with scented poo bags, sealing them, then depositing them in a Training Champ stinkless trash can, which is similar to the Diaper Genie people use to keep diapers from funking up the house. That, along with a weekly Odoban spraydown, is keeping her small outdoor area nice and fresh!

UPDATE #6

Well, my lawn had an uneventful, stink-free summer and fall (except for sunny days when it’s drying out after a spraydown, which is no big deal). Here we are in December and I love my turf and feel like it’s one of the best investments we’ve ever made. It’s so great having a pretty, perfectly green lawn, NO muddy footprints coming into the house in rainy weather and no dusty dogs in dry weather! I’ll definitely keep this article updated if there are any changes, but for now, I think it’s pretty safe to say that dog owners CAN have non-stinky artificial turf, so I highly recommend going for it if you’re considering giving up on grass!

UPDATE#7

Well, here’s an update I never thought I’d have the opportunity to post… I have some insights on artificial turf maintenance during RAINY season. Yes, we actually had a bunch of rain in Los Angeles after a few years of unsettlingly dry weather! As you’ve read, my turf maintenance program initally consisted of a weekly soak and spraydown with odor neutralizer, but once the rain started falling, I thought it would be a good opportunity to see if rain would allow for less frequent deodorizing… and it did!

I was able to cut back to deodorizing once a month while it was raining and didn’t experience any stink problems at all… nice! And this was with some visiting dogs here and there, so, as usual, my yard probably has much heavier dog traffic (and a lot more pee and poo!) than yours. The missing piece of data here is whether I could have gone longer than a month while still having good results, but I didn’t feel comfortable pushing my luck quite that far.

I did still use a little squirt of Odoban on each poo spot after I scooped… it just seems like the right thing to do instead of waiting for the next rain to wash it away. Oh, and speaking of poo… scoop PROMPTLY when it’s raining! Heavy rain will quickly turn a firm, easy-to-scoop poop into a mushy mess that works its way down into your turf… ICK. When I made the mistake of slacking off on my daily poo pick up because I didn’t want to drag myself out in the rain I went out and found I’d made a LOT more work for myself, since piles that would have required just a quick scoop-n-squirt ended up being a scoop-n-get-on-my-hands-and-knees-in-the-rain-to-scrub-poo-goo-out-of-my-grass experience. Not fun and definitely not recommended!!

Also, I found this interesting info on the Zeofill website about the importance of rain in keeping things fresh and clean:

“We don’t get much rain, can I flush out the ZeoFill by hosing it off with my garden hose or sprinklers?”

Mostly No, Sodium ion (Na+) in rain water will release the granule’s power and the force of a heavy rain will flush out the zeolite, forcing it through the turf into the ground making your turf virtually new again. The sodium forces the calcium ions out and recharges the volcano ash when dry. Only sodium ion from rain water can flush out the bacteria. The sodium ion will release the magnetic power in the granule. When rain’s sodium ion forces the bacteria through the granule, it cleans out the system out so the process can begin again.

Yes with conditions, Water from your home is purified by the city and usually does not contain the sulfur dioxide that rain holds needed to completely remove the bacteria from ZeoFill. You can water down your turf, just let the granule dry properly. It takes up to two day to dry. ZeoFill Granules works wet but needs to dry to continuously prevent the gases from releasing. If a dog pees in the same area over and over again, the granule will never dry and eventually release the gases.

“How often do we need to run the sprinkler, especially during a summertime dry spell?”

For those who don’t understand and want a better understanding. Sprinkler systems are usually filtered water. The ZeoFill is made naturally by the earth’s sodium and ONLY sodium can release the magnetivity of the granule. Water alone will not clean the granule. Heavy force of rain drops is what pushes the bacteria into the base system. Sprinkler water does not have enough force to push the bacteria into the base system.

If you live in an area where it doesn’t rain for long periods of time, then it is recommended to use an enzyme like PE-51 which is a liquid turf cleaner which basically eats the bacteria until rain washes out the ZeoFill.

I don’t entirely get what that means (it got a little too science-y for me, what can I say!), but it seems like rain is important stuff when you have Zeofill… so thanks for all the rainy days, Mother Nature!

Now that things have warmed up and dried up, I’m back to once a week deodorizing… but it was sure fun being lazy about my lawn all winter! Almost makes me jealous of people who have year-round rain… almost.