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Updated April 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best pet urine detectors

Housebreaking a dog or cat isn’t an exact science, and if you have a puppy or kitten there are going to be a few accidents along the way. A cat might not feel comfortable with its litter box, or a dog might need to relieve itself sooner than expected. Some pets have medical conditions that trigger urination. To find the mishaps, you need a pet urine detector.

Finding the location of pet urine can be challenging. Small pets can access some hidden or remote parts of the home. Fortunately, there are devices that can make this task much easier to perform. A pet urine detector is essentially a handheld flashlight equipped with ultraviolet (UV) LEDs or a UV filter that illuminates the phosphorus and proteins in urine so you can see them in the dark.

These tools use no harsh chemicals, and the UV light source isn’t harmful to the eyes. They simply illuminate potential sources of old urine, allowing pet owners the opportunity to remove it completely. 

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Excessive or hidden urination could be a sign of a more serious medical condition, such as a urinary tract infection or stress, requiring a visit to the veterinarian for further testing.

Key considerations

Why use a pet urine detector?

Animal urine can be a major source of household odors and unsightly stains, so discovering its location is always a good idea for homeowners, landlords, and tenants. A UV blacklight pet urine detector is the best and most cost-effective way to perform this task. There are several reasons why those with pets and those without would want to invest in one of these devices.

House or apartment inspection: Landlords and home inspectors should conduct a thorough search for hidden animal urine while preparing the property for new tenants, especially if the previous tenants owned dogs or cats. It’s easier to mitigate the effects of the urine before the property is fully occupied.

Pet behavior modification: Pet owners who are housetraining their pets may not be aware of every place marked by a dog or cat. While the pet will eventually be housebroken and use the appropriate litter box, training pad, or other location, accidents can still happen. Using a pet urine detector will help owners discover any unacceptable spots and take steps to discourage future visits.

Medical condition: Some pets make an effort to hide any signs of illness, but they might start exhibiting unwanted behavior, such as frequent urination in the house. A condition such as diabetes or a urinary tract infection can lead to inappropriate peeing. If a pet urine detector reveals a heavy concentration of urine in a particular location, it can be a sign of a more serious medical or behavioral situation.

Stain and odor removal: Dried urine can create strong odors in the home and deep stains in carpeting or flooring that are difficult to remove. Replacing damaged furniture, carpeting, or flooring can be expensive, so using a pet urine detector can pinpoint the affected area for targeted treatment.

What’s the right UV blacklight wavelength?

The wavelength of any UV blacklight source is measured in nanometers (nm). An incandescent blacklight bulb that’s used to illuminate posters works on a different wavelength than the UV LEDs used in pet urine detectors. 

A UV detector with a wavelength between 390 nm and 400 nm can find evidence of dog urine in a very dark room, but it can’t disclose cat urine. A model rated between 365 nm and 385 nm can reveal both cat and dog urine, but it is generally more expensive. 

The device’s wavelength should be mentioned on the packaging or in the product description. Any UV blacklight outside of these ranges would not be suitable for detecting animal urine.

How many LEDs should it have?

The quality of a standard flashlight might be measured by the brightness of its bulb(s), but the quality of a pet urine detector is often measured by the number of LEDs. More LEDs mean more UV light saturation, which in turn means more urine illumination. 

A quality entry-level urine detector should include at least 8 to 12 LEDs to be effective. Mid-range models contain 30 or more LEDs, while high-end detectors incorporate 100 or more. However, the number of LEDs is irrelevant if the UV light isn’t the ideal wavelength. In other words, a detector with 30 LEDs rated at 365 nm would be preferable to a detector with 100 LEDs rated at 400 nm. 

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Did You Know?
Pet urine usually glows pale yellow or neon green in UV blacklight. Other substances like carpet cleaner or spilled beverages give off a bright white glow. 
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Features

Construction and design

Most pet urine detectors are essentially modified flashlights, so they share many of the same design elements. 

Base and battery housing: These can be made of a durable plastic or composite material or a lightweight metal such as aluminum. 

Casing: In better models, this is waterproof to protect the dry cell batteries and LEDs during use. 

Grip: A comfortable and secure grip is also important since a thorough inspection can take a significant amount of time to perform. 

Quantity

Many pet urine detectors are sold as single units, especially higher-end models that contain multiple LEDs. However, some manufacturers also offer larger quantities for users who want to cover more area during a search or have a backup available. Note that some penlight UV detectors sold in bulk may not have the proper wavelength or enough LEDs to be effective.

UV light bulbs used for blacklight glow-in-the-dark effects aren’t designed to detect pet urine.

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Pricing

Inexpensive

You can find basic pet urine detectors for less than $10, but their effectiveness is noticeably variable. The UV light could use a plastic blacklight filter or a limited number of LEDs. The room needs to be as dark as possible, and the urine may only have a slightly yellow or green glow. An inexpensive pet urine detector generally only provides a simple yes or no indication of the presence of pet urine.

Mid-range

Most pet urine detectors priced between $10 and $25 contain a generous array of UV LEDs and the ideal wavelength to cause phosphorus and proteins to glow. They also work in rooms that aren’t completely dark. These mid-range models are powerful enough to detect other substances, such as dried beverages and chemical spills.

Expensive

There are bulk sets of basic pet urine detectors available in the $20 to $30 range, which makes it easier for several users to inspect a whole house at once. High-end UV flashlights contain UV LEDs that produce maximum illumination at the best wavelength possible. Some also include special eyewear for filtering out other light spectra or a supply of enzymatic cleaner or chemical odor remover.

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Did You Know?
Cats and dogs are territorial by nature and often mark their space by spraying it with a form of urine.
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Tips

  • Use a pet urine detector to locate other substances. High-end UV blacklight detectors can also locate the presence of other substances, so they can be very useful during house or apartment inspections.
  • Make sure the room is as dark as possible. This could involve adding room-darkening shades or blocking out light from under a door or other sources before conducting your search. 
  • Clean the carpet and flooring. If you detect pet urine on carpeting, be prepared to deep clean the area. The urine has likely penetrated the carpet pad and soaked into the flooring.
  • Add more litter boxes or install a pet door to the outside. Accommodations like these can help reduce incidents of rogue peeing and marking indoors. 
  • Be sure to remove the urine stain completely. If the stain hasn’t been removed properly from carpeting, steam cleaning the carpet can bind the protein to the fibers. Perform a thorough inspection for pet urine before using a carpet cleaner.

 

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Even a pet that has been trained to use a litter box, pad, or the outdoors can still have the occasional urge to pee in an inappropriate place. A pet urine detector can help you discover a behavioral pattern.

FAQ

Q. I suspect my dog just urinated on the bath mat. Can I use a pet urine detector right away?
A.
You might be able to perform a visual inspection of the area, but most pet urine detectors won’t indicate wet urine. It must be dry before the chemicals react to the UV light emitted by the detector. 

Q. I know my cat has been peeing on the sofa, so why can’t I find the spot with my pet urine detector?
A.
Quality pet urine detectors emit UV light at a specific wavelength that causes the phosphorus and other chemicals in dried urine to glow. This can be affected by the surface you’re testing. A sofa in a dark color or pattern, for instance, won’t reflect as much UV light as one in a lighter color. You might try a more powerful UV detector.
 

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