so, long story short, we found new homes for the cats and my husband spent night after night using every chemical known to man (not really but almost) and steam-cleaning our carpets probably ten times, while i spent weeks just hanging out in bed, avoiding the living room. eventually, we got things back to normal and i could once again stand to be in the living room.
fast-forward about a year and a half later. we move some furniture around and i start getting these whiffs of cat urine every once in a while. you have GOT to be kidding me. (i told you this story was gross.) when we moved our area rug, we revealed the part of the carpet that he marked most, by the window under our christmas tree at the time we had the cats... it was his favorite spot to mark. that was his christmas tree, damnit.
at this point, i didn't know what to do. we'd already steam cleaned the crap out of the carpet and thought we'd taken care of the problem, and had since switched to using all-natural cleaners (not that all those chemicals did much anyway, apparently). i decided to go the baking soda route.
i had read that baking soda works wonders at removing odors, specifically carpet odors. but you don't just sprinkle the stuff... no, you pile it on. we're talking one or two inches of baking soda. it's supposed to look like it snowed in your house. so that's what i did. i heavily coated the entire area that had been under the rug and let it sit for two days before vacuuming it up.
would you believe the odor was gone? trust me, i got on hands and knees and put my nose to the carpet. in many cases, baking soda is pretty good at absorbing odors -- even strong, lingering odors. i looked it up to find out why it works, and found this:
it goes on to explain why the whole baking-soda-in-the-fridge thing may not work very well, but at least that explains why it worked so well at getting rid of the cat smell, and how it could work for other odor issues as well. and hello, two boxes of baking soda is a lot cheaper than a can of carpet cleaner with nasty chemicals.