Life Hacks: How to Get Cat Pee Out of Clothes and Carpet
Cats are NOT Jerks Who Pee But They DO Pee
When I first wrote this article around three years ago, I went on a bit about how evil cats are and how they're always plotting to destroy the world and, well, it made a LOT of people mad. People do not like to hear that cats are bad because inherently they really aren't. If your cat is urinating outside of his or her litter box there is likely a good (in the cat's eyes, anyway) and solvable reason.
Still. As someone who has three cats that she loves very, very much, I can't help but feel like they've committed a special kind of wrong when one of them urinates on something of mine or my children's. It's just so violating.
Why cats choose to do certain things like eat houseplants, destroy fine china, sleep in cardboard boxes and very large shoes, and pee on $90 jeans is beyond human logic. That's okay, because we don't need to understand it. All we really need to understand is how to fix it. And clean it. Learn how to do that in this article. And please, if I've offended you with my less-than-favorable language towards felines leave a comment.
Tips to Prevent Accidents
Before we get to the nitty gritty of how to remove cat urine from clothing, rugs, and fabrics, it's important to remember that most of these accidents are preventable. The reasons are many that a cat may choose to urinate outside of her litter box. Sometimes it's innocent - something random to us but instinctual to her inspired her fancy, while other motivations may be more serious, like an unchecked medical condition that requires attention. Whatever the reason, here are a few tips to prevent your little buddy from creating any more havoc:
- Spay or neuter. If you haven't already done so, spay or neuter the perp. Not only is it the responsible thing to do, but it will help deter your cat from feeling the need to "mark" territory.
- Clean up previous pet stains. Cats seem to go back to spots where they or another pet have urinated to cover over it. Properly cleaning the area can help your cat to forget there's somewhere important they have to pee.
- Keep laundry and blankets off the floor. Because cats just like to add to the chaos, keep piles of dirty clothes and folded blankets off the floor. These are like cat magnets. First they cuddle, then they pee.
- Purchase rugs that don't have a rubber bottom. As weird as this may sound, sometimes certain smells can attract cats to a spot that they just have to pee on. The smell of rubber is one of them.
- Keep that litter box pristine. Your idea of clean and your cat's idea of clean may not be the same. Choose a time each day to clean the box and sprinkle a baking-soda based deodorizer to keep things fresh for your cat.
- Don't make the cat mad. Easier said than done, amirite?! In my case, my cat often pees on my stuff if I don't feed him at a specific time of day or if I've done something to irritate him.
- Take your cat in for a check-up. Sometimes peeing outside the litterbox can indicate a health problem in your cat, such as diabetes. If all else fails, get your critter checked out.
How to Remove Cat Urine from Clothes
The good news is, of everything your cat could choose to take a leak on, save for extremely you can do the following:
- Assess the damage. If the urine is old (as in, you just discovered the accident two days after the deed was done), throw the pile into a bag - paper or plastic will do - and douse the clothes in baking soda to help lift the urine. Seal the bag by either tying it or taping it shut. Let the clothes chill like this overnight. If the urine is fresh, though, just head straight to the washing machine.
- Wash clothes. Throw the clothes in the washing machine with a regular dose of laundry detergent, 2-4 cups of white vinegar (depending on how large the load is), and a liberal scoop of baking soda. Use the smallest setting you can so you can really get the fabric agitating in the machine. The white vinegar deodorizes the urine, while the baking soda helps lift the urine out of the fabric. Wash on hot.
- Run clothes through again on a hot cycle, this time with no soap, vinegar, etc. to fully rinse any residue.
- Hang to dry. Because you're washing on hot, it's best to hang this load to dry to prevent shrinkage.
This method works for towels, curtains, and small area rugs too.
To remove cat stains and odors from delicate fabrics, use the same method as you would for washing regular fabrics, but use the "delicate" or "knits" setting instead of a regular setting, as well as a larger load setting to prevent wear and tear of the fabric.
How to Remove Cat Urine from Carpet
Cleaning cat pee out of carpets and large rugs that can't be thrown in the wash is a different game. While the agitation from the washing machine helps to throw the urine out of the fabric, so to speak, cleaning carpet is tricky. This is because, if you're not careful, you'll just sort of rub the pee in more. Thankfully, if the urine hasn't been there for too long, you may be able to save the carpet—or at least prevent the stain from soaking too deeply into the baseboard. Try the following before ripping any of your Berber up:
- Soak up the stain. Use paper towels to soak up as much of the pee as you can, without rubbing.
- Spray white vinegar on the area.
- Soak it again. Again, use paper towels to soak up the moisture. Repeat this step once or twice more, depending on the severity.
- Use baking soda, next. Sprinkle the stained area with baking soda to absorb as much vinegar and urine as possible. Let that sit until dry.
- Vacuum up baking soda.
If that doesn't seem to have done the trick, try a cleanser formulated to clean the enzymes found in cat urine and follow the directions on the bottle.
You can also use a black light to find places you may have missed.
Vinegar and Baking Soda Not Doing the Trick?
With especially old, or deeply penetrated urine stains, baking soda and vinegar may not do enough to lift the odor and the bacteria that causes it. This is where a more powerful tool comes in handy. The Bissell Little Green ProHeat has proven itself to be a total lifesaver in my life (seriously, my mom "borrowed" mine and I immediately had to order a new one because with two toddlers and two cats, it's become a nearly everyday essential for me).
You can use it wet or dry and with hot or cold water but my favorite thing about the Little Green ProHeat is that used on the hot water setting, it helps loosen pet urine stains before lifting them and I feel like there's at least some germ-killing action happening as opposed to using plain cold water and sopping it all up with a rag or paper towels.
I use this machine with an accompanying solution (you can pick which Bissell formula works best for your problem area) to remove pet stains (including the more than occasional hairball) from our carpet.
Also useful for removing stains we won't go into detail over from upholstery, couches, mattresses, and rugs when your two children simultaneously come down with the stomach flu. Hurrah!
Stain and Odor Still Lingering?
If the method here doesn't do the job, try a scoop of OxiClean powder in your load of laundry.
Cat Urine Stained Upholstery and Carpet
For carpet and upholstery that has been heavily saturated, the baking soda and vinegar method may not be strong enough. For those tough jobs invest in a compact upholstery cleaner - preferably one that utilizes hot water or has a built-in water heater - to remove cat urine stains and odors.
What are your best tips and tricks for handling cat accidents, odors, and stains? Have a cat pee question you want to ask? Comment below!