How to Get Cat Pee Out of Clothes, Couches, Towels, Rugs, and Carpet
I love my cats. I love how they curl up together in the sunlight, the yin to the other's yang. I love how they use the internet modem to warm themselves or how they avoid my kids all day but secretly slide in next to them in the hours between the last bedtime story and dawn.
But, I don't love when they pee outside of their litter box.
As someone whose kiiiiiind of obsessive about keeping my small home smelling as fresh as possible, I've become somewhat of an expert about cleaning cat urine out of clothes, towels, curtains, carpet, couches - you name it.
Here's how to do it.
What You Will Need to Clean Washable Fabrics
Getting Cat Pee Out of Washable Fabrics
- To start, check for dampness, indicating that the urine is fresh. If it is, rinse the item. Run it under warm water in your bathtub or a utility sink and wring it out. That way you're getting as much urine out as possible right away. If the urine is already dry just skip this and head to step 2.
- Throw the item in a bucket or tub of hot water with a heaping scoop of OxiClean powder and then let it soak for a few hours. If your washing machine has a soak option just use this!
- Once your pee-stained item has soaked for a few hours in the warm Oxi water, it's time to get down to business. Turn your washing machine to it's hottest setting, measure out a small amount of your usual laundry detergent and hit start.
- Now, once the hot cycle is all done, run your item through on a cold rinse cycle to make sure all of the soap and urine is completely rinsed away.
- Inspect for lingering odor or stains and if there is any, repeat the wash process. If not, thoroughly dry the fabric to prevent mildew. If the item is prone to shrinkage, hang it to dry since we just used a hot wash setting. If not, just throw it in the dryer.
What You Will Need to Clean Urine Out of Carpet, Upholstery and Other Non-Washable Fabrics
Like upholstered chairs and couches, shag rugs, mattresses, futons and carpet.
If the Stain is Minor and Fresh
- Paper towels
- White vinegar solution in a spray bottle (2 parts white vinegar, 1 part water)
If the Stain is Old or Covering a Large Area
- An upholstery machine and special pet odor targeting cleaning solution. 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 and if you don't get the smell out, your cat is just going to return to that spot to urinate. This is where a more powerful tool comes in handy. and use regularly. Since I also have two messy little kids and a puppy, I've gotten my money's worth and more out of it. This is the one that I own
- A fan
Getting Cat Pee Out of Nonwashable Fabrics
If the Stain is Fresh
If the stain is fresh, it's going to be damp with an ammonia odor and clear or yellow in color.
- Blot the urine up using paper towels.
- Using your spray bottle of white vinegar solution, saturate the stain.
- Soak it all up with more paper towels. Don't rub it in, just keep pressing and blotting so you're pulling the remaining urine and excess vinegar out.
- Once you have the spot pretty dry (it can be slightly damp to the touch, but not soaking wet) sprinkle baking soda over the affected area. The baking soda is going to help soak up any excess moisture to prevent mildew and absorb any lingering odors. Don't worry if your house reeks of white vinegar. That'll wear off on it's own quickly.
- Let that baking soda sit and soak in the odors until the area is completely dry.
- Vacuum up baking soda.
If the Stain is Old or Covering a Large Area
If the stain is old, it'll be dry, possibly kind of crusty and more of a yellowy-orange or even brown shade. You'll probably need to do more to remove and old stain than just relying on blotting it up with white vinegar since the urine has likely penetrated more than the surface of the fabric. Likewise, if your cat has peed over a large area of carpet or upholstery (like an entire couch cushion or your bed), you'll need an actual upholstery cleaner to clean and sanitize deep down into the affected item.
- Follow the instruction manual on your upholstery cleaner to fill it, add pet-odor-cleaning solution and to turn it on.
- Saturate the affected area with the designated cleaning solution.
- Let that sit for a moment to soak in. If you're cleaning a mattress or a couch cushion it's especially important to give the cleaning solution time to penetrate through so it has a chance to kill bacteria.
- Once it's done soaking, use the machine to suck up the solution and cat urine.
- Repeat this. Spray, soak, suck up. Do this until the water runs clear. You may even need to refill your machine, depending on how big of an area you're covering and how deep the urine went through.
- Once you've removed as much moisture as you can with the machine (you'll be able to tell by looking at the hose that it's not longer sucking up much water) you need to set up a fan to get air flowing through the freshly cleaned area. This'll prevent mildew from setting in as it dries.
Questions About Cleaning Cat Pee
Would activated charcoal work to clean cat pee?
Yes and no. So, activated charcoal (also known as activated carbon) will probably work to remove the smell since it's basically a sponge that'll soak up most things. The issue with it though is that you might be trading one stain for a another - charcoal is black and ashy after all. Use it with caution, especially on light colored fabrics.
Can you clean cat pee with bleach?
Heck no! Remember, cat pee contains ammonia and when you mix bleach with ammonia you create a toxic combination. Here's more about why you should never clean up cat urine with bleach.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Is cat pee ammonia?
Cat pee isn’t straight up ammonia but there’s ammonia in it. That’s because there’s a bit of ammonia in everyone’s urine (yep, even yours). Ammonia in urine occurs as a result of the breakdown of proteins in our diet, so basically it’s just a byproduct of your cat’s food and water intake and comes out as waste.Helpful 9
When using the vinegar and baking soda to wash urine stained clothes, do you just throw the mixture in on top of the clothes? Or, is there another way to use these ingredients?
Since these ingredients are gentle, it would be fine to throw the vinegar and baking soda on top of your clothing just as you would with laundry detergent before starting the machine. If you happen to have dispensers, this provides a more even distribution. First, pour your laundry detergent into the detergent compartment, then add the vinegar and finally the baking soda (since adding the baking soda before the vinegar can give you grade-school-science-fair results).
Another good idea is to set your machine for an extra rinse to fully expel the urine, vinegar and baking soda.Helpful 11
My entire laundry area is approximately a 1/2 foot deep with dirty clothes. My cats have had a fun time urinating in my laundry (not my problem, as I'll have that cleaned up and done today). But the floor underneath is plywood. What would be the very best products for eliminating the odor and deterring my cats from peeing in that spot in the future?
I do not envy you, that sounds like quite the task. Somewhat similarly, I have to deal with cat urine on my laundry room floor, not because they're peeing on the floor but because their urine seeps out the seam in our litter box, ugh! What I do when this happens is:
1. Clear the floor (which you're working on)
2. Wipe up any pee that's on the floor
3. Next, I lay down a product called Arm & Hammer Litter Deodorizer, sprinkling it liberally over the area. I let that sit to soak up as much moisture and odor as possible and then just sweep it into a dustpan and toss it.
4. Now, I sanitize the floor. Our floors ARE different - mine is cement tile which makes this part easier. I'm nervous about using anything containing bleach when urine is involved since ammonia (in urine), and bleach is not a safe combo. However, Clorox has a product that's specifically for pet stains and odors, and it's called "Clorox Urine Remover for Stain and Odor," and it's about $5 at Target (U.S.). It works for hard and soft surfaces, so I think that this will be good for plywood. Use as directed.
5. Now that things are clean we need to make sure the cats haven't inspired again. The first step is to make sure that no more laundry piles up on the floor (no judgment, this happens in my house every week, so I get it). But try to keep a tall hamper or laundry basket in there to throw dirty laundry in and make sure you have a container for the clean laundry too.
6. At this point, the odor should be well eliminated, but since plywood is porous, your cats may still detect a lingering scent and want to mark over it with more pee. You need to find a way to cover the previously-peed-on area. You could do this with a rug, but if you think that they'd pee on that too, you could try a rubber litter mat (I have a big one from Amazon, just search "litter mat") with a litter box on top! That way if you cat DOES want to pee there, they can use the litter box. If this isn't an option, I say tape down trash bags. It's not glamorous, but for now, it'll hopefully keep any smells from luring the cats back.Helpful 11
What takes cat pee smell away besides cleaning it?
The smell of cat pee is never going to go away until you properly clean it thoroughly. However, if the stains and messes that have caused the nasty odor are going to take some time to clean up (say, if you need to pull up and throw away carpet, padding and seal the floorboards underneath) then there are few things you can do to try and temporarily subdued the smell while your cat-pee-cleaning project is underway.
1. First, you need to air your home out every day until that stain is appropriately and thoroughly cleaned up. Open up the windows, get your fans going and circulate that urine soaked air out of the house.
2. Find any washable or loose items that have been peed on, and either wash them according to the methods in this article or just throw them away if they’re unimportant or so far gone that you don’t want to deal with them. Getting rid of as much of the affected stuff as possible will help.
3. Use a pet stain carpet deodorizer to vacuum your carpets every day until you get the source of that odor eliminated.
4. Use odor-eliminating plug-ins to temporarily work over the scent of cat pee until you have cleaned up the bigger problem. This isn’t going to work long-term because again, the big problem here is whatever is stained with urine, whether it’s a sofa, carpet, flooring or a pile of laundry that the cat peed on.
5. Keep your cat’s litter box clean - scoop it every day and add a layer of fresh litter over the top afterward to keep things as fresh as possible.Helpful 9
Can old cat pee be washed out of clothes?
If you’re dealing with an old cat urine stain, like the kind that happened three months ago in the corner of your basement on your pile of summer clothes and you’ve just now discovered it, then there’s still hope that you can remove the stain and the odor from the fabric.
First, assess the damage - is it a white blouse that says “dry clean only” with a nasty ol’ orangish brown cat pee stain, or are we talking a black tank top from Old Navy that you normally just toss in the washer without a second thought? For more delicate fabrics, know that you’re treating at your own risk; I can’t guarantee that the stain and odor will come out, or, that if it does using this method that the clothing will still be intact. But I think there’s a gentle way to go about it that will give you the best chance at salvaging your clothing.
Next, you’ll need four products to get the stain out as efficiently as possible. One, you need laundry detergent; any kind will do. Two, you need OxiClean Stain Remover with Odor Blasters; this comes with a purple lid and is around $8. Three, grab a bottle of OxiClean Max Force Laundry Stain Remover which has a red spray nozzle and is around $4. Last, get an old toothbrush or a new one, doesn’t matter, to help ease out the stain.
The reason I suggest the OxiClean products is that they’re affordable and, in my experience, efficient! They work!
Okay, now down to the stain removal. If the stain is really obvious then you can start by spraying the Max Force Laundry Stain Remover onto the affected area and gently work the product in with that toothbrush. Let it sit that way for the rest of the day before going to the next step.
If there isn’t an obvious stain, skip the spray and go straight to filling a utility tub, bucket, sink, whatever, with one heaping scoop of the OxiClean powder and very hot water. The ratio is not an exact science but the way I do it is to eyeball just enough water to fully emerge the garment while still making sure there’s a high concentration of powder. You can tell the mixture is right if the water is opaque and white. Now let the garment soak for a few hours. Make sure to only soak like colors together. Don’t throw a red polo in with a cream dress because the dyes might transfer. I also sometimes stir the clothing in the water around. I don’t know if that’s helpful, but I do it anyway because I feel like it helps to shift the stain around instead of letting the crud that’s being lifted by the OxiClean just settle on top of the fabric.
After a few hours have passed, pull the skirt, top or whatever is in there out and see how it looks. Remember that cat urine is composed of enzymes that need to be broken down so the more time you spend soaking the piece, the better. It probably smells weird, but if the stain looks as though it’s begun to lift, then it’s a good time to throw it in the washing machine. Throw that in on a hot setting and the appropriate spin speed. If it’s a delicate piece, use knits/gentle; if it’s not just use your normal cycle settings. Use a heaping pour of laundry detergent and another scoop of OxiClean, add an extra rinse and push start!
The moment of truth will be when the washing machine stops. Don’t just throw the garment in the dryer. Inspect it and see if it smells and looks as though the stain has been removed. If it has been, hang it up to dry and if it hasn’t repeat the soaking process before washing it again. Sometimes these things take time, but with the right product and a little patience, I’ve almost always been able to remove cat urine stains from my clothing, even if the stain is old.Helpful 7
© 2013 Kierstin Gunsberg