Kierstin is the proud fur mom to a calico who daily exemplifies the expression "curiosity killed the cat."
I love my cat. I love how she uses the internet modem to warm herself or how she avoids my kids all day but secretly slides in next to them in the hours between the last bedtime story and dawn.
But, I don't love when she pees outside of her litter box.
As someone who is 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
Washable fabrics would be anything from clothing to tennis shoes, curtains and throw blankets.
- A washing machine and dryer
- Nature's Miracle Bio-Enzymatic Formula for Pets
- Your regular laundry detergent
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 dose of the Nature's Miracle formula 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 water/formula solution 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)
- Baking soda
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. This is the one that I own 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.
- 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.
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.
How do you help a cat learn to pee in their box after you have moved their litter box?
Ask yourself if your cat is able to get to the box easily or does someone have to open a door or move something out of the way to help them find it easily? Also, check that there's nothing near or on the way to their box that scares them. Make sure that none of this is the case and if not, bring your cat to the box a few times a day to remind them where it is.
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
Question: What takes cat pee smell away besides cleaning it?
Answer: 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.
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: Can old cat pee be washed out of clothes?
Answer: 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.
© 2013 Kierstin Gunsberg
Vanessa on June 23, 2020:
I NEED YOUR HELP!! So my cat CONSTANTLY pees on my clothes. Don’t judge me here. But I have a basket of my daughter’s dirty clothes and she has urinated all over all of it. ALL. OF. IT. It’s a tall basket. And it’s not fresh. I know you said to use Natures Miracle at the top, then in the questions you said to soak it in Oxiclean powder. Can you give me a step by step? Please. I do have a soak option on my washer but I’m not sure how long it actually soaks for. Any help would be much appreciated because at this point I’m about to just toss the entire hamper!
Krissy on June 09, 2020:
Will the cats urine bacteria easily killed with detergent powder and clorox?
Donna Rayne from Greenwood, In on January 02, 2020:
Kierstin, thank you for all the helpful tips, I truly appreciate it! Marvelous writing!
Meows = Thank you,
xMew on August 12, 2019:
What if, once I found that my cat had peed on my clothes, I panicked and through it in the washer with hot water setting? I was going to do this twice. Would I just be making things worse? I didn't look up how to properly treat urine soaked clothes, so I didn't do the pre-soak in white vinegar D: Am I done for or can this be salvaged? D:
Nicole on August 11, 2018:
I was always taught as a child that there is no way to truly save something that has been peed on by a cat. This vinegar and baking soda tricked saved my favorite striped sweater. It took a few washes because it retains water easily, so I would have to take it out and ring it, rinse it by hand and then rewash it. BUT I CAN WEAR MY FAVORITE SWEATER AGAIN!!
Kierstin Gunsberg (author) from Traverse City, Michigan on July 31, 2018:
Aaliya - If the vinegar didn't work, look for a product called OxiClean Max Force. It's less that $4 and works wonders. I used it last week to remove cherry juice stains from my daughter's clothes and it worked amazingly!!
aaliya on July 31, 2018:
Thanks. I find this article really helpful. Yesterday my cat stained my cat pillow case . I knew about the use of vinegar for removing stains. I applied it but in a wrong way, so things didn’t turn out good. I am going to try another tips mentioned in your blog.
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on July 23, 2018:
We had to rip out our dining room carpet and replace it with laminate flooring to get rid of the ongoing pee smell in the house! At first, we thought it was one particular corner, and I was going to just loosen the carpet there, and pour a huge dose of "Nature's Miracle" enzyme pet odor remover underneath, and all over the carpet, let it sit, then add a ton of water, and vacuum it up with the wet/dry shop vac.
HOWever, as I began pulling up the carpet, I could see from the stains on the underside, that it wasn't just that corner, and the misdeeds had happened all over the carpet, so there was no saving it.
That was a good news/bad news story. The good news was it was a good excuse to get rid of carpet in the dining room, which I have never liked for just general cleaning purposes (spilled food and drink, etc.). The bad news was, we really couldn't afford it, and had to open a charge account to buy the replacement flooring. Hubby did the measuring and cutting, and I laid the whole floor!
To accomodate her preference for that particular area, I have a litterbox over there! Believe me; I'm not thrilled with having a litterbox in the dining room! UNfortunately, we still have a problem with one of our 8 fur darlings, who still wants to pee on the floor right IN FRONT OF the litterbox!
The whole issue is one of our other kitties who bedevils her constantly, and was attacking her, and making her scared to use the litterbox. She was gettng UTIs, and peeing on the couch, as well.
I bought cheap flannel-backed plastic tablecloths to use as couch covers, and I can toss them in the wash easily.
Then, we had my mother-in-law move in, and she brought along her much newer couches, so the old pee-smelling ones went to the dumps. I still cover everything with the plastic covers overnight, though, and added a litterbox behind the couch, as well.
But, at least, the laminate in the dining room is tightly fitted, and the pee is easy to clean up. We almost always catch her in the act! I've now taken the lid on that litterbox, and opened it, so hopefully, she doesn't feel 'trapped' in there, and will use it. (We have her on long-term Prednisone to prevent the recurring UTIs.)
BUT...the down-side to that solution, with the lid, is that the kitty who picks on her also likes to stand up and spray while IN the litterbox, causing pee to land outside. Sigh...I love them all, but sometimes I could wring their fuzzy little necks! (No, not really; but they do get pretty wet from the squirt bottle at times! :-) )
(And yes, they are ALL spayed/neutered)
Maybe my having foster kittens in is also 'not helping.' LOL
Kierstin Gunsberg (author) from Traverse City, Michigan on October 11, 2017:
Hey Pat, I would definitely dry them on high heat as opposed to tumble drying or air drying.
Pat on October 10, 2017:
I am going to try to clean cat urine stains from carpet with an enzymatic cleaner then soak up with damp towels. After washing the towels should I dry them on high heat ?
Georgia Cowboy(GaCwby) on October 20, 2016:
I used this method on a bed set my brother was going to throw away ... it is an expensive set ... with the vinegar and baking soda I added liguid dish detergent ... The cat pee stain and odor was removed and now I have a Queen size bed ... it works great ... Thanks for sharing your knowledge
Maggie on September 20, 2016:
I have good cats but I rescued one who proceeded to mark a room where the previous owners cat smell was. I tried all I could to re-train her, get rid of the smell but it just got worse & worse. She's been re-homed.
I deep cleaned the carpets with pet solution then went over the area with the machine with a water/vinegar solution... 1 cup/4ltr, in the bad areas I doubled the vinegar.
Unfortunately this alone did not do it so I was very glad to find a site that said to sprinkle plain baking soda, a lot, then spray it with a solution of 1/4cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide & 1 tsp Dawn dish soap (multiply it larger areas), use a soft bristle brush to rub it it then leave it to dry well (a few hours). When it is completely dry vacuum it up. Depending how bad the stain/smell, you may need to do this a couple time... but it has worked!!!
BTW...another page warned to never used a steam machine for carpets when you are dealing with a cat stain/smell as the hot steam will set it into the carpet... I am wondering if this will be the same for the laundry...???
The page I got the info off of also suggested using products with OXY in it as it most likely contains hydrogen peroxide.
*****One warning about the hydrogen/baking soda solution... it MAY stain your carpet.
It didn't stain mine and I left it on over night but always test a small area first and don't be shocked if you see the baking soda start to bubble, it is supposed to do that... be sure to add enough solution.
Now I get to go tackle the laundry that hasn't been willing to release the pee smell :'(
By the way... I have a cat who pees on laundry if it is left on the floor... the littler box can be completely clean & she is in perfect health she is just a dominant cat and this is her way of saying that something is out of place and needs to be corrected (yes, I still consider her a good cat, she has a valid reason for what she did, lol!).
Cats don't do things just to be jerks, there are always reasons behind things, take the time to find out.
Hi on July 16, 2016:
Thanks for the tip because my cat just pee'd on my body pillow and my blanket and the worst part is that the pillow and blanket were my favourite pillow and blanket so now I'm very sad and I wish there is also another pillow the same and also the blanket as well and this did help me a lot but the worst fact is that we don't have white vinegar or baking soda at our place. So I might be out of luck right now but maybe we will go out and maybe buy the ingredients and maybe that will help me but at the moment I really dislike my cat we are not letting him back in the house because we don't trust him peeing on anything else in our house and thanks again for making this website so I will know what to do if he does it again and I will know exactly which website to go on and of course I couldn't thank you enough so bye bye and maybe you'll see me put another message on this app again I don't know what will happen but I just wanted to tell you I could not have thanked you enough whoever made this website thanks and I hope you will live the best life ever you probably will since your already making everybody's else's lives better so bye bye now!!!! Your the best
Ann on June 27, 2016:
Worked like a charm, thank you!
Kierstin Gunsberg (author) from Traverse City, Michigan on May 11, 2016:
Hi Dallas, yes you could try apple cider vinegar. It's not going to hurt anything and I've used it to remove other pet stains and odors :) Good luck!
Dallas on May 10, 2016:
Can I use Apple cider vinegar instead of white?
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 10, 2015:
Great tips. I'll keep this hub in mind for future reference. I use vinegar all the time for laundry loads. I'll try baking soda too.