How To Get Cat Urine and Its Smell Out of Clothes
You love your cat, but don't love cat pee or its smell. Find out how to get cat pee out of clothes, once and for all.
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It’s certainly not the highlight of cat ownership, but it comes with the territory: Dealing with cat urine stains and smells on clothing and other fabrics. It’s not easy to get them out, but it can be done. Try these expert methods to get cat pee out of clothes — and eliminate that cat pee smell, too.
How To Get Cat Pee Out of Clothes
Don’t throw the soiled clothing into the washing machine with other clothes! It could spread the smell to everything else in the load. Follow this method instead.
Step One: Blot the cat pee
- If the stain is still wet, start blotting ASAP to prevent it from setting. Do not scrub, which would drive the smell into the fabric. Press down with a paper towel or a clean white cloth, soaking up the pee until the spot is no longer wet. You’re trying to remove as much of the urine as possible before moving to the cleaning process.
- If the stain has dried, go to Step Two or straight to the instructions for how to get rid of cat pee smell, below.
Step Two: Pretreat the cat pee
You have two options here: pantry or purchased.
- Here are two at-home pretreatment options to try:
- Mix baking soda and water to make a watery paste and spread it on the stain. Leave on for 15 to 20 minutes. This will neutralize the uric acid in fresh cat pee stains, says Bruce Vance of Town and Country Cleaning Services. (Always test an inconspicuous area first.)
- Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube, recommends another paste option: 1/4 cup table salt, 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup borax powder. Apply and let sit for five to 10 minutes.
- Store-bought treatments work, too. Look for something specifically made for pet odors that contains enzymes, which break down odor-causing uric acid in cat pee. Here are two we (and Maker) recommend:
- Biokleen Bac-Out Stain Remover is a plant-based, eco-friendly solution blending live enzyme cultures without artificial fragrances or dyes.
- Rocco and Roxie Professional Strength Stain & Odor Eliminator is another enzyme-based cleaner, certified gentle and safe, chlorine free and color safe. It boasts more than 48,000 five-star reviews on Amazon (overall rating: 4.5 stars) comes with a money-back guarantee. It’s great on dog stains, too!
Pro tip: Never use bleach on cat urine. Bleach plus the ammonia in cat urine can create dangerous gases. Also, never use ammonia to pretreat cat urine stains. Ammonia is one component of cat urine, so if cats smell that on clothing, they may try to go on it again. And chemical cleaners containing ammonia can set the stain.
Step Three: Launder
- Wash as usual, but on the cold setting; hot water could set the smell.
- Use an enzymatic laundry soap such as Active Wear Laundry Detergent, which is American made with a 4.5 star rating on Amazon. You also can your regular detergent and one of these highly-rated enzyme boosters:
- Allow to air dry. Any heat, from the dryer or otherwise, can set lingering odor permanently.
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How To Get Cat Pee Smell Out of Clothes
Don’t be discouraged if you found the stain too late, if the smell remains after one or two washes, or if the smell comes back. Uric acid is a tough odor to beat! Try these steps to lift even set-in cat pee smell.
Step One: Soak
Vance recommends two great pantry presoaking options and one that’s store-bought to get rid of cat pee smell in clothes. (Always test fabric for colorfastness first.)
- Vinegar: Though cat urine comes out as an acid, it oxidizes into an alkaline salt. So Vance recommends soaking the fabric in an acid bath — AKA white vinegar or cleaning vinegar (as long as it has no color) — to dissolve the alkaline salts. Straight vinegar should be safe for most fabrics, but it can be diluted 1-to-1 if preferred. Pretest on rayon and acetate, which may be damaged by acid.
- Hydrogen peroxide: Drug store strength is weak at three percent, but it’s safe and inexpensive. Place the fabric in sunlight to make it work faster. If it’s a hot day, cover it with clear plastic wrap, too, to prevent drying out.
- Urine Rescue: Use as a presoak on water-cleanable colorfast fabrics to neutralize smell for good. Follow the container directions.
Step Two: Wash
- Launder as in Step Three above, in cold water with an enzymatic laundry detergent or booster.
- Allow to air dry. Lingering urine will set in if you run it through the dryer.
- Repeat as needed until the odor disappears.
Pro tip: Use an ultraviolet light to help find any stains that still linger. Urine will glow in the dark!