5 Cat Urine Odor Removal Tips

Two cats on the top of a couch

There's an unwanted guest in your home. It welcomes you each time you enter a room; it even greets your guests. No, it's not your beloved kitty; it's the odor of her urine. You're not stuck with this uninvited presence, though. There a number of ways you can kick it to the curb.

1. Remove as much urine as possible. The less urine there is, the less you'll have to deep clean. So when you notice that your cat has urinated somewhere outside of her litter box, clean up as much of it as you can as soon as you can. If the puddle was made on carpet or furniture, The Humane Society of the United States recommends blotting the area with an absorbent paper towel. This won't get up all of the urine, but it will leave less of it behind for you to have to treat later.

If your cat has urinated on linens, clothing or drapes, wash them or have them dry-cleaned as soon as possible. The longer urine stays on fabric, the more stubborn its odor becomes. Detergents with baking soda or enzymatic additives are best for cleaning items that have urine odor.

If the urine is on a wall or other hard surface, wipe it down with a wet rag.

2. Break down the stain and smell with an enzymatic cleaner. “Enzymatic cleaners release cultures that literally eat the urine, leaving things sanitary and smell free once dry,” notes ApartmentTherapy.com. Many non-protein-based carpet and fabric deodorizers alone won't be able to handle the strong, pervasive odor of cat urine. Cats have a stronger sense of smell than people, so even if you can’t smell leftover urine, your cat might – making it more likely that she’ll soil the area again.

A spray made with enzymes that target pet urine can help break down the urine and make it less likely that your cat will return. There are a number of these products in pet stores and home improvement stores. Just be sure to use it as instructed. (The potency of many enzymatic cleaners can be weakened by contact with other cleaning chemicals.)

3. Clean the area with an extracting wet vac but avoid steam cleaners. Extracting carpet cleaners expel clean water onto carpet or fabric then suck dirty water back into the tank. This can be a great way to rinse the area, especially if you’re dealing with carpeting. It’s important to follow the directions carefully. The HSUS recommends using cool, clean water in the wet vac.

You should also avoid using steam cleaners. Intense heat can actually cause odors to set into the fibers of carpet and upholstery more stubbornly.

4. Follow-up with a baking soda-based air freshener. Sodium bicarbonate, the substance baking soda is comprised of, is great at absorbing odors. One way to put it to use against urine odor is to sprinkle it on the carpet or furniture after you’ve cleaned your cat’s urine and the area has thoroughly dried. After sprinkling, let it sit for an hour or longer, then vacuum it up. You can also try this carpet-fresher recipe by HowStuffWorks.com:

  • 1 cup crushed, dried herbs (rosemary, southernwood, lavender, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Sprinkle the mixture on your carpet, let it sit for 10-20 minutes, then vacuum. You can store any extra in an airtight container.

5. Find ways to prevent future accidents. The more urine your cat adds to your home, the harder it's going to keep the odor at bay. So the best way to fight this stench is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This may include any number of methods:

Companionship with a cat can be rewarding -- so can keeping a home. Don't let urine odor ruin either experience.

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