This article will explain how to get cat pee smell out of clothes, plus:
- How to properly use enzyme cleaners.
- Why cat pee smells so bad.
- When to see your veterinarian about your cat peeing outside the litter box.
Read time: 4 minutes
The mere mention of the words “cat pee smell” and you can probably already get a whiff of it. When my cat, Olivia, started peeing on my expensive bathmat, I was frustrated, to say the least.
This wasn’t the first time she had an “accident” on something that belonged to us. She had even peed on one of Paul’s shirts before!
I laundered them, but she would return to the scene of the crime for a repeat offense, which made me think the pee wasn’t actually being cleaned properly.
These were the kinds of experiences that led me to investigate how enzyme cleaners really work. Guess what? We’re not using them correctly!
Here’s what I learned and what you should do to really get rid of any cat pee smell in your clothes and other washables. If you want to learn more about how to get cat pee smell out of other household surfaces, check out the article How to Get Rid of That Cat Pee Smell for Good.
4 Steps to Properly Get Cat Pee (and its smell) Out of Clothes and Linens
Step #1: Soak it Up
First, soak up as much as you can with a paper towel. The less pee you have to manage, the better!
Step #2: Pretreat the Spot
Ok, here’s where it gets super important to follow the instructions carefully. You need to use an enzyme cleaner like this one. But the #1 mistake we’re all making when it comes to using enzyme cleaners is to spray and wipe away. That’s not how they work!
An enzyme cleaner contains compounds that eat the odor-causing bacteria. This is a biological process and needs time to work. So when your cat pees on your clothes or linens, use your enzyme cleaner and saturate the area, going just beyond the spot. That’s why I prefer a cleaner with a squirt top, rather than a spray top. It’s much easier to penetrate the stain.
After you’ve saturated the area, let it sit overnight, if possible. This allows the enzyme cleaner time to eat the bacteria that cause odors.
Step #3: Launder the Clothes or Linens
Now that much of the pee is soaked up and enzyme cleaner has been left to work its magic, it’s time to do the laundry!
Throw the garment in your normal wash cycle, but be sure to add about a 1/4 cup of enzyme cleaner, like Kinderbean No Stress Mess Eraser, to your detergent dispenser. This last bit will help freshen the whole garment or linen.
You can dry as usual, per the garment’s instructions.
For very strong odors, you may need to repeat the process, but typically one cycle will do it.
Step 4: Make Sure the Surrounding Area is Clean
When Olivia messed on my bathmat, it wasn’t enough to wash the mat. I also needed to follow a similar procedure for the floor surrounding it. So if your cat peed on your shirt, but it was on your carpet or mattress at the time, you’ll need to clean that area too.
The process is pretty much the same, except you’ll skip the laundry cycle.
- Soak up any pee on the surface.
- Saturate the area thoroughly with an enzyme cleaner.
- Gently agitate the surface (if soft) using the bottom of the cleanser bottle, working the product into all the nooks and crannies.
- Set a clean white rag on top of the spot.
- Let it sit overnight.
- Remove the cloth.
- Let it air dry.
Once I learned about this process, I was shocked by how simple it was and how effective it is when you follow it! Yet, cat pee smell is still notoriously difficult to get rid of. And with good reason, cat pee does smell worse than many other messes.
Why Does Cat Pee Smell So Bad?
Cat pee smell resembles skunk smell, which is incredibly strong. Since cats don’t drink as much as dogs they don’t pee as much. That is why cat pee is very concentrated. They’re very effective at using and holding their water!
But this means it contains concentrated amounts of urea, pheromones, and other bacteria. When the cat pees, the bacteria begin to break down urea, and it emits ammonia, which smells very strong.
When to See Your Veterinarian About Your Cat’s Peeing Outside the Litter Box
According to Cornell University, there are some medical reasons why your cat might be peeing outside the box and on your clothes, for example. These include diabetes, kidney disease, and urinary tract infections. If your cat has the occasional out-of-box incident, it’s likely nothing to worry about. But if your cat is a re-pee-t offender, it’s important to rule out medical issues.
If your veterinarian gives your cat a clean bill of health, it’s time to investigate your cat’s litter box preferences. According to Dr. Liz Bales, cats have very specific demands when it comes to their litter box needs. For example, Dr. Bales typically recommends “one box for every cat, plus one.” So if you have two cats, you need three litter boxes.
You can learn more about these litter box secrets in my interview with Dr. Bales.