How to Get Rid of Cat Pee Odors from Anywhere in Your Home

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The stain has been cleaned and dried, yet somehow that ammonia-like odor lingers. Here's how to get rid of it quickly and efficiently.

It’s bad enough that your cat left you a little accident, making you reach for your toughest handheld carpet cleaner or pet stain remover. But even worse? That cat pee smell sticks around even after the mess is gone—an odor that fills the air thanks to its potency.

One of the reasons cat pee odor is so pungent is because it contains uric acid, which can leave a strong lingering stench if not cleaned up right away. These accidents can be annoyingly easy to miss, says Jennifer Gregory, brand manager of Molly Maid, and might require the aid of a UV urine-detecting flashlight to find. “It can be difficult to spot cat urine on carpet unless you smell it, witness it, or step in it while wet,” she says. But if you don’t notice it until it’s dry, the odor has already taken root.

If you notice that undeniable pet odor in your home, don’t fret—act fast and use these expert-approved tricks for getting rid of cat pee smell in your house, from the carpet to the counter.

Pet stain and odor products for your home

How to get rid of cat pee smell from carpet

As with pretty much any stain, no matter what the material, the key is to act fast. “If you can blot up as much of the pee from the spot as possible, you are halfway there,” says Gregory. Merry Maids cleaning expert Debra Johnson also suggests using a bacteria or enzyme-based cleaner to the area to help clean the carpet. The good bacteria and enzymes help break down the smelly bacteria that are leaving an odor. Johnson recommends pressing the cleaner in with plastic so it can penetrate more deeply, then leaving the plastic over the stain while the product works its magic.

Here are some step-by-step instructions:

  • Step 1: Blot up as much urine as you can.
  • Step 2: Apply a bacteria or enzyme-based cleaner like this one to the area.
  • Step 3: Press the cleaner in with plastic and leave it over the stain for several minutes.
  • Step 4: If needed, follow up the cleaner with a cup of vinegar mixed into a gallon of water, then apply more of the enzyme product.

If you need help getting other stubborn spots and stains out of your carpet, consider using something like the Folex Spot Cleaner or the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser—they’re cleaning game-changers!

How to get rid of cat pee smell from hard surfaces

Johnson suggests the following for getting rid of cat pee smell from hard surfaces in your home:

  • Step 1: Blot away any urine you see on the surface.
  • Step 2: Mix a tablespoon of dish soap into two cups of cool water.
  • Step 3: Using a microfiber cloth, wipe down the soiled area with the solution, then use a clean cloth to dry the spot.
  • Step 4: If any odor lingers, sprinkle baking soda on the stinky spot and leave it for at least half an hour.
  • Step 5: Once the baking soda has had time to rid the space of the cat pee smell, use a pet vacuum to suck it up.

Make sure you close off the room to your cat and other pets while the baking soda is still lying around—while it’s not harmful in small amounts, it could be toxic if your furry friend ingests a lot of it.

How to get rid of cat pee smell from furniture

Sometimes, cats don’t make it to the litter box and end up relieving themselves on your furniture. Sigh. What now? Well, cat urine can smell like ammonia, so ammonia-based cleaners are a no-no for cat pee stains, says Gregory. “If they smell a spot with pee, they will keep peeing there,” she says. “They will see this as a signal that is the place to go back to.” But vinegar has the opposite effect, telling your cat to keep out. Wet the urine stain with a vinegar solution, and as the vinegar evaporates, it’ll take the cat pee smell with it.

Elizabeth Davis, an eco cleaning professional with Hudstone Home, recommends the following process for getting rid of cat pee odor from furniture:

  • Step 1: Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
  • Step 2: Liberally apply it to the affected area; let the solution soak in for 15 minutes before wiping it away with a clean cloth.
  • Step 3: Repeat this process a few times to completely remove the odor.

Davis says another cleaning option is to sprinkle baking soda on the area, allow it to sit for 30 minutes, then vacuum it up. If you’re looking for a vacuum that also has a built-in upholstery cleaner, check out the Bissell Little Green Machine.

How to get rid of cat pee smell from a mattress

Domestic grey cat sitting near wet or piss spot on the bed. Cat peeing or urinating on bed at home. Bad cat behaviourDaria Kulkova/Getty Images

Even if you’ve cleaned up the spot where your feline friend had an accident on your mattress, it can be difficult to get rid of the lingering smell. However, Alicia Johnson, a cleaning expert and owner of Cleaning Green LLC, says doing the following can help get that pungent odor under control:

  • Step 1: Pour some vinegar directly onto the area and let it soak for between 10 and 20 minutes.
  • Step 2: Follow the directions on your preferred enzyme treatment spray and use it on the mattress.

How to get rid of cat pee smell from clothes

Cat parents love it when their kitty snuggles up on them—but accidents happen, and sometimes, you’re left with more than cat hair on your clothing. If you get cat pee on your clothes, the key is to act fast so the stench doesn’t linger. Davis recommends soaking your clothing in a vinegar and water solution a few times until the smell is gone. If that doesn’t work, throw your clothes in the washer and use a laundry detergent that contains enzymes (just don’t throw the clothes in with your other laundry; wash it separately). Keep in mind that it may take a couple washes for the stain—and smell—to go away.

How to prevent cats from peeing on household objects

If you notice your cat is peeing outside the litter box often, consider the following to nip this habit in the bud:

  • Call your veterinarian for a checkup; some health issues, like a urinary tract infection or kidney disease, could cause your cat to relieve itself outside the litter box.
  • Get more litter boxes for your home.
  • Clean the litter box more frequently; if your cleaning schedule is already packed, consider getting a self-cleaning litter box.
  • Evaluate if there are any lifestyle stresses on your cat; if so, take steps to remedy that stress and calm your cat.

Written with additional reporting from Marissa Laliberte. 

Sources:

  • Jennifer Gregory, brand manager of Molly Maid
  • Debra Johnson, cleaning expert at Merry Maids
  • Elizabeth Davis, eco cleaning professional with Hudstone Home
  • Alicia Johnson, cleaning expert and owner of Cleaning Green LLC
  • PetMD: “Top 10 Ways to Stop Your Cat from Peeing Outside the Litter Box”
  • Hills: “Removing Foul Smelling Cat Odors From Your Home”

Kelly Kuehn
Kelly Kuehn is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest covering entertainment, trivia, and history. When she’s not writing you can find her watching the latest and greatest movies, listening to a true crime podcast (or two), blasting ‘90s music, and hiking with her dog, Ryker, throughout New England.