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.

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

cat sitting in laundry basket Nils Jacobi/Getty Images

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!

Vali G. Heist
Vali G. Heist, M.Ed. is a Certified Professional Organizer®, author and self-proclaimed CRAP expert. Her book is Organize This! Practical Tips, Green Ideas, and Ruminations about your CRAP. CRAP means Clutter that Robs Anyone of Pleasure. Heist has a personal, practical, and fun approach to organizing that fulfills her desire to the rid of the world of CRAP. Heist's goal is to share organizing tips and solutions with her clients and anyone who aspires to cut the CRAP and live their best life at work and at home.