May 3, 2010

PSA: How to Get the Cat Pee Smell Out of Laundry



1. Gather up the revolting laundry, all the while cursing the day you obligated yourself to a creature who would do such a revolting thing. If there is a LOT of laundry, gather up just some of it---about enough for a low-setting load of laundry.

2. Put the laundry in the washing machine and run a plain rinse cycle (no soap or anything, just water). My washer has a pre-wash setting that agitates the clothes for either 2 or 4 minutes, then spins it out, but without running the whole cycle. If your washer doesn't do this, run the clothes through a regular cycle with plain water. This is just to rinse the actual urine out of the clothing.

3. Start again with fresh hot water, this time allowing the washer to fill only enough to barely cover the clothes. As the water is pouring in, add LOTS of white vinegar: for a fairly small load of clothes (with the "low" setting being enough to cover the clothes), I used close to a quart of vinegar. Also add a high-level load's worth of whatever laundry soap you usually use. I added the cups of vinegar and soap right under the pouring water, to help it to mix in as the washer filled. If necessary, use a plastic coat hanger to push the clothes down into the water.

4. Leave that nasty mess soaking overnight or for a full day. A couple of times I used the plastic coat hanger again just to swish things around or poke down clothes that had floated up.

5. After the soak, without draining, put the washer on a higher setting (like, if you had it on low for the soak, put it up to medium) with hot water, and add 1 cup of baking soda, or even a cup and a half wouldn't be overkill. Stupid cat. Run the clothes through a full cycle.

6. Sniff clothes. Better, huh? Put them in the dryer. Glare at cat, and do that thing where you point first at your own eyes and then at the cat's eyes.

7. ...Oh, NOT better? It's possible you're screwed: I had a nylon jacket that NOTHING worked on, not enzyme cleaners, not vinegar, not sunshine, NOTHING. And I had a few items of clothing that smelled okay right out of the washer, but after they were dry I could tell they needed a second run through the vinegar/soap soak and the baking soda cycle. But this treatment saved MOST of my laundry.

8. Buy lidded laundry hamper.

43 comments:

Jenni said...

A cup of ammonia might work in place of the vinegar. Not a great problem to have.

Amanda said...

I once had a cat that peed in laundry. Oh he was such a shit. He stopped doing it when he became an outdoor cat. WHY didn't you just say so?

Sarah said...

Step 9: Kick cat.
Er, just kidding. Maybe just a gentle nudge. In the direction of the LITTER BOX.
Oh! Or could you pee on HER stuff?

d e v a n said...

I totally do that point at my eyes and point at them thing all. the. time. (to the kids and the cat, and the dog and even the husband.lol)

Anyway, SUCK! I'm sorry about your laundry and that you have to know how to get that smell out!

Elizabeth said...

As a last resort, Nature's Miracle is highly effective, and I say this as someone who once had the Worlds Worst Dog PEE ON HER COUCH.

Superjules said...

9. Buy yourself a present.

Marie Green said...

Man, cat pee is depressing. I'm so sorry you have to deal with it! Have you figured out which cat is doing it?

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain! I have three cats and so cannot figure out which is the peeing offender. I wish that buying a lidded hamper would work at my house, but that would mean that son who throws laundry on the floor would have to use said hamper! :-)

Brenna said...

If I may offer a small tip: we had a cat that did the same thing, and when we took away the laundry, she started in on the shoes. So you might want to take preventative action on that front.

Anonymous said...

I have 3 cats and really focus on prevention. Yes, my house looks crazy with newspapers strategically placed in several areas, but it keeps the pee off my carpets! Could you possibly keep bedroom doors shut for a while, so kitty can't get in there to pee? And, I second the nomination for Nature's Miracle. The kind with Oxyclean or whatever works wonders.

Lindsay said...

Grrr! That is HORRENDOUS. If my cat pees in the laundry, I will FREAK out. Also, I have only a totally crappy pay-apartment washing machine with no cycle options.

You are a dedicated laundress Swistle.

Also, as I was typing this, my daughter peed on the rug in her room. Her first accident since before she was 3! Any tips?

Nellyru said...

Hey Swistle...cat pee is infuriating. I do have some suggestions (since I run into this problem at work a lot...) and maybe you've already tried them, but:
1. I like the Febreze for laundry (not the regular Febreze) and have had some luck with it myself.
2. A lot of people like the Nature's Miracle, but if you've already given it a shot there is a product here: www.antiickypoo.com that has a lot of thumbs up, too.

halynb said...

My husband and I do the eye-pointing thing all the time. It's probably the most used of our many "couple jokes."

Since I have a vet in the family, I feel compelled to ask: is the inappropriate urination a new thing? Most cats are pretty hard-wired latrine animals, and peeing in places they aren't supposed to/don't usually pee in can sometimes be an early sign of a physical issue. Not trying to worry you, your cat is likely acting out because of the new cat, but just thought I'd toss that out there. My cat has a chronic kidney problem, and peeing in the wrong spot is the first symptom we see when an acute flare-up is imminent.

Firegirl said...

I got nothing except a guffaw at the "I'm looking at YOU, Cat" gesture. (:-D

Swistle said...

Halynb- YES, good spotting! At her check-up a couple of weeks ago I talked to the vet about the peeing (which had just started), and after bloodwork it turned out Mouse had hyperthyroid and kidney disease. So she's on thyroid medication for a month, and then she'll be tested to see what we can do about the kidneys.

Maria said...

I had an old cat that had a blocked bladder and leaked urine all over a sofa before I recognized he wasn't using the litter box enough. I used every Pee Be Gone method out there. To this day, years later and well after the cat has passed on, I can still get a wiff of the urine smell on a really hot humid day. BLECH.

Wenderina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wenderina said...

(damn typos - I had to resubmit, sorry) I applaud that your love of animals overcomes your need to kill a lesser being that pees on your things. I had a male cat that matured before I got him fixed and he "sprayed" my closet. It was a good year for shopping for new clothes...and shoes....and carpet

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) said...

Cat pee is brutal! I think some things just can't be saved. We had a cat pee inside a brand new traveling backback. I think we ended up dumping a pile of bleach in it. It ruined the look of the backpack but the smell was gone. Not something you can do with clothes though.

Also had a cat pee on our new mattress. The pillow top couldn't be cleaned so we had to buy a new mattress. We now use plastic covers on our mattresses. Stupid cats indeed.

Erin (Snarke) said...

This post made me go hug my cat who would rather have her bladder explode than go anywhere outside of her litter box. The cat even does a kitty-potty-dance if I'm cleaning it when the urge hits her.

No, I don't want to trade. Why do you ask? :)

Cathy said...

Add one more thing to the list of reasons why this household has no pets.

Jen said...

i was going to suggest oxyclean if the vinegar/baking soda/detergent combo didn't work on everything. these instructions are verrrrry similar to our routine of washing cloth diapers...cold rinse, hot wash with oxy & tide. :)

also, once i was mopping the kitchen floor in my tiny college apartment. the back door was open with just the screen door between me & the outside, to facilitate drying.

just as i finished and was standing there surveying a clean floor, this mothereffing stray tom came right up to the door and sprayed into my kitchen through the screen! RAGE.

and also, empathy for cat pee issues. that stupid cat hit a whole bag of onions & potatoes plus a houseplant!

Tara said...

Oh, Swistle. I'm sorry. I have cat pee in the carpet where my hyperthyroid cat was peeing outside the box for a while. I had the fun of trying to figure out which of 3 cats was doing the peeing, then figuring out WHY it was happening. The great thing is--after about a week & a half on the thyroid medication, the inappropriate peeing stopped.

Good luck to you & Mouse!

Sam said...

Something I learned from washing diapers, WATER WATER WATER. Using a high efficiency washer is no bueno for diapers, so I add water. Which seems stupid, but yeah. Need clean diapers. Also? Put whatever stinks out in the sun for a day or two. Sun is AWESOME for getting out odors and stains. Mother Nature, you rock.

Linda said...

I have been in the pee problem arena, too. Aside from all the great things you're doing - and all the lovely suggestions from readers - my vet suggested:

Making sure the litterbox was available. The general rule of thumb is 1 per cat plus 1 extra. We added a lid-less box in each closet where the lidded boxes already resided. Sometimes the more dominant cat can - by nonverbal cat behavior - threaten the other cat and block them from the litter box.

Our peeing cat also had arthritis, so we made sure there was a box on every floor so he wasn't peeing because he just couldn't MAKE IT, poor dear.

But, as I said before, the prozac is what worked in our case.

Heidi said...

After 8 years, my cat, Storm, has decided that she has to do her business OUTSIDE the litter box. I even set up another one inside the house in case she didn't feel like walking out into the garage. I eventually had to buy a crate so she would be forced to use the box again.
Turns out, she's just a cat that has to be the alpha to our other cat, Neo (who's a saint of cat)
Anyway, here are 2 websites I've found very helpful; The first (and it really works): http://www.catsofaustralia.com/urinestainremoval.htm#Recipe0
The second, and I know you've found a great deal on amazon.com, but just in case: http://www.entirelypets.com

Also, Buspirone (prescribed by a vet) seemed to work. Won't know for sure until I get a refill and try again.

Bird said...

This isn't related to cat pee but it is of the PSA variety: how do I get the boy's bibs to stop smelling? Specifcally, these are the plastic/nylon reusable bibs by either Bumpkins or Crocodile Creek and after awhile they become really stinky. I wash them after meals with soap and water and let them air dry. I've cut down on how frequently I wash them (even though that grosses me out) to try and combat the smell but it doesn't seem to make a difference. Any ideas? What am I doing wrong?

Swistle said...

Bird- I wonder if a baking soda soak would help? I think "baking soda" as soon as I hear "smell." On the other hand, it was a plasticky jacket that I couldn't get smells out of no matter WHAT I did, so maybe it's a plastic thing.

Shawna said...

I'm glad I don't have a cat, because I have a front-loader washer...

leashah said...

SWISTLE, what do I do with my brand-new FRONT-LOAD HE washer that I can't do a "soak" in??? *cry*

Stupid new cat.


*edit* My captcha is "oucha". Doesn't that just hit the mark???

Swistle said...

Leashah- I recommend DESPAIR.

Teddi14 said...

Dealing with this problem this weekend. I already washed a load with no vinegar. I have not dried it yet. I am going to add the vinegar now and let it soak overnight. Thanks for the tips! Damn Cats!!!!!!

Teddi
http://www.squidoo.com/teddi

Krystal said...

Used this method...and it ruined my bathing suit...not happy...

Swistle said...

Krystal- This machine-wash method shouldn't be used on anything that can't be machine-washed. Though I too might have chosen to risk it, if the item were otherwise unusable (i.e., reeking of cat pee), and would have been ruined no matter what.

Danielle said...

Maria, we had a kitty with blockages like that. The only way we could keep him from getting infections was to do surgery...he pees like a girl now. :(

It's weird how the smell stays long the clothes are clean!

Anonymous said...

Amonia is the WORST thing to use because cat urine HAS amonia in it. Amonia attracts the cat and encourages it to pee. It doesn't deter the behaviour.

Harold said...

All, your humor and insights made a bad week (discovering a recurring kitty confusion problem with neglected laundry waaay too late) bearable!! And, the methods described worked BEAUTIFULLY! Since I have far-away apartment washers, I did an emergency vinegar soak in my bathtub as soon as I discovered the problem and read your blog that night. Then resumed full suite of steps you described in the washers the next day. Yes, plural washers. It was bad. Thanks for the wisdom, and the much needed chuckles. Love what you do. And my precious clothing has been saved! Kitty is much happier now with a new litter; all has been restored to normalcy. =phew= No more laundry on the floor though. Ever. Why risk it?!
Cheers! ~Jessica

Anonymous said...

Suggest adding apple cider vinegar (1/2 cup for a normal load)with the regular laundry detergent. Add the vinegar after the washer is full of water. Also use fabric softener to remove the vinegar smell. Works every time for me. Good luck :)

Anonymous said...

I use xtra detergent the purple one and scoop in oxyclean and some of those downy scent things the blue ones. Then use swavitell fabric softener and dryer sheets. Usually works on most clothes. Cant get it out of my silky material and my cat also pooped on my clothes n most i have to wash like six times. :( i need to get more boxes though cause i have one box and four cats

Heidi Lovell said...

All this makes me wonder why we have cats. They seem to destroy so much. Mine peed and pooped in the house, ONCE, because we just had a snow storm. 2 1/2 feet. Now that's all I can smell. He's also ruined so many screens to get in. JUST ASK!! MY LORD. I've had 3 dogs at a time for years and they don't do any damage.

Carrie - Tic-Tac-Tangle said...

Thank you ... after trying to wash a soiled load 3 times with just regular laundry soap, I was about to give up. Your technique worked well. Thank you!!

Carrie - Tic-Tac-Tangle said...

P.S. Add an image to your site so we can pin your pages on pinterest! It won't let me pin this page since there are no pinnable images.

Stephy said...

This worked so well. Our clothes were wool coats and cashmere sweaters, so we sent them to the drycleaner and they came back smelling worse than before. I tried your method because we would have to throw those clothes away anyway, but it worked. Everything is just a little fluffier and a little more linty than it was before. :-)