How to Get Cat Urine Odor Out of Wood Floors

Kitten looking at camera
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As a cat owner, you love your cat. As a homeowner with beautiful wood floors, you like your floors, too. But cats and wood do not mix. Cat urine has an unmistakable, ammonia-like pungent smell that permeates the room and can even extend to the rest of the house. Until the cat urine odor is addressed, it will announce itself every time you enter the house. Older, heavily used wood floors' porosity makes the problem even worse since the urine is allowed to soak into the wood. While it is no simple task to get the smell of cat urine out of wood flooring, it can be done by using the right type of cleaner or, if the problem is advanced, by sanding the floor.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Materials Cost: $10 to $20

Tools and Supplies You Will Need

  • Liquid pet odor remover (such as Simple Stain + Odor Remover or Clorox Pet Solutions)
  • Disposable cloth rags
  • Sponges
  • Clean bucket
  • Latex or nitrile gloves that can be disposed
  • Scrub brush with nylon bristles

Instructions

Before you take any drastic measures such as sanding the floor, first try cleaning the hardwood floor with a cat urine odor removal product. If the wood floor has a solid finish, with no seams between the boards, there is no reason why these products will not work. Also, determine if your floor is actually made of wood since many floors that appear to be wood are, instead, luxury vinyl plank, wood-look ceramic tile, or laminate flooring. All of these are liquid-impermeable surfaces and can be cleaned with a urine odor removal product. These products are specially formulated to eliminate odors and sometimes even remove the urine itself. Typically, they contain water, hydrogen peroxide, and a host of other agents such as sodium hydroxide and alcohol ethoxylates.

For Impermeable Wood Surfaces

Impermeable, well-sealed wood surfaces do not allow liquids to pass below the top coating. Check on this by depositing a few drops of water on the top of the flooring. Wait about two hours. If the water is still beaded up and standing, you can consider the surface to be impermeable.

  1. Clean the problem area first with water and a sponge to remove the majority of the urine spot.
  2. Dispose of the sponge used previously and thoroughly clean out the bucket.
  3. Spray the product directly on the problem area.
  4. Depending on the specific product, you may need to leave it soaking on the urine area for a short period of time.
  5. Wipe up the urine with a new sponge or with a clean rag.
  6. Lightly rinse off the area with clean water.
  7. Let the area completely dry out.

For Permeable Wood Surfaces

If your wood floor has gapped seams or a poor finish that allows liquids to soak in, you may have to sand away the cat urine. The urine and its odor will have already sunk down into the seams or the porous surface. As long as you have solid hardwood floors, you can deeply sand them with a drum sander and a disk sander. For engineered wood floors, only light sanding with a disk sander is possible since the top wood veneer is too thin to allow for deep sanding.

When sanding, keep your cat well away from the project site, preferably out of the house entirely. If the cat urinates on bare, unfinished wood, the opened pores will allow the urine to permeate deeply.

  1. Determine if your floorboards have enough thickness left for another sanding. Pulling up a threshold is a good way to determine the thickness of your flooring. If the flooring has been sanded at or just above the tongue-and-groove, it is too thin to sand.
  2. Be sure to contain dust with plastic sheeting taped to doors, windows, and other avenues where dust might escape.
  3. Rent a floor sander. For minimal sanding, rent a vibrating floor sander or floor disk sander. If you need deeper sanding, rent a drum sander. For sanding close to baseboards and trim, rent an edge sander or you may choose to buy a random-orbiting sander for your home and use it instead.
  4. Remove quarter-round with a flat pry bar before sanding. You'll do a better job, too, if you are able to remove the baseboards. As with the quarter-round, gently pry back the baseboards with a flat pry bar. Make sure that the back of the pry bar is resting over a stud for better support. If the baseboards are heavily painted-over, removing them may cause more damage. In this case, leave them on and sand as close as possible to them.
  1. Run the drum sander over the flooring. It is easy to cause irreparable damage to your floor with a drum sander, so be patient and never press down on the sander. Never let any sander rest in place while running; always keep it moving. Always start with coarser sandpaper, then work down to finer grits.
  2. Thoroughly clean the floor with a broom, followed up by two damp mops, with the mop thoroughly pressed out so that it feels almost dry to the touch.
  3. Coat the floor with a water-based urethane finish.

Factory- or pre-finished wood floors can be more affected more by cat urine than are site-finished wood floors. Pre-finished floors' planks are individually stained and sealed in a factory. After the installation in your home, seams remain which may allow for the urine to permeate. Site-finished floors are raw, unfinished wood floors that are first installed in your home and then stained and sealed. The benefit is that sealant has permeated and filled in the seams, preventing the urine from entering.