How to Remove Cat Urine Odor from Laundry

Ginger tabby cat sitting on top of pile folded laundry
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My cat has peed all over the clothes in my laundry basket; she also has urinated on a stack of blankets next to the basket. How can I remove the urine odor from my laundry? If at all possible, I'd like to be able to use products I already have around the house.

There are a few important questions to consider that you didn't address in your email:

  1. Have you taken your cat to the vet?
    Aside from a dirty litter box, FLUTDs (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorders) is the most common cause for litter box avoidance. It is very important to rule out a medical cause first.
  1. Is this her first offense?
    If this is not the first time she has urinated outside the box, you may have to do a bit of detective work after you've tackled the latest cat urine problem.
  2. Have the urine stains dried?
    If the urine stains are still damp, you may be able to remove the cat urine odor with common household products. If they are dry, you'll need to haul out the big guns.

We'll assume for now that your cat has been cleared by the veterinarian, that this is her first "accident" outside the litter box, and that the urine stains are fresh. Here's a simple solution, using your household products:

Combine one part distilled white vinegar with two parts warm water in a spray bottle. Liberally spray all areas of urine stain. Make sure you don't miss any spots. Launder as usual with a mild detergent.

If the cat urine stains have dried, or the vinegar solution did not completely remove the odor, you'll need to invest in a commercial enzymatic stain remover product.

Urine odor removers fall into three basic categories: enzymatic, bacterial, and chemical. Each of these is more or less effective, depending on factors such as the "freshness" of the accident or whether other cleaning products have or will be used. A good rule of thumb is to always use a urine odor remover product before laundering.

One of my favorite products for removing urine stains from laundry is OdorXit (Compare Prices) because it can be safely used with detergents.

Caution: Never use a product containing ammonia to clean urine stains. Cats will mistake the ammonia scent for their own urine and repeatedly urinate in the same place.

Cat Urine Odor Still in Area?
If your laundry has come out smelling fresh, but you still detect the lingering odor of cat urine, you'll need to perform the detective work I mentioned earlier. Arm yourself with a black light. Most black lights work better in complete darkness, so be clear about the area you want to check before turning out the lights. You may need to use chalk or sticky note paper to mark areas where the black light reveals stains.

Once you've identified the areas, follow my tips in " Cleaning Kitty Accidents." The end result of your efforts should be a freshly-scented home once more.