Cat peed on backpacks and tent.
August 20, 2011 10:13 AM   Subscribe

I just discovered that our cat has been urinating on a nylon duffel bag our garage, a bag which contained our backpacking packs and a tent. Can any of it be saved?

Everything reeks. Can I throw this stuff in the washing machine (front loader) with something to get the smell out? Will bleach damage the packs and tent? Do I need to start saving up for new gear?
posted by DakotaPaul to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If the gear turns out to be washable, I'd put it all in a bag and take it to the laundromat to clean. No sense in potentially funktifying your washing machine over this...
posted by limeonaire at 10:18 AM on August 20, 2011

Now might be a good time to take advantage of REI's return policy.
posted by JimmyJames at 10:21 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

You want vinegar to get rid of the cat pee smell, not bleach. I'd throw the nylon duffel in the washer with the vinegar. If the packs and tent are similar material, do them too. (I don't know much about caming gear).

Usually I run it once with vinegar, and then a second time with detergent, personally, but the vinegar is enough to get out the odor. Use plain white vinegar, comes in the big jugs, and use a good amount of it. I had a cat with diabetes who had related bladder problems, so I have a LOOOOOT of experience washing out cat pee.

The vinegar is fine for your washing machine and for any other washables. (May even help prevent fading from dark fabrics, and removes miscellaneous odors from the machine and the clothes.) It won't smell after it's been rinsed out. You really don't have to do the second, detergent wash if you don't want to.

Test odor-free-ness by getting the tent/pack/etc. nice and warm. (I leave mine out in the sun, which I figure kills anything else icky that washing didn't.) If the odor is lingering, you'll smell it when the material heats up.

Then store it somewhere the cat can't pee on it. We haven't had a re-peeing problem after vinegar washing, but better safe than coping with it again. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:27 AM on August 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

"It won't smell after it's been rinsed out." -- it won't smell LIKE VINEGAR after rinsing. People sometimes worry that they'll beat the cat pee but now everything will smell of vinegar. It won't, don't worry. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:28 AM on August 20, 2011

Eyebrows McGee has it, with one caveat. Washing can destroy some waterproofing - it all depends on what fabric and coating you're dealing with. Check the labels, check the manufacturer's sites, or call the hotlines. They'll know whether or not your tent will become a glorified newspaper... and if it can be recoated if so.
posted by likeso at 10:34 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cat piss is less of a nightmare than you'd think, especially on rinseable items. Once the pee is old and truly ghastly to smell, it actually helps you rinse it out, by fermenting into ammonia.

You won't necessarily even have to use high-powered cleaners, though tough outdoorsy things like tents and packs would probably be fine with all sorts of alarmingly strong chemicals.

Here's the procedure for things that're too big to fit in a washing machine.

First step: Jam everything into the bathtub which I hope you own, rinse cursorialy with water as hot as the items will stand (a shower over the bath helps, here).

Next, plug the bath, and pour One Large Quantity of the cheapest possible white vinegar (which is just industrial acetic acid and water) over the gear. Fill tub with more hot water. Poke around with a broomstick if you have anger to work out. Leave overnight to soak. When I've done this I've also thrown in soap, but I'm not sure how necessary it is. What the heck, sprinkle laundry detergent in there.

Probably just one two-litre (or local equivalent) bottle of vinegar would do, here, but for a whole tent and packs with foam padding and stuff I'd chuck in one or two more bottles. It's not as if bulk white vinegar is expensive, and it shouldn't hurt the fabric either.

Next day, rinse the offending items like crazy again (outside with a garden hose could now be an idea), and see if any stench remains.

If the items fit in your washing machine without being jammed solid and unable to swish around, you can of course just use vinegar and some soap in that, as Eyebrows says above.
posted by dansdata at 10:34 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

I've washing urine-soaked stuff in my washer many times, and it's never affected the washer. (Of course, this may depend on the washer, I suppose.)

Set up the tent and leave it for a few weeks in the sun. Leave the backpacks in the sun too.

After a few weeks, when everything is dry, if it still smells bad, you're going to have to wash it.

Nature's Miracle (available at a pet store-look for the formula specifically for cat pee) and Oxyclean are two products that have worked well for me.

If you have a power washer, you might consider using it. Sadly, I know nothing about camping gear, so you'll have to be the judge of whether or not your gear can stand up to power washing. (On preview, it sounds like it would be a bad idea for the tent at least.)

And seconding vinegar for neutralizing stink. LOTS AND LOTS of vinegar. It's cheap, don't be shy about buying 42 jugs of the stuff.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:36 AM on August 20, 2011

Dansdata has it. I'd do the process twice with a lot of vinegar, cause, cat pee, phew. Then set it up in the sun for a while. If you don't have a tub, get a child's wading pool.
posted by theora55 at 10:44 AM on August 20, 2011

The tent has a good chance (largely because you can put it in the sun and get pretty good coverage). The backpacks, in my experience, probably not. If they have no padding and none of that woven nylon strapping your luck may be better, but the pee gets into the piping and seams and padding and is really hard to get out.

And some cats just cannot not pee on synthetics. You don't want to store that stuff in plastic bins for a good long while until they are totally aired out, but you'll need to hang it or put it in a very inaccessible place to avoid a repeat. Whatever gear you have to replace, get large Rubbermaid bins to store everything (keeps nibbling vermin and crawly things out of it too).
posted by Lyn Never at 11:53 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding SuperSquirrel's recommendation of Nature's Miracle or a similar product: I've used it on backpacks with padding and it's done a good job. A thorough soaking before washing your gear with a vinegar rinse may restore most of it to something you're willing to camp in/with.
posted by thatdawnperson at 12:01 PM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

N'thing Nature's Miracle. It's available in a gallon jug, btw.
posted by pantarei70 at 12:17 PM on August 20, 2011

thatdawnperson: "Nature's Miracle ... A thorough soaking before washing "

Yes. Thorough = SOAK it all the way through. I once rescued a suitcase from a similar situation (unnoticed cat pee for probably several months) by pouring an entire bottle of Nature's Miracle on it and leaving it outside to dry for a couple of weeks.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:58 PM on August 20, 2011

Febreeze makes a line of pet odor control products that work well, particularly for situations like a tent, where you might not want to wash the item in question.
posted by paulsc at 5:10 PM on August 20, 2011

Thank for the suggestions, everyone! We're going to load up on vinegar. We've used Anti-Icky-Poo on the occassional spot in the house before, but if that doesn't help for this big job we'll check out Nature's Miracle.
posted by DakotaPaul at 5:52 PM on August 21, 2011

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