Cleaning cat pee from small apartment
April 2, 2016 4:43 AM   Subscribe

Best Cat Ever lost a cancer fight recently. In his last couple of months, he was regularly urinating and sometimes defecating on various parts of my floor. (He had struggled with serious constipation at times, so when this happened, it was enough of an exciting development that I didn't really attempt to stop him.) I did my best with enzyme cleaners, but I wasn't able to keep up with it, and now the whole apartment stinks. What do I do?

I know there are companies that do carpet cleaning with enzymes and other fancy stuff, but I've never done it before. I have furniture that will be a hassle to move, especially my bookcases, and there's not a lot of spare room. Do I unload them and move them so the carpet cleaners can access that area? But then, where do the books themselves go without blocking other areas of carpet? Can the cleaners move a couch and then put it back before waiting for the floor to dry? ... You see the dilemma. (I mean, either it's an actual dilemma or it's a dilemma of cluelessness on my part, but either way I imagine you see it.)

Please assume I'm an amateur at this sort of adulting and give me a basic step-by-step of what I need to do to fix this. Thanks!
posted by SpiralT to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry for your loss.

I was in a similar situation and I tried everything I could think of, including renting an industrial carpet cleaner, and... It doesn't matter. Cat urine most assuredly does not care. I tried so many things and just when I thought I had won the battle there would be a warm humid day and you could smell it.

Because it goes down - it soaks the padding underneath. It soaks what's under that... And it hangs around like nothing on this earth.

I had to ultimately pay out the nose to replace the carpet. And, yes. I moved all my shit outside (and some of it into the kitchen) for the duration of the carpet job.
posted by kbanas at 4:59 AM on April 2, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'm so sorry for the loss of your kitty.

The carpet has to be replaced. The flooring beneath the carpet has to be thoroughly cleaned and completely dry before new carpet or other flooring is installed.

As for the stuff in your apartment, you might need to hire movers to do a PODS type pack and return for say a week. Example - pods on Monday, carpet removed/flor cleaned in Tuesday, new floor installed on Thursday (to be super sure everything is dry), pods back on Friday.
posted by bilabial at 5:23 AM on April 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yes. I just had a vivid recollection of me on my hands and knees, scrubbing the concrete underfloor with bleach water.

Oh God.

Such bad times.
posted by kbanas at 5:26 AM on April 2, 2016

What the others said. If there is a concrete floor under the carpet, you can neutralize a lot of the odor with cider vinegar - scrub deeply, let dry, then paint over that spot on the concrete with a good primer like Kilz.

Then new carpet or whatever.
posted by Thistledown at 5:29 AM on April 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

I assume you've tried this, but is there any reason not to just really, really soak it all with the enzyme cleaner now? I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by hollyholly at 5:42 AM on April 2, 2016

Nthing the Killz if it's a concrete floor. Lots and lots of killz. Very sorry as well.
posted by pearlybob at 5:43 AM on April 2, 2016

Yeah, I went through this, it was terrible. I had tried for months with enzyme cleaners like zero odor, etc, and they did some good, but in the end, I threw out a lot of stuff, and I had the floors refinished.
posted by instead of three wishes at 6:15 AM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Agree with bilabial, but add more time than you think you need to dry everything out. We did this two summers ago, and due to the humid weather, it took a lot longer for everything to dry than we anticipated. Like, almost a week before we felt sure that the pee and wet stank was gone.

And you really want to make sure everything is dry before you lay new carpet, or bring your stuff back in.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:45 AM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kilz, Kilz, Kilz. And you don't even have to wash the stains, unless they're really bad. We've had a related problem - dog pee - and Kilz is the only way to get rid of the smell so well that even other dogs can't detect it. We've used it on every plywood subfloor in our house as part of the prep for new carpet. Makes an absolute world of difference. Plus it's really ease to use - all you have to do is cover every square inch of the subfloor.
posted by DrGail at 9:10 AM on April 2, 2016

I know there are companies that do carpet cleaning with enzymes and other fancy stuff, but I've never done it before.

These people are scam artists that take your money and give you a disappointing result. You will still smell it from time to time if you go this route. Cleaning the carpet only works if it was just a few random squirts from a kitten, or something.

When my parents were landlords, the solution to this was to rip out all the carpet and padding and bill the person. People always thought we were ruthless greedy ripoff artists or whatever, but it's really the only thing that works. Vinyl floors got replaced because of this a few times, too.

If the subfloor is unpainted, the above posters are right that it will need to be coated in several layers of kilz. Any walls that have been potentially peed on will need a coat of kilz, and new paint.

Yea i know it sucks to say "you need to rip all your carpet out, paint under it, reinstall it, and repaint the whole place" but... if you want it 100% gone, that's how it works.

Any squishy fabricy furniture like couches that got peed on is never ever going to unstink, either. Things that have hard surfaces can generally be cleaned off.
posted by emptythought at 9:25 AM on April 2, 2016

I'm on my phone, but this stuff: at a 30% dilution, saturate the affected surfaces and allow to dry. It's amazing. I had to use a second application once to get cat urine out of raw wood. I've never had to do a third application. That was during house construction; we live here. Even on really humid days there is no lingering remnant. It made things livable through lymphoma cat, elderly cat, kidney failure cat, seizure dog, and elderly dogs. Not really comparable to other cleaners at all, in my experience.
posted by Lou Stuells at 9:28 AM on April 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I did my best with enzyme cleaners, but I wasn't able to keep up with it, and now the whole apartment stinks.

What constitutes "your best"?

Buy or borrow--you might need it for awhile--a carpet steamer. Buy a bottle of the Nature's Miracle stuff that's specifically intended for carpet steamers. Move stuff out of, say, a quarter of a room. Do that. Thoroughly. Give it a few days. Move furniture again, do another part, give it a few days, and so on.

It's possible that after you go through all of this, you may still have residual odor. At that point, the carpet's a lost cause. If you're not made of time but you do have plenty of money, that's a good reason to skip to replacing the carpet. But while sometimes it soaks through to that degree, it doesn't literally always do so. We had very good luck with this when I lost a cat with kidney/bladder issues. Like--one room turned out to need the carpet redone, but the rest of the house was fine, even when it was hot/humid. One room of carpet is way cheaper than a whole house. But you do need the proper machinery--just spraying something on isn't going to get it down into the padding. I really don't even know why they sell the stuff in spray bottles, but sometimes people who've only tried those think their failure is time to give up, and it's not necessarily the last thing you can try.

All that said, if price is no issue, it's a lot less time-consuming to just rip up the carpet. But price is usually an issue.
posted by Sequence at 9:50 AM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry for your loss.

Here's the never fail recipe I've used for this:
**As with any product that you would put on your carpet, flooring or furniture, please test for colorfastness. To test for colorfastness, mix a small amount of the solution and place on a hidden area of your carpet. Wait 24 hours or until carpet is dry before proceeding to full treatment.**

**We recommend extreme caution when treating fine fabrics and upholstery. You must be extra careful in checking for colorfastness. Do not skip this step, thinking, "Oh, I'm sure it will be fine!" It may not! You must test a hidden area and wait 24 hours before proceeding to a full treatment.**


16 oz. (2 cups) hydrogen peroxide
2 tsp. baking soda
2 small drops liquid dishwashing soap (Dawn, Palmolive, etc.)

Place all ingredients in a glass jar or bowl. Gently stir--do not beat or shake--until baking soda is dissolved.

If urine is fresh, be sure to blot up any excess urine with dry paper towels or a dry washcloth before the next step.

Pour mixture over urine spot, making sure to cover the entire spot. Allow mixture to completely soak the area being treated. Do not rub or scrub! Let sit for 24 hours without disturbing.

After 24 hours, take clean paper towels or a clean, white washcloth and blot up any remaining liquid (Again, do not rub or scrub).

Allow area to air dry completely. If you are treating carpet, you can vacuum over the area when dry.

Makes 16 oz. (2 cups) of solution.

a. The strength of hydrogen peroxide required for the recipe is the 3% solution. This strength is what is commonly found at pharmacies, discount stores and grocery stores.
b. The solution is most active for one hour after mixing. Be sure to apply the solution within this time period for maximum effectiveness.
c. Do not enclose the mixture in an airtight container, or you could have a big mess on your hands! The reason for this is because when the ingredients are combined they release oxygen (Remember making "volcanoes" out of baking soda and vinegar when you were a little kid? Similar principle here.).
d. For really tough odors, you may have to treat the area more than once. Carpet, furniture and mattresses typically require 1-2 treatments. Concrete, wood, tile and other hard surfaces usually need 3-5 treatments (1 treatment per day).
e. For concrete and other hard surfaces, you want to make enough of the recipe to completely cover the stain. Pour or spray the solution on and let it soak, soak, soak. Do not mop or wipe up. Let it sit for 24 hours (depending on the humidity level, it will usually evaporate during this time). Repeat the treatment once a day for 3-5 days.
f. If you need to treat an oriental rug, please use extreme caution. Sometimes the dyes used in the rugs are not colorfast.

a. Spray bottle--A spray bottle works best for applying the solution to small areas of concrete, linoleum, or other hard surfaces. It is also the best way to apply the solution to vertical surfaces like walls, shower tile and furniture. Just be sure to thoroughly spray the area you are treating. A spray bottle is generally not the best way to treat carpet.
b. Mop--A mop is a good way to apply the solution to large areas of concrete, linoleum, or other hard surfaces. Generously apply the solution to the surface and let it soak. Do not mop or wipe up.
c. Garden watering can--A garden watering can is best for medium to large areas--indoors or outdoors.
d. Carpet cleaning machine--Just mix several batches of the recipe at a time and use it in place of the water and carpet shampoo. Don't vacuum the solution back up--just let it soak on the carpet until it air dries. While we have had many, many customers use this method without a single report of damage to a machine, our recipe is obviously not one of the solutions approved for use by the machine manufacturers. Using the recipe in your machine is at your own risk, and we are not responsible for any damage to customers' machines.
e. Chemical Sprayer--We've had a few customers use a chemical sprayer (the pump kind, not the kind you attach to a water hose) to apply the recipe to large areas. You would need to use a new sprayer (not one that has previously been used) so that there wouldn't be any type of reaction with the residue in the sprayer.

For mattresses, the best thing to do is to make a double, triple or even quadruple batch of the recipe--enough to completely cover the stain--and then really pour it on. Don't be afraid of saturating the mattress. The urine has gone deep into the mattress, so you need to make sure that there's enough solution to go deep into the mattress as well. The solution has to reach the urine to neutralize it. We recommend treating the mattress in the morning so that the solution can work through the day. The mattress will often be dry enough for use by bedtime.

For couch cushions, please follow the directions for treating mattresses.

For clothing and bedding, you can either spot treat or use the recipe in a washing machine. Depending on the size load you are washing, you will need to make a double, triple or even quadruple batch of the recipe and pour it in with the washing machine water. Allow the clothing/bedding to soak in the washing machine overnight. Leave out the detergent until you are satisfied that the odor is gone. Then, you can wash with detergent like normal. If any of the clothes/bedding is brightly colored, be sure to do a spot check on them first before treating them. The recipe is not safe for leather.

a. For outdoors, the recipe will work on dirt, sand, gravel, and areas with groundcover-type plants. We don't, however, recommend using the recipe directly on shrubs or potted plants.
b. If you are treating large outdoor areas or entire houses, you might want to consider purchasing the hydrogen peroxide at a higher concentration and diluting it. It would make each batch even cheaper for you. The peroxide can be bought in strengths such as 12%, 20%, 35% and 40%. The 35% solution is often called "food grade". We've had customers find higher strength solutions at cleaning supply warehouses, and we've had many customers who have been able to obtain it at beauty supply stores (like Sally's).


16 cups (4 large 32-oz bottles) hydrogen peroxide
16 tsp. (or about 1/3 cup) baking soda
1/2 tsp. liquid dishwashing soap
posted by getawaysticks at 10:32 AM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

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