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In a fit of altruism, I adopted five stray cats over a period of time. They came with some problems, which I expected, but two in particular have started something new: Urinating everywhere. It's like a contest. Floors, walls, cabinets, furniture, appliances - everything is a target.

I'm looking for the best method to clean cat urine off of various surfaces - floor laminate & tile, painted drywall, porcelain appliance surfaces, and wooden/pressboard cabinets. I'm hoping to get through my ownership of these cats without having to completely gut my house when they've finally passed on.

I'm considering a semi-commercial steam-cleaning unit but I don't know if it will (a) destroy things I use it on, and (b) will it actually work? I'm suspicious of advertising claims like "Cleans everything!"

Any advice?

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I thought they were a gimick at first, but I have had great luck with the "urine destroyer" type enzymatic cleaners. They promise that their "unique enzyme formula" (unique... they all say that) attacks and breaks down the odor causing elements in the urine. I haven't taken the time to research their claims, but we have an old dog with a bad bladder, and the stuff works well on her accidents. It really gets rid of the odor.

My suggestion is to get a quality UV light (careful, cheap flashlight units don't work well) and some good enzymatic cleaner and soak all the current stains. Once that's done (and you have to let it sit and work until its dry), I'd rent a carpet cleaner and use stain remover to handle any remaining visible stains.

  • When the carpet cleaners cleaned pet stains out of my rental unit, I asked them what chemical they use, they said they use Hydrocide, and it worked very well. They said that part of the secret is that their commercial truck mounted carpet extractor can suck a lot more liquid out of the carpet than most home carpet cleaners. I don't know how true that part is, but they removed pet stains and odors from the carpet completely. – Johnny Jan 13 '16 at 6:43
  • I have several types of these "unique enzyme formula" cleaners on order - I'll try them when they get here and see how they work. I have a high grade UV light already - when I saw how bad the problem was, I couldn't believe it. – user1071914 Jan 13 '16 at 14:52
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    Use a UV light with a fluorescent tube. I haven't seen any LED UV lights that work well for this task. – mrog Jul 16 '18 at 23:35
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To remove urine smell from:

  • undressed concrete: liberally spray it with undiluted vinegar and let it sit. Do this once a day or more for a week, before you decide if it isn't working.

  • tile or (non-hardwood) finished floors: mop as usual with soap and then do it again with vinegar.

  • porcelain: is non-porous, clean as usual.

  • wood; cabinetry: this is a hard one. It will most likely need a light sanding and a coat of varnish.

  • furniture; fabrics: you'll need to research what you have and how to clean it without ruining it.

  • anything painted: paint it again if a simple cleaning won't cut it.

  • carpet: a lost cause IMO. It's always the first thing to go in a remodel or pre-sale. There's plenty of advice out there for trying to save your smelly carpet; mine is to toss it. People with allergies will turn around and walk right out of that house, whether or not you think you got the 'smell' out.

Be aware that if you clean or cover up the smell the cats might continue to re-mark it even more vigorously. See Pets.SE for more advice (you may be interested in a product called feliway, I didn't have any luck with it but people rave about it). I'd focus on altering the cat's behavior (they're all spade, right?) before engaging in an endless cycle of you cleaning and them spraying.

As with all cleaners, test for color fastness in an inconspicuous area first.

  • I've always been skeptical of using vinegar to clean anything because the odor of the vinegar itself is repulsive to me. It seems like you would then have two odors to clean. Is this not the case? – JPhi1618 Jan 12 '16 at 16:35
  • Anything is better than smelling like ammonia. It may smell like vinegar for a few weeks at most, I'd think, where the ammonia smell might persist almost indefinably. I will admit though, getting rid of the pheromones and what not is a different story. – Mazura Jan 12 '16 at 18:09
  • Pet owners always think they got the smell out. So do smokers. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 15 '18 at 9:03
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Mazura's answer is a good start. I have the following comments:

  • the operative compound in urine is ammonia (nitrogen hydride); ammonia is highly soluable in water

  • when ammonia get into a porous substance like plaster or wood, there is no way to easily get it out

  • a basic cleaning of some surfaces can be done by steam cleaning, but there is a limit how far this will work

  • bleach reacts with ammonia, producing chlorine and chloramine gas, both highly toxic; bleach will absolutely destroy any urine it contacts, but on the downside it produces toxic gases

Therefore, for a limited area, bleach is a possibility assuming you do not inhale the resulting gases.

To decontaminate a whole house however I would recommend ozone. In this process the house is sealed and an ozone machine is run in the house for a day or two. Ozone turns ammonia into ammonium nitrate, an odorless salt. Best of all, ozone can penetrate into plaster and wood or anywhere else urine may have gone. In general, this treatment is the most effective for deodorizing a house and is the method used by professional house flippers.

  • Hospitals use hydrogen peroxide. I don't think that would work as well the enzime chemicals. – Ed Beal Jul 1 '18 at 5:14
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Get urine stain removers. They are affordable and work very we to remove pet urine stains and pet odor from carpets and clothes.

  • There are endless products that claim to be urine stain removers. This isn't specific enough to really be useful (including the site link that was removed). – fixer1234 Jul 2 '18 at 8:54
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Cleaning vinegar with a bit of peroxide and dish soap worked best. I then sealed all porous surfaces with a odor remover primer specific for urine and pets... so far so good

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