clothes hanging up to dry outside

How to Get the Smell of Urine out of Clothes

Incontinence, the lack of bladder control, is extremely common in older adults and many caregivers will find themselves washing the smell of urine out of clothes on a daily to weekly basis. In this article, we’ll walk you through all the steps necessary to maintain your loved one’s wardrobe and get their clothes smelling like new.

Why Urine Must be Removed as Quickly as Possible

While the smell may be the most obvious issue after an accident, urine is also acidic, meaning it can ruin the fabric of your clothing, making it both smell pungent and weaken clothing’s structure. 

Additionally, urine lingers on long after the stain is gone because of ammonia’s presence. While the stain will disappear after some time, the stench will remain, and this is even worse if there is urine present in non-washable items, such as car seats.

The average pH of fresh urine is 6.0, making it an acidic substance. However, when left exposed for long periods of time, urine’s pH can increase above 8.0, turning it into an alkaline chemical. The strong alkaline salt of old urine can destroy the fabric fibers of any piece of clothing.

As such, there are multiple reasons to remove urine as quickly as you can. But do not worry, as we have prepared an easy guide that will tell you the steps needed in removing urine stains and odors from your clothing. 

Pre-treat your item

The first step you should take when removing urine stains and odor from clothes is to pre-treat the item so that it is ready to be rinsed and washed. Pre-treatment will make cleaning urine significantly easier and less of a headache later in the washing process. Here are the steps:

  1. After spotting the urine stain in your item, rinse it with cool water. You can also dry the spot by using paper towels. Be careful of scrubbing the stain, as it will cause the urine to stay even longer in the clothing. 
    1. When using water to rinse your item, do not use hot water. Heat will set stains and smells into your clothing, thus making it even harder to remove them later in the washing process.
    2. Instead, continue using cold water while washing the stain. You can use hot water later, but we strongly encourage you to use cold water so long as the urine stain remains. 
  2. After rinsing your clothing thoroughly, set out a vessel or bathroom sink with cool water. Then, measure out half a cup of oxygen bleach and pour it into your vessel. Before you place your urine-stained clothes in the wash, mix the water and oxygen bleach together. Finally, you can settle your clothes in the water and let them soak for at least one hour.
    1. When choosing the kind of bleach for your water mixture, avoid using chlorine bleach. It will ruin your clothing’s original colors along with forming vulnerable spots of fabric in your clothing.
    2. If you want to use detergent instead, opt for detergent with enzymes. They will clean urine stains efficiently.  
    3. For older stains, you have to let your clothes soak in the water for longer. Sometimes, that may be up to four hours.
    4. If you have cats, then consider using a detergent that is specifically used to clean cat urine smell from clothing items. Cat urine is incredibly potent and will require the use of a specific detergent. 

How to get the urine smell out with vinegar

Now that you have your clothes rinsed, and they’ve soaked in the water for a sufficient time, your next step is to use vinegar. Here are a series of steps to help you get the most out of your vinegar:

  1. Use a 3:1 ratio for a water and vinegar combination into a container. After mixing the compound well, apply a coat of the solution to your clothing’s urine stain. Then, let it soak for a short time, such as a few minutes.
    1. You can use cider vinegar, but keep in mind that white vinegar is most useful if you are washing stains from white clothing. The cider vinegar can create more stains or change the item’s original color. 
    2. An optional step is applying baking soda to your clothing’s stain. You can skip the baking soda if your clothing’s urine stain is not severe. But the baking soda will help absorb the urine odor in conjunction with your vinegar-water combination.
  2. Once the clothes have soaked in the mix and after using baking soda if you so desire, then take your stained items and place them in the washer. Do not add any detergent yet. This will come later in the final part of the guide. 
    1. Make sure that you are not using hot water during this process, as it will set the stain on your clothes.
  3. After you remove the clothes from the washer, air-dry them by handing them outside. Inside also works as well for those with limited outside space. We recommend that you allow your clothes to dry for at least a full day.
    1. While it is tempting to use a dryer as it will be faster than air-drying them, the heat from the dryer can settle your stains into the clothing. It can also set the odor into your clothing, and you won’t be able to get rid of the smell.

Use your washer 

Now that your clothing has dried, you are prepared to fully launder and remove the stains from your items.

  1. Take your clothes and place them in the washing machine. Now you can add detergent. We recommend using enzyme-based detergent as it will break down the urine stains and odor and separate them from your clothing’s fabric.
    1. Remember to set your water as cool or lukewarm and run the cycle.
  2. Now remove your clothes from the washer and air-dry them much like before. At this point, the urine stain and odor should be gone completely. 
    1. If your clothes have a hint of a urine odor or stain, then you may need to launder them once more to finish the job. 

How to get urine smell out of clothes without washing

We also recognize that you may either not have a washer or you want to quickly remove the odor faster than using the traditional method. Here are a few ways you can get urine smell out of clothes without washing them.

  1. The best solution is to use 60-70% of cheap high-proof vodka and combine it with water in a spray bottle. Then, you can use your spray bottle on the spots of clothing with urine.
    1. For clothing with graphics and you do not want to ruin their design, you can spray around the area for the same effect.
    2. The vodka is known for removing smells from clothing. You can also use the vodka solution to dry clean your clothes and help the durability of your items last longer if you need to take them to a dry-cleaner. 
  2. Another way is drying out your clothing in the sun. It is much like the air-drying process of typically removing urine stains, but there are a few extra steps associated with this method. First, enclose your item is something like a plastic container. Entrap it with either baking soda, coffee grounds, or even thin slices of an apple so long as it is with the baking soda. Then use a deodorizer, such as Febreze.
    1. You may have to launder after this step, but if you do not want to, then you can try having your clothes air-dry longer if the stench has not been eradicated.


Learning how to remove urine smells is important, whether you are a live-in caregiver, a new parent, or a pet owner. We hope that this process aids you with enjoying your favorite clothes without needing to worry about smell or appearance.

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