Maybe you don’t mind your child climbing in bed with you in the middle of the night, but waking up in soaked, smelly sheets because someone had an accident? Never fun. The worst part is that you’ve got to act fast, because the longer urine has to dry and settle into the mattress, the harder it’ll be to get the stain and stench out. How to get pee out of a mattress — pee smell included — is never as easy or straightforward as it seems, especially at 3 AM. The good news: There’s a straightforward science to it all.
First things first, know thy enemy. Urine is about 95 percent water and 5 percent urea, a waste product made in the liver. The kidneys filter excess water and urea out of the bloodstream, turn it into urine, and pass it along for storage in the bladder. When the bladder gets full, it signals to the brain it’s time to urinate — unless you’re a kid with an undeveloped sense of fullness. It happens.
Because urine is mostly water, it’s typically clear with a slight yellow tinge and has a very mild odor. However, the amount and concentration of urea can vary, and when it’s high, the liquid becomes a darker yellow and has a strong ammonia odor — that pungent “urine” smell. Certain medications, vitamin supplements, and foods such as asparagus, onions, garlic, and brussels sprouts can give pee a distinct odor as well. Also, the longer it sits in the bladder, the darker and smellier it can become — and unfortunately, urine that usually ends up on mattresses has been storage for a while.
So, if you find yourself swamped in urine or you discover your child’s bed freshly peed on, here’s what to do:
- Get up.
- Get the kid up
- Rip the sheets off the bed and toss them immediately in the washing machine.
- Grab a dry towel and blot the spot repeatedly to suck up the moisture from the mattress. (Do not wipe with the towel, or you’ll just drive the urine deeper into the mattress, upping the chances that it stains permanently.)
- Once you’ve gotten the surface as dry as you can, mix up a solution that’s 50% white vinegar, 50% warm water and pour it into a spray bottle. If you have an essential oil like lavender handy, you may want to add a few drops to help mask the vinegar scent. Alternatively, you can bypass the vinegar altogether and instead mix a few teaspoons of powdered laundry detergent into the water.
- Spray your solution liberally all over the affected area and let it sit for a few minutes, then blot with the towel to draw out the moisture. Repeat. And if the puddle was big or especially smelly, repeat again.
- Grab some baking soda, the ultimate odor neutralizer, and sift it everywhere the urine was — even beyond the puddle borders, just for good measure.
- Let it sit for at least 10 hours, even longer if you can. If you or your child has a different place to sleep that next night, use it, allowing the mattress to dry out fully overnight.
- After enough time has passed (or that bed is really needed again), vacuum up the excess baking soda. Since you tackled the urine immediately while it was still wet, odds are no odor or stain will remain.
If you chance upon an old pee stain, or you discover your kid must’ve wet the bed the night before, the job is a little tougher, but it’s still possible to remove the stain and stench. Here’s your solution:
- Make a mixture that includes 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, 3 tablespoons of baking soda, and a squirt of liquid dish soap such as Dawn. Stir the ingredients to mix, but don’t put them all into the spray bottle and shake, or you’ll get a bubbly mess.
- Spray the solution heavily everywhere you see dried pee and let it sit there and work its magic until it’s dry.
- As it’s drying, a baking soda residue will have formed. Vacuum that up afterward. If a stain remains, repeat the process.
As for pet pee stains, dog urine is almost identical to human urine, so follow the same cleaning routine for a wet puddle or dried stain. Feline urine, however, is a whole different animal. As any cat owner knows, this stuff reeks. That’s because, while it’s still about 95 percent water with some urea, cat urine also contains a feline-specific amino acid called felinine. Humans can’t smell it initially, but once it breaks down into sulfurous compounds, watch out.
To tackle cat urine stains, you can try either of the methods for cleaning up human and dog pee, but you’ll probably need something stronger — a store-bought enzymatic cleaner — to deal with the super-pungent odor. So try this method: If the pee is fresh, mop up the liquid with a dry towel like you would for human pee; remember, blot, don’t wipe. Once you’ve sopped it all up — or if you’re cleaning dried cat urine — lay a plastic sheet or tarp between the mattress and box spring (or layer a few towels in there), and dump about 4 cups of warm water over the affected area. The goal here is to dilute the residual cat urine and knock down the scent. Mop up the excess moisture.
Now grab your enzymatic cleaner and depending on the product design, pour or spray it all over the stain. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, or however long the instructions on the bottle say, then sop up any excess moisture. Next, for additional odor busting, sift some baking soda over the spot and let it sit for as long as possible. Finally, vacuum up the baking soda, and you should be good to go.