Did your cat just urinate on the carpet? You need to act quickly to clean up that mess.
Lingering urine smell is likely to bring your cat back to the scene, again and again. Many cats are all too happy to make the carpet their new bathroom even if the first time was an accident. That’s why it’s important to clean up all traces of cat urine immediately and thoroughly. It sounds easy—until you take a look at the cat urine cleaners available to you. There are so many different options. All of them promise incredible odor-blasting abilities. Most have mixed reviews. Some say the cat urine cleaner was crazy-effective. Others say it didn’t do anything. Some people say a $100 bottle of cat urine cleaner is worth it. Others share recipes for two-ingredient cleaners you can make with stuff you already have in your kitchen.
Instead of sifting through and trying every cleaner yourself to find out what works and what doesn’t, we’ve done the work for you. The cat urine cleaners on this list were chosen through a combination of personal experience, reading customer reviews, and talking to other cat guardians about what works for them.
Let’s dive in and find out what the best cat urine carpet cleaners are.
- 1. Why is cat urine so hard to get out of the carpet?
- 2. Three major types of urine eliminators.
- 3. Best cat urine cleaners.
Why is cat urine so hard to get out of the carpet?
Cleaning up cat urine is notoriously tough. It’s known for its distinctive and long-lasting odor—an odor that’s hard to eliminate and comes back even when you feel like you soaked and scrubbed. This specific and insidious odor is due to cat urine’s special composition.
Cat urine is extra-concentrated because of cats’ naturally low thirst drives. Even cats who are fed a moist diet won’t consume enough water to really dilute their urine. This means the stuff that comes out is darker and stronger than human urine.
This strong-smelling urine has a full ingredient list, but three elements stand out as important odor-causing factors:
- Uric acid
Let’s take a closer look at these three elements and see how they cause odor and how they’ll affect your choice in a carpet cleaner.
Urea is a major component of your cat’s urine and behind urine’s distinctive ammonia smell. It’s a waste product from protein metabolization. Excess amino acids are converted to ammonia in your cat’s liver during the urea cycle and that ammonia is then combined with carbon dioxide, making urea.
The ammonia smell from your cat’s urine is certainly off-putting, but urea is actually easy to clean. Urea is water-soluble, so you can scrub it up and eliminate odors with almost any cleaner.
Urine usually contains several strains of bacteria. These bacteria are important to urine decomposition and help to break down urea. They’re responsible for causing a pungent odor as the urine breaks down. Think of it as the smell of the urine rotting.
Fortunately, these bacteria are also easy to eliminate with most cleaners, just like urea.
So far, cat urine doesn’t sound so tough to clean up. That’s where uric acid comes in—to make things a little more complicated.
Uric acid exists as near-insoluble crystals in your cat’s urine. These crystals will sink into your cat’s carpet when your cat urinates on it and won’t go away when cleaned with most cleaners.
Homemade cleaners, like a baking soda and vinegar blend, will eliminate urea and bacteria in the stain. They won’t affect the uric acid. The ammonia smell and other odors will vanish at first, but the uric acid crystals will still lurk in your carpet. While you might not be able to smell it, your cat can. That’s not a good thing. A faint lingering odor could lead to your cat going in that same spot again and again.
Not only can your cat detect the uric acid, but the uric acid odor can also be reactivated when the air gets humid or the floor gets damp. If it’s not removed with an appropriate cleaner, you could be looking at urine odor reappearing years down the road. That’s how hardy uric acid is.
When you’re choosing a urine cleaner it’s important to choose a product which can eliminate the uric acid from the stain, too. Unfortunately, that means most home cleaners are out of the question—they just don’t have the power to get rid of uric acid. Let’s take a closer look at the types of urine cleaners available and find out which ones really work for cat urine.
There are three major types of urine cleaners that you need to know about.
Enzyme cleaners are the only urine eliminator that will actually destroy uric acid. Other cleaners may eliminate odors or mask odors, but ultimately, the uric acid will still be in your carpet. An enzyme cleaner works differently from most cleaners—the power of an enzyme cleaner lies in the symbiotic relationship of the enzymes and bacteria within the cleaner.
Enzymes break down the uric acid and the living bacteria within the cleaner consumes that waste.
This process is dependent on the vitality of the waste-eating bacteria in the cleaner. That means enzyme cleaners are not fail-safe. Enzyme cleaners have a shelf life, and if the cleaner isn’t fresh, it won’t work.
Enzyme cleaners are also sensitive to pH. If you treated your carpet with another product prior to the enzyme cleaner, you need to bring the carpet to a neutral pH before the enzymes can work.
Mister Max P-Bath Pre-Treat Conditioner is intended to neutralize carpet pH so enzyme cleaners can work.
A surfactant cleaner is a detergent which will get rid of the urine stain and initially remove odor. However, surfactants won’t break down insoluble uric acid, and the persistent odor will come back.
If you’ve already treated the stain with an enzyme cleaner, though, a surfactant can be an excellent choice to clean up the stain after the uric acid crystals have been eaten up.
Ion-based odor eliminators
Ion-based urine eliminators are a lot less common than other odor eliminators. I only know of one ion odor eliminator that’s marketed for cat urine. This stuff works really well to eliminate odors—it essentially cancels out the odor.
Unlike an enzyme cleaner, it doesn’t actually get rid of the uric acid crystals, just eliminates the odor. However, ion-based odor eliminators don’t actually clean up any stains, so I’d recommend using a surfactant to clean up any stain after canceling out the odor with the ion odor eliminator.
The biggest downside to an ion-based odor eliminator is its price. A gallon can run up to around $100.
Let’s take a look at our list of the best cat urine carpet cleaners in each category.
The best cat urine carpet cleaner combines a history of effectiveness, safety, and environmental friendliness. All of the following products satisfy these requirements.
Our favorite cat urine carpet cleaner: Live Pee Free!®
Live Pee Free! is an impressive odor eliminator. It’s the only ion-based urine odor eliminator on our list and as far as I know, is the only ion-based odor eliminator made for pet urine.
If you’re looking for a near-instant odor eraser that really works, you’ll want to try this stuff.
I was first introduced to Live Pee Free! at a trade show where they demonstrated its odor-canceling abilities on an ammonia-soaked paper towel. Naturally, I was dubious. Ever heard of the door-to-door cleaner salesmen who have something different in their demo bottle than what they actually sell you?
The people at the trade show booth offered to send me some of the odor-eliminator to try out once I got home from the show. That’s when I had the opportunity to try out the odor eliminator on actual cat urine. It was still impressive. My biggest complaint with Live Pee Free! is its high price—think $99.95 for a gallon—and the fact that you need to use a lot to actually soak through and eliminate the odor.
- Gets rid of odors quickly.
- Works permanently.
- Non-toxic and safe for pets.
- Doesn’t stain or discolor carpet.
- Odorless, so it won’t bother you or sensitive cats.
- Requires several applications if you’ve already used another cleaner.
- Takes quite a bit to soak through and eliminate the odors.
We were so satisfied with our experience that we decided to join Live Pee Free!’s affiliate program through which we’re able to share a coupon code with our readers for 20% off their purchase of Live Pee Free!. To get 20% off your order of any size bottle, click this link to go to the store page and enter coupon code PEE FREE! at the checkout when prompted.
Best enzyme cleaner for cat urine: Anti-Icky-Poo
When you search for a good cat urine carpet cleaner, there’s one result that consistently makes its way to the top of product roundups and reviews. Anti-Icky-Poo is beloved by people who foster cats and kittens and many long-time cat guardians swear by it. It’s a top-rated product, and according to the company, is recommended #1 by top veterinarians. I’m not sure exactly what that endorsement means, but customer reviews seem to confirm that this stuff works.
The name might have you believe that this stuff was made for messes of the no. 2 variety, but its popularity is based on its power as a cat urine cleaner.
Anti-Icky-Poo is an enzymatic cleaner that contains a blend of live bacteria and enzymes that work synergistically to break down and consume bacteria, urea, and uric acid.
- Non-toxic formula is safe for use around pets.
- Comes in an unscented or scented formula.
- Has a history of effectively removing odor—Anti-Icky-Poo has been eliminating odors since 1989.
- Has a money-back guarantee if the product doesn’t work as promised.
- Company has excellent customer service according to many reviewers.
- Doesn’t work well on pre-treated stains.
- Some customers find the original scented Anti-Icky-Poo to have an off-putting odor.
Anti-Icky-Poo comes in three different sized bottles with a gallon running around $32. Click to see the price now on Chewy.
Honorable mention: Nature’s Miracle Advanced Just for Cats Stain and Odor Remover
Nature’s Miracle is another popular choice for longtime cat guardians and receives a great amount of positive feedback. Nature’s Miracle is an enzyme cleaner and most customers say it eliminated all traces of urine odor.
While Nature’s Miracle says their product has a light fresh scent, many customers disagree. After a formula change, customers report that the scent is overwhelming, chemical-like, and perfumey. If you’re sensitive to strong fragrances, beware.
- Non-toxic formula is safe for use around pets.
- Nature’s Miracle has a history of effective odor-elimination.
- Good customer service.
- Money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with the product.
- Many customers report an overpowering perfumey fragrance.
- The new formula may discolor carpet.
Once you’re done removing odors with an enzyme or ion cleaner, you might want to clean up the area with a surfactant. Skout’s Honor surfactant cleaner stands out as a natural plant-based, biodegradable and non-toxic choice.
Skout’s Honor is also a company with a commitment to animals and making their lives better. The Skout’s Paw Pledge™ is a collaboration with Rescue Bank® to donate a day’s worth of food to animals in need for every product sold.
If you have lingering stains after using an ion-based or enzyme cleaner, Skout’s Honor should be able to help eliminate the stain. It works without the necessity for pre-treatment and isn’t affected by previous cleaners.
- The non-toxic, vegetable-based formula is safe for pets.
- Biodegradable and free from harsh chemicals.
- Skout’s Honor donates to animals in need with each purchase.
- Most customers say the product eliminated cat urine odor.
- Works on stains already treated with less effective cleaners.
- Many customers say the cleaner’s scent is too strong—almost like bleach.
- May take multiple applications to eliminate odors.
The best cat urine carpet cleaner is the one that works—permanently.
Cat urine is notoriously tough to remove from carpets, but with a good carpet cleaner, you should be able to eliminate the odor and prevent future inappropriate urination.
An enzyme cleaner or ion-based cleaner should be used to eliminate odors and surfactant can scrub out any remaining stains.
For more information on stopping your cat’s inappropriate urination, check out these resources:
- How to Stop Your Cat From Peeing on the Furniture
- How to Stop Your Cat From Peeing Outside the Litter Box