Sometime ago I bought an old house that had soft wood floors. Half the house had carpet. The person that had lived there before had cats, and the carpeted area of the house had a strong cat urine smell. The smell was so strong that you would have a gag reflex when you first went in the house.

The solution I hoped at the time was to remove all the carpet, which I did, and this removed most of the smell. To try and remove the rest of the smell I spread baking soda around, and this seemed to work.

However this was at a cooler time of year. When summer came along a slight cat urine smell would come up from the wooden floors. I was never able to get rid of it completely and each summer I would get this problem, albeit it was less pronounced each year.

I was hoping to eventually put new floor coverings on, but for financial reasons I was never able to.

related post How to get Urine stains out of carpet

  • 1
    You can get some urine removal products for hard floors. They'd likely work better than a homemade solution and are cheaper than replacing the entire floor Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 2:40
  • @ZachSaucier unfortunately (and much to my dismay at the time, since floors that weren't covered were Oak) these floors were soft wood, unfinished pine. The urine was not a stain but had gone deep into the wood. And something like baking soda may have been the best thing to absorb the smell.
    – Jon
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 2:44
  • 3
    That might be good to include in the question itself then ;) Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 2:45
  • @ZachSaucier Please Note the difference between the two way I might have phrased this question: How to get cat urine smell out of wooden floors? How to get cat urine smell off of wooden floors? So I agree by saying it was good that it was included in the question :)
    – Jon
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 14:35
  • Commercial enzyme cleaners. That is what house renovation pros use. Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 12:47

12 Answers 12


Unfortunately, you can't. I've had experience in this area. We had a similar problem, and when we talked to cleaning professionals, they told us that if the wood is soaked with cat urine, the smell will never come out 100%. We were told we had two options.

1) reseal the wood (but this is not a permanent solution. Eventually the smell will seep through again).

2) replace the wood. We ended up doing that option. The cleaners we talked to didn't recommend someone, so they weren't trying to shill for someone. We ended up replacing the wood flooring ourselves. It wasn't as hard a we thought it would be. We also had to replace the subflooring, as the urine had soaked through there too.

  • This was original subflooring. I bought the house as a fixer upper, then 6 months after had a business crash. So I never was able to do much about it. Although airing out so to speak for five years mostly solved the problem. I guess it was a Norm solution. youtube.com/watch?v=47vFmnaZorQ
    – Jon
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 3:15
  • 1
    Ah I, see. Subflooring is so soft it will soak up everything. And being that it is made of pine, it's pretty much permanent. The smell will fade out over many years like you mentioned, but there will always be an underlying odor that will be very subtle. Cat urine is especially insidious because of the very high concentration of ammonia. Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 3:27
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    To whomever flagged this as low quality and downvoters: see this meta post on "conventional answers". Although this may not be what we consider a lifehack, it's still attempting to answer the question and useful. There's nothing requiring you to upvote it, but please refrain from flagging it as low quality because it is not. Thanks! Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 5:48
  • Thank you @ZachSaucier! By the way, @Jon, did I answer your question? Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 5:50
  • 1
    @ZachSaucierI think you did, I will mark it as such in a day or two, just want to be sure there is no solution for a couple days.
    – Jon
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 6:23

Here are some ways to make your urine removal more effective, distilled from this answer on Pets Stack Exchange.

  • Use a product (whether shop-bought or homemade) that breaks down the urine, not just kills the microbes that are acting on the urine. If you just kill the microbes, but don't break down the urine, more microbes will move in later and work on the urine, generating a new smell. Anything labelled as an "enzyme cleaner" should do this.

  • Soak the area thoroughly. A common problem with home urine removal is that people don't soak the soiled area as thoroughly as the original urine soaked it. If you think about it, there is no way that anything that doesn't penetrate as far as the urine did can possibly remove all the smell, because it simply doesn't get far enough to remove it! So whatever you use, use a lot of it.

  • 1
    If the wood has been soaking in urine for months or years, it may not be possible to remove the smell with a product. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 0:02
  • Indeed; I simply offered some ways to increase the chances. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 9:51
  • 2
    We used a product called "bio urin attacke" (amazon.de/Bio-Urin-Attacke-500ml-Geruchsentferner/dp/B003M3BHNG) to clean heavily soaked parquet floor. The key to this is not only to thoroughly soak it, but to also dry it beforehand, which requires many days of extreme heating. The surface might look dry, but under the wood it is still wet, and then the product can't get there. It worked perfectly fine, and the new tenants never smelled anything...
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 10:38

OK, listen up people! I removed cat urine smell from my wood floors!

Volunteering for our local animal shelter, I was given two male cats to foster. The cats had had a terrible life and were not normal. I had never had an adult in-tact male cat and did not know about urine marking. One or both of these cats peed and urine-marked in that room for weeks. I noticed a smell and kept changing the litter, but the litter box never seemed full. Strange! Big mistake not to get to the bottom of what was going on sooner. Anyway, in the end this room is my daughter's bedroom in our 200 year old house and it had a TERRIBLE cat smell. I was not going to rip up old flooring!!!! I read dozens of on-line sites about this problem. I tried everything, lots of the ideas listed here including vinegar and baking soda as well as "Nature's Miracle" which was recommended by the shelter. Nothing worked. Then I finally figured it out by myself.

As mentioned in other answers, the urine soaks into the floor. I realized that even liberally and repeatedly applied, all of the liquids, potions, etc. I put on the floor evaporated in a short time. I needed something to soak in like the urine.

Here's what I did. I took all of the furniture out of the room and used a blue light and my own nose on every inch of the floor. I found three places that really smelled. I then poured Natures Miracle on an area about twice as large as each smelly spot AND I COVERED THE WET SPOT WITH PLASTIC WRAP. At first, I put more liquid under the plastic wrap every few days. After a few weeks, I re-wet the spots under the plastic wrap less frequently. After about 4 months (maybe 6 months, I can't remember), I took the plastic wrap off the floor, in humid summer weather, and the smell was gone. (It goes without saying that I tested all of the potions on a small spot before putting on the floor.)

There you have it! I hope someone sees this idea and benefits from it. I haven't taken the time to write this up and post it on all the boards I consulted when battling this problem. So, I'm doing it here today.

Good luck!!!

  • 3
    I like the plastic wrap to prevent the evaporation of the product and to allow deep penetration of the active agent into the wood. However my concern here would be the development of fungus that could destroy the wood in an environment where liquid is trapped for an extended time. Have you got any information about this too?
    – Flint
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 6:09
  • Hi Flint - Good thought on the fungus, but I had none, even here in New England with all of our weather. Maybe I was just lucky, maybe there was already enough bleach, vinegar, etc on the wood to keep mildew away.
    – Old house
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 3:00
  • When I read that you used your own nose on every inch of the floor, I realized you had experience worth reading. That's because I had the same problem from a renter and I also had to use my nose to smell every inch of the floor. It was extremely humiliating that the grossly inconsiderate renter forced me into such a demeaning position, but it's what I had to do. But I never got rid of the smell 100% and eventually sold the building. You did much more than what I did and could believe that you were successful.
    – ttonon
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 19:36
  • 200 year old house?!
    – Nakilon
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 1:26

You were on the right track with baking soda, but it actually helps more to use vinegar to neutralize the smell of ammonia.

Here's my explanation I gave in my answer to a similar question at Pets:

Something else you can try is vinegar. It's actually really good at getting rid of carpet smells. Basically the vinegar smell replaces the smell of ammonia from the urine, and then you can easily dissipate the vinegar smell with an open window and a few minutes. Just makes sure to use a shop-vac or something to get all the moisture out of the carpet so it doesn't mold underneath.

A lot of the times you won't necessarily want to use straight vinegar, most of the time it's 1/3 vinegar and water. Just mop the floor with the solution and get it into the floor to replace the old urine. Dry it out, and the smell should be gone.

The best way I can explain how it works is that it works in the opposite way that baking soda does. Baking soda is described as absorbing the molecules that smell bad (which is why you put it in fridges), while vinegar will bind to and replace the molecules. This is preferable since the vinegar dissipates in air quickly. It's the same idea as standing in campfire smoke after getting sprayed by a skunk. The smell of smoke get's rid of the smell of skunk, and the smoke washes out with a good scrub of normal soap.

  • Most of the guidelines I saw online seemed to suggest using vinegar first, and then using baking soda. Presumably the soda absorbs any vinegar that didn't dissipate, or else the vinegar removes most of the smell and then the soda tidies up what's left. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 9:51

The best thing I have found is soaking the floor/ carpet with vinegar then sprinkle baking soda over it and after a few min pour some vinegar over it. It does bubble up and when that stops scrub it down. Sometimes I'll use more vinegar and then water sometimes just vinegar. This seems to really get the smell out.

  • 1
    This is a very helpful answer. I think the only way it could be improved would be to add some references/links etc. :)
    – L.B.
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 16:36

A lot of post about using enzyme base cleaners on plywood subfloors.Not a good idea.Reason, these types of cleaners eat the urine compounds,then continue on to eat the cellulose fibers in the wood itself.Cellulose is what gives wood it's strenght. I used one of the first enzymatic cleaners on the market, purchased on the net and cost a fortune.While it did remove the smell, it also ate the floor, it took several years but one day I stepped right through the floor. In essence it worked, had to rip out the floor. Now these products warn not to use on unfinished wood.


Chlorine bleach worked for me in a similar situation, as long as it can soak in to the wood as deep as the urine has. Dilute about 5:1 with water, and be sure to ventilate the place and not spend much time inside until the chlorine smell has gone away. You can actually see the bleach work on areas where the urine is concentrated, as it will bubble...

Re "You can't use Chlorine with cat urine as cat urine has a lot of ammonia. Combining chlorine and ammonia makes a very dangerous and poisonous gas!"

Naturally you should do this (or anything involving chlorine bleach) in a well-ventilated area, but the fact that I did it (on quite a bit of cat urine, too - I don't think the previous owner of this house had a sense of smell :-(), and am alive and healthy 15 years later, suggests that "very dangerous" is something of an exaggeration.


You cannot "remove" cat soaked urine odors from Hardwood. The only option is to refinish "Sand" the floors. Any undesirable boards that turned black from the urine acid will need to be replaced. After sanding it is best to use 3 coats of finish. Swedish finish is recommended. Not many hardwood floor guys are proficient with swedish finish application so do your homework. The alcohol in swedish helps kill any bacteria left from the urine. Oil polyurethane would be 2nd choice but takes much longer to harden. I've seen waterbased finish absorb the odor. 30 year hardwood flooring refinisher.


The only thing that worked for me was bleach, pure, undiluted bleach. I tried white vinegar - what a mistake. The urine smell went from bad to worse. Not only did the floor smell of urine, it then wreaked of urine and vinegar! Awful! I tried store bought products, and lots of them, none worked. I tried a formula of baking soda and detergent - waste of time. Then I saturated the floor with bleach and waited a few days until it dried completely and then repeated this twice more. It’s been over a year and the smell is completely gone.


I had dark cat urine stains on the hard wood floor, on a daily basis I sprayed the area with Hydrogen Peroxide 3% solution and within three weeks the stains were almost completely gone. This information I found in a You tube video.

  • Welcome to Lifehacks SE. Could you please link video, if you have the link available?
    – holroy
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 12:18
  • A search on "cat urine peroxide youtube" found about 4 right away. Here is one. - youtube.com/watch?v=c63uLU9BMoo
    – KalleMP
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 17:42

The operative chemical in cat urine is ammonia. Bleach (hypochlorite) chemically reacts with ammonia and will destroy it. Don't breath the ammonium chloride gas that is produced because it is poisonous.

Unfortunately, this is really only a partial solution because usually the piss will be in unreachable areas so the smell will still be there.

The ultimate solution which is used by professionals is to ozone bomb the house. You seal the house up and run an ozone machine in it for 24 hours. This will neutralize every smell in the house including cat urine. Ozone is bad for various things so it is best if the house is empty when this is done.

  • Yup, ozone can bleach things (pictures, fabrics, paints, wallpaper) and even make some plastics age faster but still an option for some cases. I have used our bathtub ozone spar unit left on all day a few days in a row with the house empty. Air it out some before settling in afterwards as high ozone concentrations are a respiratory tract irritant (not good for asthmatics).
    – KalleMP
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 17:39

vinegar is better at cutting more harmful bacteria than bleach. If you have a problem with the straight vinegar smell you can all ways use cider vinegar. I make my own orange vinegar to use on cleaning the house, I moved into an old home which also has the wood flooring under layers of carpet. I also have cats & puppies. They are drawn to the smell

I used my carpet cleaner with the cider vinegar in it instead of soap. Turned on as many fans that I could find and also the dehydrator after finished the cleaning. After a few days I put either lime or diatomaceous earth.

This is working great. One room at a time but it is getting done.

  • I only use the lime or diatomaceous earth (food grade) to help as a drying agent. Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 15:31
  • But the question is about how to get the smell out, which has nothing to do with bacteria.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 18:05
  • Vinegar will cut the smell like nothing else will. Sorry I lost track and forgot to add that. Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 4:17

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