It’s on everyone’s list of fears – needing to clean a mattress for any reason. Like many other large items of furniture, mattresses are expensive, you can’t throw them into a washing machine, and they don’t clean easily. Whether it’s spilling a drink or waking to find that your child has soiled the bed, it’s a messy situation that none of us wants to be in.
And when it comes to soiling the bed, no matter whether you are in the position at the moment, asking for a friend, or preparing well in advance, it’s always good to know how to get pee out of a mattress. The short answer is: very quickly, the sooner the better. For the long answer, we will dig a little deeper into the situation.
If you have ever stepped foot in a public restroom, you know how quickly the smell of urine can take over a room. It is a confronting and sometimes overwhelming smell that cannot be ignored and is hard to hide, so it’s best to take swift action.
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How To Get Pee Out of A Mattress
Your first reaction, understandably, would have been to throw out the mattress. But then there’s that issue of beds being quite expensive. Your next reaction would likely be to throw out the culprit. Which would probably be frowned upon. If neither of those two solutions are options, you may be in luck.
Experts say that it’s best to begin cleaning your mattress as early in the morning as possible. This will give your stain ample time to dry before bed, and it will hopefully get some fresh air and sun.
- First and foremost – spot dry. If you haven’t already, stop everything that you’re doing, remove all bedding, and blot that spot dry! Use a dry sponge or paper towel to soak up as much of the remaining liquid as you can. Getting the excess urination out will mean less of a clean-up in the following steps.
- Avoid using any of the cleaners or chemicals we mentioned above. Not only do they have the potential to damage your bed, but it could end up being a waste of your time and money for a solution that won’t completely solve the problem.
- Apply your enzyme-based stain remover. When determining how much to use, a good rule of thumb is to estimate how much urine would have initially soaked through. By using roughly the same amount, you can penetrate the mattress as much as the pee would have, giving you the best chance to let the enzymes in the cleaner to clean thoroughly.
- Allow the mattress to air dry. If you have outdoor space, move the bed to an outdoor location. If not, placing it in front of an open window or fan will help it dry quicker.
- If the stain and odor are still present after it has dried completely, repeat the process until both are completely gone. This could take a few applications to clean the stain entirely.
- Once the area is clean, use water and a paper towel to spot dry any leftover residue from the cleaning liquid. Cleaning the residue will help prevent the area from attracting dirt.
- This is also a good time to give your mattress a good vacuum. Any leftover dirt from skin cells, sweat, and tiny allergen particles will be removed, preventing them from penetrating into the newly cleaned stain.
Note that the enzyme-based cleaner may increase the smell of pee, but don’t worry! This simply means that the cleaner is breaking down the urine and is completely normal, especially with older or heavier stains. (Source)
What’s in Pee? It’s Science!
One thing to remember is that human urine and animal urine are two different things. Let’s have a quick look at the scientific breakdown between humans, dogs, and cats, just so that we’re clear.
As you can see, a common component in urine is uric acid. This is important because this is where most of the smell that remains comes from.
Have you ever heard that cat pee is much more potent and challenging to get rid of? This is because cats don’t drink as much water as humans and dogs. For this reason, the uric acid isn’t diluted as much and remains more concentrated, making the stench linger longer if not cleaned right away.
Why Shouldn’t You Let it Set?
For this, let’s look at human urine. There are a few factors which can contribute to human urine having a strong odor. The main culprits for causing a distinct smell in pee include:
- Bacteria. Infections such as a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) can present a “fishy” odor.
- Foods. Certain foods can cause the urine to have a smell, such as asparagus, which is caused by the way the body breaks down asparagusic acid. Coffee, tuna, onions, and other spicy food can also have an effect on the way the urine smells.
- Disease. Kidney diseases, for example, kidney stones, can cause urine to have a smell that is more on the sweet side.
Usually, when released, fresh urine does not have the foul odor that we think of when the topic comes to mind. The smell comes later when the urea and uric acid crystals (which we saw in the table above) break down and release ammonia. As a colorless gas made up of hydrogen and nitrogen, many of us are familiar with its pungent smell.
It Creates Behavioral Issues
As we all know, animals don’t just use their pee to eliminate waste; they also use it to mark their territory. Have you ever noticed that your dog has a favorite tree or lamp post that he pees on during every walk? This is because their noses can smell that they have gone in that location before, and they are simply re-marking their territory. This can be similar for cats.
Once your pet has peed in the wrong place (your mattress), they will be drawn back to that place, regardless of the reason why they initially went there. Animals are creatures of habit and will continue to urinate in the wrong place if not treated and cleaned correctly.
It Can Cause Damage
Remember the uric acid we discussed earlier? They contain salt crystals which are non-soluble, meaning they cannot be cleaned with average cleaning products. Over time, these salt crystals attract dirt and dust and become more visible to the naked eye. Over time they can change the dyes within fabrics, and you will end up with yellowish stains on the mattress.
Additionally, even if you think you may have cleaned it well, elements such as moisture in the air and direct sunlight can reignite the stain, making the smell return as if it was never gone. You can just envision the cat pee cooking into your bed fibers.
It goes without saying that even if there was no smell coming from the stain, continuing to sleep on dried urine, no matter whose it is, is pretty gross. Even with bedding, it’s only a matter of time before it gets into your sheets and clothing as well.
How Not to Get Pee Out of A Mattress
When it comes to cover-ups, rather than a real solution to the stain, these popular options can actually do more harm than good:
- Bleach – Bleach always seems like the best option for removing stains. You see it on TV when they need to clean blood and get whites even whiter. However, not all mattresses are white and throwing bleach on an off-white mattress will not only highlight the stain, but it also may not get the smell out entirely.
- Ammonia – As mentioned before, both human and animal urine contains ammonia. Using Ammonia will not only make the scent worse; it is actually incredibly toxic and considered a hazardous substance. When it comes to your bed, you don’t want to be inhaling these fumes as you sleep.
- Homemade cleaning solutions – We’ve all heard the old wives’ tales about combinations of baking soda, vinegar, peroxide, and others. The problem with these options is that they do little more than mask the stench, resulting in having to repeat the process over and over.
If you use these option but find yourself still getting whiffs of pee, this is because general cleaning solutions do not contain the enzymes that are needed to break down the bacteria and grime that has accumulated on the uric acid crystals.
How Do Enzyme-Based Cleaners Work?
It all comes back to science. Enzyme-based cleaners, or bio-enzymatic cleaners, contain enzymes, bacteria, and microbial nutrients that consume and dissolve the chemicals within the urine. Because enzymes are proteins, they can break up molecules that are found in waste into smaller fragments. This allows the digestion to take place.
So, rather than masking the urine and the odor that comes with it, these types of cleaners eat away at the stain.
Just like all pee stains, all mattresses are not created the same. If the above cleaning methods don’t apply for you, here are a few situations where you will need a bit more help.
The Smell Is Gone, But the Stain Remains
If you’ve managed to completely remove the odor, but still have the unsightly stains, you’re in luck. This could happen when you have successfully penetrated deep into the mattress to get the uric acid out, but the liquid has caused the stain to spread across the surface. Here’s where your homemade remedies should do the trick.
Use the following vinegar solution to clean yellowing discoloration from urine stains.
How to Clean Urine From A Mattress with Vinegar
An essential point to note is that the homemade concoctions mentioned above are great as a short-term solution or for general stains. When it’s the middle of the night and you’re fresh out of enzyme-based cleaners, don’t hesitate to use these in a pinch.
- Using a spray bottle, spray the entire surface of the stain with vinegar. If there are multiple stains, spray each one individually (no need to douse the whole mattress!). Let the vinegar sit on the stain for 7-10 minutes.
- Grab paper towels or a clean rag and press into the stain. You want to soak up the excess liquid, but the mattress will still be slightly damp.
- Sprinkle baking soda over the stain or various stains. It’s best to do this early in the day, if possible. You want to leave the baking soda on as long as you can. When the baking soda appears to be caking, it’s absorbing the remainder of the vinegar and hopefully taking the yellow stains as well.
- Vacuum the baking powder/vinegar solution. At this point, it’s a good idea to vacuum the entire mattress to prevent further staining.
Cleaning Old Pee from A Mattress
When cleaning urine from a mattress, time is of the essence. However, getting straight to it isn’t always possible, especially if it’s a stain you didn’t know was there until it’s way too late.
If you are trying to get very old stains that still have the urine odor, repeat the above steps, but rather than letting the mattress air dry for a few hours, wrap it in plastic wrap and let sit for 24 for 48 hours. The restriction of the plastic will allow the liquid cleaner to stay saturated in the mattress, giving it the opportunity to work on the stain longer.
How to Get Pee Out Of A Pillow Top Mattress
Pillow top mattresses are wonderful because who doesn’t want to feel like they’re sleeping on a cloud. The only downside is the clean-up. Being so fluffy (and pillow-like) they are more porous than a regular mattress, meaning they can absorb and hold onto liquid for much longer.
- Similar to cleaning a regular mattress, use a clean towel or sponge to blot dry as much of the liquid from the surface as you can. Try not to wipe or scrub as this might spread the stain or damage the fabric.
- Once the mattress begins to feel nearly dry, use the hose attachment of your vacuum cleaner across the soiled surface. This won’t actually remove the stain, but it will help remove any dust or dirt that will make the stain worse.
- Apply your enzyme cleaner to a sponge, and gently press along the stain. You want to keep the pillow top as dry as you can, but still get the stain out.
- While you want to soak the stain thoroughly, you also want to keep the entire mattress as dry as possible. Try not to apply so much cleaning solution that areas that haven’t been affected are now wet as well. Use a clean sponge or cloth to gently remove the cleaning product from the surface.
- As with a regular mattress, give it time to dry naturally, either outside or with fans. Because of the pillow top, it can take a while to dry completely.
- After it has dried, check for discoloration of the mattress. If there is some discoloration, repeat the steps.
How to Get Pee Out of A Memory Foam Mattress
A memory foam mattress may seem like it would be more difficult to clean than a regular mattress, but the good news is that it’s all very similar.
Repeat the steps above, but when blotting the area to dry it, don’t be afraid to press more firmly. Memory foam can take up to a few days to dry, so be prepared to sleep elsewhere while you wait. Avoid using a hairdryer to dry the area as too much heat is bad for memory foam mattresses.
When All Else Fails
So, you’ve tried everything. The homemade remedies, the cheap store options, the expensive store options – nothing is working. Well, before you really do throw out the bed, try consulting with a professional mattress cleaner. Sometimes your best bet is high grade, industrial quality cleaning products. Something you can’t find on the shelf at your local grocery store.
When asking around, be sure to enquire what products they use and make sure they’re insured. This will save you a headache in case additional damage is done to your bed.
If, on the other hand, you’re nearly due for a new mattress anyway, it may be time to throw in the towel (mattress) and begin your search for a new bed.
Stop It Before It Happens
If you want to take steps to avoid the whole ordeal before it even happens, mattress covers are easy to find in stores and online and can save you money in the long-run. If there were to be an accident, they are easier to clean than a mattress as they can either be vacuumed or soak cleaned in a large tub.
There are various types of mattress covers, but they are commonly made of cotton with an additional waterproofing material and can be almost as thin as a fitted sheet. What’s even more beneficial is that they help to protect more than just accidents – they also protect both you and the mattress against allergens, dust mites, sweat, and dead skin cells.