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A step-by-step guide on removing new and old pee stains, according to experts

Urine stains? They're really nothing more than a wee problem — as long as you treat the area quickly and use the right products.
Vivian Le/ TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Accidents happen! Whether it was a little one who peed the bed or a pet who couldn't make it until the walk, asked a team of cleaning experts to share how professionals would tackle this problem and clean new and old urine stains on different surfaces. Plus, we found a few products that'll help you tackle the stains efficiently.

Clothing and bedding | Furniture | Carpet | Products you'll need | Meet the experts

How to clean pee stains on clothing and bedding

Debra Johnson, a cleaning expert for Merry Maids, recommends running urine-soaked articles through a full-wash cycle using cold water and one cup of distilled white vinegar (without detergent first). Vinegar is an excellent urine stain remover; it breaks down the uric acid in urine and makes the stain easier to remove.

When the cycle is complete, run the load again (this time adding detergent) and wash at the hottest water temperature recommended for the fabric.

If the stain has been in the fabric for an extended period of time, soak the article overnight in the vinegar and water, then wash as usual in the morning. Repeat soaking the item in vinegar and water until stain is removed.

How to clean pee stains on furniture

Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning upholstery. For silk, antique and vintage upholstery, consult a cleaning professional. In the meantime, here are some tips for things you can do at home.

Fresh urine stains

Johnson’s easy method for removing fresh urine stains from furniture uses detergent, vinegar and water. She shares the following step-by-step guide for getting human and pet urine stains and smells out of a couch and other furniture:

  1. Lightly blot the urine stain with a microfiber cloth to remove excess urine. If you press too hard, you may spread the stain. (Tip: If the stain is fresh, a wet/dry vac will do a great job.)
  2. Mix 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid with 2 cups of cold water in a small bowl.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar (to disinfect the area and break down the acid) to the solution and gently stir.
  4. Dip a clean microfiber cloth into the solution.
  5. Gently sponge the urine stain, starting at the outside of the stain and working toward the center.
  6. Repeat as needed.
  7. Rinse out detergent residue by blotting the area with a damp cloth.
  8. Using a dry microfiber cloth, gently blot the area until it’s dry.

Old urine stains

Jason Weaver of ServiceMaster Restore removes old urine stains from upholstery with a DIY formula.

  1. In a bowl, mix 10 ounces of 3% hydrogen peroxide, 3 tablespoons of recently opened baking soda and two to three drops of dishwashing detergent. Mix until the baking soda is dissolved.
  2. Pour into a spray bottle.
  3. Pre-test the upholstery by spraying some cleaner in an inconspicuous place.
  4. Allow it to dry. If the fabric does not change color, proceed with the following steps.
  5. Spray the stain and allow the cleaner to work for an hour. If the stain is not gone, repeat the process.
  6. After the stain is gone, rinse the cleaning solution from the area by dabbing with a damp cloth and blotting with a dry towel until all cleaning solution is gone. This is an important step because detergent residue will attract dirt over time. Hydrogen peroxide could also bleach the upholstery and weaken the fibers of the fabric if not fully removed.
  7. If the stain remains, contact a professional upholstery cleaner.

How to clean pee stains on carpet

Matt Smith, vice president of marketing for Simple Solution cleaning products, explains that when it comes to pet stains and odor on carpets, the main issue for consumers is not using enough product. Johnson and Weaver agree. Here are their tips for removing urine stains new and old from carpet:

Fresh urine stains

  1. Using a wet/dry vac or paper towels, remove as much urine as possible from carpet.
  2. Rinse the stain once with cold water.
  3. Vacuum or blot excess water.
  4. Wet the soiled area with an enzyme-based product and allow it sit for at least five minutes. “Pet urine tends to leak down into carpet backing and spreads for several inches,” says Smith. “So it’s best to spray a ring a few inches outside the stain area and then generously spray the stain remover on the area inside the ring to saturate the carpet and the pad below it.”
  5. Allow the cleaner to dry naturally, then vacuum.

Smith emphasizes the importance of letting the product sit and do its job. “Many people spray and remove immediately, which isn’t the right way to clean a pet stain."

Old urine stains

Old urine stains can be hard to fight — and sometimes even hard to find. Make your job easier by using a UV urine-finder that uses black light to identify set-in stains.

Once you find the stains, it’s important to note that they’ll require more stain remover than fresh stains. “Instead of using a simple enzyme cleaner, you may want to try an oxygen-activated enzyme cleaner to remove the stains and destroy the odor. Apply as directed and allow it to dry naturally, then vacuum,” Smith suggests.

What you'll need to remove urine stains

Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda

When tackling old urine stains on furniture, Weaver's DIY formula includes a few tablespoons of recently opened baking soda (not to be confused with baking powder). If you're in need of a new one, these small one-pound boxes are less than a dollar.

Good & Gather White Distilled Vinegar

Vinegar is a powerhouse ingredient for everything from cleaning urine stains to laundry to cooking. For less than $4, you'll have plenty to go around.

Out! PetCare Orange Oxy Stain & Odor Remover

If you're following Smith's tips, this stain and odor remover is the oxygen-activated enzyme cleanser you're looking for. The brand says it'll tackle all of your toughest stains while leaving your home smelling fresh and clean.

Tolco Empty Spray Bottles

You'll need empty spray bottles for the mixtures Johnson and Weaver recommend. For less than $8, you can snag these three 8-ounce bottles. You'll have one for each of the recommended formulas and one leftover for whatever you'd like.

Mr. Siga Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

No matter what you're cleaning, you'll want to make sure you have a plethora of microfiber cloths on hand. This pack of twelve will keep you fully stocked.

Realhunlee UV Flashlight Black Light

Sometimes older stains can settle in to fabrics and go unseen to the naked eye. To ensure you're getting the best clean possible, try using a UV light to identify potential problem areas.

Armor All Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum

This portable wet/dry vacuum is perfect for not only cleaning urine stains around your home but also giving your furniture a deep clean and even cleaning your car! It has a 2.5-gallon tank, a 10-foot cord and multiple nozzles so you can tackle every project efficiently.

Bissell Little Green Portable Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

An Amazon No. 1 bestseller, this portable cleaner has garnered almost 46,000 verified five-star ratings. Its tank holds 48 ounces so you don't have to worry about emptying and refilling after cleaning every stain. "I've used it on a few different types of stains, including pet accidents, food spills, and mud, and it's been able to get them all out without any problems," raved one recent five-star reviewer.

Meet the experts

  • Debra Johnson is the director of operations at Merry Maids, a home cleaning service with franchises nationwide.
  • Jason Weaver is the director of technical services and support at ServiceMaster Restore, a company that provides commercial and residential restoration after damage from water, fire, smoke, mold and more.
  • Matt Smith is the vice president of marketing for Simple Solutions cleaning products.