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How to Get Rid of Cat Smell in an Apartment: 7 Practical Options

cat pee at the carpet

Some people are fine with the pungent aroma of their pets, but in an apartment, it’s crucial to get rid of cat odors in any situation. If you’re renting, the stale stench of cat urine, dander, and hair is a surefire way to lose a security deposit. And when it comes time to show the place, landlords will have trouble selling prospective renters on an apartment that reeks.

Cats have a knack for staining the air with foul smells, and it’ll take more than a scented candle to make a difference. If you need help freshening up the place, here are seven practical options to remove a cat smell from your apartment.

divider 4 Top 7 Ways to Get Rid of Cat Smell in an Apartment

1. Enzyme Cleaners

Cat urine and vomit are particularly challenging to remove after drying into carpet and upholstery, so simple soap and water solutions are not always enough to eliminate odors for good. The most effective way to remove lingering cat smell is with enzymatic cleaners.

The enzymes in these cleaners break down various waste molecules, which bacteria then consume to remove them from the material. It’s a highly effective way to remove hard-to-reach odor molecules, and it continues working until all of the waste is used up.


Are you looking for an enzyme cleaner that can keep your house clean and your pet happy? We recommend the Hepper Advanced Bio-Enzyme Pet Stain & Odor Eliminator Spray, which permanently gets rid of the most stubborn stains and smells. There’s even a 100% satisfaction guarantee so you can try this cleaner risk-free! Click here to order your first bottle.

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2. Hydrogen Peroxide and Dish Soap

A 3% hydrogen peroxide and dish soap mixture make an excellent cat urine odor remover for carpets and upholstery—if the urine is fresh. The solution destroys bacteria that feed on urea and give off the trademark ammonia-like smell of cat pee.

Although hydrogen peroxide is an effective antimicrobial solution, it won’t oxidize uric acid, the hard crystals that embed themselves in carpet and upholstery fibers when they dry. That’s why you need an enzymatic cleaner for old cat urine—it dissolves soiling to remove it.

3. White Vinegar

vinegar and cleaning supplies on the table
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

If you don’t have an enzymatic cleaner, you can try a white vinegar spray on an old urine spot. The acetic acid in the vinegar helps break down uric acid and remove stains.

Mix one part distilled white vinegar with one part water in a spray bottle and spray the stained area. Let it sit for a few minutes before blotting it up with a towel. You can also put in a few drops of dish soap for an added cleaning boost.

4. Deodorize Floors with Baking Soda

After cleaning the carpet with your liquid solution, you can use baking soda for another round of odor elimination. Baking soda will dry up the remaining liquid and neutralize the acidic odor coming from the urine.

Sprinkle baking powder over the dirty spot after using your cleaner and let it sit for 30 minutes or more. The baking soda will clump and turn yellow as it absorbs the stain and remaining liquid. Once it’s soaked up, vacuum the baking soda out of the carpet or fabric.

5. Vacuum Cat Hair and Dander

gray scottish fold cat with vacuum cleaner on floor
Image Credit: kholywood, Shutterstock

Accidents, spraying, and vomit aren’t the only ways cats bring acrid odors into our homes. Cat hair and dander—the allergy-activating dry flecks of skin that cats shed—capture unpleasant odors that persist as long as they hang around the house.

You can eliminate lingering sources of cat smell in your apartment by vacuuming your carpet and furniture thoroughly. Sprinkle baking soda around the room and vacuum again after a few hours for extra odor-busting power. Make sure to keep your pets clear of the room while the baking soda is down on the ground.

Try using your upholstery attachment on furniture to dig cat hair off of the fabric. If vacuuming isn’t working, use a lint roller or packing tape to pull any remaining hair off the cloth.

6. Fresh Air and Sunshine

After you’ve tried all of your cleaning solutions, it’s a good idea to air out the room anyways to dissipate fumes and cleaner by-products. But getting the airflow going will also help reduce any leftover aromas coming from a cat stain.

Open a window to let the air and sunlight into your home. Not only will you waft cat smells and cleaner vapors out of the room, but you’ll also take advantage of the deodorizing and freshening power of the sun. UV rays can help kill bacteria and mold, making sunlight one of the cheapest and most convenient ways to start removing old cat odors from your apartment.

7. Use an Air Purifier

LEVOIT Air Purifier

An air purifier is an excellent tool to extract cat smells from the air. The machine circulates air, pulling it in to filter out contaminants and pushing it out clean on the other side.

The most effective filters for reducing odors are HEPA and activated carbon filters. HEPA filters remove allergens and large odor-causing particles like pet dander and hair, but they can’t capture the minuscule chemicals that create unpleasant aromas.

To remove odors, use an activated carbon filter. These filters adsorb gasses and various chemical compounds out of the air.

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Can You Steam Clean Cat Urine Out of Carpet and Upholstery?

Steam cleaning likely sounds like a great first plan of attack on deep-down pet stains. But at most, you should only use your steam cleaner as a follow-up to a spray cleaner.

Uric acid crystals and salts in cat urine create a tight bond with material fibers, which is why the smell is so hard to remove. You need something powerful enough to break down those waste solids so they’ll evaporate or wash out easily.

Water alone doesn’t dissolve those solids. In most cases, it will make the cat smell worse, as moisture and humidity cause the uric acid crystals to emit a more powerful odor. It’s not uncommon for a carpet cleaning to reignite a foul cat smell that had previously gone away.

If you steam clean a stain before using a cleaning spray on it, you risk bringing it back to life! Use your enzyme spray or natural cleaning solution to remove as much of the odor source as possible. After removing the cat stains, you can steam your carpet and furniture, preferably with a cleaning solution for pets.

black light illuminating spot of cat pee
Image Credit: In The Light Photography, Shutterstock

How Do You Find Cat Urine?

If you’re having a hard time finding the source of the smell, look around the hot spots first and try to isolate the odor to a single room. It’s a good idea to check planters and soft surfaces such as carpets, pillows, furniture, and bedding. You may want to wash your linens and any other material that might have caught the cat smell.

Cats will also spray vertical surfaces. Along with carpeting and furniture, you may need to clean your walls or hard case goods like your dresser or TV stand to remove the smell of old cat urine.

When you’ve dealt with the smell of cat urine for a while, it isn’t the easiest to pinpoint. Instead of trying to sniff it out, darken the room and use a UV blacklight flashlight to locate dried cat urine stains, which glow a yellow-green color under the light. You can buy these flashlights at online retailers like Amazon.

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Final Thoughts

Cat urine is like glue on fabric, and conventional cleaning solutions often aren’t enough to fully eliminate the smell. With these seven tips on getting rid of cat smell in apartments, you’ll save time and effort on a difficult chore.

Knowing how to remove cat smells from an apartment is helpful, but it’s even more cost-effective to prevent them. As a landlord, you may want to consider adding restrictions or pet deposits to your tenancy agreements. Setting clear expectations, encouraging conversation, and covering contingencies are the best ways to ensure a positive experience for everyone involved.

Related Read: How to Get Rid of Cat Pee Smell: 6 Practical Options

Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock


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