How to Remove Urine Stains and Smell From a Mattress

Last Updated On April 9th, 2024
How to Remove Urine Stains and Smell From a Mattress

Key Takeaways

  • Act Promptly: Dealing with urine-stained mattresses promptly is essential to prevent unpleasant odors and potential mold growth. Basic household items like vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and liquid detergent can be used for effective cleaning.
  • Multiple Cleaning Methods: Depending on the type and age of urine stains, there are different cleaning methods. For fresh stains, white vinegar and baking soda can be effective. Stubborn stains may require a combination of white vinegar and laundry detergent, while old stains benefit from hydrogen peroxide solutions. For strong-smelling pet stains, enzymatic cleaners work well.
  • Prevention is Key: To prevent pet accidents on your mattress, create a pet deterrent using a mixture of water, vinegar, and citrus-scented essential oil. Establish a routine for your pet’s bathroom breaks to reduce nighttime accidents. Consider using a waterproof mattress protector to safeguard your mattress from urine and other liquid spills, extending its lifespan and hygiene.

As unglamorous as it may be, everyone has dealt or will eventually deal with a urine-stained mattress. Whether from a pet, family member, or yourself, accidents happen.

When accidents happen, we encourage you to tackle the clean up as soon as possible. Allowing urine to settle into your mattress will not only result in an unpleasant aroma but potentially lead to mold growth. Luckily, basic household items can help you avoid these adverse effects. Ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and liquid detergent will easily sterilize and renew your mattress after a urine accident.

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In this article, we provide step-by-step instructions for cleaning your mattress and removing every type of urine stain, as well as any lingering odors.

Quick Guide: A 30-Second Summary

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Four Ways to Tackle Accidents on a Mattress

Method 1: Best for Wet Stains

This method is the most common because it is quick and effective, making it best for recent accidents. Let’s take a look at how it is done.

What you will need:

  • Paper towels to soak up excess liquid
  • Distilled white vinegar to break down uric acid (metabolic waste released through urination) and neutralize the smell
  • Your favorite essential oil to further reduce urine odor or minimize vinegar smell (optional)
  • Baking soda to lift and absorb the urine while removing any remaining stench
  • Spray bottle to apply white vinegar and essential oil
  • Vacuum cleaner to remove the baking soda
  1. If the urine stain is fresh, use paper towels to blot up as much urine as possible. Do not rub or wipe the wet area, as this could force the stain deep into your mattress’s fibers and make it more difficult to remove. Also, be sure to grab a new paper towel every time one becomes soiled.
  2. Once a majority of the urine is removed, lightly coat the affected area with baking soda.
  3. Next, pour undiluted white vinegar into a spray bottle. If the vinegar smell is too strong for you, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil as well.
  4. Spray the urine stain until it is covered, but do not drench it. Let the vinegar sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Once you have let the vinegar sit, use new paper towels to soak up any excess moisture. This step will remove some of the baking soda you initially applied—that’s okay.
  6. Sprinkle more baking soda over the stained area and let it sit for 18 hours. To further freshen your bed, sprinkle baking soda over the entire surface of the mattress. The required time for this step may call for altered sleeping arrangements.
  7. After 18 hours have passed, vacuum the top of your mattress several times to remove the baking soda.

Method 2: Best for Stubborn Stains

If the above method does not remove the stain or urine smell from your mattress, you may need the reinforcement of laundry detergent.

What you will need:

  • Paper towels to remove surplus moisture
  • Distilled white vinegar to combat uric acid and ammonia smell
  • Color-safe laundry detergent to further weaken uric acid and urine odor
  • Spray bottle to spread white vinegar and laundry detergent
  • Baking soda to soak up urine
  • Vacuum cleaner to clean up the baking soda

Then follow these five steps:

  1. If the stain is fresh, dab it with paper towels, removing as much urine as you can. As mentioned above, do not rub or wipe the fresh urine stain.
  2. Pour the white vinegar into a spray bottle then lightly coat the affected area and let it sit for one hour. After one hour, use fresh paper towels to soak up any remaining moisture.
  3. Rinse out your spray bottle and fill it halfway with a color-friendly liquid laundry detergent to prevent discoloring your mattress. Fill the remaining space with cold water and gently swirl the bottle to mix the two ingredients together. Avoid warm water because it will set the stain, making it more difficult to remove.
  4. Use the spray bottle to thinly coat the urine stain with the solution and let it sit for one hour. After one hour, use paper towels to blot dry any excess moisture.
  5. Generously cover the affected area with baking soda. Allow the baking soda to sit for at least 8 hours, then vacuum it dry.

Method 3: Best for Old Stains

Once urine has dried, it sets into the fibers of our mattress, leaving behind a dingy yellow color. These types of stains call for strong oxidizing agents, such as hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide changes the chemical compound of urine by breaking down its chromophore—a part of the molecule that absorbs visible light to create color.

Although hydrogen peroxide is an effective antiseptic and stain remover, it can discolor fabric so it isn’t the best choice for non-white mattresses. It may also compromise the consistency of mattresses with foam, resulting in a lumpy and worn surface.

Therefore, hydrogen peroxide solution is best for non-foam pillow tops and innerspring mattresses while anyone with a memory foam, latex, hybrid, or foam pillow top mattress should avoid using it.

What you will need:

  • Baking soda to absorb dry urine stain and absorb lingering odor
  • Hydrogen peroxide to dissolve the bold stain and diminish bacteria
  • Liquid dishwashing detergent to penetrate and break down uric acid while neutralizing the smell
  • Spray bottle to dispense the solution
  • Vacuum to remove left over baking soda and solution residue
  1. Sprinkle baking soda over the dry stain and use an old toothbrush or dry cloth to work it into the mattress’s fabric. Let the baking soda sit until it begins to darken. Darkened baking soda is a sign of urine absorption. Once it has darkened, you can vacuum it dry. To maximize the results, complete this step until the baking soda remains white.
  2. Next, combine 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, 3 tablespoons of baking soda, and a few drops of liquid dish detergent in a bowl. Mix the three ingredients together, then pour the solution into a spray bottle. We advise mixing the ingredients in a bowl first because shaking the spray bottle to blend them will cause messy foaming.
  3. Evenly cover the urine stain with the cleaning solution, but do not soak it. Let the mixture sit until it has dried. You can leave a window open or point a fan toward it to speed up the drying process.
  4. Once the mixture has dried, use your vacuum to suck up any remaining residue.

Another method for old pee stains is borax powder. Borax is toxic to humans, so it’s important to take safety precautions and protect yourself. Wear rubber gloves and eye protection to prevent skin or eye irritation and avoid inhaling the powder. Along with these items, you’ll need soft-bristled brush and a vacuum cleaner.

Dampen the old stain with water before applying the borax. However, avoid flooding the area with water; you want the borax to penetrate the stain. Sprinkle a liberal amount of borax powder directly onto the urine stain. Make sure to cover the entire stained area. Alternatively, you can make a paste by mixing one cup of borax with one tablespoon of water and rub it into the stain.

Use a soft-bristled brush to work the borax into the stain lightly. Rub it well into the fabric to maximize its effectiveness in neutralizing the odor and removing the stain. Allow the borax to dry completely. Once the borax has dried, vacuum the mattress thoroughly to remove any residue. Even if you don’t see any visible powder, we recommend vacuuming the entire mattress to ensure all the borax is removed.

Borax can irritate the skin and eyes, so if you come into contact with it, wash your skin with clean water and rinse your eyes with an eyewash or clean water if necessary.

Method 4: Best for Strong Smelling Stains

Sometimes urine contains a high concentration of ammonia—an unhealthy waste product caused by dehydration, bladder stones, infections, or other health conditions. Accidents with pet urine may have a stronger ammonia smell than human pee, as well.

Dog or cat pee has a different chemical composition than human urine, with more concentrated elements and added extras like ammonia (cats and dogs) or carbohydrates and fatty acids (dog pee only). Removing the pee smell of your pet’s accident is important as otherwise, your pet may consider the area “marked” and may return to the spot again to do their business.

Ammonia carries a lingering scent pungent enough to disturb sleep. Luckily, enzymatic cleaners were specifically designed to combat such odors.

These types of cleaners contain enzymes called protease as well as safe and natural bacteria. The protease enzymes break down protein-based stains, such as urine, into small particles for the natural bacteria to digest. Once the bacteria absorb the small particles of urine, they transform into carbon dioxide and water to evaporate.

Enzymatic cleaners are the most effective way to remove urine stains and smell, but be sure to conduct a spot test on a non-visible area of the mattress before applying it to the affected area. If your enzyme cleaner does not discolor your mattress, carefully follow the cleaning tips listed on the product.

For pet pee stains, you may want to combine a few methods to ensure you eradicate the smell and spot entirely. Sprinkle baking soda on the fresh urine to absorb moisture quickly, watching for the soda to darken in color as it soaks up the liquid. Remove soiled baking powder and replace it with a fresh coating until the baking soda stays white.

Then, treat the stain as you would with a human’s accident, relying on an enzyme cleaner to leave no traces that can tempt your pet to release their bladder again. Some enzyme cleaners are even designed to specifically combat pet urine. You can also pick up pet repellant at your local pet store, to further deter your pet from returning to the spot.

Or you can make your own homemade pet repellant by mixing up a simple solution.

Method 5: Best for Preventing Pet Accidents

If you want to keep your pet away from your mattress, you can make your own repellant by mixing one and half cups of water with two tablespoons of vinegar and about 20 drops of a citrus-scented essential oil—lemon, orange, lime, or grapefruit are all good choices.

To apply the pet deterrent, you can spray the solution lightly on the areas of the bed where your pet is prone to pee. The smell of citrus oil will discourage your pet from approaching those areas. We note that this deterrent is safe for pets and does not cause them any harm.

In addition to using the pet deterrent, it’s also crucial to establish a routine for your pet’s bathroom breaks. Make sure to take your pet outside or to their designated bathroom area regularly, especially before bedtime. By providing them with regular opportunities to relieve themselves, you can help prevent accidents during the night.

Why Does Urine Smell Anyway?

Urine has a distinct smell due to the presence of various chemical compounds. One of the main contributors to the odor is a substance called urea. Urea is a waste product produced by the body when it breaks down proteins. When urine comes into contact with air, bacteria in the environment can break down the urea, resulting in the release of ammonia. Ammonia is responsible for the strong and pungent smell commonly associated with urine odors.

Other compounds, such as sulfur-containing molecules, can also contribute to the odor. The concentration and intensity of the smell can vary depending on factors like hydration levels, diet, and overall health.

As for pets, they often have more concentrated urine, as they have smaller bladders and may not urinate as frequently as humans. This higher concentration of waste compounds, including urea and ammonia, can result in a stronger odor.

Additionally, some pets have unique compounds in their urine. Un-neutered male cats, in particular, may have a stronger urine odor due to their relatively high levels of testosterone.

Consider a Mattress Protector

A mattress protector can protect against urine by creating a barrier between the mattress and any liquid that comes into contact with it. Most mattress protectors are designed to be waterproof, which means that they are resistant to the penetration of water or other liquids.

When urine comes into contact with a mattress protector, the liquid will be unable to seep through the protector and into the mattress. Instead, the urine will remain on the surface of the waterproof mattress cover, where it can be easily wiped away or washed off.

It’s also the best way to save yourself from having to consult one of our other cleaning guides in case of another accident or damage to the mattress, such as:

Some mattress protectors also have additional features, such as absorbent layers or antimicrobial properties, that can help to further protect against urine and other fluids. This saves you from water damage and drying a wet mattress.

Mattress protectors can also minimize the friction you place on the cover fabric, preventing lint balls on the mattress from forming.

Overall, using a waterproof mattress protector is a simple and effective way to protect your mattress against urine and other types of liquid spills, which can help to extend the life of your mattress and keep it clean and hygienic.

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Other Cleaning Guides for Mattresses and Bedding

Maintaining a clean sleeping surface is one of the primary ways to ensure comfortable, restorative sleep.

For mattresses:

For pillows:

For sheets:

For blankets and other coverings:

For other bedding items:

How to Remove Urine Stains and Smell From a Mattress


How do you get urine stains out of bedding?

Removing urine stains from your mattress pads, sheets, blankets, and comforter is much easier than removing them from your mattress. When a urine accident occurs, remove your bedding and toss it in your washer along with one cup of distilled white vinegar. Do not add any laundry detergent.

Wash your sheets and blankets in cold water only, as hot water may cause the urine to set. Once the wash cycle is complete, examine the bedding to ensure the soiled areas are gone. If they are, rewash the bedding as you normally would. If the urine persists, soak your sheets and blankets in a cold water and white vinegar solution overnight or until the stain disappears.

How do you prevent urine accidents from reaching your mattress?

Waterproof mattress protectors are an effective way to avoid urine stains altogether. They are also extremely low-maintenance. After an accident occurs, simply toss your mattress protector into the washing machine with any other tainted bedding. A good mattress protector will also guard your bed against allergens like dust mites, mold, and bacteria.

Do air fresheners get rid of urine smell?

Air fresheners and essential oils for sleep may mask the smell but cannot remove urine. Therefore, they will not permanently rid your bed from the urine odor.

To eliminate the smell for good, you will need to lift and remove the stain. This will require a cleaning agent like vinegar, baking soda, a protease enzyme, or hydrogen peroxide. Depending on the cause and age of your urine stain, we suggest following one of the above methods.

Can urine on a mattress cause mold?

Urine may dry, but if not properly removed, it leaves behind the salt found in uric acid. If you experience night sweats or simply live in a humid or rainy climate, this salt will continually draw in moisture. When the affected area becomes filled with moisture, it reactivates, disturbing odors and creating a breeding ground for bacteria-causing mold.

Are enzymatic cleaners safe?

Most enzymatic cleaners do not contain toxic chemicals. Enzymatic cleaning products are usually composed of biological compounds called enzymes—naturally occurring proteins that speed up chemical reactions necessary to eliminating stains.

However, we advise double-checking ingredients lists to ensure your enzyme cleaner does not contain toxic chemicals. Certain brands may add unnatural oxidizing, or stain-removing agents to enhance their product’s ability.

Should I use bleach on mattress stains?

Using bleach on mattress stains is not recommended. While bleach is a powerful disinfectant, it can be too harsh for mattresses as it may damage the fabric or discolor the material. Additionally, the strong smell of bleach can linger and may be unpleasant to sleep on.

Instead, opt for safer and more gentle cleaning solutions like enzyme cleaners specifically designed for removing urine stains. These cleaners are effective in breaking down the odor-causing molecules without causing harm to the mattress. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions and test any cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the mattress before applying it to the stain.

How to clean pee out of a mattress without baking soda and vinegar?

If you don’t have baking soda or vinegar on hand, there are other methods to clean urine from a mattress. Start by blotting the urine stain with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible.

Then, create a solution by mixing a few drops of liquid dish soap with warm water. Gently dab the solution onto the stain using a clean cloth, working from the outer edges toward the center. Continue blotting until the stain is lifted. Finally, allow the mattress to dry thoroughly before using it again.


Knowing how to remove urine stains is a critical skill, especially if you want to protect your mattress from damage. Although these stains can be frustrating, removing them is not nearly as intimidating as it seems. If you notice a lingering smell after cleaning, you can try an air freshener, essential oils, or sleeping with a fan on to keep fresh air circulating.

More often than not, basic household items are enough to successfully expel urine stains and smells. Follow one of the above methods and before you know it, your mattress will look and smell brand new.

About the author

Stacy Liman is a journalism graduate student and a freelance writer with a focus on mindfulness and content marketing. Her passion for understanding and writing about the science of sleep enables her to provide valuable insights into achieving healthier and deeper rest. Stacy's commitment to helping people improve their sleep drives her exploration of new mattresses and sleep-promoting gadgets.

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