Incontinence is a common problem that people face as they age. If you are a caretaker for an elderly person or helping out sometimes with washing, you will probably encounter urine stains and smells that won’t go away with a simple wash in the machine.
Getting rid of these smells is important not just for vanity, but also for the dignity and wellbeing of the elderly person you are caring for. Everyone deserves clean clothing and a neat appearance regardless of their situation. Here are a few tips that can help remove common odors such as urine.
There are a few things to keep in mind before trying any of these tips.
No stain removal hack is going to work on all clothing. Some fabrics are delicate, particularly if you are trying to clean an article of clothing that the person has had for a long time and is made of a fragile older fabric. Read laundry instructions carefully. For example, many common stain remover sticks contain bleach, which damages some fabrics.
If you’re not sure if a particular odor or stain remover works on a fabric without damaging it, do a spot test on a piece of the garment that is out of sight. Let it sit for a few minutes, then check if it left an adverse reaction.
Removing Urine and Stains
If the urine odor is from a fresh accident, you first have to remove the waste from the garment. Blot urine away by gently pressing at it with a damp paper towel or a rag (only use a rag that you’re planning on throwing away afterward to avoid cross-contamination). Rinse away any remaining urine by running the garment under very hot water.
Treat any stains with dedicated stain or urine remover. Follow the instructions on the urine remover, which will usually tell you to let it sit for a few minutes then rinse.
What Products Remove the Scent of Urine?
Besides stain remover, you should have products on hand that remove the scent of urine. Urine is highly acidic, making it one of the most potent smells you’ll ever have to get out of clothing.
The best treatment for removing urine odors is a pet mess product. Cat or dog urine is actually similar in chemical composition to human urine so products that work on neutralizing those odors will also work on neutralizing human urine.
If you don’t have pet mess products on hand or are worried about using harsh chemicals on clothing that will go next to a senior’s skin, there are a few natural remedies that neutralize urine. Acidic products such as white vinegar and lemon juice neutralize odors on garments as well as furniture and mattresses, making them a great asset if an accident happened in bed. Just be careful because they can stain or bleach clothing.
Another often-overlooked product that can neutralize urine odors is mouthwash. Diluted mouthwash works well when it comes to neutralizing uric acid, the chemical that gives urine its potent smell. However, lots of mouthwash comes with intense coloring that could stain the clothes you are trying to clean.
Baking Soda Soak
One of the most powerful ways to neutralize the smell of urine in clothing is to make a soak out of baking soda. Baking soda is highly basic, which serves to neutralize the acidity of urine. It also smells less potent than other cleaning products such as vinegar or pet mess sprays.
To use baking soda to remove urine smells, prepare a soak with warm water and plenty of baking soda. Use your bare hands or the handle of a broom to agitate the water, evenly spreading the baking soda around the water (make sure that you are doing this in a tub or basin large enough to fit the clothing you are trying to clean).
Then, let the clothing soak in the baking soda mixture for at least 15 minutes. That’s how long it takes the baking soda to activate and begin working on neutralizing the uric acid.
Once you notice that the odor is gone or substantially diluted, you can wash the clothes as you normally would. However, before chucking the clothing in the washing machine, rinse it first. Baking soda’s high pH means it diminishes the effectiveness of detergent brands, defeating the purpose of putting your clothing through the washing machine.
Getting Rid of Urine Smells After Washing
Most tips for getting rid of the odor of urine tell you not to run clothes through the washing machine before treating the stains because that sometimes digs the odor in deeper. However, maybe you forgot or thought the first round of treatments had worked, but then it didn’t. Either way, if your elderly person’s clothes come out of the washing machine still smelling of urine, there are a few tips you can try.
The first method is to use an oxygen bleach-based cleanser such as OxyClean. Oxygen bleach is very similar to regular bleach but without hazardous chemicals. Mix oxygen bleach with water and treat the affected area, then wash with an enzyme detergent. Together, the bleach and enzyme detergent attack the bacteria causing the lingering odor. Obviously, please do not use this method with dark clothing, as the bleach will lighten it.
If you don’t have oxygen bleach, you can use a combination of essential oils and Epsom salt. Put the mixture in your washing machine along with half a cup of baking soda, then run your clothes through the wash cycle again. Their odor should be neutralized by now.
Cleaning Urine Smells After Incontinence Accidents
Accidents happen, particularly as people get older and lose control over their natural functions. Luckily, there are plenty of tips that can help you get rid of urine odor. The key to success is treating the clothes before you put them in the washing machine, whether you use a pet mess remover, baking soda soak, or a natural white vinegar remedy.