How to Get Urine Smell Out of the Couch: The Ultimate Guide to Spotless Furniture

Pet Care


June 5, 2020
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Since I am a huge animal lover, nobody was surprised by the fact that I immediately adopted a puppy as soon as I left home at the tender age of 22.

However, what I failed to realize (mind you, I was young and used to my mother doing everything for me) was that puppies have plenty of “accidents” until they’re trained, especially on furniture. So, not only was I on my own cleaning-wise — but I also had to learn how to get urine smell out of the couch fast!

The foul stench of urine is one we are all familiar with, especially if we’re pet owners who sometimes “forget” to clean up accidents thoroughly. That was my mistake, too; I thought that just blotting the area, pouring some baking soda over it, and wiping it down would be enough.

But just because I was wrong doesn’t mean you have to slowly suffocate in the odor. Here’s how to get urine smell out of the couch without compromising the material quality and ruining your furniture forever!

First Things First — Why Is Urine Smell So Challenging to Eliminate Anyway?

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Before I go through some of my preferred odor-eliminating methods, we should talk about urine a bit. In order to effectively tackle the enemy, i.e., that horrible stench urine leaves behind, I should explain why something that’s essentially a part of us can make the air we breathe super-stinky.

Both human and animal urine is actually able to produce that odor, but since these have different compositions, animal pee is bound to release a much stronger stench. The reason is quite simple: most of the time, animals don’t take in as much water as people do, especially cats. As such, the composition of their urine is, as one can imagine, super-concentrated.

Now, here’s what confused me — no matter how much urine stinks, if I remove it completely, there won’t be anything to produce the odor, right? Well, wrong.

Uric Acid — The Main Reason Your Couch Stinks

Urine, whether we’re talking about animals or humans, is made up of various compounds, most notably water, urea, and uric acid. And while the first two are water-soluble (and you can remove them with regular run-of-the-mill cleaners), uric acid is a bit trickier to get rid of.

The main obstacle here is that we don’t know how to clean stuff we cannot see. Uric acid contains invisible non-soluble salt crystals, so it will be tough to remove if you have already cleaned the surface stain. 

Even worse, the odor may not be so pungent all the time, but it will definitely be noticeable in high temperatures and moist and humid environments. All of these can reactivate the crystals and make the unpleasant odor resurface.

The only time uric acid is visible is when you’ve left it untreated for a while. The crystals will collect dirt and grime while the couch is in use, so at some point, you may notice the stains again.

What Happens If We Don’t Remove Urine Right Away?

Apart from the odor that’s basically a guarantee, urine also poses a threat in the form of extreme damage. If left untreated, it won’t just make your furniture stink — it will downright destroy it.

Over time, uric acid is able to ruin fabrics, for instance, so your couch, no matter how old it is, will look worse for wear very quickly. On top of that, if the urine leaks down the couch and onto the floor, you can bet that the acidity will ruin your carpet and flooring as well.

But to circle back to urine smell, you have to keep in mind that in case an animal has peed on the couch, failure to remove it may lead to some behavioral issues. Both dogs and cats are drawn to the smell of their own urine, and as you can imagine, all those uric acid crystals will keep tempting them in the months to follow. You may not be able to see them, but your pets can smell them — and they will return to the scene of the crime!

Picking the Right Cleaners: Which One Is the Best?

While looking into how to get urine smell out of the couch, I came across a huge variety of DIY recipes I could opt for. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one with nasty pee stains on my sofa, so I had the power of the Internet on my side.

However, not all of these DIY recipes are bound to work for everyone. And even if they seemingly do, I’ve discovered that all of them have some pros and cons. So let’s see what they’re all about, shall we?

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Enzymatic Cleaners

If you’re wondering how to get urine smell out of the couch once and for all, then you’ll have to drop some money on a good enzymatic cleaner. Though many homemakers and DIY enthusiasts will say that urine stench can be effectively removed with household items — they fail to understand that uric acid isn’t soluble in water.

That characteristic alone renders any water-based cleaning solutions (so most of the stuff you can make at home on your own) a bit useless in the long run. Therefore, to remove urine from a couch completely, and thus eliminate any smells, enzymes are going to be your best friends.

Now, don’t get me wrong — baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and vinegar will remove about 98% of the urine and eliminate the smell. However, those results are usually only temporary. As time goes by, the urea from urine will break down into bacteria, and any smells that were once faint will become pungent in the blink of an eye.

Keep in mind that the more urine is left to decompose, the worse the smell will get. If you don’t remove it all — the smell won’t go away! And that’s where enzymatic cleaners come in.

How Enzymatic Cleaners Work

The easiest way to understand how these products work is to think of how we digest food. In order to digest it properly, we have to chew it first, and then mix it with our saliva to break it down. Well, our saliva actually contains enzymes that kick-start the digestion process.

These enzymes are able to break matter down into tiny, digestible particles — and the same thing happens when you clean with enzymatic cleaners. However, this time around, the enzymes are breaking down and digesting bacteria, dirt, grease, grime, and yes — uric acid.

The only con of using these cleaners is that the cleaning process may take a while. Also, unless stated otherwise on the bottle, they aren’t usually the best solution for leather couches; they may lighten the material or leave stains behind.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Just like hydrogen peroxide can reduce the nasty stench of smoke, you could also use it to remove any urine smells lingering around the couch. It has been said that it can destroy the odor-producing bacteria through oxidation, thus deodorizing the surface of the couch and seemingly making the stench go away.

Like I mentioned, though, if you’re looking into how to get urine smell out of the couch for good, you may want to only opt for DIY solutions if you cannot get your hands on an enzymatic cleaner. The lack of smell will only be temporary.

Baking Soda

In comparison to hydrogen peroxide, baking soda is a bit better at combating nasty smells. Many people actually use it instead of commercial air fresheners since it doesn’t just mask acidic odors. Baking soda actually absorbs them — but the process doesn’t offer instant results, that’s for sure.

If you’re wondering how to get urine smell out of the couch with baking soda, I’ll have a neat DIY recipe down below for you. However, keep in mind that just using baking soda is not going to cut it.

The substance itself has some limitations. You’ll have to mix it with other compounds in order to have any chance of removing the urine. And even then, if it has gone through the couch and into the cushions, you’re better off using an enzymatic cleaner.


Finally, we have vinegar, which can serve as an all-natural acid-based cleaner if you don’t have any enzymatic ones on hand. And out of the three substances suggested, I have found that vinegar is the best alternative, specifically for households that really want to avoid using chemicals.

If you’ve come here to learn how to get urine smell out of the couch, you’ll be pleased to find out that vinegar is able to break down the uric acid. What’s more, it doesn’t stop at eliminating the smell; it actually serves as a versatile germ killer that’s almost (but not quite) as effective as bleach.

The choice of vinegar, however, will influence how well it removes the urine smell. It goes without saying that the more acidic it is, the better the results will be. But in the US, vinegar is usually about 4–7% acidic.

It seems that distilled white vinegar is often more acidic than, say, apple cider vinegar, so I would personally go with that one. Plus, the apple variety can actually attract bugs and create a bigger problem.

Keep in mind, though, that vinegar may not work as effectively as you want it to since you have to mix it with water to create a solution. This will dilute both the liquid and any impending results.

Steam Cleaning: Could It Be the Ultimate Solution?

Unfortunately for all those who rely on their steam cleaners to keep their homes spick and span all year round, steam won’t be able to remove traces of urine or any lingering smells around the couch.

In fact, if you’re looking into how to get urine smell out of the couch, I suggest not even touching the steamer. Treating upholstery with it will only set both the stains and the odor, as the heat coming from the steam will bond the proteins with fibers.

How to Get Urine Smell Out of the Couch With an Enzymatic Cleaner

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As mentioned, enzymatic cleaners are the best choice if you are desperately trying to figure out how to get urine smell out of the couch. They are efficient, promise great results, and there’s a nice variety of them on the market. However, I should warn you right now — the process is a bit lengthy.

1. If the Urine Stain Is Fresh, You’ll Have to Blot the Liquid First

Remove any moisture from the spot. Do keep in mind that you shouldn’t try rubbing the urine away — that’ll just spread it further!

If the stain is old, removing the smell may be a bit tricky. You have to find the stain first if it’s not evident enough, and you’ve already done everything in your power to remove it in the past.

For that, I recommend using blacklight since urine compounds can show up under it, or just your sense of smell. Drop down to your knees, place your nose as close to the couch, and get a good sniff. If you detect ammonia, the stain is somewhere in that area!

2. Pour Your Enzymatic Cleaner

For best results, I suggest that you pay attention to the ingredient list. Make sure that the cleaner contains protease, the enzyme that’s able to remove urine, blood, and wine (protein-based soils). If you want to use it for other stains and odor removal too, pick an enzymatic cleaner that has multiple enzymes.

Now, here’s the fun part: you ought to take the cleaner and pour quite a bit of it on the urine spot. Get it nice and soaked! If you believe the urine has penetrated deep into the filling, you can even get a syringe and basically inject the cleaner.

3. Let the Cleaner Sit for Around 10 to 15 Minutes

There’s no need to rinse out the cleaner, but you will have to blot the remainder away with some paper towels once those 15 minutes are up. Alternatively, you can use regular newspapers or even a real towel — it all depends on what you have on hand.

4. Let the Area Dry Completely

I found this part a bit tedious, as you should wait until it’s fully dry to use the couch. But in order for the process to be a total success, you have to let it be.

To keep everyone away from the couch (both pets and other family members), I suggest covering the area with a towel or something similar. Aluminum foil would work great, too, especially since cats hate it. You could also put a laundry basket over (or anything of a similar shape) on it. It’s unlikely anyone would try to sit on it then.

If there is any urine on the cushions too, you can treat those the same way I outlined above. The clear advantage here is that you can leave them out in the sun to dry instead of warning everyone not to touch them.

You Can Even Make Your Own Cleaner!

Before I move on to some alternatives, know that you could also make your own enzymatic cleaner at home. I prefer the store-bought varieties; as you’ll see, you have to wait for a whole month for the DIY cleaner to ferment and be ready to use. Still, if you want to save some money, take a look at this tutorial.

How to Get Urine Smell Out of the Couch: Delicate Materials

The Salt Method

If your couch is your prized possession and it’s covered with velour, microfiber, or perhaps velvet, then you may not want to use abrasive cleaners like vinegar.

Luckily, you don’t have to, especially if the urine stain is fresh, and you’re trying to prevent smell. Here’s how you can use plain, old salt to (at least) temporarily resolve the issue:

1. Once Again, Absorb Any Remaining Liquid With a Kitchen Towel

Try not to press too hard into the couch, though; that may move the urine and help it travel further into the filling. Alternatively, you can decide not to go through this step if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to be gentle. In that case, just skip to step 2.

2. Pour a Decent Amount of Salt Onto the Urine Stain

You can seriously let loose here and pour as much salt as you want to cover the stain. Don’t skimp as the cleanup may not work in that case.

Once you’ve poured enough, all you have to do is let it be. Leave the salt on the urine stain to absorb it for a few hours. It should be completely dry before continuing to the next step.

3. Get Your Vacuum and Carefully Clean the Area

Salt isn’t as big as sugar, so you may need to go over the area a few times. In any case, make sure to vacuum all of it.

Check to see if you can sense any foul odors. If you can, repeat the process until you’re satisfied.

Once again, I do believe this is a temporary solution as well. Still, it may work great if you react fast and are patient enough to keep repeating it.

If none of these qualities apply to you, look for an enzymatic cleaner you could use on your couch. The labels often say if the cleaners can be used on specific materials.

How to Get Urine Smell Out of the Couch: DIY Alternatives to Try Out

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There’s no time to run to the store to get your cleaner? These four recipes will save you from sensing even a whiff of urine in the air.

Granted, they may not be as effective on all couches since it all depends on the material. Also, keep in mind that some of them have to be dry-cleaned.

I urge you to check the labels to ensure you won’t damage your couch, as some cannot be treated with water-based solutions. As a rule of thumb, here’s the stuff you can use depending on the couch material:

  • Leather: vinegar and water. However, some leather types, such as aniline or suede, will require special cleaning kits. I’d check with the manufacturer if I were you.
  • Fabric: baking soda and water
  • Microfiber (synthetic materials): rubbing alcohol, salt

That said, if you’re looking into how to get urine smell out of the couch but don’t want to use enzymatic cleaners, here are the top four recipes you can try out:

Vinegar and Baking Soda

  1. Blot, blot, blot. Remove as much of the liquid as possible. Then, pour baking soda over the urine stain to deodorize the area. Leave it on for about five minutes.
  1. Mix equal parts white vinegar (distilled) and water in a spray bottle and spray the area liberally. Once again, wait for about five minutes.
  2. Dry the couch by blotting the area with kitchen towels or a dry cloth.

Vinegar and Dishwashing Liquid

An alternative to the previous method would be to just mix equal parts of lukewarm water and vinegar. For a more pleasant smell, you can add a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid to the mixture. Make sure to add only a little — it shouldn’t be too foamy.

The process is super-simple: just spray the mixture onto the stained area and leave it to dry. Repeat if necessary.

Hydrogen Peroxide, Baking Soda, and Dishwashing Liquid

  1. Once again, you should try to blot as much urine as you can from the area.
  1. Get a bowl and mix three tablespoons of baking soda, 10 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, and some dishwashing liquid. You can also add a bit of water to dilute the solution.

This mixture should remove even dried up stains and smells, as the substances react differently.

Hydrogen peroxide can break down the urine compounds via oxidation. It will make the mixture fizz slightly — that’s a sign it’s working. Meanwhile, the dishwashing liquid should cut through any fatty acids found in the urine.

Keep in mind, though, that hydrogen peroxide may bleach the fabric a bit. So, no matter which method you opt for, try it out first on an inconspicuous part of the couch. It’s essential to know how the fabric reacts before you drench the area with the solution!

  1. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray liberally. Let it sit for about half an hour to 45 minutes.
  1. Wash the area with water to remove any traces of the solution.

The Borax Method

For those who want to know how to get urine smell out of the couch but don’t want to get an enzymatic cleaner — I have one final method for you. However, do know that even though it uses mostly natural ingredients, it can be dangerous. Borax is toxic, so be careful!

  1. Get a wet paper towel and scrub the stain. Before going in with Borax, you do need to rinse and blot the area. Once you’ve scrubbed it, get some dry towels and soak up the liquid.
  1. Since you’re treating upholstery, you will have to create a mixture of hot water and Borax. For that, you’ll need a pint of hot water and half a cup of Borax. Mix the ingredients well and get a sponge. This time, we’re not pouring the solution — we have to apply it carefully.
  1. Blot the solution onto the urine-stained part of the couch. Be very gentle and don’t scrub. Just keep applying the mixture until you’ve saturated the area.
  1. Let the solution sit for half an hour or 45 minutes. Afterward, get some water and a sponge. You now have to blot the area with water to rinse it out.

Once that’s done, you can either use a wet vacuum to thoroughly clean the area or some soapy water. This time, you can scrub the couch until it’s nice and clean. However, make sure it’s dry before letting anyone near it. You can keep blotting or leave a towel on the couch to soak up the moisture.

How to Get Urine Smell Out of the Couch: Final Thoughts

And there you go — if you’ve been desperately looking for ideas on how to get urine smell out of the couch, I have written out all of the methods I’ve personally tried as a dog owner. Some were more effective than others, and a few were a bit messy but offered excellent results. Either way, the good news is that it’s possible to get rid of urine odor once and for all — and you now even have a handy guide to rely on!