How to get urine smells out of hardwood floors

Ever have a cat that treats the litter box as a suggestion? Or move into a place that smelled fine until it rained for the first time after you moved in?

Bad news — urine not only smells terrible, but it’s full of bacteria and it off-gasses ammonia fumes that can harm your respiratory system.

Good news — you can get rid of it. But how?

First, we need to get into what makes it stink, and why the smell hangs around for so long.

Why is the smell of old pee so hard to get rid of?

So what makes pee smell like pee? None of the liquids you drank smelled like that.

Because urine is a carrier material for part of the body’s waste, it is almost all water with a few gross odds and ends.

What pee is made of, according to Bio Pro:

  • Water. Human urine is an aqueous solution of over 95% water. Cat urine is much more concentrated.
  • Urea. A colorless, odorless, non-toxic compound comprising ammonia and carbon. At least, it’s odorless until it breaks down.
  • Chloride. When you eat food, sodium chloride (salt) is absorbed by your intestines. Excess chloride goes out in urine.
  • Potassium. An electrolyte that aids digestion.
  • Metabolic waste compounds. Creatinine and other byproducts.
  • Uric acid. Okay, this is it — the extremely sticky, stinky component of pee that’s hard to get rid of.

It’s the breakdown of urea and uric acid that makes pee stink. Uric acid contains insoluble salts that bind it to whatever it comes into contact with. The longer it stays there, the more bacteria feed on it, releasing ammonia.

You can mop and mop with your usual floor cleaner, but unless that cleaner contains an acid, it won’t work.

Ammonia is a base, and you must fight it with acid. Most household cleaners and soaps won’t work to get rid of the smell because they don’t contain the acid necessary to break down ammonia and unbind it from the wood.

That’s where the distilled white vinegar and baking soda come in.

Before you spring for expensive enzymatic cleaners, try these dead simple DIY methods first.

3 DIY ways to get rid of old urine smells

Great news! You can do this cheaply with the same safe, natural ingredients you can make your own cleaning products with. Here’s why they work.

Baking soda is an alkali (base) that neutralizes the pH of uric acid. Fresh urine is more acid than base. So for fresh puddles, throw some baking soda on it to neutralize as much uric acid as possible before it starts to break down and bind to the material.

White vinegar’s active ingredient is acetic acid. So, how does it neutralize uric acid? It doesn’t. Uric acid breaks down into ammonia and carbon dioxide.

Baking soda is good for breaking down uric acid and sucking up gross smells, but it won’t kill bacteria feeding on the organic waste products. Vinegar will.

For fabrics, upholstery, and small areas of floor

If your pet has peed in your hamper — or worse, your laundry basket full of clean clothes — don’t worry. Just rinse the affected clothing and then soak in water with baking soda to attack the uric acid right away.

For hardwood floors

Depending on how much of your floor is affected, you may want to make enough solution to mop with. If you’ve ever moved into an apartment where the previous tenant had pets who left every room tainted with aging urine, you know you can’t depend on the landlord to have the floor cleaned properly.

Make your own vinegar and water solution to mop the floor with. Two cups of distilled white vinegar in a bucket of warm water should do the trick. And to combat the smell of vinegar, it’ll help to add the citrus oil of your choice.

If the smell is extra monstrous, or the stains are extensive and have been accumulating for a long time, expect to repeat this step.

As a last resort

You can soak old towels in hydrogen peroxide, lay them on the floors, and leave them there for a few hours. This is a last resort not just because it takes up to eight hours, but because hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleach. It might eat through the finish and lighten the wood.

Vinegar and baking soda work better solo

Vinegar is an acid and sodium bicarbonate is a base. Remember that an acid cancels out a base. If you mix them together, they’ll neutralize each other instead of the uric acid.

Commercials have brainwashed us into thinking that bubbles clean stuff. But bubbles are just pockets of air contained by a fluid membrane. Bubbles do not equal clean. Nor do they mean the solution is breaking down or neutralizing the uric acid.

Takeaways

You don’t necessarily need commercial or enzymatic cleaners to eradicate odors from pet stains on your hardwood floors.

Two cheap, natural ingredients you probably already have — baking soda and distilled white vinegar — might do the trick.

[Dishwasher 101] How to clean it and what you should never put in it

We ran a post about where the bad smells in your kitchen are coming from. But there’s one we left out because it doesn’t come up as often.

If you’ve got a dishwasher, you revel in its convenience. Until it starts emitting a funky odor. How can something that cleans other things get so dirty?

Well, that gross food has to go somewhere. And it collects in your dishwasher drain. Not to mention that it’s the perfect environment for mold to grow.

So let’s talk about how to really clean your dishwasher. And what you shouldn’t be putting in there.

How to get your dishwasher sparkling clean

You’ll need white vinegar and baking soda. Possibly a toothbrush and gloves. Oh, and you’ll need to roll up your sleeves because you’ll be taking out both racks, utensil holder, and filter. Hey, that’s the only way to get to the drain where all the slimy old food residue is.

Clean the removed parts and wipe down the inside

Leave the filter soaking in a 1:1 mix of warm water and vinegar while you do the rest of this. You can spray down the utensil holder and racks.

Now, take a look inside the dishwasher for any crud stuck in the corners, drain, door hinges, and spray holes. Clean gunk out of those with a toothbrush if you have to.

Some commercial cleaning products might damage surfaces on the inside of your dishwasher. But you could use a homemade cleaner made with the same ingredients you’re already using.

Break down food, grease, and soap scum

Put a cup of white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe bowl and place it at the bottom of the dishwasher. Run a cycle with hot water.

Acetic acid from the vinegar breaks down the remaining buildup. It dissolves calcium deposits, too. If you have hard water and see chalky white crust around the holes where water sprays out, consider repeating this step once a month. Water will start spraying at full strength again, which will get your dishes cleaner.

Lemon juice works on mineral deposits, too, if you find yourself short on vinegar.

Blast away stains

After the vinegar cycle is finished, take the bowl out and sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher. Run a short cycle so the baking soda can neutralize any remaining odors (including the vinegar), scrub off any remaining residue, and brighten things up.

Baking soda is abrasive enough to clean, but not enough to scratch the surfaces of your dishwasher.

Now that you know how to clean it let’s talk about how you use it. As in, probably putting things in it that shouldn’t go in a dishwasher.

Things you shouldn’t put in the dishwasher

Wood. Water from the dishwasher should be at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit to clean your dishes. That kind of heat can split wood. And the detergent is too harsh for wooden items.

Anything delicate. Because things knock around in there sometimes and can break fragile dishes easily.

Cast iron. Iron rusts and should be exposed to water as little as possible. One cycle through the dishwasher will strip off the protective seasoning. With course salt and a newspaper, you can clean it without using water at all.

Aluminum, copper, and other soft metals. They’ll tarnish and become dull.

Nonstick cookware, like pans with a Teflon coating. Teflon eventually breaks down and flakes off into your food. You don’t want to eat that. Putting it through the dishwasher with 120-degree water and caustic detergent will only hasten the process.

Many plastics, like acrylic. They’ll eventually become warped by the heat. Especially the lids.

Kitchen knives or anything with sharp edges. Like cheese graters and vegetable peelers. The blades rattle against other items during the cycle and become dull.

Anything hand painted. The force of the water coming out of the jets, along with heat and detergent, will chip the paint right off.

Anything with adhesive. If you have knives or other implements with hollow handles, the water can get hot enough to melt the adhesive holding the two halves together.

Printed measuring cups. The numbers will wear off eventually, and you’ll have to Sharpie them back on.

Anything with a paper label. The paper and adhesive will come off and get trapped in the drain.

How to make homemade dish detergent

You’ll never believe how easy this is. I was stunned and can’t wait to make some.

https://youtu.be/9OivmnM3usk

How tempted are you to try this? Sign up for our email list, so you never miss a post — we’ll have more DIY recipes, tips, and tricks on the way.

How to take care of your wooden cooking utensils

Do you cringe when you look at your raggedy wooden spoons? How long has it been since you’ve shown some love to your fuzzy cutting board?

Don’t worry. As long as the wood isn’t cracked, you can still preserve it with simple routine maintenance.

Why use wooden cooking utensils?

Wooden cooking utensils have been with us for millions of years, and we still love them. And why not? They’re easy to use, clean, and maintain. They stir, toss, beat, mix, and scrape. Without snapping in half like some plastic utensils or scratching nonstick coatings like metal ones.

Some wonder if wooden utensils are sanitary to use with food because wood is porous. If you’ve wondered the same, you’ll be happy to know trees have cells that bacteria and mold won’t grow on. They’re naturally resistant.

And even though your salad bowls are just wood now instead of a living tree, they still have the same cellular properties that prevent bacteria and mold growth.

So, stir with bravado. (But not too much bravado because it’s hard to get marinara stains out of paint.)

What not to do to your wooden utensils

The first thing you need to know about how to take care of your wooden kitchen utensils and dishes is that heat and water are the natural nemeses of wood. Wood absorbs water and expands. Heat makes both expand. A cycle of expanding and contracting weakens almost any material.

Never put wood in the dishwasher. The water temperature is too high, and detergent is too caustic for wood. The long cycle of hot water and harsh detergent can really mess it up over time.

The right way to care for wooden utensils

Always wash wooden tools by hand with warm water and mild dish soap. If they’re fuzzy, roughened, or stained, you can sand them with fine-grit sandpaper. 

So what kind of soap should you use? Well, since this whole blog is for all you DIYers, I have found links to some well-researched recipes.

These articles have all the information you need about the ingredients and how they interact.

How to treat wooden utensils after washing

You don’t want to let the wood get too dry. About once a month, treat the wood with oil. Or wood butter (AKA spoon butter) – a mixture of beeswax and oil. But what kind of oil should you use, considering you’ll also be putting it in your mouth?

Some people swear that you need to use food-grade mineral oil because it’s safe and plant-based oils go rancid. Others say it’s not really good to ingest petroleum byproducts and that there’s a plant-based alternative in extra virgin coconut oil because it has a long shelf life.

So, pick your poison:

And don’t forget your wooden cutting boards, bowls, knife handles, etc.

How do you get bad odors out of wood?

Some foods leave pungent smells in the wood that transfer to other foods. And there’s a reason produce companies don’t genetically engineer strawberries that smell like garlic.

If you’re cutting garlic or onions for a dish that also uses tomatoes, cut the tomatoes last. Set the cutting board aside to soak up the tomato juice for 20-30 minutes. The acid cuts the oils and odors and lets them rinse away. 

If you’re not cutting tomatoes, you can use a wedge of fresh lemon or other citrus fruit.

Stains come from many foods like dark fruits and marinara sauce. Those should fade over time. But if you don’t want to wait, there are a few easy ways to remove them.

Wooden kitchen utensils are inexpensive, beautiful, and sturdy enough for heavy-handed cooks. Caring for them properly is ridiculously easy and can keep them in great shape for decades.

Are you in love with your oak cutting board or teak chopsticks? Show them how much they mean to you.

4 Places to check for bad smells in the kitchen

Bad smells in the kitchen can sometimes make everyday activities like cooking and cleaning feel like traversing the Bog of Eternal Stench. Do you have terrible odors hiding in your kitchen even though you’ve (supposedly) cleaned it?

Here are the places where bad smells come from

1. The garbage

Remember the “It ain’t got no gas in it” scene in Sling Blade?

If you’ve scrubbed every surface, but the smell is still there, maybe you forgot to check the most obvious place. The garbage. Your leftovers four days ago. Onion and garlic skins. Rotting vegetables. All that stuff’s been sitting in wet coffee grounds and table scraps, liquefying into a miasma of garbage juice.

Mmmmmmmm.

After you take out the garbage, check the bottom of the trash can. If there’s a congealed layer of weeks-old garbage juice, prepare yourself.

Here is a resourceful person who has figured out the best way to clean trash cans.

Throw something absorbent in the bottom of the new liner:

  • baking soda
  • dryer sheets
  • citrus peels
  • cat litter

When you throw food away, scrape it into a coffee can or plastic bag you can tie off and keep it contained.

2. The garbage disposal

Think about all the stuff you grind up in your garbage disposal and how gross it is now. And then it gets covered in layers of grease and rotting food particles.

Blecchhh.

The easiest way to clean a garbage disposal is to run some lemon slices through it every couple of weeks. Citric acid cuts grease, kills germs, and emits fantastic aromas. Lemons and limes are most potent, but grapefruit and orange work beautifully, too.

3. The dish sponge

It’s not enough to toss the dish sponges in the dishwasher or microwave every once in a while, and it’s all good. But it isn’t, and it’s time to stop deluding ourselves.

Pretend you’re a dish sponge for a second. Here’s your average day:

People constantly grab you with their dirty hands and scrub your head against globs of greasy meat, mushy pasta, burnt eggs, and cheese.

Then they leave you on the bottom of the sink, soaking wet and matted with food. Of course you stink.

Most mold thrives in moisture and ambient temperatures (77-86 degrees F). If you want to slow it down, deprive it of water.

Squeeze excess water out of the dish sponge and lean it on its end to dry. And because killing sponge germs is like playing whack-a-mole, saturate it with isopropyl alcohol or microwave it for 45 – 60 seconds. At least once a week.

No matter how you try, you can’t stop the population in a sponge continually breeding. There are cleaner alternatives to a sponge gaining traction and might be worth checking out.

4. The refrigerator

We don’t always clean up spills in the fridge right away. Especially in the vegetable crisper where asparagus has expired and leaked a bit of rotten juice in the bottom of the drawer. Cartons of bad food languish unnoticed in the back of the fridge behind delivery containers from last night.

Go through your fridge and make sure you toss all the out-of-date stuff. You may not think there’s anything wrong with week-old pizza, but you’d be surprised how fast some foods expire and grow dangerous levels of bacteria.

Human eyes cannot see bacteria until there’s way too much of it.

If there are any spills, clean them with a homemade cleaner for an effective job without harmful chemicals.

Call it a day. Have a drink. You just vanquished billions of invisible enemies.

Have a favorite way to get rid of bad smells you’d like to share? Feel free to enlighten us via the comments. Or tell us what kind of drink you had after you cleaned your kitchen.

Everything you need to make your own cleaning products

Have you been staring at empty space on the shelves where your favorite degreaser should be? This year has most of us cleaning more frequently, and sometimes that means demand outstrips supply where we like to shop.

But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Learning to be a bit more self-sufficient never hurt anyone, right? Besides, you can make better and safer cleaning products at home than you can find in the store.

How can you make household cleaners at home?

We tend to think manufacturing processes are inaccessible to us, but they’re not.

With just a few basic ingredients, most of which you probably already have, you can make cleaning products for any surface in your home. They’re eco-friendly and just as effective at killing germs as any commercial chemical cleaner.

And it’s so cheap and easy to make them. You don’t need to pay consumer prices for cleaning products if you keep a few common items around.

Ingredients you need to make household cleaners

Baking soda. It’s a masked crusader against unpleasant odors and works well on proteins and grease.

Washing soda. Completely different from baking soda. Nature’s Nurture tells you how to make it if you can’t find it at the store.

Hydrogen peroxide. It breaks down into hydrogen and oxygen, so there’s no guilt involved in taking advantage of its oxygenating powers.

Lemons. Ever get lemon juice in your eye? Imagine how bacteria feel swimming naked in it.

Salt. Salt is a desiccant that kills microorganisms that can make you sick. It’s also abrasive enough to sand dried food off of metal surfaces (like cast iron) but not hard enough to scratch them.

Borax. While everyone agrees Borax is natural, they don’t agree that it’s entirely safe. According to Healthline, Borax can be used safely.

Essential oils. There are so many to choose from, and they make your homemade cleaners smell fantastic in a clean way, not in a harsh or cloying synthetic fragrancey way. Even better, some essential oils like oregano and tea tree have antimicrobial properties and are great to use when you’re making a disinfectant.

Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. This is one of the most popular products for killing viruses, bacteria, and mold.

Distilled white vinegar. For most surfaces. And to dissolve stubborn calcium and lime build-up, like the unsightly crust around your faucets.

Castile soap. Dr. Bronner’s is a popular example of this gentle soap made from all-natural ingredients. It’s so mild you can use it to clean anything. Use it on surfaces like stone that are damaged by the acid in vinegar.

That’s it!

Save money, reduce your exposure to caustic chemicals, and keep plastic bottles out of the ocean. Sounds great, right? But you need recipes, so I’ve grabbed three for you.

Bonus: Recipes for three essential cleaners you won’t want to do without

1. All-purpose cleaner

One part white vinegar (or Castile soap) to one part water. Add a few drops of antimicrobial essential oils like oregano or tea tree for extra disinfectant power or just to give your concoction a pleasant aroma. If you grow herbs, throw in a sprig of rosemary or some basil to infuse the mixture with their oils.

Note that this cleaner won’t be safe for marble or granite surfaces if you make it with vinegar.

2. Streak-free glass cleaner

$4 will get you ounces of commercial glass cleaner.

It’ll also get you 32 ounces of isopropyl alcohol. I don’t want to call the water company to ask how much 32 ounces of water from the tap would be, so let’s say it’s free. You can get 64 ounces of white vinegar for $1.50.

The recipe is simple:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup isopropyl alcohol
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar

That works out to be 104 oz for about $6. And you get to stop 

3. Metal and stone cleaners

To clean stainless steel: Just make a paste with baking soda and water, like you would for a bee sting. Apply it with a damp cloth and gently wipe along the grain. The wipe with a clean damp cloth.

To clean stone surfaces: Add half a teaspoon or so of Castile soap to 2 cups of water. Stir gently to avoid frothing. Remember to wipe down with a damp cloth afterward, and they’ll dry residue-free.

Notes

For recipes that list white vinegar, you can substitute Castile soap. Vinegar is perfectly safe and effective, but it can damage marble or granite countertops. And it makes your house smell like a salt and vinegar potato chip factory.

If you clean with any recipes containing Castile soap, remember to wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth afterward, so there’s no residue.

Make sure to label your cleaners. I cleaned our entire kitchen with something that smelled lightly lemony and found out later it was homemade furniture polish. And even though they’re natural, keep them safely stored as you would bleach and ammonia.

Do you have any recipes of your own to share with us? Let us know in the comments.