It’s bound to happen to almost every parent at one point or another. Your child has had an accident or a diaper failure, and now you can’t bear the smell of the telltale evidence.
Fortunately, you don’t need to throw that pair of pants or skirt straight into the trash. There are several tricks you can use to get your child’s clothing smelling fresh again.
What gives urine its strong scent and what can you do to get rid of it? Uric acid, a by-product of the liquids filtered by the body, takes the bulk of the blame here.
A slight review of basic chemistry may help you understand the removal process a bit better.
Opposing forces neutralize each other. Since you want to destroy the smell caused by an acid, you will need to use a base or a stronger acid.
Even though that might sound a little intimidating, don’t worry. We are here to help you get rid of any lingering urine smell and make that process simple at the same time.
Before You Begin
What type of material is the item made from?
Cotton and polyester are the most common fabrics found in kid’s clothing, and these materials will usually hold up well while being treated, machine washed and dried. If you are concerned about damaging the item, you may want to perform a spot test on a hidden area, wash the item by hand and lay it out to dry to err on the side of caution.
Certain pieces, such as a fancy special occasion dress, can be made from delicate fabrics that may not tolerate being treated and washed at home. It is usually best to take these kinds of items to a professional cleaner.
Has the urine had a chance to become set in yet?
Treat the item as soon as possible, ideally while the urine is still wet. However, we all know there are countless reasons why that may not happen, especially with young children in the picture.
If the clothing has not gone through a wash cycle yet, rinse it thoroughly in cold water. Hot water can actually cause the urine to set into the fabric and will deliver the opposite of the result you are looking for.
After rinsing, wash the clothing with regular detergent on a cold cycle and dry as usual. Chances are this process will be enough to remove the odor.
If you have already washed the clothing and the smell still lingers or you simply want to make sure the smell is gone the first time, move on to a treatment listed below.
Home Treatments Vs. Commercial Products
Several items you probably already have in your home can be surprisingly effective at removing a variety of unpleasant scents including urine.
- White Vinegar. Here is that basic chemistry again. As a stronger acid than urine, vinegar can break down and neutralize the weaker uric acid.
- Baking Soda. As a base, baking soda opposes uric acid.
- Borax. Borax is another basic element that opposes and neutralizes uric acid.
If you prefer to buy a product specially formulated for the task, or if a home treatment still proves ineffective, try a higher-strength commercial product.
- Specialized Laundry Detergents. These products may be marketed for use with cloth diapers or as a laundry-boosting additive. They are formulated specifically to combat odors left from urine and other body fluids.
- Enzyme Odor Neutralizers. These products contain enzymes that are able to break down acids and neutralize odors.
Steps to Washing
If you are using a home treatment, use your choice of baking soda, borax or white vinegar.
1. Place the following amounts of each additive directly into your washer’s drum.
- Baking Soda: One-half cup
- Borax: One-quarter cup
- White Vinegar: One cup
2. Add the item, then select and start a cold water cycle. Do not add any detergent at this point.
3. After the wash cycle is over, run a regular wash cycle with your everyday detergent and dry the item as you normally would. The clothing should smell fresh once again at this point.
If you are using a commercial treatment, follow the directions on your specific product.
- Specialized detergents are simple to use. Add them to your washing machine in the same way as you would with an everyday detergent.
- Enzyme treatments typically come in a spray bottle. Saturate the affected area thoroughly, allow it to set for the time recommended on the product package and wash according to the directions.
We know how challenging it can be at times to get your toddler to wear anything besides their favorite outfit. It becomes even more challenging when that beloved item smells so bad it is unwearable.
Thankfully, an accident doesn’t mean that cherished piece is destined for the garbage. Dealing with the item quickly and using an effective treatment or product can make all the difference between throwing clothing away and using it for months or years to come.