There’s a never-ending list of smells we associate with babies and small children. Many of them are good and evoke smiles and warm emotions. Other smells, however, are anything but pleasant. Instead, they linger and persist – and it seems that no matter what you do, your child’s clothing still stinks.
The robust and characteristic odor of urine often follows small humans around. Whether it’s a leaky diaper, a little one learning to potty train, or even an accident by an older child, urine can stain clothing and drive you crazy – causing you to keep sniffing the air, trying to find the culprit.
Fortunately, there are easy ways to prevent or deal with urine accidents, and it’s not as difficult as you might think it is.
The same holds true for children with special needs. They most likely will require a bit of extra attention, but with some effort, there’s no reason you can’t maintain an odor-free home.
In all cases, always keep in mind that patience, kindness, and compassion go a long way when dealing with a little one prone to accidents!
Why Does My Baby’s Urine Smell?
First things first, are you wondering why urine smells so bad to the extent that you’re willing to go to great lengths to get it out of your child’s clothes? Let’s break it down in simple terms.
Water is the number one ingredient in urine, but the various waste products excreted by the kidneys contribute to the smell.
There are some medical issues behind smelly pee, so if your baby has extremely stinky wet diapers like you’ve never seen (or smelled) before, a call to the doctor is probably a good idea.
If your little one is experimenting with his or her diet, certain foods can also contribute to strong-smelling urine.
In all cases, make sure your child is properly hydrated, and remember that babies under about six months of age should not be given water. It’s either breastmilk or formula milk, water is off limits until your baby is old enough.
How Do I Get Urine Smell Out Of My Baby’s Clothing And Bedding?
If it fits in the washing machine, try a vinegar wash followed by your favorite baby-safe laundry detergent. Vinegar is acidic, and it can help neutralize stinky smells stuck on the fibers of clothes or bedding.
Add a ½ cup of distilled white vinegar to your machine (where you would typically put detergent) and wash in cold water.
Add an extra rinse cycle if your machine has that option, and then wash again using detergent. You can also add ½ to 1 cup of vinegar to the last rinse cycle as a fabric softener.
If stubborn stains or odors persist, try soaking the item overnight (use about ½ cup of vinegar per gallon of water).
Be cautious about washing specialty or hand-made items. Some bedding has beading or other decorations which might not be compatible with vinegar.
Oops! Pee On The Carpet, Car Seat, Couch, You Name It!
Sometimes, accidents happen in odd places. With a little one, expect it to happen. Don’t say we didn’t tell you so!
Your child will probably leak on the couch, car set, your favorite and most comfy chair…and the list goes on.
Fortunately for you and I, though, most of these situations can be handled relatively easily.
On Your Carpet
If it’s a fresh stain, use paper towels or a wet vac to get as much urine out of the carpet as possible.
Blot the area with cold water, and again remove as much liquid as you can. Enzyme-based products are usually geared to pet messes, but they’ll work just as well for kiddos!
If you have older stains, or you smell something but can’t quite find where it’s coming from, use a UV light or a black light to illuminate past oopsies. A word of caution, though: such a device will likely illuminate other bodily fluids too, including blood, semen, and saliva. So, you really need to know what to look for.
Older stains can also be cleaned with enzyme-based cleaners, but you might want to ramp up your cleaning power by using an oxygen-activated enzyme cleaner.
Older stains will probably take more products to remove the stain completely, but be patient and follow the directions for drying time and cleanup, and it’ll all be good to go at the end.
In The Car Seat
First things first and before you do anything, check your car seat manual. Some manufacturers do not recommend using water on certain straps or areas of the seat, and you definitely don’t want to minimize the safety features of your seat inadvertently.
If your car seat cover is washable, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on what to use. If you’d rather spot-clean, mix 2 cups of water with one tablespoon of mild dish soap and one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar.
Using a cloth or sponge, apply the mixture by blotting it onto the seat. Use just what you need, since you don’t want to get the seat too wet or damage the foam underneath the cloth. Then, use a dry cloth (or several of them) to blot the area until no more liquid comes up.
If it’s warm outside, leaving the car doors open or setting the seat outside can help it dry, but be sure to avoid direct sunlight.
Your Couch Or Favorite Upholstered Item
If it’s silk or an antique, you probably want to skip the DIY cleaning and talk to a pro instead.
Trying something on your own could damage the piece and hit you in the pocketbook, so it’s best to avoid trying to fix a small problem only to risk creating a much more serious one.
If it’s a “normal” piece of furniture, try the same mixture for the car seat.
If the stain is still damp, blot first to get as much urine up as you can, then gently apply your mixture using a cloth or sponge. Make sure it’s clean first, though!
Repeat until the stain and smell are gone. Blot again with a cloth dampened in cold water to remove any residue.
Finally, blot with a clean, dry cloth until the area is dry.
Your New Wood Floors
Wood floors aren’t any more immune to accidents from your little one than a carpet is.
If your child pees on your hardwood floors, first soak up as much liquid as you can. Sprinkle baking soda over the entire area. Extend the baking soda past the dirty area to be sure to treat all the urine.
Then, walk away until the next day. I know you want to get everything done and over with right now, but you have to give it a bit of time. Cover the area with plastic or place furniture blocking it off, if necessary.
Once it’s sat overnight, vacuum the baking soda using an attachment brush. While doing this, be careful not to scratch your floor.
Mix warm water and distilled white vinegar (use a 1 to 1 ratio) and apply the solution to remove any lingering smells. Wipe with clean water and be sure to dry the area. Wet spots are bad for your hardwood!
Things To Watch Out For When Cleaning Urine Stains
For anyone thinking about using bleach, think again!
Ammonia naturally occurs in urine, and mixing bleach with ammonia produces toxic vapors. These gases can cause symptoms such as watery eyes, coughing, and shortness of breath.
It’s best not to use bleach directly on fresh urine (especially on a hard surface like the floor) to avoid unwanted repercussions.
No Steam Cleaners
Even though it’s tempting, a steam cleaner is also usually not a good idea, since the heat can cause the smell and stain to set permanently.
If DIY methods don’t work, it’s probably best to call it a day and let a professional have a go at super stubborn messes.
Careful With Vinegar
If you have pets, many experts do not recommend vinegar on areas the pet can smell and access, such as carpets or furniture.
Instead, enzymatic cleaners and pet odor neutralizers might be your best bet.
Avoiding Urine Accidents in Babies, Toddlers, And Older Children
Size Up When You Need To
Babies who constantly have leaks are probably wearing diapers a size too small. If you use disposables, simply size up and see if leaks occur less frequently.
If you use adjustable cloth diapers, experiment to loosen them up without sacrificing fit. Otherwise, you might need to size up your cloth diaper stash.
Get Help From Pull-Ups
Potty training young children can be very challenging, especially if the child isn’t mature enough or physically ready for it.
There are pull-ups available which can help kids feel wet (as opposed to diapers which wick away moisture), so they will be more likely to feel uncomfortable and want to change.
There are lots of great resources available for parents trying to potty train. The key thing to remember, though, is that it takes time and patience!
Be sure you and your child are ready to embark on the potty-training journey. There is no “right” age that equally applies to everyone out there, so don’t feel like your son or daughter is behind if they aren’t potty trained by a certain age.
Your child may be ready to try if he or she:
- Understands the “feeling” of needing to urinate
- Can reach the toilet in time (with your help, if needed)
- Can stay dry for a few hours at a time
- Seems motivated to want to potty train
Children with special needs can also be potty trained, depending on the level of disability.
As the parent, you’ll know your child best. Working with your health care provider and getting professional guidance will also prove to be helpful, especially if you’re not certain about how you should proceed.
We All Gotta Go, So Don’t Stress Out!
It’s a human trait to need to use the restroom – and remember, you used to put someone else through the same trouble your little one is putting you through right now!
Babies will often have blowouts, and this usually means you need to size up. Toddlers who are potty training need routine and patience. Ridiculing, insults, or other adverse actions will only serve to slow down the process and cause other problems.
Besides getting urine and its nasty smell out of your child’s clothes, there are several cleaning agents available to clean nearly any surface imaginable. So, don’t worry if your new couch was the victim of an accident—it will clean up!
Vinegar, dish soap, and enzymatic cleaners can go a long way if you can follow a simple list of instructions.
A child who continually has accidents can be fairly challenging, though, and it can cause you to stress out. With everything else going on in your life at the time, this can easily take its toll on you sooner rather than later.
Make sure there aren’t any underlying physical, mental, or emotional conditions in older children. And, if you start to feel overwhelmed, get help! There’s no shortage of professional help nowadays for just about anything, this included.