Life Skills Unlocked

Life Skills Unlocked: Solving the Riddle of the Strong Smell of Cat Pee


My kitchen smells like cat pee.

Considering I don’t own a cat (yet), this is not a sentence I expected to type. A kitchen can smell like many things – the toast we burned at the weekend, the flapjacks I made on Tuesday, the cacio e pepe spaghetti we ate last night – but I would have to say that cat pee is just not one of the typical kitchen aromas.

My face crunched into an expression of distaste, I ventured in nose-first. I sniffed the fridge.


I opened the fridge and cautiously sniffed. I could smell spring onions and cheese.

As you were,” I whispered, and closed the fridge door.

I crept forward. I sniffed the counter.


I sniffed around the hob, and past the hob to the area where cereal and bread sit together in a peaceful pile of carbohydrates. I could only smell bread. I continued my search. I opened the oven.

Nothing. Just the faint whiff of something that perhaps had baked a little past its burning point.

I sniffed the sink – nothing – and opened the cupboard beneath it. Nothing there either. Just the smell of caustic chemicals and brillo pads that should be used more frequently. I hovered over the drying rack, and stood on my tiptoes to sniff at the microwave.


I came to the washing machine.

This was definitely where the smell was strongest. The washing machine is probably about four years old at this point. I opened it and looked inside, looking for the source of this weird waft of ammonia. My wiggling, warped reflection stared back at me from the inside of the shiny steel drum.

I stood up straight and narrowed my eyes at the offending appliance. The strange smell was definitely coming from in or around the washing machine. Obviously a second opinion was required.

I pulled up Google on my phone and typed, ‘My washing machine smells like cat pee.’

813,000 results popped up.

“Oh good,” I said aloud to nobody in particular. “I’m not alone!”

Apparently, if you don’t run a hot 90°C (194°F for those of you across the pond) wash about once a week, bacteria starts to grow in and around the seal of your washing machine, leading to a distinct and unpleasant cat pee-like scent. So all those eco-friendly, non-shrinking 30°C (86°F – seriously guys get it together) washes you’ve been putting on? Great for your delicates, not so great for your washing machine.

I wrinkled my nose in disgust, both at the smell and at the fact that nobody ever mentioned this to me before. I thought I was saving the planet one lukewarm wash at a time! Nobody told me about the cat pee bacteria, or that I need to run a hot cycle every week!

I read on.

Google advised me to throw a cup of white vinegar – not too vigorously, you don’t want it all over the kitchen; the smell of white vinegar is only just preferable to the smell of cat pee – into the washing machine and run a hot cycle with nothing inside it. So I did that.

And then, with a suspicious side-eye, I did it again, because screw trying to be eco-friendly when your kitchen smells like feline urine.

Now only the faint scent of white vinegar and scrupulous cleaning remain.

So hopefully that’s the end of it!

41 thoughts on “Life Skills Unlocked: Solving the Riddle of the Strong Smell of Cat Pee

  1. I understand this has happened to me a couple of times. I normally do this when I wash towels. I use vinegar and baking soda in the drum with heavy towls. The towels get clean and come out really soft, while the smell is eliminated.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Man. This reminds me of the time my husband being the clean freak he is, decided to wash the filter piece of the vacuum cleaner. That’s great. You clean the thing that’s suppose to clean your things. Then he stuck it back in the vacuum cleaner and when I turned it on a few days later to vacuum the carpet, it smelled like a mouse had died in there while eating blue cheese that was growing toe fungus. It was DISGUSTING. Like I cannot describe the smell because I haven’t smelled anything else like it. Google suggested that he may not have completely dried out the filter before sticking it back in, causing it to grow mold. We hand-washed, dishwasher-washed, sun dried that S.O.B. Nothing. Eventually the vacuum cleaner was too comprised to earn its keep.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my God that… that sounds revolting. I already think vacuums smell weird, so if mine started to smell like decaying mouse carcass it would go right out the window. And I’m not on the ground floor!


  3. Not only am I metric-dense, but WTF is a hob? I’ve been ready to go metric most of my life, but our politicians prefer to hold onto the “English” system (which the English abandoned decades ago) – although, to date, I’ve never referred to my weight in stones.

    As a runner whose summertime running shirts spend their lives on the edge of being too smelly to keep, I can attest to the positive attributes of vinegar. Sometimes it’s a must.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t have one of those, but I think they’re called a fireplace insert. I write for a British magazine every so often, and I always get a kick out of the correspondence. There are so many words that are used a bit differently.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I empathise. My washing machine was smelling of stale eggs for a while, till I YouTube’d the problem and was told to empty the sump. I must turn the temperature dial up. Your blog is very helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh that’s funny . I wash my clothes on 30C wash cycles . My towels get the 60C treatment. So have never had the problem of cat pee? May be I should go sniffing to see.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I ALWAYS wash with cold water. My machine has never smelt of cats pee. Every month or so I pour a whole bottle of white vinegar into the drum and run it empty. Not only does it take care of odours, it cleans the pipes, thus gifting your machine with longevity. Vinegar is also good as a fabric conditioner. It doesn’t leave your clothes smelling like salad dressing. Did you know a lot of the shop bought ones have pigs fat in them to soften the clothes? I put in a dash of eucalyptus oil into the rinse cycle too – smells nice, and kills bugs.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. OMG – I don’t know! It doesn’t sound right….
        I just googled it. You’re using gourmet vinegar! It’s recommended for use with fish and chips for the flavour. It’s made with fermented ale 🙂 Your washing machine must be in seventh heaven!
        I just buy the cheapest brand in the supermarket at a huge cost of 80 cents for 2 litres. Vinegar is great for cleaning. Did you know that you can clean your toilet and the kitchen drain with it. Sprinkle in some bicarbonate of soda, pour vinegar on top, and watch it erupt 🙂 Literally – froth and bubble, toil and trouble, chase those cat’s pee odours out the door (or down the drain)….check this out:

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Surely! What sort of backward country are you living in that doesn’t do normal white vinegar – oooops, didn’t mean to insult your beautiful country 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow!!! Why don’t people tell you things?! And what if Google didn’t exist would people just renew their washing machines? Or have kitchens and clothes smelling of cat pee forever? Thank goodness for Google!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I thank you sooo much for this blog. I thought I was going crazy! I was about to be without 4 cats. We have 2 litter boxes for our 4 in the laundry room and I was just about to accuse them of going in the washing machine. Our washing machine is still in the brand new phase. It’s about 1 1/2 years old. but admittedly, I haven’t been doing the monthly cleaning. And now I know why those are important. I also realize I am late to this party, but I am here, none the less.


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