Urine – How To Get The Smell Out Of A Car Seat

This may come in handy if you’re potty training a toddler

Or, if like me, you made the mistake of trying to quickly change the baby on the back seat when a perfectly timed wee cascaded over the changing mat and soaked into the car seat and your knee. 

However, the wee ended up on your car’s upholstery don’t be tempted to just dab the area with a wet cloth and spray a ton of air freshener.

You will at best mask the smell for a few days and then your car will smell like the inside of a cat litter box.

This one-stop guide has all your urine cleaning needs covered.

Pet owners, this will also work for cat urine or dog urine as well.

So let’s get to it.

Step 1 – Damage Control

A fresh urine stain is easier to treat than a dry one.

  • If you have someone with you give them the baby and get to work immediately. The more wet urine you can soak up the easier your job will be. 
  • If your baby was in any sort of a seat take it straight out of the car. Remove the covers and set both to one side. Concentrate on the car interior first as this is usually the most difficult.

  • Using a dry towel or old blanket blot as much of the urine up as possible. If you’re out and don’t have these to hand then paper towels can work as well. Start gently at first so you don’t spread the urine, pressing harder into the soiled area as you start to soak up less. Don’t rub as this can push the stain further out.

Once you have finished damage control this is the ideal time to check what type of material your upholstery is before you move on to chemical removal.

Step 2 – The Removal Options

Urine stains and smells are challenging to remove as urine contains uric acid crystals.

These crystals are not water-soluble which is why most cleaning methods are ineffective.

To successfully remove urine odors you must break down the uric acid crystals and disinfect any surrounding bacteria. 

It’s best to wear rubber gloves to prevent irritation to your hands.

If you use a spray bottle be sure to leave the car doors open to allow good ventilation while you work.

All cleaning products have the potential to cause respiratory irritation.

Before you address the stained area the first step is to test whichever solution you intend to use on an inconspicuous area of your upholstery.

Once you are confident this will not stain you can use it on your seat.

Use roughly the same amount of liquid product as urine that made the stain.

You want the cleaning solution to follow the same path as the urine to ensure no crystals are left behind.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

This is a cheap and effective method of removing urine with ingredients you probably already have in your home.

It is the most time-consuming option of the three and will leave your car seat out of action for a few days.

  1. Mix white vinegar with equal parts of plain water.
  2. Apply to the wet area. You can either pour the solution straight on or use a spray bottle.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda over the entire area and leave overnight to absorb.
  4. In the morning use a vacuum cleaner to remove the dried baking soda.
  5. Apply a second layer of baking soda and use a wet cloth to rub it into the upholstery
  6. Rinse with clean water and leave to dry
  7. Dry vacuum any remaining powder the following day

Biological Washing Powder

The enzymes in biological washing powder will break down the uric acid crystals and as an added bonus your car will smell like fresh laundry.

As the powder is already designed to treat fabric you may find it more gentle on your upholstery than the other options.

The disadvantage is it can be quite sticky until it dries, and you will still have soap residues in your car seats.

  1. Mix one part powder to 4 parts of hot water
  2. Stir well to dissolve the powder
  3. Pour over the affected area
  4. Leave overnight to dry
  5. Vacuum any powder remains when fully dry.

Enzymatic Cleaner

This is the most expensive option, but the most convenient.

I would recommend a product used to clean pet urine odors. These are widely available in most pet stores.

I recommend pet products as animal urine (cats in particular) has a stronger smell than human urine and a real lingering odor.

If a product can remove the smell of cat urine, it can cope with your child’s

Application is a simple as spraying the solution as per the manufacturer’s guidelines and waiting until dry to use the seat.

Other Products Not Mentioned

There are other products that can be used for removing urine that I have not mentioned in this guide.

For information, they are three percent hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, and borax.

I choose not to use these as they are all toxic if inhaled.

Even if ventilation is good you are still working in a very confined space, and the risk of inhalation is high.

As long as the area was fully dried and ventilated properly the risks to your baby using the seat after would be very small, but while there are safer products available I would always opt for those.

Step 2a – Watch The Leather!

Leather seats are easier to damage than other types of upholstery and deserve their own mention.

I would avoid any homemade products and go straight for a leather-specific cleanser.

Make sure you treat the entire area (e.g. whole cushion surface) and not just the affected area as you may leave behind a water stain. Rub the cleaner on gently and in a circular motion.

Treated leather is water-resistant but not waterproof. Leather that has become wet can harden while drying and become stiff so it is sensible to invest in some leather conditioner as well.

As leather is water-resistant the majority of the liquid will soak through the seam holes and into the stuffing below.

To expose the leather to the minimum amount of moisture, if possible remove the stuffing and gently hand wash with an enzyme cleaner.

Leave the stuffing to air dry, and make sure it has dried completely before you replace it.

Cushions are usually made from high-density foam core so they can be challenging to dry, but mold may occur if you replace them wet.

If possible the leather should be dried in a cool dark place away from the sun to minimize bleaching and hardening.

Step 3 – Back To The Carrier

Remove all of the covers and soft furnishings possible from the infant car seat and wash according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Ideally in a washing machine, but if the instructions are not to wash I would recommend gently hand washing the seat cover and any fabric parts and using a hairdryer to carefully dry.

Next, take a damp cloth, a small bowl of warm water, and dish soap to clean the frame.

You will want to wring the cloth out as much as possible to avoid soaking and damaging the frame.

Take your time cleaning the frame, you will want to wipe over every part that could have been exposed to the urine.

If your seat has crevices too small to reach use pipe cleaners to ensure they are clean.

Even a small amount of urine left behind will produce an awful smell in a few days.

Step 4 – Enjoy A Wee Free Car Smell

Good luck! And may that foul smell soon be a distant memory.

Let me know in the comments if you know any other good ways of removing the smell of urine from a car seat.


  1. Super useful, I will be using these products for cat accidents as well!!!

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