People have been using baking soda for decades to remove unwanted odors. While it works great for some undesirable smells, baking soda is simply not effective for the removal of cat pee odors. The active ingredient in baking soda is called sodium bicarbonate. When placed in a confined area, the molecular properties of baking soda allow it to literally absorb some smells. (This is why most of us place a box of baking soda in the fridge.) Unfortunately, the odor caused by cat urine is not one of the smells it effectively at removes.
Why Baking Soda Won’t Work for Urine Odors
Reason #1: Cats and Dogs Rarely Wee in Contained Areas
When closed, refrigerators have an airtight seal. This is exactly what allows the baking soda to neutralize the odor. When removing cat pee from concrete, a carpet, or other surfaces, the area is usually far from airtight. In fact, it’s the completely opposite. Unless your cat urinated in the fridge, baking soda isn’t a good option for eliminating the odor.
Reason #2: Masking a Smell Doesn’t = Eliminating It
In it’s real world applications, baking soda basically acts as a masking agent. In other words, it doesn’t solve your stinking problem. (No pun intended!) The chalky, white powder does nothing to kill the odor-causing bacteria.
To be fair to the folks at Arm & Hammer, scientifically speaking baking soda isn’t a masking agent. Sodium bicarbonate does absorb and neutralize malodorous molecules. But, in real world applications, it acts like a masking agent. Why? As soon as the baking soda is removed or has reached it’s maximum absorption threshold, it stops working. The latter is why folks have to switch out the box of baking soda in their fridge.
Reason #3: Science Proves Baking Soda Isn’t Strong Enough
Finally, baking soda just isn’t strong enough to remove cat urine odors. We’re going to revisit 8th grade chemistry to prove this point. One way to look at odor removal, from a scientific standpoint, is the PH scale. For an acidic smell to go away, it needs to be countered by a substance of equal alkaline strength. (Think of the middle of the graph, at 7, as odorless.)
The nasty scent caused by cat pee is strongly acidic. (This is why people often associate the smell with ammonia.) But as you can see, baking soda is a very weak alkaline. Vinegar is a little stronger than baking soda, but vinegar also doesn’t remove cat urine odors. Neither are strong enough. They would need to be at the point marked “Required Level” to effectively remove your tomcat’s spray or feline’s marking scent.
The good thing about using baking soda to get rid of cat urine smells is that it won’t hurt anything (unlike vinegar . You’ll probably wind up with a mess and it almost certainly won’t work. It’s readily available as a household remedy, so a lot of people will try it. My advice, however, is to save yourself some time and use one of the more effective ways to remove the odor outlined on this site.