For the millions of caregivers helping a loved one to manage their incontinence, there is continuous concern about controlling urinary leakage and keeping their skin dry. After all, wet skin can lead to several health issues, including skin breakdown, painful rashes and sores, and even potentially dangerous infections. Urine leaks can also cause unpleasant odors that can lead to feelings of embarrassment, isolation and loss of dignity.
Here are some ideas for helping to stop urinary odor from developing in the home, as well as ways to thoroughly and safely eliminate odor, if accidents do happen.
Preventing and Containing Leaks
The best way to limit odors caused by urinary incontinence is by trying to contain leaks in the first place.
Choose the right products – Not all incontinence products are the same. There are many different styles, absorbency levels and product features that could make one product perform better for your individual needs. For example, Tranquility® Incontinence Products feature a superabsorbent core that wicks away fluid, neutralizing pH and reducing odor for discretion. Read our product guides to learn what might work best for you, or try a product sample so you can experience first-hand which products reduce odor while keeping you comfortable and your clothes and furniture dry.
Add Boosters or Bed Pads – Booster Pads are special absorbent pads that go inside of another disposable incontinence product. They are designed to absorb a certain amount of urine, before allowing additional fluid to pass through to the host disposable garment. This extends the wear time of an adult diaper, tab-style brief or pull-on underwear, to keep you dry and odor-free.
Disposable bed pads, sometimes called chux, are absorbent, waterproof pads that can be laid on a bed, chair or other surfaces to provide an additional layer of protection from heavy leakage and odor.
Get the right fit – Having a product that fits correctly is critical to stopping leaks and potential odor. Disposable adult diapers or briefs should fit snugly, with the placement of the tape tabs on the hips and no gaps around the legs. Pull-on underwear should fit snugly touching the crotch with no gaps around the legs. Use this Sizing Guide to ensure you are selecting a product with the proper fit.
Another way to manage incontinence-related urinary odor in the home is to make small changes to one’s diet and hygiene practices. This can minimize the foul smell associated with urine, even if accidents do occur.
Drink fluids – It’s very common for people with urinary incontinence, or those caring for someone with incontinence, to think that drinking less fluid will reduce the need to urinate, thus leading to fewer accidents and less urine odor. This is a bad idea.
The less liquid one drinks, the more concentrated and foul-smelling their urine becomes. Drinking a healthy amount of water – six to eight glasses per day is recommended – dilutes urine and reduces or eliminates its odor. Highly concentrated urine irritates the bladder, causing an urgent need to urinate, emergency trips to the bathroom and leaks. Drinking fluids regularly also keeps one from becoming dehydrated.
Check for infection – If urine becomes noticeably more foul-smelling, it may be a side-effect of an infection in the bladder or urinary tract (a UTI). These infections are more common for people with incontinence. If you suspect there may be an infection, see your doctor right away, as infections can quickly evolve into a painful and harmful situation.
Tweak your diet – Some food and drinks, including fish, onions, garlic, coffee, alcohol and asparagus, can give urine an especially foul odor. On the other hand, adding fruit juice (such as cranberry, apple, grape and cherry) to your diet increases the acidity of urine, which naturally reduces its odor. Vitamin C pills help naturally deodorize urine, while specialty ingestible incontinence products are also available to help neutralize urine odor – but check with your doctor first.
Take care of skin – Keep your skin down there clean and healthy to deter urine odor by using disposable wipes after toileting or changing incontinence garments. Put on a fresh disposable product as soon as wetness is detected.
Removing Odor Caused by Urinary Leakage
Sometimes, accidents will happen, regardless of how well you prepare or how well an incontinence product works. When leakage does occur, whether it leads to soiled clothing, bedding, furniture or other surfaces, the most important tip is to begin cleaning it up as soon as you notice it, if possible. The longer that urine leakage goes untreated, the stronger the odor can become, and the harder it may be to get out.
Step 1 - Soak it up: When soaking up urine leakage, try using disposable paper towels or absorbent paper products, instead of reusable rags. Seal used towels in a trash bag and immediately place the bag in a trash can outside of the home. Using paper towels with greater absorbency will make cleanup easier, so you may consider buying high-quality, heavy-duty brand products that you use only when cleaning up accidents. If you wish to utilize reusable rags, put the used ones in a bag and place them outside the home immediately until they can be washed. To keep your hands clean, wear disposable gloves, then throw these in the bag with the used paper towels.
Step 2 - Sanitize: After soaking up urine with paper towels or rags, clean the area a second time with sanitizing disposable wipes or a disinfectant solution. Be cautious if using bleach, as it can react with ammonia found in urine, producing a potentially foul or harmful gas. A 10:1 water-to-bleach ratio solution is an effective cleaner that won’t react dangerously with ammonia. Other options include store-bought non-bleach disinfectants or pet urine cleaners. When done cleaning, seal the used towels or rags in a bag and place them outside the home.
Step 3 - Follow-up cleaning: Try to wash urine-stained bedding and garments, as well as furniture, carpeting and other surfaces immediately, if possible. If you must postpone cleaning of clothes or linens, at least try to quickly rinse or soak them with water. When cleaning, don’t rub fabrics together heavily, as this can drive the stain deeper into the material.
There are many combinations of store-bought and household ingredients that can create solutions to effectively remove urine stains and odors. Make sure to test a small, inconspicuous area of all materials to ensure there is no damage or staining.
- Before washing, soak clothing for a few minutes in a mixture of 1 cup white vinegar and 3 cups water.
- Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda on a urine stain to absorb and neutralize the odor.
- Add washing sodas or detergent boosters such as Borax to the washing machine.
- Check your washing machine for special “bedding” or “sanitization” settings.
- For furniture and carpet, create a spray solution containing 1 cup of peroxide, 3 tablespoons of baking soda and a few drops of dish soap. Allow the sprayed area to sit for about 20 minutes, then soak up excess fluid. If fabric remains moist, sprinkle baking soda to help it dry, then vacuum the area.