How to Clean a Litter Box in an Apartment (5 Easy Steps)

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When you live in an apartment, you may not have access to an outdoor hose, which makes it easy to clean out a litter box. However, regularly cleaning the litter box is a must, especially if you live in a small apartment and don’t want litter box odors to take over. Cleaning the litter box each time you change the litter will help scrub away those odors before they soak into the plastic.


But what’s the best way to clean a litter box in an apartment without making a big mess?



The best place to clean the litter box when you can’t take it outside, is in the bathroom, preferably in the bathtub. This allows you to contain the mess, turn a fan on, and use a non-porous surface that can be thoroughly cleaned after.

  1. Use a non-stick litter box and litter
  2. Scrape the litter box while dry (to reduce wet messes)
  3. Wipe or soak with a mild cleaner (no bleach)
  4. Rinse away all soap residue and dry the box
  5. Clean the bathtub for your safety


It’s important not to use any harsh-smelling toxic cleaners, as your cat may be able to smell them, even after you rinse them off. And if your cat doesn’t like the smell of their litter box, it may deter them from using it.


Here’s how to clean the litter box with vinegar to remove odors, and extra steps you must take to also disinfect it.




Choosing a litter box and litter that will prevent litter from sticking to the sides and bottom of a litter box is the first step in making litter box cleaning much easier.




The aspect that can make cleaning a litter box so messy is the litter that sticks to the sides and bottom of the box. When you add water to scrub it off, it makes a mucky mess that tends to get everywhere.


That’s why many cat owners suggest cleaning the litter box outside. You can use the pressure from an outdoor hose to pressure wash the stuck on litter off, and you don’t have to worry about where the dirty water sprays.


If you purchase a non-stick litter box, such as this one, it will help prevent litter from sticking to the sides so you can simply dump old litter in a garbage bag. When washing the box, there won’t be as much residue to scrub off.


Or better yet, go for a stainless steel non-stick litter pan like this one that won’t absorb odors and will last you a long time. You may even splurge for a non-stick litter scooper like this one.




When you combine a non-stick litter box with a non-stick litter, it makes it even easier for litter to slide out of the pan, leaving you with a fairly clean litter box you just need to disinfect.


If you and your cat are committed to a clumping clay litter, give Arm & Hammer Slide litter a try; it won’t stick to the litter box.

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Clumping clay litter is the most commonly used litter among cat owners but it doesn’t mean it’s the best. Clay creates a lot of dust and creates almost a rock-like texture when wet, which is what makes it difficult to clean from a litter box, especially if the clay gets stuck to the sides.



If you’re open to trying an alternative litter, consider some natural options, such as paper pellet litter or wood pellet litter, or even corn & cassava flour (this one is recommended by Jackson Galaxy)



Clumping agents make it easier for you to scoop urine, but they’re also what cause litter to harden to the sides and bottom of the box. If you’re open to trying a non-clumping litter, it will make cleaning the box easier.


Keep in mind, you must transition your cat from one type of cat litter to another properly. And it will also take you some time to get used to a non-clumping or pellet litter.




If you don’t put enough litter in the litter box, it’s more likely urine will make its way to the bottom of the pan and create a stuck-on mess. You don’t want to put too much litter in or it can make it difficult for your cat to move around and dig. Use the right depth for the type of litter you use.





Wear gloves and a mask while cleaning the litter box to ensure you don’t inhale or touch any harmful dust, fumes, or bacteria.


Use a large garbage bag and place the entire litter box inside the bag before dumping the used litter out. If you can close the opening to the bag a little as you pour the litter out, this will reduce how much dust escapes. A paper or wood pellet litter will also reduce dust, they’re also much lighter than clay litter. If you have a balcony, complete this step there so you keep the dust out of your apartment.


When using clay litter, the dust and stuck-on litter is what causes such a mess once you get the litter box wet. So do your best to remove as much litter and residue from the pan before washing.


It’s best to place the litter box in the bathtub as you’re cleaning it to contain any mess that spills out and easily wipe done the area after you’re done. You can also turn the fan on in the bathroom to help quickly remove any dust particles.


Use a dry bathroom scrubber like this one that will help you get into the corners, or dish scrubber like this one with hard bristles. You can use these solely for cleaning the litter box to remove dried on particles. Once the remaining litter is loosened, pour them into the garbage bag.

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Don’t use harsh smelling cleaners, ammonia, or bleach to clean the litter box. Vets recommend (source) hot soapy water. You can use mild dish soap, or even vinegar (here’s how), or baking soda (here’s how) if you prefer to go the natural route. Keep in mind, dish soap, vinegar, or baking soda won’t disinfect. You need to give the litter box a deep clean to kill all the bacteria and parasites; here’s how.


If there are still pieces of litter stuck to the litter box, even after dry scrubbing, fill the box with hot water to let it soak. If needed, use a bathroom scrubber or dish scrubber to loosen the stuck-on litter after soaking. When you’re done, pour the dirty water in the toilet, being careful not to splash any.


Once you’ve gotten all the litter out of the box, wipe the litter box down with a hot soapy mixture. Be sure to get the top and outside of the litter box where you’ll be touching it.


Also, consider a method to disinfect and kill bacteria and parasites. There are methods in this article on deep cleaning, as well as what to combine when cleaning with vinegar to disinfect. 


Use a rag if you have one you can dedicate to litter box cleaning and throw in with your next load of laundry. Or, pour enough hot soapy water into the box to cover the bottom of it and use your scrubby dedicated to litter box cleaning to spread the mixture up the sides.





Fill the litter box with clean water to rinse away any soap residue. Pour that water down the toilet and repeat until all the soap residue is rinsed off. It’s important to get any smells from the soap off the litter box so they don’t deter your cat from using it.


Be sure to thoroughly dry the litter box as bacteria thrive in damp environments. If you can dedicate a rag to litter box cleaning and throw it into the laundry, use a dry rag to wipe the litter box dry. Although it’s not as environmentally friendly, paper towels are also ideal to wipe out the litter box, as you can toss them after and ensure there isn’t any cross-contamination.





Once your cat’s litter box is all clean, now it’s time to clean up your area. Use a bathroom cleaner to wipe down the bathtub and any surfaces the litter box, your gloves, your litter box cleaning tools, or the dirty water touched.


Give the rag a good rinse and set it aside to be washed with your next load of laundry. You should also disinfect the scrubbing tools, their handles, and your gloves and let them dry before putting them away.





It’s important to keep the health of your cat in mind, as well as the health of the environment. There are several products on the market that may make it easier to clean the litter box in an apartment, but they create a lot of waste, aren’t ideal for your cat, and aren’t budget-friendly.




Litter box liners may make changing the litter faster, as they act as a garbage bag that lines the litter box, however, they typically don’t work as well as they should and they may cause litter box aversion. Check out all the reasons you shouldn’t use litter box liners.


Your cat wants to be able to scratch and dig in their litter box without anything getting in the way. It’s very easy for a cat’s claw to hook onto the liner and even tear a hole. Then the liner isn’t much use anyway.


Because thin plastic and a cat’s sharp claws aren’t the best combination, it means you’re often left with big or small holes in the liner. If cat urine makes its way to those holes, urine can get trapped between the liner and the litter box, which will make the litter box smell worse and be harder to clean.




As lovely as it would be to simply throw the entire litter box out along with its contents, that becomes extremely wasteful and expensive. Remember, depending on the type of litter you use, litter typically needs to be changed every 2 – 4 weeks.


Clay litters create enough waste as is each month, adding a disposable litter box to that isn’t necessary.


If you use a recyclable or biodegradable litter box, it does cut down on the waste, but not as much as using the same litter box for years to come will.




Disinfecting wipes such as Clorox or Lysol wipes will leave a residue on your cat’s litter box that your cat won’t appreciate and that may drive them away from the litter box.


If you prefer to use a wipe, consider one made specifically for a cat’s litter box, such as Nature’s Miracle Litter Box Wipes, or Arm & Hammer Cat Litter Pan Wipes.




I hope this article helps you when cleaning a litter box in an apartment 🙂



How to Easily Clean a Litter Box in an Apartment