How to Clean a Litter Box with Vinegar (to Properly Disinfect)

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Your cat’s litter box must be cleaned regularly, and properly. To clean a litter box with vinegar, you must use another method to disinfect. Vinegar on its own will not kill all the bacteria and parasites often found in litter boxes. However, it does work well to clean grime off the litter box and reduce odors.


If you’re going the natural route to clean your cat’s litter box, choose one of the following options to accompany the vinegar.




Wear rubber gloves and safety glasses to protect yourself from the harmful bacteria in used litter. You should also wear a mask so you don’t inhale the dust from the litter, or harmful ammonia fumes. It may seem like overkill but the more compromised your health is, or if you’re pregnant, the more safety gear you should wear when cleaning the litter box.


Choose an appropriate spot to clean the litter box. Outside is the best option, but if you live in an apartment or it’s the middle of winter where you are, the bathtub or a laundry/utility sink is likely the next best option.



Step 1 – Gear up & Empty Box

Put on your protective gear and remove the old litter by placing the litter box in a garbage bag, closing the top as much as you can to keep the dust in, and dumping the litter out of the box. Allow the dust to settle before opening the bag.



Step 2 – Dry Brush

While the litter box is still dry, use a dry bathroom scrub brush to loosen any stuck-on litter and then dump that into the garbage bag. You don’t want any clumping litter to go down your drain when washing the litter box as it can cause a clog. This set is a good value and has a smaller corner brush.



Step 3 – Choose Disinfecting Method

Once the litter box is empty, you can use vinegar to clean it and remove odors. But you’ll also need to use something to disinfect the litter box. Here are a couple of options:



NEVER boil vinegar. Only boil water and pour it in the litter box and down the sides to disinfect.


Boiling water inactivates bacteria and pathogens that can be harmful to humans (source), which is why it’s a good method to kill litter box bacteria.


Pour a cup of vinegar into the empty litter box, then add a cup or two of boiling water. The vinegar will remove odors and litter box residue while the boiling water will disinfect.


Use a kitchen scrubby to quickly move the mixture up the sides of the litter box, along the edges, and clean the outside of the litter box. Be careful not to burn yourself with the hot water.


Dump the vinegar and water mixture out and then thoroughly rinse the litter box to remove any vinegar residue/scent.


It’s also a good idea to pour some boiling water over the outside edges of the litter box, where you handle it, to kill any bacteria that may have spread there.


Alternatively, you can pour a cup of vinegar in the litter box, scrub it around, dump the vinegar, and then add boiling water. This will allow you to skip the rinsing step; they boiling water will disinfect and rinse the vinegar smell away at the same time.




Do NOT mix vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, it creates peracetic acid, a corrosive acid that can harm the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. (source)


Hydrogen peroxide can also be toxic to cats, so clean the litter box in a space you can keep your cat out of until the hydrogen peroxide has dried and been put away.


Hydrogen peroxide is a good option to clean the litter box because it doesn’t smell, so it won’t deter your cat from using the litter box. It also cleans 99.9% of harmful germs.


First, clean the litter box with vinegar to remove grime. If the dusty, litter residue is left on the box, the hydrogen peroxide won’t be able to disinfect as well. Rinse the litter box thoroughly and dry before spraying with the hydrogen peroxide; as mentioned, you do not want vinegar and hydrogen peroxide to mix.


To disinfect the litter box with hydrogen peroxide, use 3% – 5% hydrogen peroxide, pour it into a spray bottle and spray it onto the litter box.


Don’t pour too much hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle, unless the spray bottle is dark and will block out the light. Hydrogen peroxide is light (and heat) sensitive and will decompose when exposed.


Once you spray the surface, let it sit for five minutes so it has a chance to kill the bacteria. It will dry quickly and it naturally decomposes into oxygen and water.






When using vinegar and/or hydrogen peroxide to clean your cat’s litter box, be sure to do it someplace like the bathtub.


Hydrogen peroxide can break down the finish on some surfaces over time (such as granite or marble). It can also cause discoloration. Be sure to keep your towels and bathmats away from the hydrogen peroxide.




Dish soap doesn’t kill bacteria, but it does help lift them off surfaces so they can be easily rinsed away with water (source). You can create a litter box cleaner by mixing vinegar and dish soap together, to create a thicker cleaner that will stick to the sides of the litter box longer and allow you to scrub.


I create a 50/50 mixture in a dish cleaning wand like this one. Put a little bit of water in the litter box (enough to cover the bottom), then dip the cleaning wand full of the vinegar/dish soap solution in the water and start scrubbing the litter box.


Give the litter box a good rinse to remove all the soap residue.


This mixture will help rinse bacteria away, but it won’t actually kill it. If you want to completely disinfect the litter box, rinse it with boiling water to kill any remaining bacteria.


You can store the dish wand full of the cleaning solution with your litter box supplies to use next time.




The following are household cleaners many people reach for when cleaning the litter box but that should never be used:




NEVER mix vinegar with bleach as it can release dangerous fumes. Not only that, your cat will not appreciate the smell of bleach left on the litter box and it may deter them from using it.




Mixing vinegar with ammonia to clean the litter box will be counterproductive since vinegar is acidic and ammonia is basic; they each cancel out each other’s cleaning properties.


Not to mention, cat urine contains ammonia. When you don’t clean your cat’s litter box frequently enough, the smell of ammonia becomes overwhelming and can encourage your cat to find somewhere else to urinate. You don’t want to add to that ammonia smell by using ammonia to clean the litter box. There are several household cleaners that contain ammonia, so just be sure to read the labels before cleaning with it.




I hope this article has helped you determine how to clean the litter box with vinegar 🙂



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