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Home > Cats > How to Clean a Cat Litter Box: Safely & Quickly

How to Clean a Cat Litter Box: Safely & Quickly

cat litter box_Lightspruch_Shutterstock

When you think about dangerous activities, you probably think about skydiving or mountain climbing. You certainly don’t think about cleaning your cat’s litter box!

While you might not realize it, cleaning out a litter box can be hazardous to your health. Here, we show you the safest and fastest way to accomplish this unpleasant task, so you can give your pet a clean bathroom—without winding up in the hospital in the process.


Before You Start: Get the Proper Tools

Cat litter box cleaning II_borzywoj_Shutterstock
Photo Credit: borzywoj, Shutterstock

You may think that all you need to clean out a litter box is a scooper and something to put the waste in, but you probably don’t want to take your chances at contracting a disease from your cat’s waste. We recommend a mask and a pair of rubber gloves, just to be safe.

Keep a trash can with a heavy bag close by, especially if you’re replacing all the litter. You don’t want to have to carry a box full of used litter far, as jostling it will stir up dust, and there’s always the risk that you could fall and send it flying everywhere (or worse, faceplant into it).

You will also want to keep other gear close at hand, such as replacement litter and liners, deodorizers, or anything else that you need.

The 5 Steps to Quickly and Safely Clean a Litter Box

If you’re not using a liner, you’ll need to clean the box thoroughly to ensure that your cat (and you) stays healthy and happy.

1. Dump Out All the Used Litter Into a Trash Can

a hand is cleaning clumped cat litters with white scoop into black plastic bag
Photo Credit: Anciens Huang, Shutterstock

Be careful, as this will kick up a large amount of dust, so you may want to pass the job to someone else if you have respiratory issues. You should also do it outside if possible unless you like having a thin layer of litter silt over all your stuff.

2. Rinse Any Lingering Litter Off the Box, and Scrub It With Soap

woman washing cat litter box in bathroom. cat litter cleaning
Photo Credit: Oleg Opryshko, Shutterstock

Choose a soap that has no odor and is unlikely to leave residue, as a strong-smelling soap may cause your cat to want to avoid the litter box once it’s clean. You should also scrub the scooper and lid.

3. Rinse Everything Off Outside With a Garden Hose or Pressure Washer

Garden Hose
Photo Credit: TheOtherKev, Pixabay

You don’t want any dirty litter getting left in your kitchen sink or coming in contact with your shower loofah, after all.

4. Inspect the Box for Cracks, Deep Scratches, or Other Damage

Empty cat litter box

You don’t want litter (or something worse) to leak out, and scratches provide crevices for germs to hide in, making it hard to clean the box thoroughly no matter how hard you try.

5. Either Air Dry the Box or Wipe It Down

pouring cat litter in the litter box
Photo Credit: Seika Chujo, Shutterstock

You can air dry your litter box if you have another box handy for your cat to use while it dries. If not, wipe it down with a paper towel or another cloth. Then, refill it with fresh litter and put it back where you found it!


How Is Cleaning Out a Litter Box Dangerous?

Photo Credit: Lilia Solonari, Shutterstock

Many people don’t realize it, but coming in contact with cat urine and feces can expose you to all sorts of potentially dangerous diseases. Here are a few of the most common ones.

  • Toxoplasmosis

Caused by the Toxoplamsa gondii parasite, which cats can catch by eating raw or undercooked meat, toxoplasmosis can cause flu-like symptoms in most people.

However, pregnant or nursing people should avoid it at all costs, as it can cause birth defects or be transmitted to the child while nursing. Those with weakened immune systems should also be careful, as it can lead to severe symptoms like seizures or lung problems.

  • Campylobacteriosis

This bacteria—contracted by eating raw meat—will cause bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps in those affected. You can generally avoid it by washing your hands thoroughly after cleaning the litter box, though.

  • Giardiasis

This parasite gets picked up when your cat drinks contaminated water. They pass it out through their poop (which will be frothy, greasy, or loose), and if you catch it, you can expect cramps, bloating, nausea, and watery diarrhea.

  • Roundworms

If you see little things that look like spaghetti climbing out of your cat’s poop, your cat likely has roundworms. If they enter your system, you could suffer from cramps, organ damage, or blindness. Their eggs can survive outside of a host for years.

  • Ammonia

Cat urine is full of ammonia, and ammonia exposure can cause damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach. Fortunately, you’re unlikely to come in contact with dangerous amounts of ammonia via a cat unless you have many of them and never clean their litter boxes.

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Cleaning vs. Scooping: What’s the Difference?

Cat litter box scooping_Ninotee_Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Ninotee, Shutterstock

You should tend to your cat’s litter box every day. This means taking the time to scoop out any clumps of waste that you see inside and either putting them in the trash or dumping them in a storage container of some sort.

Not only will this keep your house smelling fresh and your cat’s bathroom clean and sanitary, but it also forces you to look at your cat’s waste. This is a good way to keep tabs on their health, as you’ll want to know as soon as possible if they’re not peeing much or have diarrhea or something similar.

Cleaning involves replacing every bit of litter inside the box and scrubbing the box itself. It’s a more thorough and involved job, and it should be done every few weeks, even if you’re meticulous about scooping every day.

If you use litter liners, you may not need to clean the box itself as often unless there’s been a leak. All you may need to do regularly is replace the liner and refill it with fresh litter.

Our Favorite Cat Litter Deal Right Now:

Cleanliness Is Next to Catliness

Nobody enjoys cleaning out their cat’s litter box, but it’s one of those things that just has to be done. Hopefully, this guide will make the entire process safer and easier the next time that you have to do it, and with any luck, it won’t be such a miserable task moving forward.

Featured Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

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