Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Bridesmaid Dress and the Cat Pee

Here's a public service announcement that you never thought would be necessary:
It _is_ possible to get cat pee, and cat pee smell, out of a bridesmaid dress.

I've waited a little while to tell you this story, because the offending dress was worn to last week's wedding and I really didn't want to add any stress to the bride. Because seriously, even I wouldn't have believed me if I said "No really! I fixed it! Its totally fine!"

Do you ever do something that you think might be a bad idea but you take your chances anyway? Like parking your car right next to the shopping cart thing in the parking lot? Or wearing your wool clogs on a day that its raining? Or leaving your bridesmaid dress hanging in the living room while you go away for the weekend?

It was hanging on the coat hook in the living room because honestly, it was the best place for it. My closets were crammed, and it would have gotten all wrinkly shoved in there with all those other clothes I buy and only wear once. I swore I'd make room for it in a more protected place when I got back from my Labor Day weekend trip. I had second thoughts about it though, because the plastic cover over the dress was laying on the floor slightly. Arlo the cat often likes to pee on plastic bags that are left on the floor (don't ask me why. I seriously need a cat whisperer). But no, it would be fine for a couple days.

Except, it wouldn't be.

I came home, puttered around, then realized I smelled it. In the living room. The smell of day old cat pee. But I didn't see anything in any of the spots I would have expected. Until I got near the front door. And I saw it. Pee, on the bag, on the floor.

Ok, no problem. Its just on the bag. I'll take care of it. Dress with be FINE!!

Except, it wasn't.

Apparently, cat pee will soak through a plastic bag. Holy bad bridesmaid, Batman.

I dealt with the plastic, took the dress upstairs, hung it on the shower rod in the guest bathroom and proceeded to panic.

I couldn't just saunter into the local David's Bridal and demand a new one. "There's a weird smell on my dress! I need another one." I also couldn't order a new one and get it before the wedding - it had taken something like 2 months for mine to come in. And, there's that whole dye lot thing. The people at the bridal store insist that you get the dresses from the same dye lot, because if they are slightly off, your wedding pictures (and hence the wedding and your eternity together) will be ruined. Ruined!

And its not like you can just toss a bridesmaid dress into the washing machine. Or can you?

I desperately searched the interweb for advice. Do you know that if you google "bridesmaid dress and cat pee" you get nothing?! (Until now, of course). But there were a lot of other articles about cat pee in various fabrics, and it would appear that dry cleaning could take the stain out, but not the smell.

Funny thing was though, there was no stain on the dress at all. Just the horrific, pungent smell of male cat pee. It was so bad that when I opened the door of the bathroom the next day, the smell nearly knocked me unconscious. We had a very serious situation here, folks. A very serious situation. That's when it occurred to me for just the tiniest fraction of a second this might get me out of being a bridesmaid. But I'm a way better friend than that, so I doggedly (cattedly?) kept trying to come up with solutions.

The first solution was to alter the dress - it was a foot too long or so - maybe the cat pee was just at the bottom? It was hard to tell, and that might have worked, but how do you, as a decent human being, take a dress that smells that bad to someone to work on. Its just not fair. Or sanitary.

After a couple days of constant worry about what the fuck I was going to do about this dress, I actually read the tag. And the tag said "machine wash gentle or dry clean." What? Machine wash? Giant shiny purple dress? In a machine?

Well, I sure as hell wasn't going to do that, but I figured that it might be possible to hand wash it.

I was very, very worried that the dress would have a water stain if one part got water on it and the other part didn't. So, one night, I washed the lining of the dress - slightly different fabric but same basic shiny polyester deal. I used my trader joe's detergent and a tiny bit of borax. One of my kayaking friends told me that Borax is the only thing that works for getting the smell out of neoprene. Sweaty neoprene is pretty disgusting - not as bad as cat pee on polyester - but close. So I gave it a whirl.

In the process, the outside of the dress got wet. D'oh. So here it was, it was either going to work, or it wasn't, and I was going to be seriously screwed.

The next morning, I poked my head in. The dress was dry, and unstained. It still smelled awful, but with a hint of borax clean. I put my nose to the section of fabric that I had washed and it smelled awesome. Like clean sheets, with a hint of cat. I was filled with a renewed hope that I could fix this situation without upsetting the bride, losing a friend, or showing up at a fancy wedding smelling like a litter box.

So, the whole dress went into the bathtub, with a mixture of Borax and detergent. I gently smooshed it around. I think I used lukewarm water. I turned it over and smooshed it around some more. Then some more. I didn't really know what the appropriate amount of smooshing around time was for urine, so I may have overdone it a bit.

Rinsing it out was a total bitch. I filled the tub up with clean water and smooshed some more, but suds were still coming out. Fuck. This is not good. I'm going to be own bubble blower at the wedding. So, I had to turn the shower on and try it that way. I got completely soaked in the process, by the way, but I think I got all the suds out.

I hung the dress up on the shower rod - no easy task considering that it now weighed approximately 80 pounds because I couldn't very well just wring the water out of it - and prayed.

Well, I would have prayed if I was religious. I did my version of praying - whatever that is.

The next morning, the dress was still slightly damp, but it smelled awesome. Not a hint of cat. And the color was fine - no fading and no water stains.

So, that's the story of the bridesmaid dress and the cat pee. And reason number 457 that I swear up and down that I am seriously, never, ever, ever again going to be a bridesmaid. Or groomsman. Reason number 458 has something to do with the lopsided, dragging on the ground hem job I got from the local, highly acclaimed, dry-cleaner, but I'll save that for another day.


Lula said...

OMG, yours is just the blog I needed!! *trots off to the supermarket to buy Borax*

Susan said...

Lula, I'm SO glad this post was helpful! I knew I wasn't the only person in the world who was ever going to have this problem. Let us know how the Borax works for you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I am still really nervous about washing the dress, but I am glad to know that it worked for someone at least before attempting it.

Unknown said...

I was looking to sell my wedding dress which has been at my mom's house for years. It has cat pee on it. I'm going to try this. There's no telling how long the pee has been on there though, but it really reeks! Hopefully the borax works!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for posting this! My daughter hung her prom dress in her closet, but at some point in time, it fell off the hanger. She never closes the closet so the cat decided to pee on it! I have debated all night how to get this smell out. Decided to google and found this! I will let you know the out come, but either way thank you! Thought I was the only one with a problem like this. My cat has a thing for peeing on bags too. Lol

Unknown said...

Thank you so much !! I run Project Prom which allows girls to receive free dresses. In my storage unit about 50 dresses has cat pee on them from 3 cats left in a storage unit near mine. I'm going to try this