Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Check the Squalor Archive for assistance. Are you still dirty? Email her.
Okay, well, this is crazy, and I'm still a little shocked right now. I just woke up in the act of wetting the bed for the first (second? No ... ) time in my adult life. I'm not afraid of cleaning up urine, and I think I even know some things to do: The sheets are already off so it wouldn't soak into the foam mattress, I found some odor spray, and I'm soaking up the liquid as fast/best I can. Here's the twist, though: It's not my bed. I'm at my girlfriend's mother's house ... and said mother is SITTING IN THE DINING ROOM AT 5 A.M.!!!!!
Currently, I'm hoping she's awake because she's going out early, in which case I can spring into action (?). But meanwhile, you popped into my head, and I thought I'd ask for advice on the best way to ninja-clean my way out of this while everyone's asleep. Damage so far: two sheets, some underpants I can throw in the trash, and a little urine on my (fast-drying) shirt.
It says a tremendous amount about me that it wasn't until my third reading of this question that I thought to myself, "You know? It's a little weird that a stranger thinks of me first in the face of wetting the bed." I mean, I get it. I obviously get it—and I entirely love it—but every once in a while, I catch myself taking a step back and looking at this life I've created for myself and am just like, "Hm. That's rather odd."
Existential ramblings aside, this is a not-uncommon thing to have happen. Wicked embarrassing, to be sure, but not uncommon. Please take solace in that if it happens to you!
In an ideal world, this kind of thing happens when it's just you in the bed. (Well. In an ideal world, this doesn't happen at all, but you know what I mean.) If it happens when there's someone else in the bed, though, you gotta 'fess up. Mostly because you have to get the sheets off the bed in order to clean them and prevent the pee from seeping into the mattress, and stripping the sheets is a thing that the other person in the bed will notice is happening.
In this particular case, I would suggest enlisting your girlfriend to help with the awkward mother issue—have her throw the sheets in the wash and tell her mom she got her period unexpectedly. You may owe her one, but for whatever this is worth: If it were me, I would absolutely no doubt rather lie to my mother about a period accident than tell her that my boyfriend wet the bed.
If you really, absolutely cannot get to the washing machine, head into the bathroom to do a little hand-washing triage. If there's a tub, that's probably going to be your best bet, since hand-washing a section of bed linens is a bit of an awkward affair. So: Run the pee-pee part of the sheet under cold-to-lukewarm running water to flush out as much as you can. Use a small amount of whatever soap you can access most easily (hand soap, bar soap, liquid laundry detergent if it's around, whatevs) and rub the material against itself to create suds and coax out the piddle. Then rinse thoroughly under running water and wring out as much water as you can. Next, grab a towel and roll the wet part of the sheet up in it, which will extrude more water. The final step in this stealthy, MacGyver-esque sheet-washing process is to turn a hair dryer on the remaining wet spot until it's dry enough to go back on the bed.
But really, don't do that. Just stick with the period lie and launder the sheets in the machine.
Now then. In this case, the mattress was spared, because our bed-wetter woke up as the wetting was happening. But more often than not, that isn't the case, so I'm including general mattress-cleaning instructions here, because I'm a giver.
The biggest thing to remember when treating stains on a mattress is to use as little liquid as possible—if you saturate it, it will take forever to dry. Of course, in the case of wetting the bed, the mattress will already be fairly wet, so the first step should be to soak up as much of the urine as you can using either a towel (that you will later launder, natch) or paper towels.
Since urine is a protein stain, you'll want to use something enzymatic on it. If you have pets in the house, go ahead and use whatever product you've got for cleaning the messes they make off your floors, carpets, furniture, whatever. Something like Nature's Miracle would be just grand. If you don't have that, a laundry pre-treatment spray like Shout or Zout will also work. Give the soiled part of the mattress a light misting, then give it a li'l scrubbing with a towel or sponge, then bear down on the area with a dry towel to absorb as much moisture as you can. You may want to perform a few light applications for maximum effect.
Once you feel confident that the mattress is clean, allow it to air-dry before putting the sheets back on. (Turning a standing fan toward the mattress will speed that process up.) If, for whatever reason, there's still a lingering odor once the mattress has dried, sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda on the affected area and allow it to sit for 30 or so minutes before sweeping or vacuuming it up.
Okay then! There are your "Oh no no no no no, I wet the bed!" instructions. A word of warning: Don't read this and think to yourself, "I will never need this; I am a grown-up who does not wet the bed!" Because if you do that, you know what's gonna happen? Yeah, you do.
Jolie Kerr is the author of the book My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume); more of her cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr.
Image by Sam Woolley.
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