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How To Clean A Litter Box In An Apartment: Vet Approved Advice

Grant Piper

By Grant Piper

litter box in an apartment

Vet approved

Dr. Ashley Darby Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Ashley Darby

Veterinarian, BVSc

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Apartment living has some benefits, but it also has some quirks that can make regular tasks annoying or challenging. One such task is cleaning out a litter box. While the litter box should be scooped and litter replenished daily, every week or so it will need a bigger clean. Between trash schedules, dumpster runs, small sinks, and limited space, it can be annoying to clean a litter box in an apartment. Thankfully, there are numerous steps and tips that you can use to make this job a breeze. A clean litter box is important for the health of your cat and the quality of your apartment’s air. Do not neglect cleaning out your litter box on a regular basis.

Here is how to clean a litter box in an apartment in six easy steps, with pro tips to help get the job done.

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Preparation

Before attempting to fully clean your litter box in an apartment, you should take the time to gather the necessary supplies. Cleaning a litter box is not difficult, and it can be done in less than an hour. Here is what you will need before starting to clean out a litter box from scratch.

What You Will Need:
  • Dish soap
  • Scrub brush designated for cat litter
  • Trash bag
  • Warm water
  • Disposable gloves
  • Litter box wipes (optional)
  • Second litter box (optional)
  • Drying rack (optional)
Time: 15–45 minutes
Complexity: Basic

Safety Information

Remember, cats can shed some pathogens in their urine and feces, so use hygienic methods. Wear gloves when cleaning the cat litter and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Avoid contaminating other surfaces with cat litter, and clean them thoroughly with soap and water if you accidentally spill. Pregnant people should be extra careful when cleaning the cat litter or, even better, have someone else do it for them.

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The 6 Steps to Clean a Litter Box In an Apartment

1. Dump the Litter into a Trash Bag

woman cleaning cat toilet with a scoop
Image Credit: Nick Starichenko, Shutterstock

The first step to cleaning a litter box is to put on some gloves and dump the used waste. The best thing to do is take a new trash bag and place the opening over one end of the litter box. Then, dump all the litter into the bag at once. Try not to spill any of the litter, or you’ll be doing extra work cleaning up. You don’t need to scoop out the whole box by hand; just dump the litter into a fresh trash bag and ensure the box is empty.

Tip: Sync Litter Box Cleaning Day With Trash Day

When possible, you should clean out your litter box on the same day that your trash gets picked up. Trash schedules can be one of the most frustrating parts of living in an apartment. You do not want to empty your litter box only to have a bag of cat poop and pee sit in your apartment (or outside your door) for multiple days. Litter can also be heavy, and hauling a bag of used litter to the nearest dumpster can be a chore. If your trash gets picked up on Tuesdays, clean your litter box out on Tuesdays to ensure that the bag of litter gets taken away as early as possible.


2. Wipe Out the Litter Box

After you dump all of the litter out of the litter box, you want to wipe it out. This is not the step where you clean, scour, scrub, or soak your litter box. You just want to remove any loose litter, clumps, or excess feces that might have been left behind. You don’t want any litter going down the drain during later steps. Make sure that the bottom of the litter box is free of loose litter and waste before moving on.

Tip: Use Litter Box Wipes

Many companies have designed special litter box wipes that are made specifically for wiping out litter boxes. If you do not want to use a dish rag or paper towel, you can use litter box wipes. Litter box wipes often cost extra money, but they can make your job easier. Look up litter box wipes online to see if they are something that will help you clean the litter box in your apartment.


3. Take the Empty Box to a Washing Station

woman washing cat litter box in bathroom
Image Credit: Oleg Oprynshko, Shutterstock

Don’t use the kitchen sink as you don’t want to put cat waste near the place where you cook and clean your dishes. Take your litter box to a faucet where you can wash and scrub the litter box. In some cases a bathtub or shower may be the only spot available. Some apartments may have an outdoor faucet or a “dirty” sink area. Use your best judgment for the most hygienic spot to wash your cat litter.

Tip: Install a Flexible Shower Head

You can find flexible shower heads online that are affordable. Flexible shower heads give you the ability to move the water around, rinse things, and better clean the tray. Even in an apartment, you can unscrew the existing shower head and screw in your own shower head. Just be sure to keep the original. (Stash it under the bathroom sink for easy access.) A flexible shower head makes cleaning things like a litter box a breeze and is an easy upgrade to make.


4. Clean the Litter Box With Soap and Warm Water

Next, it is time to thoroughly clean your litter box using dish soap, a brush, and some warm (or hot) water. Wash the litter box the same way you would wash a dirty pan in the kitchen. Be sure to tackle any stuck-on spots and clean out the entire box to ensure that you remove any grime or germs that could be lurking. If you are worried about using scented soaps around your cat, you can use unscented soap. Once you’re finished, clean the brush you were using and make sure to put it aside for cat litter use only.

Tip: Buy a Stainless Steel Litter Box

Most people don’t realize that there are stainless steel litter boxes for sale. Stainless steel litter boxes will harbor less bacteria than plastic ones. Stainless steel litter boxes are durable, easy to wash, easy to dry, and hold up longer than plastic boxes. Do note that stainless steel litter boxes are more expensive than plastic litter boxes, but it may be worth the investment.


5. Let the Litter Box Dry

cat litter box after washing in the bathroom
Image Credit: Oleg Opryshko, Shutterstock

After washing your litter box, you should put the box out to dry. The best thing to do is to prop up the litter box so air can move under it and let it dry upside down. You can use a drying rack, prop the litter box up over a towel in your bathroom, or place it on your balcony or patio. Propping it up upside down will ensure that no moisture remains trapped or pools in the box, which can become gross down the road when you replace the litter. Once the litter box dries completely, fill the box with fresh litter.

Tip: Have Two Litter Boxes So You Can Alternate

One pro tip for using a litter box in an apartment is to maintain two litter boxes. This way, when one litter box is being cleaned, drying, or airing out, you will still have a clean litter box ready to go. This means that your cat will never go without a litter box. Some cats will poop or pee where they are not supposed to if there is no litter available. If you have two litter boxes, put the second one out and fill it with fresh litter just before you plan on dumping and cleaning the first litter box. It costs a bit of extra money to have two litter boxes, but it can be good to always have a clean one ready to go in case you need it.

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6. Clean Out the Area and Disinfect

After you are done washing your litter box, it is a good idea to wash the shower, sink or tub where you cleaned it. You can use hot water to rinse the tub, making sure to hit anything that could be left over from the litter box. Then, use some sort of disinfectant, like disinfecting spray or foaming bleach, to kill any invisible germs that could be left in the tub from the litter box. This way, any remnants of your litter box’s mess will be eliminated.

Tip: Don’t Let Litter Go Down the Drain

Try not to let litter go down your bathtub drain. Litter can clump up with other pieces of litter or strands of hair to create clogs that will back up your drain. That will cause an awkward conversation with your landlord or maintenance department. Make sure to completely dump the litter box before rinsing it in the bathtub. The less litter that ends up in the tub itself, the better. You can always put a drain trap over your tub drain to catch any loose litter that could accidentally end up in the tub to prevent it from going down the drain.

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Conclusion

These steps and tips will make cleaning out a litter box in an apartment easier than ever. Be sure to be very hygienic, dump the litter on trash day, and consider upgrading to a stainless steel litter box or having an extra while the other is being cleaned. Professional tips like this can help turn a frustrating chore into a doable task, no matter what kind of apartment you live in. Make sure to clean out your litter box regularly to keep your cat happy and healthy and ensure that your apartment always smells its best.

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