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How to Clean a Cat Tree in 11 Simple Steps

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on April 18, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

two maine coons in cat tree

How to Clean a Cat Tree in 11 Simple Steps

With a cat tree, you can keep your cat entertained, prevent your furniture from being scratched, and provide your cat with a high vantage point for napping. The problem with them is that they can be cumbersome and difficult to manage, especially when it comes to cleaning them. The whole cat tree can’t just be thrown into the washing machine!

Taking good care of your cat tree will ensure that it lasts as long as possible. By keeping your cat tree clean, you don’t just improve the appearance of your home. In addition, it offers a clean, safe place for your cat to rest and relax.

In this guide, we’ll show you step-by-step how you can keep your cat tree tidy and make it the most hygienic it can be for your feline friend.


Supplies You’ll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Box cutter
  • Glue gun
  • Replacement scratcher
  • Scrubbing brush
  • Vacuum
  • Lint roller
  • Rubber gloves
  • Stain remover
  • Baking soda or another odor neutralizer
  • Cat-safe cleaning spray
  • Hydrogen peroxide

yarn ball divider

The 11 Steps on How to Clean a Cat Tree

1. Disassemble the Whole Tree

You can clean all the nooks and crannies of the cat tree better if you disassemble it and take it apart. There are some cat trees that require tools to disassemble them, while there are others that can be disassembled by hand. If you don’t feel confident that you will be able to take apart and reassemble the cat tree, you can skip this step.

cat playing house
Image Credit: Cimermane, Shutterstock

2. Trim, Remove, or Repair Loose Ends

It is common for fabrics and scratching materials on cat trees to become torn with time. If the loose ends are removed from the cat tree, it will be cleaner, as you won’t have to worry about the fabric becoming snagged further. Replacing cardboard scratchers with store-bought scratchers, and rewrapping scratching posts with fresh jute or a similar natural product will give your cat tree a fresh look.

With a box cutter, you can remove the old jute from around the scratching post and apply the new jute in one or two layers around the scratching post.

3. Use a Scrubbing Brush

Chances are good that your cat tree is covered in cat hair. In fact, there’s probably hair everywhere—in all the crevices and nooks and crannies. Before you vacuum it, though, take a scrub brush to the fabric and jute to loosen the cat hair as much as possible. This will help ensure that the vacuum picks up as much hair as possible and leaves your tree looking clean and new.

Wooden brush on its side
Image Credit: jackmac34, Pixabay

4. Take a Vacuum to the Fabric and Cracks

A handheld vacuum or the hose attachment that comes with your vacuum can be used to vacuum the fabric covers of the cat tree, as well as the corners and recesses. Make sure to remove all cat hair from the cat tree before continuing. You will want to repeat brushing with a scrubbing brush and vacuuming several times.

5. Take Care to Remove Stains

You’ll need to put on your rubber gloves before you start working with chemicals. If there are any noticeable stains on the fabric portion of the tree, stain remover can be applied to remove them. Make sure you always use the right stain remover for the fabric whenever you apply these products, as some can be harsh and damaging on the wrong material.

In some cases, you can remove the fabric cover and machine wash it. In cases where the fabric covers can be removed and machine washed, you will be able to choose from a wider range of stain removal products.

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6. Roll the Lint Off

Lint rollers can be used to clean any fabric surface that cannot be washed. Lint rollers aren’t just for fabric covers. It is possible to remove hairs and unwanted fibers from scratchers or anywhere else where there are hairs hanging around by using a lint roller. It may be necessary to alternate vacuuming and lint rolling a few times to thoroughly remove all the hair and fibers from the cat tree.

7. Launder Removable Fabric Covers

In the event that your fabric covers can be removed and machine washed, then make sure that you do it. Washing with a laundry detergent and bleach solution is the most effective way to get the fabric as clean as possible. The best way to avoid shrinkage is to let the fabric air dry unless it is explicitly stated in the care instructions that the cat tree can be dried in the tumble dryer.

cleaning laundry manually
Image Credit: Ellyy, Shutterstock

8. Wipe Down the Hard Surfaces

Use a cat-safe cleaning spray to clean all hard surfaces on the cat tree. You should make sure to clean the hard surfaces underneath the fabric covers if you remove them for washing. It is important to remember that cats walk around in their litter boxes and then jump on the cat tree. As a rule, it is important to keep the area clean and disinfected to prevent the spread of bacteria.

9. Eliminate Odors

Using baking soda to remove fabric odors is a quick, effective, and inexpensive solution. After the fabric has dried, sprinkle baking soda over it and allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes, but preferably an hour. It will absorb odors better the longer it sits. A commercial odor neutralizer can also be used in place of baking soda.

When the baking soda is sitting on the cat tree, keep it out of your cat’s reach. You don’t want your cat breathing in or eating baking soda. Leave the baking soda to sit for a few minutes, then vacuum it up.

baking soda
Image Credit: NatureFriend, Pixabay

10. Disinfect

To disinfect a cat tree with hydrogen peroxide, you must spray it down with the liquid. To sterilize with hydrogen peroxide, one must dilute the hydrogen peroxide with water. Disinfecting with hydrogen peroxide is a great way to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. By using a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, you can kill most surface bacteria within 30 seconds.

The disinfectant can be sprayed—or poured—onto the desired surface. The hydrogen peroxide will work to kill any bacteria or viruses that may be present on the surface. Keep your cat away from the cat tree at this time and be sure to avoid contact with the eyes and mouth.

11. Put the Tree Back Together

When you have washed and dried the fabric, made the repairs, and cleaned and disinfected the hard surfaces, you can reassemble the cat tree!

cat paw divider

When Cleaning Doesn’t Cut Work

If your tree still doesn’t look and smell clean after this process, could be time for a replacement. Cat trees are not exactly built for routine cleanings, be sure to shop around for bargains!

Or, if dismantling and cleaning a cat tree just isn’t for you, there are other cat play gyms you can opt for instead. Catios are excellent tools that allow your cat to explore the great outdoors with minimal cleaning required. A scratcher is another choice product since they usually contain no carpet or other materials that can collect and harbor fur, dirt or bacteria.

cat paw divider


It may take some time to clean a cat tree after it has been used for a while. To save you time when you take the whole thing apart and deep clean it, it is better to clean it every few weeks instead of pulling it apart and deep cleaning it all at once.

The best way to keep your cat tree clean and hygienic for as long as possible is to vacuum, use lint rollers, make repairs, and update it as necessary. This will ensure that it remains in good condition for the maximum amount of time.

Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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